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March 20, 2024

Humanizing the Banking Experience: Interview with “George” Banking Platform Creator Maurizio Poletto

Maurizio Poletto is the Chief Platform Officer at Erste Group, a prominent Central and Eastern European bank serving over 16 million customers. He was the driving force behind “George,”  the bank’s digital banking platform which enables intuitive and personalized experiences for over 9 million users.

Entering banking from a creative background focused on human-centered design, Maurizio brings a unique perspective. His journey illustrates how creative leadership with a sharp focus on understanding human needs can deliver results at scale even in the most complex institutions.

Podcast trailer 1

Navigating an Unconventional Path

At Erste, Maurizio saw an opportunity to enhance experiences through subtle design adjustments aligned to customer intuitions – like reconsidering why outflows visually displayed as alarming red while inflows showed calmly as green. “My instinct as a retail customer was to eliminate red numbers, but there weren’t many people asking why. Small changes can build an experience people enjoy.”

Reimagining Core Banking Relationships

Maurizio highlighted the difficulty of transitioning advisory relationships into effective digital interactions. “The main problem was that customers were interfacing with banking applications not designed for dialogue,” he said. “They looked like Excel files lacking intuitive interfaces.”

Maurizio saw an opportunity to completely reimagine applications to promote understanding. As he shared, “Our goal was to create an experience that was more visually appealing and focused on access and comprehension. This meant rethinking how transactions appear, using plain language, and adding logos to aid recognition.”

This was the catalyst for a comprehensive redesign of information displays with the ultimate goal of empowering people’s financial lives through intuitive interfaces that connect meaningfully with users. To Maurizio, the insights revealed how a creative orientation can advance progress by elevating design with human needs at the center.

Podcast trailer 2

Personalization: The Next Frontier

“Personalization is paramount,” Maurizio stressed, explaining the need to tailor interactions to individual preferences and needs. In a world where some banks take a one-size-fits-all approach, Maurizio said he advocates for precision targeting, similar to the retail industry.

However, he acknowledged personalization also poses complex challenges around navigating sensitive financial information and crafting meticulously tailored messaging for each customer. Maurizio drew parallels to traditional marketing, emphasizing the need for precision and caution as banks customize communications.

Ultimately, Erste Group prioritizes the ethical use of data and technology to promote customer well-being through purpose-driven advisory services rather than product pushing. Their visionary approach seeks to deliver a new level of personalized guidance similar to a dedicated financial advisor available 24/7.

Navigating Open Banking Challenges

Maurizio delved into the complexities of delivering unified digital banking amidst diverse regulatory environments, emphasizing the massive challenges posed by varying regulations and systems. He highlighted his group’s breakthrough API approach as a solution, which “enables seamless integration and scalability” across markets, empowering accessibility while simplifying technical intricacies away from the user experience.

Maurizio also shared his perspective on open banking, acknowledging its initial promise and the current hurdles it faces, particularly in Europe. While the concept of open banking is shooting for universal connectivity and data access, the reality remains fragmented, with regulatory limitations and varying interpretations hindering its full potential. Despite these challenges, Maurizio remains optimistic about the eventual realization of a truly open banking ecosystem.

Measuring What Matters

Moving from theory to practice, Maurizio provided a glimpse into the success metrics driving George’s evolution. In assessing George’s impact, Maurizio said he focuses not on “absolute user numbers, but engagement and digital adoption.” With close to 10 million users projected by the end of 2024, George has become a cornerstone of Erste Group’s digital strategy. What’s more impressive, he said, is that over 80% of active customers are digitally engaged, underscoring the platform’s importance in managing customers’ financial lives.

The Future: Personal Banking Redefined

As our conversation shifted towards the future of banking, Maurizio painted a picture of personalized, real-time experiences that transcend traditional boundaries – like having a trusted advisor at one’s fingertips.

Regardless of age or wealth, customers now expect seamless interactions and tailored advice delivered through digital channels. Maurizio emphasized the importance of harnessing the power of AI and technology to scale personalized services to every individual, acknowledging the challenges while finding the prospect both challenging and exhilarating.

He envisions a future where personalized, real-time advisory, enabled by ethical AI, delivers customized guidance similar to “trusted experts” to every customer. As he told me, Maurizio believes that by “redefining customer relationships with relevant interactions and fostering financial well-being,” banks can fulfill their mission in the digital age.

Watch the podcast

Parting Perspectives

By redefining digital experiences around human needs for simplicity and personalization, Erste Group is working to fulfill banking’s promise in the digital era as an enabling partner for prosperity. Maurizio sees a future where AI-enabled personalized advisory delivers customized guidance similar to “trusted experts” for every customer.

Maurizio and Erste Bank are showing the power of personalization across multiple markets and at scale. Their journey offers lessons that transcend geographic boundaries and it offers inspiration for all banks seeking to humanize the banking experience.

How can you listen to the podcast?
Please tune in and join me and my guests on this journey.

You can access new podcast episodes here: SpotifyApple, and Google.

Connect with podcast host Jody Bhagat on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/digitalbusinessgrower

Want to explore how your bank can harness the power of AI to engage and serve customers? Request a demo now


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