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Trond Aasen Craft header

Members' Spotlight with Trond Aasen (SPV)

Meet Trond Aasen, product owner of savings and insurance and leader in Sparebanken Vest. The last years his team has been building a new fund savings platform from ground up, with key focus on measurement in customer satisfaction, behavior, growth and commercial value. He shares his thoughts on the importance of preserving a strong customer relation through digital transformation.

Trond was nominated by Jan Åge Skaathun in Quantolio, who's Member's Spotlight article you can read here .

5 quick warm up questions:

  • What's your biggest pet peeve?
    Expensive products or services where the price doesn't match the quality, and customer services that don't even bother try to understand the problem.
  • Any book or author that has inspired you?
    I prefer some degree of entertainment value in the books I read. Michael Lewis’ “Money Ball” and “the Big short” are good reads. Sean Ellis’ “Growth Hacking” helped me think differently on how I can boost sales after launching a feature, by measuring and analysing user behaviour.
  • What could you talk about all day?
    The art of brewing - while I pour my last batch down the drain. Other than that, I have a fascination for process enhancement. To succeed you need everyone to understand the importance of commercial ownership from not only the team, but by each and every member, and supporting members of the team.
  • Name one thing about yourself that your LinkedIn profile doesn't tell us
    I wanted a dog, but my girlfriend gave me a cat. I have now trained it to sit and give its paw on command. He’s a good boy.
  • Do you have any guilty pleasures?
    Stainless steel brewing equipment and cordless power tools.

Here are some questions from Jan Åge Skaathun and the Quantfolio team:

We've seen an explosive growth in fintechs that both challenge and support banks. What is SPV's philosophy towards fintechs?

In Sparebanken Vest it's important to explore new technology. To enable this we need a culture that celebrates and allows for failure, implied that we evaluate and learn from our mistakes. In the wake of failure, you will find new learnings, which allows you to go forth, evaluate and solve problems from different angles and push new boundaries. We acknowledge that failure is a part of the road to success.

Most of our experiments happen underneath the hood, not always noticeable to our customers.

We always seek to find the products that best serve our customers, regardless of it being a large supplier or a new fintech start-up. In our current and future business market I believe it's important that we, as a financial institution, does not find ourselves too attached to one or two large suppliers. To enable an innovative force, and a stronger competition between suppliers it's of vital importance that we, with our consumer power, use and enable smaller fintech companies to grow and evolve further. Our support may come in different shapes and forms. We can support by sharing our knowledge, give explicit feedback on issues that need solving or join in on pilot projects that we integrate in our solutions.

We celebrate healthy competition and want to do our part in enabling this.

Any advice to fintechs that want to collaborate with SPV?

There are a lot of cool stuff you can do with the technology available. The possibilities are endless.

But at the end of the day our company operates by having satisfied customers, and a steady income stream. The services of a Fintech can rarely be implemented as is, which means that their services need to be flexible and adaptable to fit our solutions. What we do is complex, and a SwissArmy-knife fintech to solve all our problems at once, do not exist.

When pitching their service, my advice would be to think thoroughly through the problem you seek to solve; how will this give an increase in customer satisfaction, and what is the monetary value of your service. One should also be able to explain why Sparebanken Vest is the desired collaboration - and how we can help them succeed.

Think of it as a partnership, not just a client/customer relation. Both sides will benefit the most if we work together and learn from each other while we develop the new product or service.

How will SPV go about offering their customers great services and advice going forward?

To give great personal advice you need to know your customer by actively using data and insight. In addition, the customer needs to have faith in their advisor, and a wish and openness towards receiving advice in the first place. Building this relationship digitally has many pitfalls. Digital advice can become intrusive, too superficial, generalized, or in the worst-case scenario; wrong.

Our goal is to show that we know, and care about our customers, in any meeting-point. When using our digital channels, we seek to inform the customer by using personalized and relevant content, enabling them to make their own decisions. Building on this we use a combination of relevant facts, context driven information, and a follow-up through the different stages of their life. This allows our customer to make informed, confident decisions, and feel as though their personal advisor sits beside them. As in every good magic show there are some things that are real, like our advisors, and somethings are just an illusion. As a customer you should not feel any different when entering our digital office, rather than our physical local ones.

Teams at Sparebanken Vest often organize digital gatherings with Kahoot, Menti, pub quizzes and even a friendly match of Among Us to keep up the team spirit.

Quantfolio and SPV have a common goal of promoting sustainable investments. Which challenges are you facing in this space today?

The number one challenge to enable thorough sustainability analysis, is the data quality at hand. Our data primarily comes from companies and asset manager's own self-reports and having a sustainability perspective is, unfortunately, not one of their key drivers at the present time.

In addition to this we see that there is a lack of knowledge within our customer base, other than the general perception that sustainability is important.

Our first step towards an increased focus on sustainability is to inform and educate our customers. We need to have an understanding with regards to why sustainable investments can make a difference, and how customers can make a difference on what is offered on the open market. The next step is to use our own knowledge and position to make sure that our customers can make thorough, and fact-based choices.

Which challenges and opportunities will the current wave of digitalization bring for banks with a local presence like SPV?

Sparebanken Vest has a long tradition of being a bank built on relations and a strong local presence. It's very important that we celebrate and build upon the relationship between our customer and their advisors, regardless of whether the contact point is digital or physical. This is one of the most exciting things we will be working with in the years to come.

Sparebanken Vest is recognized and renowned for having one of the better financial, and in-house IT environments in Bergen. Having an interdisciplinary collaboration between these two environments has given us the opportunity to renew ourselves from within, solving real problems and customer pain points with impressive speed. From our viewpoint we have a unique opportunity to strengthen our position as a digital challenger, and at the same time keep the close relationship with our customers.

I strongly believe that we will reach our goal of becoming the best local savings bank in Norway, by working together and building upon each other´s competencies.

SPV has taken a bold step by establishing Bulder Bank - a digital challenger to their traditional banking services. Where do you see Bulder Bank and SPV in 5 years time?

Bulder Bank and Sparebanken Vest are covering different customer segments, in different geographical areas. Sparebanken Vest operates within Vestlandet, both from physical offices and through all digital channels, while Bulder Bank is catching ground nationally, in the concept of the first app-only self-service bank.

Having Bulder Bank close is great. They're pushing digital boundaries, and they can challenge the traditional way of banking. We can benefit from their exploration, just as Bulder Bank benefit from our long experience. Sparebanken Vest and Bulder Bank share a lot of systems and processes, implying that technology-sharing and -learning is wished for, and a willed choice from both sides.

In five years, I believe that Bulder Bank has surpassed Sparebanken Vest in number of customers. Sparebanken Vest will however still be the largest bank in western Norway, and Norway’s best local savings bank. My humble opinion only.

Bulder Bank is an app-only provider of mortgages that adjusts your interest rate automatically based on down payments and the valuation of your property.

Lastly; SPV and Quantfolio are both members of NCE Finance Innovation. Any reflections about the benefits of being a member, and gathering industry actors in a cluster like this?

As a member of Finance Innovation we gain access to a vast network of equal-minded people. The cluster helps us by providing an opportunity to connect to companies that we would normally not collaborate with. This will increase the value of our services and increase innovation in our business.

Finance Innovation also allows us to collaborate on technology that's not prioritized internally, due to for instance resource allocations or cost. It's a win-win situation for all members interested in sharing, and who wishes to build upon each other’s competencies.