The Polish bank that is today known as mBank began operations in 1986 as the Export Development Bank or BRE (Bank Rozwoju Eksportu) Bank. It was listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange six years later. In 2013, the bank’s three brands (BRE, MultiBank and mBank) were unified under the mBank umbrella, stressing its commitment to digital innovation, with a particular focus on mobile.
Throughout its 34-year history, the bank has made a name for itself as being the country’s most progressive provider of digital banking solutions. It was the first fully online bank in Poland and has set the pace of mobile and online banking in the country. Today, this forward-looking universal bank services customers in all banking categories and is Poland’s fourth-largest bank by total assets and fifth by net loans and deposits. With more than two million mobile users, nearly 5.6 million retail-banking customers and private-banking clients numbering in the thousands, mBank provides products and services from retail and investment to commercial and corporate as well as leasing, insurance and brokerage. mBank has spread out beyond its national borders and has been present in the Czech Republic and Slovakia since 2007. What’s more, its impressive growth has been organic—not through acquisitions—driven by consumer demand.
Especially since its rebranding under the mBank name, this inimitable, cost-efficient bank seems more determined than ever to offer its customers the most dynamic banking solutions available through its electronic and mobile banking platforms. The bank’s branch network has been reorganised: “light” branches for quick access to basic services situated in public places and advisory centres located in office buildings in addition to mKiosks in shopping malls. The years ahead look set to bring further advancement. mBank’s group strategy for 2020-23 can be summed up in the statement: “We grow with clients and thanks to them.”
International Banker was pleased to be joined by mBank’s chief executive officer and president of the management board, Mr. Cezary Stypulkowski.
Thank you very much for your time today, Mr. Stypulkowski….
mBank’s stated mission is: “To help. Not to annoy. To delight… Anywhere”. What exactly inspired the bank to produce such a unique mission statement?
Well, I will say it quite straight-forwardly—our customers inspired us. We monitor all the most important consumer trends on a daily basis. Thus, we executed an in-depth analysis of what actually had been and what would be important to our customers and other stakeholders in the upcoming years. We know (and knew back then) that our environment is changing faster than ever and that its complexity grows each day. We agreed on the three most vital trends: client era, mobility era and efficiency era.
As to the first approach, we decided that the time of focusing solely on creating and improving products has come to an end. Clients are at the centre of our attention; that is why we should develop exclusively products and functionalities that are easy to use and appreciated by them. Every interaction between the client and us should fulfil three critical criteria: (1) it should meet a GENUINE need; (2) it should be EASY AND WITHOUT ANY HASSLE—in terms of the channels via which the client contacts us as well as the language we speak; (3) it should be POSITIVE—it should create positive experiences and associations with our brand.
The second most important is the mobility era. We respond to it with “anywhere” in our mission statement. Because we want to be close to the customers. And we want to be convenient, available 24/7, with an excellent self-service mobile channel. This is coherent with our strategy as the m in mBank’s name stands for mobile. This strategy has turned out to be very efficient because nowadays, two out of three of our customers choose mobile apps over online banking. Since we added mobile payments, we have observed that more than 40 percent of all transactions are made that way. And our customers are the most transactional group in Poland. On top of that, our mobile-first and digital-first strategy makes us a very efficient organisation, without the burden of physical branches and the costs associated with their maintenance. This confirms that a well-prepared data-driven strategy can be extremely beneficial.
mBank describes itself as Poland’s first fully web-based bank and its pioneer in online banking. What does this mean in practice?
First of all, it means that we embrace the legacy of the first online retail bank in Poland. mBank’s launch in the year 2000 changed the rules of the game for the whole banking industry in Poland. Later, in 2013, we made mBank the leading brand above all of our businesses in Poland (we had three different brands before). And by then, mBank was already a well-established brand that symbolised modern online banking on our domestic market. Since then, we have worked hard to confirm our brand’s qualities, and apparently, we have succeeded in doing so. We are perceived as the most innovative bank, not only by our customers but also by independent opinion leaders.
Moreover, being an online banking pioneer also has had an impact on our business. mBank is one of the most cost-efficient banks in Poland. With a cost-to-income ratio that equals circa 38 percent (as of third-quarter 2019), we are an example to follow. This was due to our unique business model—from the very beginning based on internet processes and limited physical expansion. Thanks to unique know-how in online and mobile banking, we were ready to offer digital-first solutions to our customers. They can manage their money via mobile apps. Our mobile-first approach became mBank’s DNA.
One of the five values upon which mBank’s Code of Conduct is based is “Looking to the Future”, whereby the bank commits to being open for change and innovation and looks for “new, interesting solutions which stay boldly ahead of the curve”. What has been one of the bank’s recent products or services that satisfies such criteria?
Back in 2017, we established mAccelerator, the first fund in Central and Eastern Europe that specialises in developing and commercialising new, fintech-like technologies. The aim of the project is to create state-of-the-art technological solutions that help financial institutions around the globe to meet the challenges of the fintech era. And our goal was to become one of the leaders shaping the financial sector’s digital transformation.
And we already see that this strategy is proving successful. Last year, we launched a security project based on behavioural biometrics—the first bank in Poland to do so. A highly advanced system based on metadata constantly measures a customer’s specific behaviour (typing style and pace, scrolling, etc.) when he/she uses our internet banking system and matches it to the customer’s profile. If it doesn’t match, we can have a security alert.
This is a cutting-edge solution, developed locally in Poland by a start-up that mAccelerator invested in. To me, this biometrics solution represents exactly the hassle-free, UX (user experience)-friendly and secure banking of the future that we are striving for. As we all know, security is a top issue when discussing disruptive technologies that can be applied in banking. And we already know how we would like to find a balance between convenience and safety.
The bank describes itself as having “Poland’s largest organically developed retail banking franchise”. What single biggest factor do you think has made this possible? And what is the most significant way in which mBank’s retail-banking business differentiates itself from the competition?
That is true; mBank is a story of success. I can say it and still don’t have to blame myself for boasting about it. We have managed to become Poland’s fourth-largest bank without a single acquisition. I believe this organic growth has been possible because of the specific culture this organisation has. Very vibrant, full of new ideas, ready for collaboration, still searching for new opportunities. Our employees are younger than others in this industry. Possibly that is the reason why our organisation is so open and agile. And please note that I constantly say “we”. That basically is a manifestation of how we perceive ourselves in this company. We are immersed in this culture of openness and a sense of community. That allows us to achieve the most ambitious goals.
Well, Mr. Stypułkowski, you certainly seem to be well on your way to achieving those ambitious goals. Thank you very much for your time today.