Olegs Cernisevs Of Blackcatcard On The Future Of Money and Banking
An Interview With David Liu
Know who are you helping when creating your product. Finding this motivation could be the key to your success. You’re never working for money or status, you’re working for the client.
The way we bank has changed dramatically over the last decade. It was not too long ago when you had to wait in line in a bank to deposit money. Today things are totally different. You can do your banking without ever walking into a bank. In addition, the whole concept of money has changed. In the recent past, money usually meant bills and coins. But today, the concept of money has expanded to include digital currency and NFTs. What other innovations should we expect to see in banking in the short and medium term?
To address this, we are talking to leaders in the banking, finance, and fintech worlds, to discuss the future of banking and money over the next few years. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Olegs Cernisevs.
Olegs is the CTO of Blackсatсard. He is involved in products development, optimization of technological infrastructure, and improving the service’s performance to ensure smoother operations. He has over 20 years of experience in banking and has a long history of working with systems used by payments services and banks. Olegs graduated from the Riga Technical University in 1998 with a master’s degree in international business and management.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in this industry?
I started working in banking during the senior year of my master’s over 20 years ago. My classmate referred me for that job at a bank. When I had my first interview, the HR lady asked me if I know anything about payment cards (they were a novelty back then). And of course, I knew of payment cards… You know, you insert it into an ATM, get the money, and then take it back from the ATM. That’s what I told the lady. And surprisingly she appointed me as the payment cards manager. Funny thing: the whole department consisted of one person — me. Soon, I became the head of the department leading a team.
Since then I’ve worked in three countries, got certified as an AML specialist and IT security auditor (ISO 27001), founded my own company, and am performing the duties of the CTO at Blackcatcard. I also began working on my Doctorate in 2020.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There was a lot, but I clearly remember this one time when I was working in the payment cards department at my first bank. You see, at that time all support, clearing of operations, etc was done via phone or email. So, one day an older British gentleman calls. He says, that he can’t withdraw money from his card. I ask why and what happened. He says that he can’t insert the card into the ATM as his hands are shaking too much. I ask him if he sees a bank office nearby. He does. So I tell him to go in and a lady at the bank would help him to make a withdrawal. There was silence for a couple of seconds and then he asks: how do you know there’s a lady there?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Just play it by ear and keep an open mind. I’ve never had any coaches, mentors gurus, and so on. I always used my own head, came up with my own ideas. I grew up in Latvia — a very strict culture. When I started working at the first internet bank in the country, I came in contact with a lot of people from other cultures and learned to understand them. It helped shape me into who I am today.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Definitely Blackcatcard. It’s a unique retail product for the European market that brings fintech as close to the customer as possible. You can even use crypto exchange without needing to understand the extremely complex concepts or how immensely deep the process really is. Everything is at the tip of your fingers!
How do you think this might change the world?
You see, some European countries are still very conservative when it comes to banking. I live in Italy and before I joined the largest bank in the country I had to personally go to the office to order a card, pick up a card, and resolve any issues that would arise. Not all banks even issue cards, work with retail clients, or have their own apps.
With fintech — everything is on your mobile, online. We want to change the situation for countries with less access. Make personal banking as simple as possible. With virtual cards you don’t even need to wait for the physical card to arrive — just open an account online, top it up and use it. It’s immediately available.
What most excites you about the banking or payments industry as it is today? Can you explain what you mean?
Cryptocurrencies. Not so much investing in highly volatile alternative instruments but as a means of making the banking system work faster.
What most concerns you about the banking or payments industry as it is today? What would you suggest needs to be done to address that?
You might have noticed that once you make a purchase, it won’t appear in your statement until a couple of days pass, or it would be marked as pending. That’s because it takes a while for the banks to “communicate” with each other. So, if you have a GBP card and purchase something denominated in EUR, the amount that is charged to your card would vary depending on the exchange rate at the moment the purchase is fully processed.
Now, EUR and GBP are not as volatile as some other currencies. Imagine that you’ve made a purchase that costs 10 Coins, but because imaginary Coins currency has plummeted within the time the payment is processed — after a couple of days you’re charged 10 Coins extra, as the exchange rate has changed drastically. This may bring you into overdraft if you only had 10 Coins to begin with.
If the banks use cryptocurrencies to conduct the payments processing — it could be done momentarily and you’ll get charged 10 Coins, at the current rate.
How would you articulate how the concept of money has changed in recent times? Is it really a change? How is it still the same? Can you explain what you mean?
The concept of money hasn’t changed. Central banks still work the same. It’s the approach of how we work with the money that’s changed. Some countries are even trying to let go of using cash altogether — transfer fully to electronic money. It’s still the same money.
Based on your vantage point as an insider in the finance industry, what innovations should we expect to see in banking in the short and medium terms?
I believe we’re heading in a direction of creating multi-functional services. All types of tech solutions combined in one service. Insurance, banking, ordering opera tickets… all in one app.
How has the pandemic changed the way banks interact and engage with their customers?
The pandemic facilitated the quick evolution of tech services. This affected banking — it taught us how we can work remotely.
That’s what everyone had to do. Even though some bank managers always preferred to see and talk to the person they were considering for a loan — with the pandemic, pretty much everything went online. Even loan applications.
Blackcatcard was ready for it, as a CTO I implemented practices that are useful when working remotely way before the pandemic. You know, work is not the office.
In your particular experience, how has the pandemic changed the way you interact with, and engage your customers?
We’ve created a system to open the card with us remotely. Anyone staying at home could use it once they’ve opened an account. During this time, a lot of clients have migrated to us from classic banking because of that. We also have 24/7 support, which has always been done remotely.
In my work in the telecom space, I’m very interested in the importance of user experience. How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, encrypted messaging apps, phone, or video calls? How has this shift impacted the user and customer experience? What challenges do these apps present when used as a customer engagement tool?
We’ve only had digital interactions with our clients from the get-go, as we are an international neo banking service. We don’t use phones, we have a chat with client support staff, available 24/7. In my experience, chatbots are not very useful when implemented alone. It often doesn’t understand the questions correctly. A manager is better at dealing with any questions. We constantly provide them with training and they have a huge answer tree.
If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?
If the chatbot could use our answer tree — it could be an interesting option. It would answer basic questions with an option to transfer to a representative. As 95% of questions are not personal, our support staff doesn’t even need to open the client’s account. That could be the job of the chatbot.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Modern Finance, Banking and Fintech industries?
- Love this job. Most of the it is routine and you have to find what brings you the most satisfaction.
- Know who are you helping when creating your product. Finding this motivation could be the key to your success. You’re never working for money or status, you’re working for the client.
- Be inventive. Find and propose new solutions, whether it’s a faster way to handle some sort of a process or an idea for a new feature or a product. You’ll get noticed!
- Understand that you’re not alone. You always have a team with you and it’s always a joint effort.
- Stay up-to-date. With the finance, tech, and fintech landscape constantly changing you must always be aware of new and prospective technologies and ideas that you could implement in your field.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Every person should do what they love to do. What makes them happy. Find a passion for your work and you won’t work a day in your life again. This changes a person from within. And when you’re happy it creates a ripple effect — you make a day for the people around you, they would do it for someone else. It’s a simple way of happiness and it’s contagious.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
LinkedIn, Twitter, and soon I’m planning to start writing for my Medium page. But to see my work — what I’m most proud of — just stay updated on Blackcatcard.
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.