Interview with Liina Aagedal — Nordea’s partnership philosophy

Fintech collaboration is impossible without active participation from financial institutions. At TheFactory, we are honored to have Nordea as one of the main partner. We have had an interview with Liina Aagedal — Strategic Partner, Group Digital at Nordea to understand more about Nordea’s partnership with TheFactory, Nordea’s strategies regarding fintech, fintech trends and so on.

Hi Liina, can you tell us a bit about your company and why you are a partner of TheFactory?

Nordea is the largest financial institution in the Nordic providing a vast range of financial services to personal and institutional customers. It has a long history and is a result of numerous mergers and acquisitions. It is what people would call an incumbent bank.

The incumbent banks have traditionally been in an exclusive position to serve customers with financial services. The times have changed and new players have entered the market and are competing for the customer attention. TheFactory is one of the places where the ecosystem meets, where the corporates, startups, tech companies and investors interact in order to grow the society. TheFactory is our main ecosystem partner in Norway and Nordea has a role and responsibility in the society that we can carry out together with TheFactory.

How has the experience been to be part of TheFactory as a partner?

Being a partner with TheFactory has brought Nordea closer to the Norwegian startup ecosystem. It gives us first hand contact with a handful of startups that have been beforehand assessed and filtered. We have dialogues with startups, dialogues that can lead to collaboration and partnership. This contact with the ecosystem has opened a new perspective for our people, an arena where they can interact with entrepreneurs, co-create, coach and mentor but also learn. It is inspiring as it exposes us to new ideas, to new ways of working, new talent and new technology. Working through partnerships is a rewarding two-way dialogue — you give some and you get much more back.

Why do you think TheFactory’s model with startup-corporate connection make sense?

Partnerships between startups and corporates make sense as they bring together different aspects and skills that when combined create the winning formula. Corporates have experience, distribution power, customers, scale, while the startups master the new technology and they are fast and agile with good understanding of customer needs in their area of expertise. Joining forces means using each other’s strengths to reach our common target — deliver great solutions to our customers.

How do you see the startups progress during the program?

Startups are great in receiving feedback and use it to improve their offering. Through accelerator program they get access to a vast network of experience, expertise and potential partners that share their knowledge. The startups are hungry and willing to learn and change in order to improve and succeed. Three months sounds short but it is long enough to lay a foundation for a great entrepreneur journey. The startups may enter the program with an idea, but they will leave the program with verification and validation, knowledge, know-how and a plan how to continue.

What aspects of fintech particularly interest you? Why?

Nordea is interested in partnerships that support us on our way towards future business models and help us to identify and introduce new revenue streams. We are looking for fintech solutions that can delight our customers, whether this is retail, private banking, business banking or wholesale. We are not putting any restrictions as anything we do today can be changed in the future. You never know what is going to work so it is wise to keep an open eye to the startup ecosystem. Examples on retail side could be solutions related to home journey or savings, to mention some. Fintech are great in learning, applying and mastering new technology and they are great in adapting to change. That fascinates Nordea and we hope that through collaboration some of this culture will stick with us.

What kind of trends do you see in the fintech industry?

There are many, for example Robotic Process Automation (RPA) where software robots automate repeatable business processes and thus significantly increase the back-office efficiency. Also data science is an area of growth where developing deep understanding of customer needs and wants is becoming ever more important. Furthermore, the recognition that the best ideas do not necessarily originate from inside the large corporates has led to a trend to partner up with various players. For the corporates it means to be attractive as a partner. At Nordea, we have developed an open banking platform where, given customer consent, third parties can get access to customer data. It is up to these third parties to build basically anything to serve personal customers, institutions, corporates, and so on. To find partners we have dialogue with event coordinators, conferences, startup hubs and ecosystems all over the world. We attend match making events also outside the Nordic and our venture arm invests in fintech that is strategically relevant for us. Otherwise, what concerns financial industry a lot is compliance and risk. This is an area that costs the banks a lot of effort and resources and can benefit a lot of smart solutions.

If we look at some concrete technologies that have reached a maturity level where new solutions are now emerging and reaching the market, then I would mention blockchain but also AI and Machine Learning with solutions like natural language processing, virtual assistants and voice-controlled interfaces.

What do you see as the opportunities and challenges for the newcomers?

The fast development of the technology is an opportunity for the newcomers as they can fast learn to apply and master it. Also, PSD2 and Open Banking will create opportunities for the newcomers, it will solve integration challenges and the limitations related to access to data. The challenges for newcomers are clearly the growing competition, how to stick out from the crowd, prove their value worth. It is not easy to get traction and win customer attention among the overflow of offers that the customers are exposed to. Also, to actually run a profitable business, the newcomers must build business models that are competitive, sustainable and attractive for partners and customers. And that is a formidable challenge.