May we introduce: Dr. Verena Thaler from Raisin
Working in the FinTech sector is like coming and going, requires a high degree of professionalism in a thoroughly relaxed working environment and is above all characterised by innovations as well as good, clever and future-oriented ideas, according to the widespread consensus. But who are actually the brains and doers behind these creative thought processes, at the interface between finance, digital technologies and entrepreneurship? In our Series The faces of the FinTech industry we regularly ask a person from the payment and banking industry the same ten questions. This time Dr. Verena Thaler answers our questions.
May we introduce…
During our everyday work we meet exciting people who work in the same environment, who we meet only once or from time to time or who we have already grown very fond of in our private lives – each of them has a story of their own. We have a few of these People from our nearest FinTech environment to give them a face. To share why this industry is much more to them than just another way to pay their rent. We would like to briefly portray and introduce these people and their vita in a very special category and have designed a questionnaire that is always the same. This time Dr. Verena Thaler answers our questions. Verena is Head of Strategy at Fintech Raisin.
Who are you, what do you do?
I am Verena Thaler, Head of Strategy & Business Development at Raisin. In Germany we are better known under the brand WeltSparen, the platform for investment. I’ve been with the company since February 2020 and I’m part of its management team. Together with my teams, we develop individual funding strategies together with our partner banks. Our Europe-wide platforms give them access to cross-border deposit financing, enabling them to diversify their funding sources cost-effectively. I am also responsible for the strategic direction of Raisin. In line with our vision, I work together with the founding team to make investments accessible to all without barriers. As a fast-growing FinTech, we still have a lot to do.
Privately I am a big fan of freshly roasted coffee, snow-covered mountains and Styrian pumpkin seed oil – you can tell I am Austrian. But I lost my heart to Berlin a long time ago and fortunately you can find at least two of the three things here as well.
What were your first contacts with the payment and banking industry?
The first conscious contact was at the age of eleven or twelve. At that time I found it better to manage my finances (aka pocket money) via online banking and persuaded my parents to set up my own account :-) During my time at McKinsey & Company, I started working with banks and developed a great passion for this industry. There I advised banks for more than seven years – most recently as junior partner. My focus was on sales and the development of digital go-to-market strategies, for example How can financial products be digitalized and brought to market in a way that creates customer-centric experiences?
When did you first notice the word FinTech?
I first noticed the trend when comparison platforms and aggregators became more and more important. The term FinTech crept in at some point. Especially in the period from 2012/2013, the “young savages” such as WeltSparen, N26, Lendico and Finleap needed a name.
How do you define FinTech?
For me, FinTech’s are companies in a new financial industry that use technology to solve problems and customer needs in innovative ways. To do so, they are redefining products, processes and business models. For me personally, FinTechs always come from a start-up environment and bring a disruptive mentality with them.
In the meantime, however, many FinTechs are no longer start-ups but have grown into heavyweights in the financial sector and are now indispensable. The success of FinTechs has contributed to the fact that in similarly established industries with digitalisation pressure, more and more companies have been founded to solve customer needs through innovative use of technology. FinTechs are therefore for me the source of inspiration for start-ups such as LegalTechs, InsurTechs, MedTechs and PropTechs.
“The success of FinTechs has contributed to the fact that in similarly established industries with digitization printing, more and more companies have been founded to solve customer needs through innovative use of technology”.
What do you think established companies do better than FinTechs?
Established companies have some important assets, especially data. Through their existing, long-term customer relationships and the associated transaction history, they have a very good view of their customers. There are many companies that have recognized these assets. One example is American Express, which is a pioneer in Advanced Analytics/Big Data and has successfully used the knowledge they have gained to reduce fraud and identity theft.
Partnerships with FinTechs have also played an important role in this process. This is a trend that I am very pleased to observe: from today’s perspective, traditional companies and FinTechs have learned a lot from each other. All in all, I think it is great to see how established banks and FinTechs are increasingly approaching each other, appreciate each other and no longer see themselves as competitors but as partners who benefit from each other.
What can you learn from FinTechs?
FinTech stands out for me in three areas: corporate culture, agility and courage. Why? They live a culture of “falling down. Standing up. Carry on”. A setback is also seen as an opportunity and used to gain knowledge. The new knowledge is then immediately used to improve the product or business model. At the same time there is this creative urge, agility as an attitude. FinTechs never stand still, but continue to improve. Feedback from business partners and customers is used intensively and ensures short product cycles with fast iterations. Furthermore, FinTechs are courageous.
They are very good at identifying opportunities and weighing up risks. You are used to making decisions under uncertainty and to implementing these decisions quickly. Many people call it courage, for me it is more like calculated risk-taking. These skills and attitudes rub off on employees and ultimately manifest themselves in the entrepreneurial culture of FinTechs. In my view, these are all values and skills that are becoming increasingly important.
Why do established (large) companies have such a hard time with digitisation?
I don’t see it in such black and white. Many incumbents are innovative and keep repositioning themselves. All in all, however, it is often structural disadvantages that make established companies less flexible or agile in reacting to market changes. Technological and social change is happening at an enormous speed, while at the same time the demands of customers, employees and partners are increasing.
Classical examples of this are the complex structures of large companies that cannot keep up with the digital change. These often include outdated IT landscapes or core banking systems, but often also a certain inertia and risk aversion. With some companies – or rather corporate cultures – I have the feeling that restrained digitization is about defending the status quo. They are so afraid of going on the offensive and perhaps even cannibalizing themselves with the digital offering that at some point the competition does. The opportunity is being missed to remain the “spider in the web” and to control the creation of value through self-determined, early change.
What would you do professionally if you were not working in the payment and banking industry?
I have never seriously thought about that – a good sign to have found the right place for me :-)
Which company would you like to work for one day?
I would find it very exciting to spend a day working at the Federal Criminal Police Office. I am driven by a strong urge to get to the bottom of things, to recognize patterns and to continue working on the basis of hypotheses. That is probably why I am fascinated by criminology and the “craft” behind it.
Who would you like to have a beer with?
I would love to exchange views with Jacinda Ardern and Brene Brown over a glass or two of wine. I admire Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, for her leadership and the clarity of her decisions, especially in times of crisis. I find it very exciting to hear what the last 12 months have been like for her and what ideas and plans she still has for New Zealand. Brene Brown is a researcher who examines the impact of vulnerability, empathy and courage on our lives – and what significance these qualities have for authentic leadership. I can recommend her TED Talk “The power of vulnerability” to everyone. I find her research exciting not only personally, but also for organizational development. I would like to exchange views with her on this.