Tell me, honestly: do you have any money on you?
No, I’m not suggesting you’re broke or asking about your account balance; I’m talking about cold, hard cash that you actually, physically carry in your wallet.
None? Thought so. Me, neither.
I was meeting a client for coffee the other day and I saw a homeless man on the street. He was walking up and down the sidewalk, asking people for money. You know what the most common answer he got was? “Sorry, buddy, I don’t have any cash.”
And you know what? For the first time in my life, I actually believed that.
Debit and credit cards are becoming more and more ubiquitous these days. As a result, people are less and less likely to carry cash—and Poland is at the very forefront of this phenomenon in Europe.
Poles love digital banking. A study conducted by MasterCard shows that over 91% of Polish respondents make online payments at least once a month (the European average is 85%). Moreover, Deloitte’s CEE Fintech report values the Polish fintech market at almost €860 million. Both of these stats put Poland in the leader’s seat in this part of Europe.
Digital banking in Poland may be doing better than ever now, but that wasn’t always the case—far from it, actually. Looking back on the beginnings of digital banking in our country, it’s safe to say we have come a long way. A really, really long way.
In this article, I’d like to take you through the evolution of online banking, both in Poland and globally, by showcasing apps and trends you should definitely keep an eye on.
Rough beginnings and growing pains: the early days of digital banking in Poland
I’ve spent the last 6 years exploring the online payment industry, not just in Poland, but also on global markets. In 2012, I started working for a payment provider. My job was to persuade e-commerce clients to trust in online payments, which back then meant only e-transfers from their bank accounts.
The process was, shall we say, taxing.
I have so many stories from that time. For example, people were sending envelopes with cash to our office, asking to transfer the money to their virtual wallets, usually on betting and online dating sites. Don’t even get me started on what a nightmare it was to explain what virtual wallets were.
But as far as challenges went, one thing took the cake: explaining to the clients that they needed to make separate payments using the individual links provided for each discrete transaction, instead of logging in to their accounts and entering the same account information as before to make a transfer.
It was black magic, I’m not even kidding.
The worst of all, of course, was when those same clients would inevitably make the wrong transfers using incorrect account details and their payments wouldn’t get accepted. Every day, we had to answer at least 50 angry calls from clients asking us where their money had gone. Some even accused us of stealing it. Yes, really!
Thankfully, things have changed for the better—much better. Digital banking in Poland is thriving, and new apps and trends are popping up on the market without end, proving my very point.
But more on that a little later. Before we go any further, let’s take a step back and start at the beginning: how has digital banking gotten to where it is now?
Then to now: the evolution of digital banking
You may be surprised—I know I was—to learn that banks first started offering digital banking services to their customers as early as 1985!
However, the small number of Internet users and the costs associated with using digital banking slowed the progress down. It wasn’t until the Internet boom in the late 1990s that people became more comfortable with making transactions online.
In a sense, digital banking grew alongside the Internet. But now that I think about it, the greatest challenge was building trust.
That’s where fintech came into play.
The turn of the millennium saw not only digital banking, but also fintech companies gaining prominence. This had a crucial impact on the level of trust people put in e-banking, as well as the number of online transfers they made.
And how do we define a fintech company? Well, it’s not as easy as it may seem.
The bottom line is that fintech combines finance and technology. But the difficulties arise when we need to precisely determine the extent of finance and technology necessary to qualify a company as a fintech one. To simplify things, we largely talk about fintech in the context of companies that sell financial products through online channels.
The first fintech companies emerged on the heels of the financial crisis and were run by industry insiders. They developed on the wave of low interest rates and low loan availability in banks. To this day, fintech and digital banking go hand-in-hand, and the contribution of one to the rapid growth and evolution of the other cannot be overstated.
Having said all that, we can now safely move on to the part you’ve stuck around this long for: digital banking apps and trends. 3 picks, to be exact.
Mind you, this list is purely subjective. These are the apps that I like and the trends that I find interesting. Hopefully, you will feel the same way.
What’s hot right now: 3 digital banking apps and trends you should know about
Okay, so I’m a tad biased starting off with IKO, since I’m using it myself. But that’s far from the only reason!
The IKO mobile app is the highest-rated digital banking application in Poland. Based on 146 ratings, it has an average of 4.7 stars out of 5. Available on Android, iOS, and Windows, IKO holds the top spot on the 3 largest app stores: Google Play, App Store, and Windows Phone Store.
IKO was created by PKO Bank Polski to give their clients the ability to conveniently use and manage their accounts with their phones and make cardless payments (the service covers the Inteligo card, as well).
Some of the most important features of IKO include:
- domestic account number transfers;
- phone number transfers;
- contactless payment by phone with NFC;
- cardless payment via BLIK;
- cardless cash withdrawal from ATMs;
- prepaid phone top-up;
- Western Union transfer reception.
