Banking needs to become contextual to survive – an interview with Roland Folz, the CEO of solarisBank

By October 21, 2019 News

As a technology company with a banking license, solarisBank offers a completely digital banking-as-a-service platform to which other businesses can connect in order to offer financial services themselves. solarisBank has raised more than €95.1M from BBVA, Visa, Lakestar, and other investors. 

We had a chat with Roland Folz about solarisBank and the current trends in digital banking in preparation to his upcoming presentation at NOAH London.

How does a Banking as a Service platform work?

As a technology platform with a banking licence, solarisBank can enable any business to offer their own financial services without needing a banking licence of their own. These can be fintechs, which require a licensed banking partner to bring their products to the market, but also non-financial companies such as big techs or corporates which are looking to broaden their service offering and increase touch points with customers.

For all of them, solarisBank offers state-of-the-art APIs that enable its partners to integrate banking solutions directly into their own offerings. These include digital banking accounts, digital identification (KYC) services, payments and digital lending services.

How can other banks benefit from it?

Despite already possessing the required licensing to offer digital banking services, banks may still opt for partnering with Banking as a Service platforms to integrate their digital white-label products. This way they can simply pick and choose their required banking services and avoid the time and cost of developing them themselves, thereby significantly reducing the time to market.

To give you an example, several cooperative banks in Germany, so called Volksbanken, are using solarisBank’s digital business KYC to offer their customers a smooth onboarding experience.

How do you support crypto services? 

solarisBank is committed to the possibilities of blockchain technology with a designated business unit: the solarisBank Blockchain Factory, with which it bridges the gap between the blockchain ecosystem and the regulated banking world.

The majority of crypto businesses lack the required licensing to offer their service, as it involves handling their customers’ fiat currency and complying with Anti-Money Laundering regulations. By integrating solarisBank’s licensed white-label banking services, the crypto companies can realize their business models and go-to market quickly.

solarisBank has enabled an array of crypto innovations with its Banking as a Service approach, including Germany’s first regulated Security Token Offering (STO) with Bitbond and Europe’s first regulated trading venue for digital assets with Börse Stuttgart.

A bank account is just the door opener — if you want your customer to come back every day you need to build an ecosystem of services around it

What are the biggest changes to expect at solarisBank with the new CTO and CFO on board? 

Hima Mandali, solarisBank’s new CTO, will focus his energies on preparing  the platform to scale to new volumes whilst staying resilient throughout the international expansion, honing in his experience from large scale technology projects at Capital One. 

Leveraging his extensive banking experience spanning over 20 years, our new CFO, Thom Rasser, is responsible for regulatory and credit portfolio management in addition to leading the financial and risk organization. 

solarisBank has been one of the biggest players in the last 5 years. What is your key to success in the overcrowded neobank market?

There is still plenty of room to grow in digital banking if you can create an offering that caters to specific lifestyles, values and needs. A bank account is just the door opener — if you want your customer to come back every day you need to build an ecosystem of services around the account that accommodate the customer’s specific needs.

To stay relevant incumbents and new entrants will have to do more than just offer a mobile clone of a current account. The value for those venturing into the digital banking market will be found in niches.

If new entrants can identify and meet those niche needs, they will be rewarded with a greater customer stickiness and a higher willingness to pay. This is crucial, as the revenue generated by a simple current account alone will not sustain the large customer acquisition costs. 

Financial services will likely become a digital companion that can be integrated with other services that match specific target groups to create an ecosystem of its own

In your opinion, how will the banking industry look like in 2030? 

Impossible to say for certain, but what is certain, is that financial services will penetrate many other industries. And vice versa, many other industries will start offering financial services.

Financial services will likely become a digital companion that can be integrated with other services that match specific target groups to create an ecosystem of its own.

Banking will also be a lot more decentralized, with digital assets taking precedence over traditional paper-based financial instruments. With the ability to tokenize assets, the transfer of value will be faster, cheaper and more transparent.

solarisBank has participated in 4 NOAH events in London and Berlin already. How has NOAH impacted your business? Are there any successful partnerships that came from NOAH events that you can mention?

NOAH is unquestionably a leading conference for tech companies in Europe.  As a tech company with a banking license, this event is a must for solarisBank.

We’ve met many of our existing and new partners during the past NOAH conferences. A definite highlight of our many experiences at NOAH was meeting a leading German comparison portal at our first NOAH conference in Berlin, which later became one of our first partners.

What do you expect from your participation at the upcoming NOAH London 19?  

NOAH always presents a phenomenal setting for face-to-face exchanges with industry-leading companies and renowned investors. We look forward to showcasing all the achievements solarisBank has made in the year since NOAH London 18