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Banking as a Service, in collaboration with bol.com

Rapid innovation in a startup culture

As an entrepreneur, would you like to know within 15 minutes whether additional financing is possible for you? With Flexible Financing, a new product from Rabobank, this has beome possible. The new financing solution is available to business customers of Rabobank, ING and ABN AMRO. How did the bank develop this new service and what skills do you need for this kind of work? We’ve spoken to Pim Meurs, Product lead within Rabobank Bedrijven, Strategy & Innovation.

“We devise new propositions and strategies to bring the bank closer to our customer, rather than the other way around. We want to offer entrepreneurs the means to do their banking in the manner that suits them, in a way that makes sense to entrepreneurs.” The question arose how to offer banking services in other places than the Rabo app or website. “Why couldn’t it be through an accounting program? Or on a sales platform that business owners visit on a daily basis? That would save them a lot of time. This is what we call ‘banking as a service’.”

Collaborating with bol.com

This is how the idea of Flexible Financing was born. Rabobank recently launched this service in collaboration with bol.com. Pim: “They are the main retail platform in the Netherlands where many retailers and entrepreneurs sell their products. At this platform we can reach many entrepreneurs at once with this new service.”

John Lin, Ecosystem Business Developer at bol.com, on Flexible Financing: “As an e-commerce retailer, you don’t want to wait days for the traditional application process at the bank. You want to know where you stand very quickly. We were able to market this service in a short period of time. By using the bol.com Retailer API, our sales partners can provide their data to service providers such as Rabobank. It’s great that they are the first to take a step in the financial sector.”

Conveyor belt with bol.com box

Business owners give permission to share data with Rabobank. Pim: “After they have given permission, we immediately perform automated calculations to determine what is financially possible. The actual turnover determines the financing costs. As a cooperative bank, we help entrepreneurs grow by looking at options. What we see is that this additional financing is primarily needed at seasonal peaks or as working capital to take the next step.”

Working agile

For Pim and his team, it means a way of working that you don’t expect at a bank. “This image of a traditional and conservative work environment is really outdated. At Rabobank, it is becoming more and more common to work agile, according to our Simplify@Scale philosophy. You can see us as a startup within the bank. We have direct contact with our end users. We do the customer validation and product validation ourselves. We put our ideas out there and investigate whether they are viable. We validate our assumptions based on data-driven experiments. We are responsible for the design and user experience ourselves and we keep all the IT in-house.”

But how do you ensure trust and assurance to your customers? Pim continues: “Most of the work we do ourselves, but not everything. Many of the original services of a bank are still there. As a team we can make use of those services. Think of administration and checks on loans or the serving of payments. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. In fact, it is because of other robust teams that we can make these innovations. Thanks to the support of the Core Banking Teams, we can continue to build with new innovations. This is how Rabobank remains relevant to customers in this rapidly changing society.”

You have to have that startup mentality.
Pim Meurs, Product lead Rabobank Bedrijven, Strategy & Innovation

A startup within bank will surely not set up the functions and divide the work in the traditional way? “That’s right. Within our team, we handle the tasks that are necessary to move the idea forward ourselves. You have to have that startup mentality. It doesn’t help if you wait for the work to come to you. Adaptability, creativity, those are important qualities we look for in our people.” The success of the Flexible Financing services and other innovative services, among others, is driving growth in Pim’s team and his colleagues. “We are grateful to make use of the knowledge and insights of our marketing department at Rabobank, but even more so we would prefer to have someone in our own team who can do this. Just like Business Analysts and software engineers; they are always welcome. With our ambition to become even closer to our customers, we badly need them!”