Wojciech Sobieraj, chief executive officer at Vodeno, has spent more than 30 years in the banking sector. He launched a successful Polish bank, Alior, before setting out to co-found Vodeno and Aion Bank.
Now, NatWest Group has entered into a partnership with Vodeno that will see the creation of a banking-as-a-service (BaaS) business in the UK.
The partnership will enable UK businesses to embed financial services products such as payments, deposits, point-of-sale credit and merchant cash advances directly into their ecosystem.
NatWest committed £115m to the establishment of the new UK entity and a £50m investment in Vodeno Limited (which owns 100% of Vodeno and Aion Bank) to acquire an 18% minority stake.
Fintech Intel spoke with Sobieraj to discuss how the partnership came about and the future of embedded banking.
Could you tell me about Vodeno and your role at the company?
I am the chief executive officer of Vodeno. The concept for Vodeno was to build a financial services technology company with the latest cloud technologies.
A fully cloud-native banking platform did not exist at the time, so we built the Vodeno Cloud Platform (VCP) from the ground up with proprietary software that covers all aspects of retail and SME banking via hundreds of open APIs.
We also knew that we needed to tap into fast-moving fintech innovation, so VCP is also a ‘360’ ecosystem with nearly 90 of the best fintechs integrated into the platform.
How did the partnership with NatWest come about?
NatWest Group is fully convinced—as we are—that BaaS and the emergence of embedded banking in favourite consumer brands is the future of banking.
NatWest wanted to tap into the massive opportunity in the UK, and chose to partner with us because of the strength or our platform that complements the business banking technology they had already built.
What does Vodeno offer to NatWest, that it can’t do in-house?
NatWest Group business banking app Mettle built a standalone core banking and payments capability, and VCP will provide the core technology to enable the deployment of BaaS services.
VCP can cover the full spectrum of banking services, from ‘smart contract-enabled’ core banking and accounts to payments, lending and investments, and both for retail and corporate end users, allowing for our solutions to be flexible and modular to client needs.
How will the partnership benefit businesses and consumers?
For brands, embedding financial services into their offering in order to deliver a seamless customer experience is critical.
Retailers, ecommerce brands, travel companies—there are many examples of businesses in non-banking sectors that can reap the rewards of integrating banking, lending or payment products directly into their ecosystem.
According to research from J.P. Morgan, companies that embed payments into their platforms see a two- to five-time increase in revenue per customer.
For consumers, a seamless checkout experience—one that does not require them to register or enter personal details, and be able to remain on the brand’s website—is the perfect customer journey, leading to more purchases and increased visits.
How do you think embedded finance will influence the financial services sector in the future?
Our belief is that in the 21st century consumers do not need another retail bank, but they do need better banking; fairer, end-to-end digital and more accessible.
In the next 10 years, we believe traditional branch-based banking will be less prominent because most brands will embed financial services naturally where transactions occur.
The next big banking trend will be ‘platform banking’ via brands people use every day. Embedded finance is making this possible.
What are the future plans for Vodeno?
We have many clients on our books and are scaling fast across Europe. We are seeing tremendous interest from non-regulated companies that are looking to embed financial services products to keep up with competitors and grow their business.
With all this momentum, our ambition is to become one of the top BaaS providers in Europe across the next three years.