Bank99, Austria, transforms branches into stores and bakeries into banks: is integration possible in Brazil?

Imagine this: in the same place, you take out a mortgage, buy a smartphone and, on top of that, buy ink for your printer.

You leave there and go to a bakery. Between a plate of bread, fruit salad and a coffee, he withdraws money, makes small loans, pays the electricity bill and asks for a new credit card.

Get out of the imagination because this reality already exists — but you still have to cross the ocean and land in Europe to see all this gear working.

In the first example that opens this report, the services are available at a bank branch. In the second case, the bank is installed in the space where a commercial point operates.

The concept comes from English expressions: “One Stop Shop” or “One Stop Market”. In other words, the possibility for the consumer to be able to buy several products and services in the same place – both in the physical and digital worlds.

In retail, this reality is more palatable with Mercado Livre, Amazon and Magazine Luiza immersed in this modality. The leap of the cat is to see the format spreading through the financial industry, more conservative, providing what most hooks the consumer: convenience.

The report of InfoMoney got to know a bank99 unit, in Austria, which offers this type of service. Instead of bank branches, the bank has convenience stores that sell everything from headphones and cell phones to everyday stationery; More reserved offices are used for negotiating more complex financial products, such as real estate financing.

“The idea was to bring convenience to the customer, who can buy a cell phone in our store and, if they want, take out a loan, for example”, says Michael Wiedeck, bank99’s sales director.

According to Wiedeck, there are already 400 convenience store-style branches, in addition to 1,800 bank points spread across shopping malls, bakeries, pharmacies, cafes, gas stations and telephone companies.

(Agency reproduction / bank99 – Christian Stemper)

At the branches, the bank offers checking accounts, personal loans, real estate financing, deposits, insurance and a savings service, whose customers can choose a fixed amount to save every month, in addition to specific investments.

At partner commercial points, it is possible to deposit, withdraw money and make transfers between bank accounts. One detail: the customer cannot buy a product from the partner’s store using the bank teller.

The idea is to be at an easily accessible point with services from the bank closest to the customer, but operating separately from the partner establishment.

When visiting one of bank99’s units, in person, the reporter had the feeling of being in a retailer. The bank’s logos, however, served as a reminder that this is a bank branch, with ATMs.

(Agency reproduction / bank99 – Christian Stemper)

The differential of the deconstructed bank branch is that, in it, the customer has access to several offers, in addition to entering the space not necessarily to hire a banking service, but to buy a notebook, for example — and they don’t even have to be a bank99 customer.

“The tradition of merging services began with the Austrian Post, which has always offered, in addition to delivering goods, financial services through a partnership with a third-party bank. From the customers’ perspective, they had accounts at the post office, which held the data and served the customers, but you needed a bank to run the services. The partnership agreement would end in March 2020, and the Austrian post office decided to create its own bank”, explains the executive.

bank99 was launched in April 2020 as a result of a joint venture between Austrian Post and GRAWE Banking Group. The challenge was to attract customers because there was no migration of accounts from the old partner.

“We had to open new accounts for all customers. But, under the circumstances, the process was done online. With a quick analysis, the client can now access the current account and move the money”, says Wiedeck during the agency’s presentation. Today there are 200,460 customers, according to Wiedeck.

Austria Post is the main shareholder of bank99, with 90% of the business. In addition to the financial services mentioned, it continues to send and deliver parcels.

bank99 has collective spaces with lockers, where orders that have not been delivered to homes (by choice or for any other reason) are kept. To pick up the packages, proof of identity is required.

In addition to receiving a package, the customer can send a package to another person within a bank99 branch as well. See the order space:

(Reproduction / bank99 – Christian Stemper)

The model is different from what we have in Brazil, for example, but the executive explains that there are similar formats in Europe.

“Some countries, like Germany, Portugal and Italy, have banks linked to the local post office. So, we saw that it was possible to develop something very similar here”, explains Wiedeck.

For now, he says he has no short-term plans to expand partners, but that the bank is keeping an eye on opportunities.

In South Africa, for example, the bank Nedbank also works with service points located in partner commercial outlets that allow paying electricity bills, playing the lottery and withdrawing and depositing money, following a similar logic of convenience.

Physical store vs internet banking

For Wiedeck, the agency model works very well because it unites the digital and physical worlds.

According to him, the average age of customers is 48 years. “For us, it works. [o formato de agência]. These customers like the face-to-face approach to resolve doubts and problems that arise, and we also have online channels for those who wish to do so,” he says.

(Giovanna Sutto/InfoMoney – Branch in Vienna)

Is it possible to have something similar in Brazil?

“In Brazil, we have the banking correspondent, which is the establishment that connects consumers to the financial institution. So, the supermarket, stationery store or a standard commercial establishment could play this role of bank partners”, says Rogerio Melfi, from ABFintechs.

This figure needs to follow specific rules of the Central Bank and with the permission to receive payments of electricity, water and telephone bills, and collect registration information, for example. Today, the lottery is the best-known correspondent. According to data from Febraban, there are more than 210 thousand correspondent banking establishments in Brazil.

“The lottery can start to become a specific convenience store with specific products, and the bank arrives with the financial product to assist in the purchase process”, says Juan Ferrés, founder and CEO of Teros.

Ferrés says that this process, in Brazil, needs to be cautious. “Perhaps it is faster to create relational models in which people can interact face-to-face to answer questions and solve more complex problems, but which do not offer transactional options, such as withdrawals and deposits, for example”.

“There are risks because the numeraries can get mixed up. For example, if many people withdraw money in one day, the store’s cashier can be affected”, he adds.

In the case of bank99, when there are bank points within the partners, the businesses are separated without mixing the revenues. Inside the branches, on the other hand, the revenue goes to the bank, which passes on a slice to the partner store.

“I think this is a solution: for banks to bet on hybrid spaces, which have bank services, but also work as a meeting point for businesses, in an attempt to keep customers close and attract new ones”, says Melfi.

Some fintechs and digital banks with branches are trying alternatives that deviate from this pattern. This is the case of a unit of Banco Original, at Av. Faria Lima (SP), which is a cafeteria and has bank employees to assist the customer in person and with meeting rooms.

Ferrés believes that, with the evolution of the Brazilian market, new agency formats will be a reality.

“Agencies as we know them today will be left behind and more focused on corporate clients. I think it is possible for institutions to create points of convenience in various establishments or even with retailers ‘powered by’ [feito em parceria com] bank ‘XYZ’”, he says.

Melfi recalls that this type of integration can be welcomed, even by the Central Bank itself. “Having the banking service within the commerce is a desire of the regulator because it can allow Pix Saque and Pix Troco within the commerce, for example, and this establishment also becomes a point of circulation of cash”, he says.

He also says that another solution is to unite all the banks in a single branch. The company OneBanks Hubs does this: it has a physical point that aggregates services from 22 banks, with its own team that helps consumers.

“Customers of any bank can go to this branch to deposit and withdraw money, make payments and get help setting up or using an online bank,” the website says. For now, the service is available in three cities in Scotland.

Would OneBanks Hubs have ballast in Brazil? Only time will tell.

Reporter traveled at the invitation of Diebold Nixdorf.

About Yadunandan Singh

Born in 1992, Yadunandan approaches the world of video games thanks to two sacred monsters like Diablo and above all Sonic, strictly in the Sega Saturn version. Ranging between consoles and PCs, he is particularly fond of platform titles and RPGs, not disdaining all other genres and moving in the constant search for the perfect balance between narration and interactivity.

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