Olá Katja – Meet finleap connect’s Head of Open Banking
Half German and half Peruvian – our Head of Open Banking, Katja Hunstock, has moved quite a bit, across the world and across industries. She’s lived in Portugal, Peru, Germany and Spain. And even though she now is working in fintech, she started her career in a sales role at a corporation in Portugal. Not long after that, she joined the Berlin startup world and switched from sales to working with products and internationalization. Katja has been a part of the finleap connect team for over a year now. We wanted to find out more about her unusual career path to fintech and what the future of open banking looks like.
What brought you to finleap connect?
Having worked in the Berlin start-up sphere, you come across finleap quite often. On one hand, you read about finleap and its ecosystem in the industry news. On the other hand, former colleagues joined finleap and its portfolio companies and highly recommended it to me. This is also what brought me to finleap. There was the need for a Spanish-speaking product specialist with a background in product management and sales. So, one of my former colleagues recommended me for a new project within finleap connect.
Why did you go into fintech?
My interest in fintech started during my studies. I studied economics and I was always surprised with how old-fashioned the financial industry was. There is so much potential for disruption and developing new products and services.
So, in the early days of my career, I realized how much I enjoy working with technology. There are so many ways we can use it to solve real people problems. In fintech, you can have a real impact very quickly on how people interact and use technology.
And what better way to solve real-world problems than joining the industry where the most opportunities are?
What is your role at finleap connect?
I joined finleap connect in the summer of 2019 as a Principal Product Manager. Currently, I am leading the Open Banking Business Unit. The team deals with anything and everything that relates to open banking, which goes beyond PSD2 and it is the core of what we do at finleap connect.
The PSD2 directive, which is the foundation of open banking, came into effect a while ago. What is the current status?
Let’s say that it is “work in progress”. It is a European Directive, colliding with different market maturities, which means that these countries are having their own approach on how it is implemented. In Germany, a market that can be considered as one of, if not even the most mature regarding open banking before PSD2, the regulator works very hands-on with specialists to break new ground and define a feasible approach that supports banks and third party providers, such as finleap connect, and the like.
Technical Standard Initiatives on a private basis such as the Berlin Group were a first step, but there is still a long way to go to harmonize participating banks and especially different markets in which other market initiatives are applied.
You mention that there is room for improvement. What are some potential areas for development?
As mentioned there are various standards, i.e. besides the Berlin Group Standard, there is Open Banking in the UK, COBS in Czech Republic and another standard in France. But even applying ONE of those standards you will encounter differences that make it difficult to follow and align it. This specifically poses issues for players that operate in different markets. Moreover, competent authorities in the different countries have varying levels of involvement in the process. Consequently, some countries are a lot more advanced than others. It allows for a lack of transparency and grey areas, which is never a good thing. Going forward, banks should see open banking as an opportunity to pioneer the industry and change it for the better. There are so many opportunities for traditional players, e.g. offering customer-centric products and ensuring a much better, seamless experience. I strongly believe that with more and more focus on their own business models as part of open banking, they will evolve regarding their know how in implementing technical solutions beyond a “compliance-only view”.
What is your ultimate goal in terms of open banking and finleap connect?
finleap connect has been leading efforts in open banking in one of the most interesting financial markets in Europe – Germany. What we have achieved in this market is impressive considering the challenges that we faced. First of all, finleap connect was the first company in Germany to get a PSD2 license. Even before that multi-banking was launched for customers like Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and the Switchkit product went live. The know-how and best practices that we have acquired over the years is the groundwork for exploring new opportunities across Europe and potentially other markets.
One topic that I am particularly interested in, is internationalization. In the past, I have worked on expansions and localization projects of products. I am very keen on using my expertise and exploring new opportunities that PSD2 as a European Directive offers us as a Third Party Provider.
What drives me is being able to consolidate the learnings and create new products that rely on open banking and have a lasting impact on end consumers across Europe. I am looking forward to working alongside a team of experts that understand data like no other player in the market.
Thank you Katja, for taking the time to talk to us and share your insights into open banking.
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