Finbites #22: ZEN, the newest Fintech proposition in Europe. Is Revolut still appealing in 2021?

Does scaling up a Fintech mean entering the traditional territory?

ZEN, the newest Fintech proposition in Europe [VIDEO]

ZEN is a pan-European banking challenger launched out of Poland by G2A co-founder Dawid Rożek. It has recently gone live in 32 European countries with a better cost-benefit proposition than Revolut's Standard and Plus plans.

Besides higher limits for free currency exchange & ATM withdrawal, the selling proposition of the Polish fintech is centered around "zenefits": 

  • instant cashback up to 15% at some international or regional brands (AliExpress, ASOS, Groupon, Allegro, or Booking)

  • A one-year extended warranty that works automatically when you buy electronics

  • ZEN Care – shopping protection; you can request for a refund when paying with ZEN cards and something went wrong (seller doesn't help or you have been tricked)

Last week, I talked with Dawid to discover how ZEN differentiates from Revolut, Monese, and other challengers from Europe.

Enjoy a short video interview with ZEN's founder here.👇

Is Revolut still appealing in 2021?

Revolut was an amazing product when it was first launched in Romania. Its elegant CX was miles away from what banks delivered to their customers 2-3 years ago. But things have changed, and local banks acknowledged the importance of customer experience and UX-friendly apps.

Today, Revolut is also a licensed bank, while traditional banks struggle to do fintech and update their financial propositions. Moreover, new challengers enter the stage and, like ZEN, will show a better cost proposition.

Ergo, the question that many have is: Is it worth using Revolut in 2021?

Before answering this question, let’s have a look at the main changes of the fee structure for standard users, to be applied from 23rd April:

  • 1 commission-free trade per month (previously 3)

  • the custody fee will rise from one basis point (0.01%) of asset value per annum to twelve basis points (0.12%)

  • adding a limit on the total number of ATM withdrawals to 5 per rolling month. The RON800 (EUR200) free monthly limit will remain the same, yet the 2% withdrawal (not less than RON5) will be applied after the limit is reached.

  • international transfers (cross-border and SWIFT) fees will range between RON1.5 and RON25, depending on how much you transfer and where, so standard users won’t have one free cross border transfer anymore.

The good news is that the most popular payment types (used by over 90% of Revoluts’ customers) will remain free, meaning local bank transfers in home currency, euro transfers to any country within SEPA (EU/EEA countries, the UK, and Switzerland) and of course the transfers between Revolut users.

So, getting back to the first question, is it worth using Revolut in 2021? I’ll take just a personal stance here as a standard user, but according to your needs and expectations, the verdict could be different.

The pros

  • 1 free trade a month is still acceptable for long-term investors, and the upgrade cost to receive 3 commission-free trades is reasonable

  • the hassle of setting up a trading account is minimum compared to other trading platforms

  • SEPA transfers are free and easy to initiate

  • the network effect is a plus; almost everyone in my social circle has Revolut so that I can send them money instantly

  • considering Revolut is now a bank, your money will be protected up to €100,000 under the European Deposit Protection Scheme

The cons

  • The overall customer experience is no longer the same, and the app is a bit overcrowded with features; more is yet to come.

  • The no-fee currency exchange threshold (1,000 EUR) is not enough; more fintechs like ZEN, Vivid, or Orange Money have higher limits or unlimited currency exchange.

  • with more than 10 million clients, Revolut’s customer support might become a nuisance.

  • if your money is subject to AML verification, you may have to wait a lot for a resolution.

  • the limit for ATM withdrawal is quite low, and the 2% fee after exceeding it is high

  • the weekend currency exchange mark-up is annoying

Bottom line, Revolut is now a bank, and it will start acting like one. This is not a bad thing, but some early adopters who helped Revolut so much in spreading the word may become frustrated with customer support, frequent changes of fees, or even UX.

Does scaling up a Fintech mean entering the traditional territory?

Looking over Roger’s bell curve (the technology adoption lifecycle), it would be a safe assumption to say that challenger banks like Revolut are in the “Early Adopters” phase but prepare to seize the majority groups.

As in every innovation adoption cycle, the majority needs a high level of trust to accept working with a new kind of financial service provider.

That’s why getting the banking license is not just a decision that opens new product possibilities (overdraft facilities and personal loans). It’s about raising the trust level and delivering a financial proposition similar to banks established in the 17th or 18th century, like Barclays or Lloyds.

Of course, something will be lost on the way, and as Fintechs will become mainstream, they will accept the risk of becoming somehow boring, more traditional.

There's a new soft POS solution in town!

BCR & Global Payments Inc. recently announced that they had launched a new soft POS solution that allows transforming your very own smartphone into a contactless POS.

Alpha Bank was the first bank in Romania to go live with such a solution (Alpha PhonePOS), but few other banks also work on similar projects.

According to some bankers who did not want to be named, Banca Transilvania and OTP Bank are two banks that will follow with a soft POS solution.

NEXT FinTech Demo Day Awards 🏆

NEXTFintech is Techcelerator’s first program specifically designed to offer investment readiness and go-to-market support to startups in financial services and related industries. The program initiated in 2020 by Techcelerator, with the support of the Development Facility of the European Fund for Southeast Europe (EFSE DF), hosted the Demo Day on February 24.

