Russian start-up program is looking for promising partners

In Raiffeisenbank in Russia, a start-up program has been developing since 2016. It has become an established practice for conducting research within the bank. For startups in the Russian market, Raiffeisenbank is a unique partner providing access to European venture capital. Evgenia Ovchinnikova, Head of the Center for Technological Research and Digital Innovation for Raiffeisenbank in Russia, spoke in more detail about the program.

Evgenia, tell us what does the bank get from cooperation with start-ups?

The main thing is new ideas, the speed of testing new markets and segments, and the development of an internal entrepreneurial culture. We believe that the banking services, products and offerings we create should make our customers’ lives easier so that they can focus not on the process of managing their financial flows, but on the outcome in all life situations. It means that the financial services should be embedded where relevant and seamless for them. Therefore, we look for new ideas, approaches and solutions that can potentially help us provide the best user experience and stay one of the most recommended financial services provider.

Over the four years of the startups piloting program we have reviewed more than 3,000 start-up projects from Russia and countries of the world, have validated more than 180 hypotheses for the development of bank’s products and our internal processes, and have launched more than 75 pilots with services for business, solutions for optimizing the customer journey and internal processes. Over 20 hypotheses proved in the pilots with startups found their business scaling.

What projects are you interested in?

We invest in promising ideas, creative minds and disruptive innovations that have the potential to change the financial system. We work with solutions of Russian and foreign start-up projects, we are also curious about what the technological laboratories of large organizations do. The priority for us is technologies, the effectiveness of which can be proved within the framework of the general banking development strategy. The main directions for 2020 and early 2021 were services which face retail customers; services enriching the corporate product and service line; services that can enhance the operational efficiency of the bank and our clients; security and remote service areas are more active than ever.    

What are the advantages of cooperation with Raiffeisenbank for a startup?

First, this is practical knowledge about the value of your solution for an international corporation, about the real costs and implementation features, about the internal processes of the potential partner organization and ways of scaling both specific interaction with the corporation and your company in general.  We are always open to unusual ideas and are ready to test bold business hypotheses in a real banking environment, thereby helping entrepreneurs to better understand the market. Quite often we co-create services so that they could be more valuable for the customers. You can test solutions not only in the bank’s environment, but also from the cloud or using your capacities, which allows us to achieve results within 2-3 months. Our test infrastructure and processes fast track allow us to quickly conduct experiments and get conclusive results. Moreover if we’ll succeed with our hypothesis – we can recommend you to the whole Raiffeisen Bank International Group, nominating you for its fintech partnership program Elevator Lab and its corporate venture capital fund Elevator Ventures, as well. 

How did the challenging 2020 affect you? What have you achieved?

The year was really difficult, but we managed to get through it, keeping our pace, and achieve new successes. So, we have reached a new level of testing solutions: we are introducing even more sophisticated technologies and working with high-risk hypotheses, sometimes outstripping the market. Over the course of the year, we tested the maturity level of various technologies – for example, cases of using biometrics, character recognition, process mining – and tried to implement unusual tools in the usual customer journey. For example, we launched a pilot on the topic of flexible salaries, when you can get paid on any day for the days worked. We recommend the solutions we’ve tested to our corporate clients as part of financial services. This direction will be one of our priorities in the future. In addition, over the past year, Raiffeisenbank has expanded its base of partnerships with leading players in the venture capital market. So, the scope of our inbound startup funnel has grown in quantities and qualities, too. All this gives young technology companies the opportunity to finalize the product with the constant support of experts from the bank, test the solution with the bank’s internal business customers and receive feedback for the further development.

What are your main activities supporting innovation through cooperation with startups?

Raiffeisenbank in Russia takes part in the selection of startups for RBI VC Elevator Ventures and recommends projects that have shown themselves well within the Russian innovation program and our sandbox. Close connection with Elevator Lab Program powered by RBI makes us a unique partner for startups in the Russian market, providing access to European experience and venture capital.

You can apply for participation in the startup program of Raiffeisenbank in Russia on or via Telegram @Rstartup_bot. Every week, the bank hosts a start-up lunch – a video conference during which technology companies can offer their solutions to the owners of key products, services and platforms of Raiffeisenbank. If the product seems interesting, the innovation team will help guide the work on the pilot.