Jelena Durovic Segment manager in the Marketing Division at Societe Generale Srbija.
By vocation, I am a specialist in the field of banking and finance. By experience, I am an expert for small business lending, marketing, and CRM with over 15 years of engagement in the Serbian banking sector. By carrier goal, I am a digital transformation enthusiast eager to show that banking is not only about cash, queuing and figures but also about innovation, team spirit and partnership with clients, startups and other stakeholders that are on the same mission of changing the world. In essence, I am a true supporter of entrepreneurship.
I’ll admit something… the Special offer for freelancers-contractors, registered as lump-sum tax entrepreneurs, was not created on purpose. At least not at the beginning…
The story about the development of SINHRO package is a fascinating one and a good example of how we should always be open to hear about new ideas and meet new people from different backgrounds and industries even when we have no clear expectations from those activities. Everything started with the SGS and ICT hub partnership contract. The initial idea was that we should foster a connection with the ICT community and interaction with startups to adopt some new advanced business principles and push for innovations in all fields, to work efficiently and purposefully. Of course, the idea was also to prepare a banking offer for the community that we were working with at that time. At that moment, all we saw were startups, so we began by focusing on them. We had many conversations and one-on-one meetings with representatives of this segment, which helped us learn about their challenges in Serbia, and not only concerning banking. The turning point was when we met Sofija Popara and her team from Clever DOO. They were already developing web application PAUSAL for easy administration of lump-sum tax entrepreneurs at the time, but still without MVP.
Getting to know the community allowed us to understand what kind of problems they were facing.
At the start of our cooperation, the initial idea was to enrich the general offer for the segment of lump-sum tax entrepreneurs, which was already a significant part of our client base. Nevertheless, in the meantime, we understood that there was also a specific sub-segment of clients whose needs were completely unserved on our banking market. They are freelancerscontractors that are registered as lump-sum tax entrepreneurs, and work mostly as experts in the fields of ICT and digital technologies, but also as lawyers and consultants in various areas of business.
Their main problem is that, even though they have regular and significant revenues, banks don’t have an understanding of their fl exible engagement in the companies they work for. In other words, they couldn’t think about applying for a mortgage or car loan because most of the banks require a permanent employment contract or reduce the amounts of potential loans by complying with the tax base. Anyway, not all the contractors are interested in loans right now, so besides Aspirin (loans) we also prepared Vitamins, which is just a way of saying we made some upgrades in our existing e/mbank applications to satisfy the daily banking needs of these clients.
Now we have the opportunity to monitor and perform transactions on all of a client’s accounts in one location, no matter if they are personal or business accounts linked to their lump-sum tax entrepreneur entity. This is something we recognized as functionality that would mean a lot to this segment of clients, and it turned out to be the right thing to do as it was very well accepted in the community. After Aspirin and Vitamins, we added beneficiary usage of PAUSAL application and advantages of the digital bank that we launched a year before to the basket, and we had something that should be offered to the market as soon as possible.
We consciously launched MVP and followed client reactions.
We decided to launch SINHRO on February 7th, knowing that the package would continue to develop. Two months later, we introduced a new native m-banking application which also featured new SINHRO functionality so that at that moment all those advantages were available to clients even on the go As time passed, we were more and more aware of the specific needs of clients in this segment and various models of their professional engagement, so with that knowledge we were also adapting to them and being more fl exible.
That is the essence of agile development. We are investigating the market, offering MVP that covers the basic needs to see whether clients will use the product, then follow the reactions with great interest and finally adapt in line with the feedback and upgrade our basic offer accordingly.
The traditional way of creating products was gradually abandoned in the Serbian banking industry over the last ten years and so, in a way, it led banks to be oriented towards clients and segments instead of products. Everyone understood that the client was the center of attention and that we needed to adjust the offer to their needs.
From that perspective, we concluded that clients did not need some new generic banking products, but packages and conditions that were tailor-made to their lifestyle.
And that is precisely what differentiates banks on the market today: the way they bundled the same generic products and how they communicate with different client segments.
Internally in SGS, we spent more than five years developing our segmented approach, but naturally, the focus at the beginning was on those that were making the most of our client base – businesses.
With time that picture changed, so we now have a much more complex scheme of segments that we identified and for which we have developed a dedicated offer. After a strategic decision to digitalize and innovate our business in subsequent years, we were heavily researching the market and, through interaction with the community that is most active in that field, we had the opportunity to meet more of those interesting segments which are now equal to those that have been in our catalogs for more than 40 years.
We had startup partners.
I have to admit that one project like this was not easy to manage. Teams and tasks were not clearly defined at the start, nor was the goal, which, as I explained, changed along the way.
Co-creation with clients was the primary model of doing things, and on that front, we couldn’t have made it without the team from PAUSAL because they already had significant experience with that segment, apart from the fact that all of them were working for Clever as contractors and lump-sum tax entrepreneurs. That fact itself was jumping out of the box and the standard way of doing things since the package was developing together with our partnership with PAUSAL and Sofija Popara.
We knew at that moment that we were on to something, but before finalizing the offer and taking on too many costs, we needed proof that our concept was accurate. We prepared the survey and distributed it through our startup partner network so that we could be sure that our focus group consisted of the specific clients that we were targeting. The survey was completed by 100 clients, and it gave us confirmation that we were on the right track.
Teams in the bank were divided according to the elements of the offer so that one was working on loan conditions, another on developing dual packages, the third on developing e/mbanking application, the fourth on training issues and internal communication, external communication and so on Managing those teams was even more challenging because the first task was taking the time for all the team members to get familiar with the new segment, and after that to explain the mission to make our banking offer easily recognizable.
From unsatisfied client to beta tester.
Not only was this product innovative in our bank, but it was also and continues to be a significant innovation on the entire market. Many outside of the community can’t understand fully the way this segment works. Bankers usually are not part of this community. Knowing that we couldn’t change that fact overnight, we decided to go slow, and start only with several branches in the two biggest cities where the population of this segment was the largest.
We started as a pilot, with a group of 30 people with whom we worked intensively to ensure that the start of the SINHRO offer was also supported by a ready support team.
The SINHRO package is a unique banking offer for independent experts/contractors and freelancers in Societe Generale Srbija.
Targeted to entrepreneurs registered as lump-sum tax sole proprietors. The value proposition was developed through co-creation with clients, and our startup partner PAUSAL and its main features are:
- Individual & Business banking account aggregation on one banking platform/app;
- Financing owners’ private needs;
- Benefits in using the PAUSAL partnership application;
- Other digital services developed the for retail segment.
Innovative elements of the SINHRO Package:
- The first bank in Serbia to discover and address contractors as a new and growing segment of freelancers. Scan the QR code to watch the info-graphic about the segment, their needs and the main features of the package we offered;
- Successful co-creation with the startup ecosystem resulting both in the relevant offer and powerful market positioning;
- Establishing and proving that there is a win-win business model of bank/startup partnership – NEW – in May 2018 we launched SoGe PAY in PAUSAL, in-app payments integrated via API for all SGS clients of the SINHRO package.