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Nordic change is in the air for 2021

Nordic change is in the air for 2021

As part of Finextra’s Predictions Series for 2021, Hannah Wallace spoke to Erik Zingmark, Nordea’s head of transaction banking to unpack some of the leading trends he expects to see throughout 2021.

Looking first at the impact of 2020, Wallace raises the question of what a post pandemic landscape look like from the Nordic perspective. “Things have continued according to expectations; we see a steep decrease in the use of cash and we see that contactless is growing. While we were seeing these pre Covid-19, it has definitely accelerated contactless cards, mobile, payments and definitely e-commerce.”

The shrinking consumer - corporate divide

Of significance to Zingmark is that for the last year we have talked about the ‘tail’ of customers using cash. He elaborates that Covid-19 has penetrated this tail by encouraging elderly people to start using contactless means of payment, meaning that they have become used to contactless cards, mobile payments, using mobile bank IDs, but also using online much more.

Zingmark also speaks to the effect that higher consumer expectations is bearing on the corporate world. Given the rapid improvement in the retail consumer world, people are bringing “the experiences they have as private individuals to the workplace and raising these demands on their providers.”

Increasing collaboration

The Nordics is currently building out its P27 project, Zingmark explains, “where we are building a cross-border, cross-currency real-time payment platform. It is a very good example of banks realising (like the telecommunications industry did some years ago) that we need to share core infrastructure in order to focus on our customers.”

It’s the perfect example, he furthers, of banks coming together not to decrease competition (they’re competing even more than ever, he insists), but to share investments in to infrastructure that brings value to society at large.

“I hope to see more of this going forward. We see this in the KYC space with utility being created in the Nordics.”

Regulation and payments competition

The work Zingmark speaks to is currently being carried out in close collaboration with regulators, and he believes that the collaboration generated by the project will bring even firmer transaction monitoring and fraud prevention to the Nordics. “This is because the utility being carried out for the banks will be able to detect fraud and other problems better than we can do in isolation. This in turn will strengthen our ability to meet regulations.”

Payments in general is a scale game, Zingmark argues. He adds that post pandemic we will see more and more people having to make the decision between going for scale independently or outsourcing certain operations which deliver a better unit cost and offer more investment capacity. “Many, many banks have survived with their current capabilities and this investment capacity but I think that will be impossible in the future.”

All banks need to question which operating model they are going follow for the future, Zingmark notes, as it will be more digital or binary in the sense that banks need to choose what kind of player you need or should be in order to support customers.

A transformed treasury for 2021?

Zingmark believes the question is essential at the moment, and Nordea is carefully engaging with the question’s implications.

“Our main message to customers is that if you as a treasury want to remain highly relevant within the company, you need to secure that you have the right competence. This means you need to understand the right tools to use, what to yourself, what to outsource.”

Notably, he warns that if treasurers do things in the way they were don’t before will not be sufficient. “My advice to treasuries is to reach out to your banks, consultants, read a lot, find your own kind of strategy for how to stay relevant for the company into the future. That’s a steep task given everything that’s happening in treasury nowadays.”

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