Recent studies have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven awareness of digitally-enabled financial services providers to unprecedented and unexpected levels in Central and Eastern Europe.

Effects of the pandemic

As the pandemic spreads and countries are experiencing another wave, Europeans are interacting more widely on digital platforms in every aspect of their lives.  Remote education, video conferencing, and online shopping booming. This has also generated a trend towards digital banking over recent years. It has gained even more  momentum with COVID-19, as people across the continent have had to adapt to physical restrictions.

Lockdown restrictions are limiting access to street-level banks. This which forces the majority of Europeans towards new banking solutions to make their current financial routines more straightforward and safer.

Why Eastern Europe presents special opportunities

Eastern Europeans feel particularly positive about their own usage of fintech in future. According to one survey, their interest in new digital banking platforms attitudes is several percentage points higher than that of Western European counterparts. Bulgarian customers are at the head of the pack, followed closely by Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, Serbia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Slovenia.

Overall, more than half of Eastern Europeans say they are looking to conduct their financial business via an app or on-line more frequently now. This compares to only just over one-third of those in Western Europe.

These countries’ priorities are shifting to high availability and cost-effectiveness of digital platforms. Indicative of changing lifestyles under lockdown, what is now seen as the most significant benefits of a digital banking solution is less focused on time-saving and “easy-to-use” qualities. Security is now the single most important feature in a digital banking solution, probably because of the public knowledge of cyber break-ins published in headlines recently.

Interest has also translated into deepened adoption by conducting financial transactions online/via an app more frequently now than pre-pandemic, primarily thanks to the growing availability. New digital banking users indicate that they will continue to use them after the pandemic has settled down. It means that the long-term trend of increase in financial transactions on digital services will stay well above where it was in 2019.

Until the pandemic, financial institutions heavily relied on face-to-face relationships. Now, the service providers must make a bigger investment in digital interaction and the cybersecurity that supports it and develop seamless digital tools knowing consumers will be less likely to visit their local branches.

How new banks can gain a foothold in the market

There is what is known as the 21/90 rule, based on research that says it takes 21 days to make some new activity into a habit and 90 days to ingrain it as a permanent behavior change. There has been enough time passed in the Covid-19 pandemic to make digital banking, not simply a habit, but it’s now a permanent preference. It means that now the banking industry isn’t going back to what it once was. The trend over to digital banking was already happening before the pandemic. Now that we have endured extended periods of stay-at-home restrictions and social distancing, and all the rest that goes with them, digital banking is no longer a “nice-to-have” innovation, but is a necessity.

The movement to online banking is now the reality and there appears to be no chance of turning back. For anyone looking at the opportunities to benefit from the switch to digital banking that will be especially prominent in Eastern Europe, there are channels already established through which the establishment of advanced digital banking outlets can be accelerated and expedited. Let our specialists give you the right advice with company registration, bank licensing, marketing and promotion services geared toward this specific market.

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