By: Ingy ElSafy & Moslem Ali
Cairo – Mubasher: Credit Agricole has chosen Infini Systems, an India-based startup, as the winner of the Fintech Hackathon 2019 during the RiseUp Summit, held in Cairo from 5 to 7 December.
A total of 30 teams contested in the challenge to digitalize the finance of supply chains in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
In an interview with Mubasher, Antoine Paliard, Head of Proximity -Development and Innovation- at Credit Agricole Egypt talked about the bank’s competition in addition to sharing his overall view and tips for the startup market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Could you tell our readers more about your experience and your presence in Egypt?
I have been working in Credit Agricole Group for the last 15 years across multiple roles in internal control and front office development for SMEs and large corporates, and finally in private banking in France. Then, one year ago, I joined Credit Agricole Egypt.
(Antoine Paliard, Head of Proximity -Development and Innovation- at Credit Agricole Egypt )
What do you think of the ideas and new business models presented in the competition?
The competition was focused on SME supply chain finance, as we targeted leveraging the relationship with all companies. It was interesting to see several angles for the same topics.
As a bank, we were thinking about the financing part, but then people came with payment solutions so we can track the payment and develop an easier finance process.
Startups came with different perspectives and solutions for invoicing, enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, tracking payments, and some of them were mostly based on banking solutions and customer relationship management (CRM).
We chose a startup bringing a solution for us to track the payment or the flow in a different way from what we were thinking about. That was very good and [original]. The winner [offered] a fully-integrated full-fledged solution ready for implementation.
How is Credit Agricole adapting the idea of the winning project?
Now we will go for an implementation study in Credit Agricole, then a selection process to make sure the idea will fit the bank’s requirements. It also depends on the cost side, IT, and other implementation aspects. We will surely keep in touch with the winner to see if we can implement it. We still have some homework to do.
Was it all through a collaboration between Credit Agricole and FinTech Galaxy?
Yes, being a bank scouting for new solutions worldwide is very complex. You can find a very good idea at an early stage or an idea at the mature stage that is not easy to adapt to your own solution. This collaboration accelerated the selection process.
Thanks to the help of FinTech Galaxy, we ran a very good scouting for solutions that fit exactly with the requirements.
We wanted to select a startup at a phase not so early that we can’t implement it quickly, but also not at a late stage because we want them to adapt to the Egyptian market, constrain and regulations.
Was this the first edition of this competition?
We did similar competitions internally within our Credit Agricole team, but this was the first time to get externally to find a solution.
The idea behind an external solution contest was to think outside the box and to see how fintechs worldwide could come with solutions we could not think of ourselves because we were thinking like bankers.
We have worked to build a platform internally to serve the needs of customers, like mobile app, serving individuals and corporates, and our branch renewal in the digital journey. Based on this platform, we are searching for a proper answer to specific needs to increase efficiency. One of these needs was the finance of SMEs.
Why did you choose RiseUp Egypt to launch this competition?
This is not the first edition of RiseUp event which is well known for attracting startups from the region. The event is also well covered and closely followed by all different stakeholders. This is very important for us. It has good exposure and a good way to attract candidates to the competition.
Do you plan to do the coming editions of this contest in RiseUp?
Nothing has been decided yet, but what is clear is that we will continue to take our place in the startup ecosystem to select and find startups that will help us accelerate on our main goals. Probably next year we will see if we can leverage on this.
Do you have other fintech-related competitions?
Well, the first one was this Hackathon, with a very dedicated question regarding SME finance.
The second one is the French Egyptian Startup Competition that was launched under the support of the French Embassy in Cairo and the Egyptian government last November. It is under the patronage of the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), along with the French Embassy.
All Egyptian startups can apply until 15 January 2020. There are 15 major companies supporting the event. The competition focuses on three main pillars; fintech, sustainable cities, and health. Winners will be announced by mid-march 2020.
How can startups apply for the coming competitions?
Fintech Hackathon 2019 is over and we do not know if we will do another one in RiseUp summit next year. We will try to implement the winner’s idea in the bank during the coming weeks or months to see if we can find relevant topics for next year in case we want to do it again.
For the French Egyptian Startup Competition, this website http://startup.franceinegypt.com offers a full platform to apply and also explains everything about the contest.
How do you see your SME portfolio in Egypt?
On the SME level, we are still developing the portfolio and getting some resources in terms of front liners and a real strategy to develop it. Our strategy remains the same, developing SMEs in existing business. We are not a business angel or capital risk.
For startups working on fintech solutions, what’s your advice to them as a banker?
We are innovating because we want to [enhance] customer experience, so if a startup is not creating or adding value to its customers, it will not thrive.
Also, banking is a strategic sector for the economy, operating in a regulated environment, so, startups have to understand the regulation process. They have to depend on themselves and fit the regulatory system.
Finally, startups have to think about the integration with the banking system, as the IT environment is a key point in terms of security and convenience.