PKO Bank Polski employs a team of over 1,300 tech specialists, enthusiasts, and experts eager to find and implement new trends and solutions in the field of digital banking.
Working for a software house, I thought it would be odd if I didn’t take a look at PKO BP’s tech stack. So I did just that and, lo and behold, of course they use Python. If you’re curious about the reasons, check out our article on why Python should be the technology choice for your fintech.
Like I said, I’m using IKO myself and I really can’t complain, so if PKO Bank Polski is your bank of choice, don’t think twice and download the app. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
I love this one, because it’s so effortless.
Simply put, Venmo is a digital wallet.
Owned by PayPal and available on Android and iOS, this mobile payment service allows users to quickly transfer money to one another through the app.
Here is a little more information on what you can do with Venmo:
- transfer money to the bank within a single business day;
- make and share payments either with the money you have on Venmo or using your linked bank account and debit card;
- split bills with your friends and family without problems or difficulties;
- make purchases that accept mobile app payments.
To top all of that off with another tech-related note, Venmo is on the lookout for software developers. They need people familiar with backend technologies such as MySQL, Django, MongoDB, and last but not least—you guessed it!—Python. Just a heads-up in case you’re looking to get in on the action and work on a cool product.
And Venmo really is a cool product. It’s simple, it’s free, and it’s fun. Highly recommended.
3. QuickBooks GoPayment
Now, here’s something a bit different and possibly of greater interest to salespeople.
QuickBooks GoPayment is a mobile credit card processing and payment service developed by Intuit—a highly successful software company, based in Mountain View, California. The app goes hand in hand with a simple Intuit mobile card reader.
Once you set up an account, a small credit card scanner will be sent to you, free of charge. All you have to do is plug the scanner directly into your phone’s audio jack and you’re good to go (sorry, iPhone 7+ users). The app is available on Android and iOS; it even works on some BlackBerry devices.
The scanner hardware makes QuickBooks GoPayment one of the biggest competitors of Square. The main focus of Intuit, the service’s provider, are online store payments and mobile processing.
Unsurprisingly, Intuit is also looking to expand their software development team. Per their Careers page, their sights are set on engineers who can change the way people “manage their finances in cloud, platform, mobile, and SaaS environments.” Their tech stack includes such technologies as HTML5, CSS3, Django, and Ruby on Rails.
GoPayment is a nifty little gadget that transforms the way you use your credit card, and then some. I encourage you to check it out.
A look ahead: what’s next for digital banking?
The world is changing and technology is developing at a rapid rate. Those are the facts, and there’s no stopping this train. If anything, it’ll keep accelerating.
As such, the demand for fintech companies is ever-growing. It’s possible they will soon give banks a run for their money—literally.
I’m not even going to go into cryptocurrencies and blockchain here; you can read all about how blockchain is going to impact our life online elsewhere. Suffice it to say that crypto is spreading like wildfire. We’ve been observing that first-hand at STX Next for a while now, with the number of startups getting into the tech. At the moment, we have 2 blockchain/crypto projects in the works: Blocktrade and Lamden.
Once again, building trust is going to be the key challenge and priority for the future of digital banking. People will need to overcome their fear of new payment and investment methods, the same way they had to back when digital banking first became a thing.
When that happens, fintech and crypto will become an integral part of the way we use money; maybe even its cornerstone, with enough stability and social embrace. This, in turn, will mean more trials and tribulations for banking institutions, forcing them to figure out how to withstand the wind of change—and do it fast—if they want to stay relevant.
Concurrently, a tidal wave of new digital banking apps and trends is bound to come our way as the industry continues to grow. I can only imagine where we might be headed regarding new features and functionalities, but with the competition being as fierce as it is, we can rest assured that exciting developments are on the horizon.
All in all, what a time to be alive this is, if you’re into finance and technology.
So what do you make of all this digital banking business?
Do you think you’ll ever buy another leather wallet as a gift?
Would you say it’s possible we’ll eventually stop using bills and coins?
As a business development executive and an online payment enthusiast, I’d say my position on the matter is pretty clear, so I’ll let you answer these questions for yourself.
Meanwhile, thank you so much for reading my very first post on our company blog. It’s always a pleasure to share something I’m passionate about with the world. If you liked my article, I have good news for you; there’s a lot more where that came from!
For more quality content from STX Next, follow our blog or subscribe to our newsletter. We cover a variety of tech-related subjects and have fresh updates for you weekly.
Here are some of my highly recommended suggestions for further reading:
- Why Python Should Be the Technology Choice for Your Fintech
- Top 17 Fintech Companies That Include Python in Their Tech Stack
- Blockchain, Part One: What Is Blockchain and How It Works
And if you know of any latest digital banking apps or trends, or have some favorites of your own, drop me a line or leave a comment below! I’ll surely get back to you.