Ana-Maria Sturzu, International Head of Issuing at Fiserv, explains why the business was the perfect fit for MONETA Money Bank’s digital transformation during a pandemic

While the uncertainly and upheaval of a global pandemic could have deterred MONETA Money Bank from the execution of their digital transformation strategy, the bank chose to adapt and move forward, achieving success with help from global financial services technology provider Fiserv. The expertise of Fiserv and the use of a “virtual team” approach enabled MONETA to achieve their goal of reduced dependency on customized systems, as the bank moved to a Software as a Service solution using the FirstVision™ platform from Fiserv. Teams from both organisations worked to complete the migration using multiple video-conferencing technologies, rather than being co-located as normal.

Ana-Maria Sturzu is responsible for the global strategy of issuing product solutions at Fiserv in all regions outside the US and was at the front line of enabling MONETA’s new direction. Her team manages a technology platform that spans the entire customer finance spectrum, from credit, debit, prepaid and commercial cards to consumer loans, instalments, and POS finance, along with a comprehensive suite of surround solutions including originations, financial crime, risk management and digital solutions.

Sturzu explains, “Each and every client migration is different, because each client is using different technology platforms and has unique product offerings, but there are common elements. We have a long-standing history in managing portfolio migrations behind-the-scenes, without consumer disruption. We’re able to do that thanks to the experience and expertise of our people.”

That expertise makes it fairly straightforward to identify the pain points of the customer, because, despite the challenges that come alongside working with a variety of customers, in Sturzu’s words, “the pain points are pretty much consistent across the industry. We are very familiar with the types of challenges the financial sector has – they’re the result of platforms that aren’t fit for the future, and they’re impeding the client’s growth strategy. Also, there are regulatory and compliance changes that each and every financial institution has to accommodate every year. Sometimes, the CTOs and CIOs of the industry decide the best way to move forward is outsourcing the processing to a global payments processor like Fiserv.”

Every financial institution is at a different stage in its digital transformation, but each one is certainly forging ahead with said transformation; it’s an inevitability. “It’s important to add that transformation never ends,” Sturzu adds. “It’s an evolving strategy that needs to be reviewed and updated, constantly, based on the most recent changes in consumer behaviour, emerging trends and regulatory changes.” Both technology and finance are incredibly fast-moving sectors, after all, and Fiserv exists to enable that ongoing digital transformation, irrespective of where a customer is in its journey, helping them to accelerate their own business.

Surviving and thriving

At a potentially very difficult, uncertain, chaotic time for the world, with the COVID-19 virus shutting down business of every type since March, Fiserv has continued to put its clients first. “We’re privileged to be in a position to reinforce the message and the commitment we have to serving our clients,” Sturzu says. “We’ve been able to prove that we’re a resilient global strategic provider that can help ensure business continuity, even in this stressful situation. We were able to carry on with the migration of MONETA in the midst of the lockdown and were able to process the entire move remotely.

“We’re also in a position of strength because we’ve demonstrated that we have the right platform and the right delivery model to address client needs that have emerged during this period.”

There are, and will continue to be, some positive changes as a result of this very difficult time. For one thing, the changes that were already beginning to happen in finance have been given a push in the right direction; lockdown boosted digital transactions, and even now, with the world tackling a ‘new normal’, cash usage remains reduced. Innovation is moving apace, and financial trends have been fast-tracked; Fiserv knows this, and has its finger on the pulse, keeping itself on the forefront of this change to ensure it remains flexible and responsive.

“There are certain areas where emerging market trends and consumer behaviour changes have been accelerated,” says Sturzu. “Definitely digital strategy, digital enablement and engagement with the consumer. These were already at the forefront of CTOs’ minds and they continue to accelerate because face-to-face contact in banks is likely to remain extremely limited. The pandemic reinforced for many of our clients the imperative to continue to speed up their delivery and solutions. And I think we’ll be seeing an increased demand in the marketplace around flexible finance solutions for customers. We’re likely to be in an economic downturn for some time, and consumers need that flexibility so they can manage their cashflows and still be able to make payments, remotely, without any hassle.”

The partnership

The Fiserv team spent time with MONETA to understand its current path and strategy and determine how best to move the transformation forward. “Then, we defined a specific solution that met their needs,” Sturzu explains. “We agreed on the solution and its benefits and moved quickly onto an execution process. We started migrating the capabilities they had on their in-house platform into our hosted Software-as-a-Service solution, called FirstVision.”

When MONETA decided to migrate to FirstVision, the shift was a significant one; it required changes in over 27 systems and 150+ API services and involved 250+ resources and the migration of over a million cards. “For any transformation of a running business, data transformation and migration are key elements,” says Ramakant Akhairamka, Programme Director at Fiserv. “This is a highly complex exercise, but the migration was managed in a way that was seamless to the customers. The program is also helping MONETA achieve its objective of being a leading digital bank in the market by providing cutting edge digital solutions to its customers, such as real-time onboarding. MONETA’s tech-savvy approach and the ability to be agile and adapt to the new situation helped propel them over the line at an unprecedented and uncertain time.”

The FirstVision migration was delivered on time, with most of the team involved working individually from their homes, and feedback from MONETA was overwhelmingly positive. “Our partnership is successful due to multiple factors,” says Sturzu. “Firstly, we’re able to support MONETA’s strategic transformational agenda, which was set in 2016. Secondly, they were able to reduce their technology platform ownership costs, and thirdly, they now have access to a broader solution set to support their clients and their business growth strategy.

“Moreover, in the last six months since they joined our platform, the management decision of outsourcing was further positively reinforced. When lockdown started, we stayed on plan and delivered a smooth migration, and MONETA started to incur savings immediately. They saw the benefits of having a global solution, through which they can enable new capabilities and solutions for their customers, and my team worked directly with MONETA’s team to enable additional solutions after they went live on the FirstVision platform.”

“I have to give credit to everyone involved – we all agreed that it was almost unbelievable that we managed that integration in such a short time,” Jiri Mizera, CIO MONETA Money Bank says. “The pandemic added a lot of pressure, and we didn’t know how the situation was going to go, but we needed to support our clients. Obviously, we decided to go ahead with the migration but run it completely off-site – which, I believe, was a first. It was definitely challenging, but was really successful, and it has been an honour to work with the professionals at Fiserv.”

Ongoing engagement

Something that’s very important to Sturzu, and to Fiserv in general, is that the close relationship it develops with clients don’t end the moment the migration is complete – that’s actually where the hard work begins. “You need to keep it going to be relevant to them and continue to meet their needs. We have an ongoing engagement model that is supported by our relationship management on the ground, and we’re constantly in a two-way dialogue with the client. That’s ever-evolving.”

It’s satisfying to see that MONETA and Fiserv both feel positively about their relationship. “We’re so happy when we’re able to deliver a smooth and successful migration, supporting the client throughout the process,” says Sturzu. “MONETA and Fiserv worked hard to make that happen. The message, the idea, the approach and the mindset were very positive and collaborative, which is what made this such a success for both of us.”

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