Ask any Western European groom-to-be where he’d like to have his pre-wedding shindig and there’s a good chance that Prague would be among the top three destinations. With its rich culture and top-drawer entertainment, the Czech capital is renowned for being one of the continent’s weekend break capitals. Cultural offerings aside, travellers visiting from abroad can also expect a seamless payments experience, thanks to this nation’s high digitisation of financial services and burgeoning fintech scene. To find out more, Marqeta spoke to Erik Howell and Zuzana Krulišová from Flagship Advisory Partners, covering a range of themes. We’ve summarised their insights just for you…
A place where traditional banks and fintechs collaborate
The Czech Republic’s banking system is relatively young, having been established in the 1990s. This means the sector doesn’t face many of the legacy challenges seen in other historic European nations. Additionally, the arrival of Air Bank on the scene a decade ago awakened the country’s more traditional players to the threat of internet banking. The result is that nowadays three large banks have venture arms which have resulted in productive collaboration with fintechs or significant shares in the most promising startups. Smaller banks are also partnering with fintechs to enhance digital capabilities.
Huge support for contactless and mobile payments
Digital payments are popular across Czech society, leaving large merchants who don’t accept mobile or contactless payments very much in a minority. That said, opportunities to increase acceptance do exist, particularly among smaller merchants in rural areas. The reason for high adoption of digital payments boils down, in part, to Czech banks and the card schemes pushing forward with contactless and digitisation around five years ago (although contactless began 10 years ago). This puts it ahead of Continental Europe in many respects – and the country’s user-friendly bank transfer system is a key reason why Czechia is home to few P2P payments propositions. As with many other markets across the world, the coronavirus pandemic has further embedded contactless payments adoption, with bricks and mortar merchants pivoting to online sales and restaurants offering takeaway services during lockdowns.
Czechia’s global appeal for startups
Given its relatively small population of 10 million, the Czech Republic is not necessarily an obvious choice for startups looking to scale. However, it is an interesting location from which to launch a business – and then expand into other territories. The country has an attractive community of angel investors and supportive media who, along with a digital savvy population, are creating good conditions for innovative startups. Marqeta partner Twisto is a case in point, having launched in Czechia and now making headway in Poland and beyond.
Creating a loyal customer base
The relatively recent phenomenon of consumers running multiple current accounts – typically a combination of traditional bank and challenger bank products in Western Europe – has been established in Czechia for the best part of a decade. But while those in the West may be experimenting with challenger banks in search of a different kind of user experience, Czechs tend to own a series of accounts to benefit from chunky promotions and bonuses offered to new customers. This culture was perhaps turbocharged by interchange regulation, which effectively killed off attractive cashback schemes, prompting many consumers to switch away from credit cards to debit card accounts. The clear lesson here is that any innovator who offers loyalty rewards stands a strong chance of winning and retaining customers.
A financially literate population
The Czech population is renowned for being financially savvy and many people have a keen eye for value for money goods and services. For example, Revolut has good adoption rates here because people have taken the time to do the math, when it comes to calculating FX margins charged by different players in the market. It’s fair to say that winning new Czech customers requires a very strong value proposition, and that a slick user experience alone will not draw as much as it might in Western Europe.
Three stand-out payments innovators in the Czech Republic
‘Buy now, pay your way’ fintech Twisto has an incredible brand presence in the Czech Republic. Supported by Marqeta, the business allows consumers to make purchases with options to pay at the point of sale or defer payments to a later date.
Roger connects investors with companies that suffer from long invoice maturities via a unique investment platform licensed by the Czech National Bank. Within the platform, Roger reports that more than 1,000 independent investors compete in an auction for anonymously issued invoices with long maturities.
A card-linked marketing solution for banks, Dateio empowers brands to offer potential customers cashback through purchases made via their banking app. Dateio deploys consumer behaviour data to tailor and target offers accordingly, working with a wide range of retailers.