An unlikely partnership: Contis on the rise of challenger banks and the fall of the high street

By William Smith
FinTech Magazine speaks to Flavia Alzetta, CEO of Contis, to illuminate her company’s research on the relationship of traditional and challenger banks...

FinTech Magazine speaks to Flavia Alzetta, CEO of Contis, to illuminate her company’s research on the relationship of traditional and challenger banks.

The banking industry is in flux. Long protected from upstart newcomers by virtue of their size and age, the traditional giants are now finding themselves squeezed by technology-enabled challenger banks. The innovations made by these newcomers, in areas such as currency exchange and data accessibility, are leading customers that demand more from their existing accounts. Indeed, some 68% of UK consumers want parity between the digital services offered by banks both old and new.

That’s according to research conducted by the banking and payments services provider Contis. Surveying 2,000 British consumers, the company made some striking findings regarding the evolving banking sector.

One of the chief resources possessed by traditional banks is trust. Contis’ research found that twice the number of people were willing to put their faith in established banks compared to challengers: 60% versus 30%. It’s not a statistic that flatters the challenger banks; nevertheless, despite the lack of trust, a quarter of those surveyed predicted the demise of the high street bank in five years. The matter, however, may not be so cut and dry.

Flavia Alzetta, CEO of Contis, speaks to FinTech magazine about the findings, as well as the nature of the company and her advice to women in the fintech space.

What services does Contis provide?

Contis provides companies with a highly configurable banking and card payments platform for them to white-label as a total solution, or to use individual elements such as card payments. Our clients could be: neo banks who want to offer, for example, digital wallets to consumers; financial institutions that want to offer better banking and card payment alternatives to their clients; or companies who want to use our payment platform for their own payment needs.

What gives Contis an edge over its competitors?

We are a one-stop-shop - clients don’t need to work with different providers to get access to banking payments, card solutions or licences. Contis provides everything from access to UK and SEPA banking rails to debit and prepaid card issuing and processing all under one roof.

We have four key differentiators over our competitors:

  • Real-time - we are a modern provider with no system legacy. This is key to the future of payments.
  • Speed - as part of our Fast Track partnership with Visa, we can get clients up and running within four weeks.
  • Configurability - our platform is modular, enabling clients to choose the exact elements they want to purchase.
  • Reliability - Contis’ platform has a 99.99% uptime, so clients can trust it to be there for their customers when it is needed.

What do you believe high street banks need to do to maintain their relevance in the finance industry?

High Street banks already enjoy high levels of trust (60% in the UK), so firstly, they need to maintain this by ensuring first-class security of customer data and regulatory compliance. The next thing they must do is deliver truly customer-focused products. To do this, they need to listen to the customer and deliver products that resonate. They should also be brave and innovate: if they don’t, they will be marginalised and unable to meet customer demands and expectations.

Challengers have stolen a march over the last few years, so whether it’s building, buying, partnering or poaching - the legacy banks need to respond, and fast. They also need to ensure their legacy infrastructure and natural risk aversion doesn’t slow them down. Contis’ research shows that 50% of banking customers would switch, and one of the main drivers is digital innovation.

How can challenger banks gain the same level of trust from customers as high street banks?

Challengers need to prove they can be trusted to deliver 24/7, that customer data is secure and that they can remain compliant. Not only does this provide the security required of the customer, but also earns the right to partner with traditional financial institutions with established, conservative and well-trusted brands.

How should banks work to form partnerships with FinTechs rather than seeing them as a threat?

Banks are inherently trusted by customers to keep funds safe. Fintechs are expected to provide digital customer-centric services. By working together, traditional banks can leverage fintechs’ agility to deliver products that appeal to all sectors of their customer base.

Finally, there is a considerably lower percentage of women in fintech as opposed to men. Do you have any words of advice to other women looking to progress in the industry?

We live in a very dynamic and rapidly-evolving industry. There is the necessity to drive customer focus, to enhance professionalism in execution and to develop highly talented and performing organisations. To other women in fintech, my advice is: pursue your passion, live according to your values, and don’t listen to the people that tell you that it is not possible to realise your dreams!



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