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SMART Conference: Banks Told to ‘Think Big’

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The cream of the crop of Hungarian innovators gathered at the annual SMART Conference to gain an overview of the hottest tech, products, business strategies and models. For the first time the event was organized by IVSZ, the Hungarian ICT association, another sign for SMART’s growing significance.

The panel for the Open Banking discussion. From left: János Pereczes, managing director (MKB Fintechlab, moderator); Péter Fáykiss, analyst (MNB); András Séra (T-Systems); Szabolcs Tornyos, head of digital channel and service development (NKM/E.On); and Géza Radimeczky, head of financial services (ingatlan.com).

Digital disruption is all around us, and up to 95% of CEOs in a survey presented at the conference consider it as an opportunity; however, only 30% see digital disruption as a new approach, the rest is torn between whether it’s a culture, a methodology or a purely IT-related matter.  

What every decision maker needs to understand is that it can be an edge for companies ready to reinvent themselves. The findings of the survey cited was just a tiny drop in the flood of 125 presentations made at this year’s SMART, the ultimate gathering of the Hungarian innovation scene.

Experts on a panel discussing open banking also pointed out the necessity for incumbents to embrace the opportunities presented by digital. Ten years ago big IT firms were sitting on huge piles of data, but they did not know what to do with it. Then big tech came around and taught a thing or two about that to the world.  

“Banks have a lot of data, yet they can barely use it,” noted Péter Fáykiss, an analyst with the National Bank of Hungary. “They should be brave and think big before fintech competitors figure it out for themselves.”

Gábor Major

New Solutions

Banks are not ready to integrate new solutions, either. One current example is that most users of the leading local online property marketplace, ingatlan.com, would consider taking out a loan. Ideally customers should be able to digitally initiate a loan request and get their score approved in real time. The site already provides a sophisticated loan comparison engine to help decision making, but there is a long way to go until banks sign on for being part of the digital game.

Banks have good reason to feel uneasy. Some 80% of all payments made in China have no connection with any banking services. Innovators also have a job to do; namely they need to identify milestones in corporate procedures where they can bring financial efficiency to the fore.

And for users, too, it’s time to watch and learn. With instant payment to be introduced in Hungary on July 1 and ever more fintech players providing a wide range of cutting-edge services, they have a lots of potential to make their own lives easier and save big bucks while they are at it.

Healthcare trading platform Meddictive leads the way in demonstrating how blockchain can be used to tap into the European tissue trade business, a very much unexplored territory.  

On the B2B level, Meddictive functions as a stock exchange between market players where tissue banks are connected with manufacturers, hospitals and universities. The B2C segment of the operation aims to bring together patients and implantation centers. Blockchain tech provides scientific and clinical data in real time, while a web module serving as a tissue price search engine grants access to it for all players concerned. A dedicated app allows easy admin and payment.  

Independent Rating

“An independent rating system is also established because all players can rate the quality of the tissue: follow-up covers the entire process from raw material to the patient,” said CEO Tamás Czeglédi.

Meddictive’s cross-border success will be given a boost by the INPUT Program that, among other things, helps startups to go global.  

“Meddictive is one of our protégés, and we are giving them a hand with their go-to-market effort,” explained Zsuzsa Szabados, INPUT chief executive. “We are taking them to a key theme-specific industrial gathering, but before that we’ll make sure they’re fully prepared to deliver a killer pitch.”

The program provides tailor-made growth support and mentoring from the so-called “ideation” phase to going global by relying on its own mentor network.  

“It’s all about creating added value, whether it’s design thinking, marketing consulting, or just helping an idea take shape,” Szabados added. “The best part is that services are free of charge thanks to EU funds.”

ICT Sector has Mission to Educate Economic Sectors

“The ICT profession drives digital innovation, and we have a role to tell other sectors what they should gear up for in terms of digital transformation,” Gábor Major, president of the Hungarian ICT association IVSZ told the Budapest Business Journal, reflecting on why it had acted as the organizer of SMART for the first time.

“A dialogue is needed to educate players from all segments of the economy, to make them aware what changes they are about to encounter and how they can prepare for them, how to become pioneers of change.”

Very few SMEs or even multinational corporations in Hungary have a solid digital strategy that they actually implement, added Major. “There are many aspects at play here: human resources, tech, business, ecosystem; all of them need to be addressed,” he said. 

The human factor is key to handling the disruptive nature of the digital revolution. Constant pivoting has become commonplace, with companies changing course of development every few months or weeks. If someone spent decades in a given structure, they find this pace of change disturbing.

“Corporate culture has strategy for breakfast. No matter how great your digital strategy is, if you don’t prepare the ground beforehand and adapt your corporate culture accordingly, that strategy is most likely to fail,” stressed Major. 

“Time is on our side: whatever can be automated or digitalized, will be, so ICT professionals will permanently carry the day in the long run. However, all this development is not possible without skilled people, so education must be reformed to suit the needs of this new era.”

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