11 startups that passed through the 12 weeks of acceleration presented their projects on the NEXT Fintech virtual stage. Here are the winners 👇 

22Trust Venture developed a B2B product dedicated to retail banks that offers dynamic prices, using AI technology in their lending activities.

Investory Toy Factory is a financial education app that uses game-based learning techniques to help children understand finance.

Zoom Report is a platform that provides users with integrated, geographically located public data and helps them analyze local socio-demographic and economic environments for business decisions.

  • The Best Startup Award - Leaseman

The best startup of the NEXT FinTech Demo Day was Leaseman, a platform that facilitates renting and managing the available commercial spaces.

Congratulations to all the NEXT Fintech alumni. Find out more about the program and the 11 teams HERE.

Salarium, the first salary advance app in Romania [VIDEO]

Salarium is the first Romanian salary advance app, and it was officially launched last week. Alina Ștefan, the CEO of Salarium, talked about the solution in a #FintechFriday video (in Romanian) and hosted a conference with experts from the payroll industry, fintech founders, and investors.

I was honored to be part of the panel and share some insights on the global trends that will have a major impact on fintech and payroll.

Although not as popular as Buy Now Pay Later apps, paycheck advance solutions like Salarium can add up to BNPL benefits due to the infinite buying opportunities.

If BNPL startups have to enroll merchants to set up an installments scheme, salary advance fintechs offer a portion of your paycheck on demand so you can spend it anywhere.

Besides being a part of the huge BNPL trend, the salary on-demand solution is also encompassed in a larger trend, the personal finance democratization.

Technology empowers us as consumers and employees to benefit instantly from our paychecks, and we ask for better control of our money. Therefore, an app that enables us to receive our hard-earned money before payday seems quite indispensable.

Jobs in Fintech & startups

A digital loan is one of the products in Orange Money’s pipeline so you could jump in and take the lead in developing the lending product, from conceptualization, development to go-to-market.

  • Growth Marketing Alchemist with Volt

Team Volt is hiring a Growth Marketer with 3+ years of product marketing experience and at least 1 year of experience in aggressive growth strategy.

Simply put, you will be directly responsible for making our products “fly-off the shelf” and you will manage the marketing team with the ultimate goal of spreading our products to each and every customer who can benefit from them.

Do you love digital products and services and you have experience in selling them?

You can simply apply to this job, by sending your resume to Andreea:

Are you more into online marketing (SEM/PPC campaigns, product feeds, Social Media Advertising, email Marketing? You can also apply for a junior/middle direct marketing specialist at Volt.

Visa is looking for a self-starting Intern to facilitate more agile ways of working across Sales & Marketing in the Bucharest office.

Tasks could include building customer-oriented pitch to merchants and joining the Account Executives in client meetings.    

The consultant, together with the existing team and the Business Development & Sales Director, will have to shape Data & Services growth strategy in Romania, Greece and Hungary and execute against that strategy.

MBA or relevant post graduate degree is recommended, while consulting experience from a top-rated consulting firm is also desirable.

Other worth mentioning Finbites

IT Smart Systems announced that it had integrated some of the major banks in Romania - BRD, BT, BCR, CEC Bank, ING, Raiffeisen, and Revolutfor both AISP (account information) PISP (payment initiation) flows.

Ocean Credit closed a 4 million RON investment in core-banking, which will reduce the time of delivering loans to 3-4 min. The new core banking will also enable the first revolving credit line in Romania - Delfin- which will transform your debit cards, including the ones from Revolut or Monese, into a credit card.

The Romanian-born Plant an App is one of the winners of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) first Start-up Innovation Challenge competition aimed at rewarding creative responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Libra Internet Bank has become the first Romanian bank to connect with a stockbroker. Retail clients can trade Romanian and international stocks directly from the mobile banking app due to a partnership with TradeVille

Paysera LT, a fintech company, collecting e-payments for most Baltic e-shops and providing payment services globally, exceeded the revenue of 2019 by 17 percent, while net profit in 2020 was EUR 3.4 million.

iFactor, a hybrid B2B marketplace for alternative SME liquidity needs, became the first Romanian Fintech to raise money on Seedrs. iFactor offered a 15.31% equity share and has a €3.9M pre-money valuation.

Bitdefender noticed that some fraudulent emails were sent in the name of 6 major banks from Romania. Beware of any suspicious email on behalf of Banca Transilvania, BCR, CEC Bank, ING, Raiffeisen Bank, and UniCredit Bank.

The tech company granted free access to its e-learning platform, BottomUp Skills, led by Mike Parsons (CEO of Qualitance). You can find a wide range of courses covering topics like organizational culture and team management, product marketing, and trends in emerging technologies and collaborative working methods.

After First Bank's implementation, Onfido's solution has been deployed at TBI Bank. The "phygital" lender announced that it can now onboard and verify new customers 80% faster, while the acquisition cost decreased by 66%.

Prime Dash is the first Romanian FinTech to join the Euro Banking Association (EBA), becoming part of an organization that supports a pan-European vision for clean and efficient payments.

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