Georg Hauer on disruptive innovation in banking


On the 7th May 2018, Georg Hauer, General Manager Austria of N26, one of the fastest growing banks in Europe with more than 850.000 customers across 17 European markets, held an amazing speech at the Vienna University for Management and Communication, talking about what it means to build a first pan-European bank.

Georg joined N26 as General Manager Austria in April this year and also leads the business development for its German operations. Before that, he was General Manager at Uber and a management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. He has an MBA from The Kellogg School of Management in Chicago and a Magister from Vienna University of Economics and Business.

 

Inspired by Georg’s speech and its energy, I was eager to invite him for an interview to experience what are the drivers of an entrepreneur towards the disruptive innovation. I wanted to know how an entrepreneurial mindset is creating a disruption in the traditional industries like banking, and what breakthroughs in the mobile banking field should we, as customers, expect in the next decade. Here are my findings.

From problem-solving to the innovation business modeling

“The last thing I ever wanted to be was a banker. In fact, working for a bank sounded always like a nightmare to me. What really drives me is delivering an excellent customer experience and solving problems, that other companies have ignored for decades. Banking is a good example of where the traditional players have long lagged behind the expectations that customers have. While watching a movie or booking a flight has become drastically faster, cheaper and simpler – literally, a matter of two clicks – banking has remained pretty much the same.”

From personal experience to the global business development

“I’ve been myself a customer of N26 since 2015, one of the first 100.000 customers to join – and I loved it from Day 1. The app also changed my perspective of banking entirely, and I realized that there is a way where banking can be much simpler than at my old bank – while also offering a great user experience. Here I really felt that customers are the ones in the driver seat and have full control over their finances.”

What we can expect in banking in the next years are…

Banking will see several major disruptions. First, branches will become even less relevant at traditional banks and eventually will fully focus on highly consulting intensive services and private banking. Second, a revolution that N26 has started will become mainstream: The smartphone will become the center of all financial decisions, no matter whether it’s transactions between friends or managing savings plans. Mobile payments will start substituting the physical cards and become an alternative to any other bank account. Another trend is open banking and the usage of APIs that allow more seamless interactions between products, whether banking or non-banking.

Finally I asked Georg, what advise he can give to the entrepreneurs who are working on innovative solutions and are trying to achieve the comparable success with N26, who has raised more than $215 million within less than three years since its establishment.

The #1 advise I can give to succeed as a start-up without many resources is systematic testing. This is relevant not only for marketing but also for product market fit. If you want to grow through marketing without a large budget, you first have to have full transparency over all potential marketing channels. Typically, marketing channels for start-ups are PR, social media marketing, e-mail marketing and partnerships. Then prepare a quick strategy and invest a little bit into each channel, and analyse what happens. Success of a start-up is almost 100% defined by how well you understand your market and how to make decisions based on the data you gather”.

picure credits: Chris Liverani via usplash.com

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