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Alior Bank: Winning Through an Innovation-First Approach  

Born amidst the 2008 financial crisis and now one of the largest banks in Poland by number of customers, Alior Bank sets the pace for agile innovation.  

Poland’s 30-year-old banking sector has an unexpected advantage over more mature markets. It was born in the 1990s and therefore is unhindered by the legacy infrastructure that impedes more traditional institutions on their journey to becoming truly agile.  

Alior Bank was formed during the crucible of the 2008 financial crisis. Its innovation-first attitude not only allowed the startup to survive the crisis, but it eventually became one of the Warsaw Stock Exchange’s 20 largest companies. Today, Alior Bank is one of the largest banks in Poland. It has 4 million customers, and 1 million of them use its mobile app.  

PZU SA, Poland’s largest insurer, bought a large stake in the bank in 2015, enabling Alior to expand its innovative efforts even further. 

“The Nordic market has big ambitions and excellent technological skills. The Nordics continues to produce interesting solutions, which is why we’re eager to be at Nordic Fintech Week and learn what’s happening there.”

Kamila Wincenciak, Head of Innovation and Fintech Partnership at Alior Bank 

Poland’s consumers are ahead of the time 

By the time Open Banking came around, Polish purchasers were already long-accustomed to quick payments using a locally developed system called BLIK, a joint venture from six of the country’s banks to allow customers to pay with a mobile phone using a unique numeric code.  

Payment services such as Google Pay and Apple Pay were old news in Poland before they even hit the market. In fact, Polish buyers dislike paying by credit card because it takes too long to type in credit card details. BLIK is faster and easier. The Polish BLIK system became so popular that Mastercard ultimately became a shareholder, describing it as a “best-in-class experience” for consumers in contactless payments.  

Recommended: Explore the Future of Finance at Nordic Fintech Week

Innovation first: Alior’s blockchain-based “durable medium,” an AI voicebot, deferred payments and more 

In the advanced Polish ecosystem, Alior Bank has no other choice but to innovate if it wants to remain relevant. As such, the bank has unleashed a volley of innovations in the last few years.  

For example, in response to the EU’s requirement to store terms, tariffs, and pricing tables on a “durable medium” such as paper, Alior unveiled a document authentication feature built on top of the public Ethereum blockchain.  

In 2021, it launched an AI voice assistant with the name InfoNina which is a customer’s first point of contact when they call the bank. If InfoNina can’t help them, the bot sends the customer to a human rep.  

But InfoNina is far more than a call operator. It also proactively calls customers if any of their information on record isn’t accurate or needs updating.  

To make daily life easier for customers, Alior also implemented a bill consolidation service called BillTech into their mobile app so that customers can pay all their bills easily.  

It was also one of only two banks in Poland to implement a deferred payments solution for its customers. 

The innovation lab that makes it all possible 

Alior’s innovation lab is where all the magic happens. “Compared to other labs on the market, our lab is quite large and spans a wide scope of competencies including UX design, customer research, open banking, fintech scouting or remote processes development,” says Kamila Wincenciak, Head of Innovation and Fintech Partnership at Alior Bank.  

Her department alone has nearly 50 people in.  

This year, Global Finance Magazine awarded Alior Lab—for the second time—as being one of 25 best financial innovation labs in the world. 

Recommended: Explore the Future of Finance at Nordic Fintech Week

The lab is divided up into five teams, one of which focuses solely on fintech partnerships.  

“We don’t have a fixed system on how we prefer to innovate,” says Wincenciak. “Our fintech partnerships team will always scout for anything already existing in the market, but we’re also comfortable developing something completely in-house because of our team’s advanced competencies. We choose the route that makes the most sense for each innovation.”  

Alior has already worked with several Nordic fintechs and has interests in further exploring the zone’s potential.  

R. Paulo Delgado
R. Paulo Delgado
R. Paulo Delgado is a freelance writer and ghostwriter specialising in finance, investment, fintech, crypto, business, entrepreneurship, and technology. He was a computer programmer for 17 years, with particular focus on the finance industry, until he switched roles and followed his passion to become a full-time writer. Since then, his business articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Moneyweb, Business Insider, and Forbes Councils. His clients have included representatives of CNN, the World Trade Center Gibraltar, and numerous tech startups across the globe.