What factors led the transition of BRE Bank from a corporate bank to retail banking and eventually mBank?
When BRE Bank decided to establish its retail business, Poland was just past a decade of transition. It has driven Polish nation to a substantial, even if not crucial, change in behavioural model according to banking. Together with democratic system development, a truly commercial banking developed and customers became more acquainted with this model. BRE Bank decided that this was a window of opportunity for a corporate bank to try and run a totally different banking model, concentrated on the individual customer. Firstly, the management board decided to address the existing gap between market and technological trends, and what traditional banking players offer. That is why the first brand to be launched was an internet-only bank – mBank. Amongst arguments for this step was: (1) poor competition in an increasing market (2) rapid growth of internet and mobile phones users (3) the relatively low level of use of information technology in Polish retail banks (4) high level of acceptance of advanced technologies in the targeted groups of customers.
Had internet banking become popular by the time you started mBank?
Well, actually – there was no internet banking when we started. Some other great banks tried to launch analogical products/brands, but never gained too much popularity. In December 2000, the number of people having access to the Internet in Poland was estimated at 6,300 thousand.
At the same time (Dec2000), the number of bank accounts for individuals in traditional banks had reached 11 000 thou. And the number of current accounts in the so-called electronic branches of traditional banks (including mBank, which started a month earlier) was a little over 89 thousand. So the estimated internet banking share in retail banking in total didn’t reach 1 %. But in West Europe, this share was already reaching more than 10% (e.g. 15 % in Great Britain, more than 10 % in USA).
But the success of mBank was not only based on enabling banking via internet – other banks in Poland tried to do that and eventually failed. We succeeded because of the whole new model of banking, concentrated on offering attractive and simple product via modern channels and with use of new technologies. We succeeded because of the totally unique distribution system and treating customer fair, putting his needs first.
We decided to highlight some strategic directions in our day-to-day business, which was: close relations with our customer, community building and reliability information.
Was it difficult to convince customers to opt for internet banking?
I suppose the success of mBank helped people overcome the initial hesitation. We were the first fully internet-based bank in Poland and today, we set the direction of the mobile and on-line banking development. We are one of the strongest and fastest growing financial brands in Poland.
What purpose did MultiBank serve?
MultiBank was a brand created for customers who were more traditional, yet more affluent clients. MultiBank was a ‘higher culture’ bank, with comfortable branches, best customer service and advanced financial products.
Contrary to mBank, it offered customer service in branches, with advisors waiting by the door. Its offer was also way more abundant than mBank’s. It also was extremely valued by people who expected unusually high quality of banking service and products.
I would like to underline that we still service our affluent customers with ‘high culture’. Our branch advisors are still able to offer them the best customer experience and products. Only our logo is different.
What prompted merging everything under mBank?
mBank/BRE Bank decided to change because we wanted to be even more recognisable in the banking market; optimise marketing expenses, integrate corporate and individual banking in one brand and – last but not least: unificate our organisational culture.
The times we live in require significant flexibility and simplicity. In this context, the mBank brand was elected from a range of brands in our portfolio as the best. A global Value-D study (by Millward Brown SMG/KRC) suggests that the brand is very strong, also globally. It is legible, flexible and comprehensible everywhere. It still has large potential. I do believe that it will take us forward in the long term as one of the drivers of our winning market position.
It is confirmed that a single strong brand will help us strengthen our position in the banking market and optimise the use of marketing budgets. Now every promotion campaign builds our image and brand awareness among all our customers irrespective of the segment addressed by our activities.
Each segment is a coherent whole, on the one hand distinguished by the colour range, and on the other hand, consistent through a single brand structure. The new identification system highlights the mBank Group’s adaptability to different customer segments by drawing on the bank’s extensive experience of 30 years in the financial markets.
How are you handling the pressure of mBank being considered the yardstick for digibanks?
Hearing things like that is an enormous pleasure and also a proof that in today’s world it is crucial to invest in technology. But we understand, that in order to keep our business on track, we have to deliver even more than expected now. That is why we are working all the time to introduce new solutions serving our customer best. The truth is that the best way to succeed is to see your customer as the most important and always – whatever the case is – treat him as the most important person in the bank.
In June, the bank’s Supervisory Board approved a new strategy for 2016-2020. Focus will be on clients’ needs and mobility. The main pillars of the ‘Mobile Bank’ Strategy of mBank Group include: being closer to clients, further use of opportunities offered by mobility and regular improvement of business efficiency.
In everything they do, mBank’s employees should be guided by the needs and preferences of the clients. mBank wants to remain synonymous with mobile banking with the focus on comfort, usability and simplicity for the user.