Andrei Dikouchine in the exclusive interview for The Fintech Times
Business as usual and #NoChatbots policy
Mark: A lot of people saw 2020 as a year of extreme change, so if we now just fast forward into January 2021, how did you approach the new year? Is it just more business as usual? because I think you’re coming off the first quarter of this year with even more growth than you had through 2020 as well, aren’t you?
Andrei: Yes, it really accelerated nicely. Part of that is due to the fact that we launched into different geographies. It’s quite curious, or at least I find it curious, that the product itself is digital but there is no way to meaningfully attack a particular market without actually having feet on the ground. It just doesn’t work. This very much goes to DNA of 3S Money because we tell our clients “you get a personal customer manager, you get a response quicker, you don’t have chatbots” and all that stuff. And it actually pays off.
Brexit, regulators in Europe and 3S Money in between
Mark: What sort of decisions and conversations do you therefore have to have to service customers across Europe? Do you tackle the hardest problem because if you can solve the hardest problem do the rest of the problems become a little bit easier?
Andrei: Well, it’s a lot of that: it’s not technology, it’s about perception. Take SEPA payments – a lot of regulators, a lot of banks are convinced that the two-letter prefix actually means anything. And that is how they differentiate the payment flows between the countries which is not true at all, it really depends on who is connected to which central bank, only target to framework.
Two months ago we opened a small office in Dubai, and were applying for a regulatory permission there as well, and generally our view is to go alongside the big Europe-Asian trade flows – there’s lots of them – and what we’re finding is there’s a huge gap between what the Asian banks and Asian financial community understands about Europe and vice versa. Now we have a Brexit dimension to it, so it’s becoming incredibly, on the one hand complicated, and on the other hand, really exciting story. Because we live through magic historical changes that no one envisaged probably five years ago.
3S Money’s biggest belief: the technology is here to enhance people
Mark: So, it’s kind of accelerated the ingenuity if you like and the sort of development of the product that you need to fit into that complicated situation and try and simplify it for your customers as it were?
Andrei: I don’t think that even people that do commercial loans actually know about how CHAPS payments actually operate. We had to learn it the hard way ourselves. Really pinging things and looking at another issue in the industry which is “never trust the manual” – unless we ring it and do it in the sandbox ourselves, and even then, we are testing a few things today as well in the sandbox and if it works, we put it in production, and who knows, someone wrote a bunch of code somewhere that is not actually aligned – go find it. So that’s the thing, we were really entertained in terms of how to collect that knowledge and we realized once again that the value of 3s.money is actually our people. And the knowledge that they have.
Merchant Banking in the digital era
Mark: Let’s try a little bit of stargazing and think of the position where 3S Money be in this time next year?
Andrei: Years’ time will probably fly very fast. Our more aspirational views have like three years frame and what we’re trying to do is sort of recreate in the digital way the traditional British merchant banking institution you know the old Morgan Grenfells – we want to transform that into digital realm. It takes time, every new banking partner, any update takes six to nine months and takes patience, so we’re thinking it’s three to five years really to get to that point. It’s not the matter of money, it’s more a matter of people and how people accumulate, and we don’t lose the good spirits and people smiling and laughing and still being hard work sort of combination – that’s important.