Christoffer Hernæs writes about what characterises fintech in Norway right now. Hernæs is the CDO of Sbanken. You can read several assessments concerning innovation, finance and technology on the blog


Positioned to stimulate Norwegian fintech

Fintech is more popular than ever, and banks, investors and hopeful entrepreneurs are looking for the next big thing. With a digital infrastructure that is frequently ranked as the best in the world, we are in a unique position to make fintech a success beyond Norway's borders as well. Services such as BankID are easy to take for granted here in Norway, but they represent a significant innovation for services based on secure identification and authentication that can be commercialised and exported.

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The good news is that the industry is not sitting still and just watching this train go by; all relevant parties are instead actively taking different steps to participate in this development. Sbanken has invested in, which provides artificial intelligence for robotic consulting. SpareBank 1 SR-Bank has also invested in several companies that can challenge and further develop their own business model, and they have also announced that they will establish a dedicated venture fund of NOK 250 million to invest in financial technology in the Nordic Region. At the same time, DNB has established the similiar-sized DNB Venture to take a position in Nordic fintech startups.

With a recently established fintech cluster consisting of representatives from the trendsetting companies in the industry, the conditions are favourable for creating an exciting future for the Norwegian financial services industry.

The updated Payment Services Directive (PSD2) is in principle in effect, but, since the technical standards are not yet ready, it will take some time before the directive is fully implemented. This does not inhibit the banks’ willingness to open up their technical interfaces to third parties even before it becomes a requirement, and Sbanken is the first to allow their customers to develop their own banking services. This will undoubtedly create fertile ground for innovation through the use of data across the banks and other industries. At the same time, an open interface will contribute to potentially increased operational risk, and the distance from data-driven innovation to stray customer data can be short.

Artificial Intelligence will give both banks and fintech companies new opportunities in the area of credit ratings, anti-money laundering, financial consulting and generally in any area that concerns drawing conclusions based on an ever-increasing amount of data.

The battle for the customers’ wallet has started in earnest, and a broad range of savings apps and investment solutions are already in place. With robotic advisory solutions also on their way, the stage is set for competing to become the customers’ preferred digital savings and investment adviser. The goal is to make savings and investments fun, relevant and understandable – and not least to create a better return for the consumer.

After a long period of focusing on the consumer, our attention is now drawn to the SME segment, with several initiatives on the way to make everyday banking easier for the smallest companies. As a result, the interfaces between banking and accounting are being erased to provide relevant services on the customers’ terms.

Now that a number of players has launched crowdlending platforms, this will be the year when we will finally see whether crowdlending will appeal to the saving habits of Norwegians as an alternative investment product, while at the same time contributing to covering some of the capital requirements of the SME enterprises.

With the entire industry behind Vipps, conditions are favourable for making mobile phones the preferred method of payment in the future, and the battle for customer attention will be fought on the mobile phone. However, in order for fintech to be more than just a subject of conversation at conferences, the services must solve real problems in customers’ everyday lives and have a clear idea of the potential business model.

Even if the end game is difficult to predict, fintech in Norway is undoubtedly heading in the right direction and everything is set for 2018 to be the most eventful year thus far.

Christoffer Hernæs
is the chief digital officer of Sbanken and a familiar name when it comes to fintech in Norway. He was formerly the director of strategy and innovation at the SpareBank 1 Group and has a background in the consulting business. He has twice been named one of Norway’s leading managerial talents by e24 in its annual selection of young managerial talents, and he is regarded as one of the foremost authorities on digitalisation and fintech in the Nordic Region. He regularly shares his thoughts on issues in his own blog for Dagens Næringsliv and TechCrunch.