Meet Sebastian Cypek, Head of Technology and Innovation at Balder Betaling. Sebastian has broad experience with fintech and customer oriented products and services working with brands like Sbanken and Vipps. We have asked him to tell us about innovation, collaboration and thoughts about digital transformation and more.
Members' Spotlight with Sebastian Cypek (Balder Betaling)
5 warm up questions
What's your biggest pet peeve?
It would have to be products and services with a bad user experience. If it's not easy enough to use, don't make it. The focus should be on the customer's problems, and how to solve these.
Any book or author that has inspired you?
The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. It's about the difficult choices a company must make to stay relevant both now and in the future. One can do everything right, and still fall victim to new technologies making your services obsolete.
What could you talk about all day?
Simplification and the importance of focusing on the customer. I'm passionate about making things as easy as possible for the end user, which is a central aspect for both Sbanken og Vipps. Its about continuous improvement and making complex issues simple.
Name one thing about yourself that your LinkedIn profile doesn't tell us
I could have been a lawyer. Just before starting my third year in law, I discovered a new subject called Innovation management and entreprenurship in Ålesund. I just couldn't let that chance slip by, as I've always been interested in innovation and technology. I took a leap of faith and I've never regretted making that choice. It's never too late to change direction in life!
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Looking at photos from back in the day. As a kid I could spend hours in the library studying how people and places looked in previous times. Development is super exciting - maybe thats why I love working with technology and innovation.
Last time, Trond Aasen from Sparebanken Vest was in the spotlight. He has nominated you, and would like to know:
Balder Betaling manages a 10% share of Vipps on behalf of 14 Norwegian savings banks. What would you say is the most exciting aspect of this role?
The most exciting aspect of my job is to help develop solutions within payments and ID which simplifies how people use financial services. Vipps consists of Vipps Wallet, BankID and BankAxept, which all has a strong brand awareness amongst people and is something that "everyone" uses in their every day lives. Today, Vipps has 3,9 million users, BankID is used by 4,2 million Norwegians, and 8 out of 10 store transactions are done using BankAxept. Balder Betaling is currently owned by 14 independent savings banks, and I must say I've really come to appreciate their way of doing business. Norwegian local savings banks have a central role for developing business in their local communities through contributions to culture, sports, education and much more. The collaboration with Vipps gives these banks, which have limited resources, the possibility to offer their customers innovative solutions within payments and ID.
Which challenges do you see in regards to the digital transformation happening in the owner banks of Balder Betaling, such as Sparebanken Vest?
The development of technology and changes to the market is happening more and more rapidly. Banks increasingly have to spend vast amounts of resources to stay compliant with laws and regulations within areas such as PSD2, anti money laundering and GDPR. Additionally, it can be quite demanding to balance the focus of delivering results in the short term, with what gives results in the long term. I think it will be beneficial for banks to take a larger role as advisors to their customers in other areas than what have been their traditional focus, such as loans, insurance and savings. One example of this is online commerce. The unprecedented growth within online shopping creates huge possibilities for businesses with an innovative mindset who are able to adapt. On the other hand, businesses who can't adapt and change with the times are heading for trouble.
Another challenge for many businesses is the international BigTech's which are developing new services much quicker than traditional banks, and often with a more intuitive and better looking user interface. To be able to fight these international forces, Norwegian banks have chosen to collaborate in a larger scale than before, and in doing so realized that they can achieve much more when working together. It also helps that the Norwegian banks already have a long tradition of collaboration, as well as high trust from customers. Both of these factors have contributed to Norway being on the frontline of innovation within payments and ID.
What do you think is the largest benefit for Balder Betaling? Which role do you want to take when it comes to innovation and sharing?
I feel very confident that collaboration and sharing of knowledge, experiences and expertise will have a lot of benefits for us. In Balder Betaling we have established an arena where the banks, Vipps, vendors and public institutions can create synergies that contribute to innovation and knowledge sharing. The banks' strong relationship to their customers is invaluable to gain user insights which we can build on to make the right choices and develop great solutions for the end user.
Are there any special areas in the Vipps-collaboration you are particular excited for, and where do you think this will take us in the next 5 years?
Here I would like to talk about ID-services. This is an area where I'm convinced that there will be a lot of exciting things happening in the coming years. It's high time that the physical code chip (kodebrikke) can be phased out and put away in a drawer for good. BankID is changing in a way that makes it possible to develop more user friendly and secure solutions. Amongst other things, BankID will enable biometrics so customers can identify themselves with their face or fingers where you previously had to use the old code chip. Globally, there are still about 1 billion people that don't have any form of ID, and according to McKinsey only about 40% of the world population has access to a digital ID. A digital ID can increase economic growth significantly, and have a huge impact on peoples rights and opportunities. I also believe there's a great potential to export ID-solutions from Norway to the global market in the coming years.
Balder Betaling consists of 3 people, but as a member company of NCE Finance Innovation and your facilities at Jonsvoll, you're getting access to a unique network and environment within finance and IT. How are you utilizing this?
In Balder Betaling we're lucky to be able to work with many competent people from various banks, Vipps and other members of NCE Finance Innovation. I've participated in several events and courses by the cluster where I've come in contact with other members. For instance, many cluster members have contacted us in Balder Betaling to discuss future solutions in payments and ID. This has given us valuable insights into real issues which we have taken into account when working with the business development at Vipps. At Jonsvollskvartalet we are also part of a stimulating environment for tech, finance and innovation. Having access to a place where we can discuss with others and find solutions to complex challenges is both exciting and very rewarding.