Novathon #withPBZ

Fresh ideas are the fuel of the fast-moving world of fintech

Rhiannon Edwards


Croatian bank PBZ, a subsidiary of Intesa Sanpaolo, is calling on future fintech pioneers to join the next Novathon – in Zagreb on September 23 and 24, 2017 – and shape new ideas to make the next big waves in the industry.

The 24-hour fintech innovation marathon will call on the brightest minds to solve challenges in Smart Payments, Digital Wealth Management, Smart Branches, Big Data, Outside-In Banking and Bridge Solutions, all in the name of delivering better, smarter banking to customers.

Novathon #withPBZ is open to teams of between three and five people – or individuals willing to be buddied up in a team – and is open to participants from all over the world. Participation is free.

Teams will work towards coming up with an innovative solution, creating a working prototype of a key functionality of their idea and presenting it during the Novathon #withPBZ. Leading industry figures will provide them with invaluable input and share their insights and experience. Signed-up big names include: Chris Skinner, independent commentator on fintech at; Nenad Bakić, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist; and Matteo Rizzi, veteran fintech innovator.

All three will also deliver keynote speeches at the event, along with Maurice Lisi, head of multichannel office at Intesa Sanpaolo, and a host of other inspiring speakers yet to be announced.

The tension that the banking industry has seen grow over recent years, between incumbent, established banks and challenger start-ups, is the perfect catalyst for new ideas, says Rizzi.

“When incumbents [such as PBZ] shake the eco-systems with initiatives like this one, the ultimate beneficiary is innovation itself. I like the accent on collaboration and openness of Novathon”

says Matteo Rizzi.

Rizzi will talk at Novathon #withPBZ about the experience he has gained over his 20 years in the industry and what it means to build fintech eco-systems around the world. He will also speak about the biggest opportunity he sees in the banking landscape today; delivering better services to the underbanked (people without access to full banking services), which is a big growth area in eastern Europe.

“The challenge for the industry is to find the perfect balance of collaboration between banks and start-ups. They need each other. Not all banks will still be around in a while, but the most agile will”

"My prediction for the future is that the number of digital-only customers will explode"
Matteo Rizzi

“The advice I would give to any entrepreneur is to start by focusing on what you think you can do best, and don’t wait for your product to be perfect before launching it” says Matteo Rizzi.

As well as a cash first prize of 75,000 Croatian kunas (around €10,000), Novathon #withPBZ presents an opportunity for students and those starting their careers to get a foot in the door to this exciting and ever-changing industry.

The overall winners of last year’s Novathon #withCIB in Budapest, the Letucci team, found the experience invaluable to their development. They arrived with no idea and left holding the top prize with their innovative project in the Digital Wallets and Money category.

Sophia, their app, was designed to engage youngsters aged between 18 and 26. Users can register, open an account and perform banking services in a chat window and are guided by an intelligent chatbot.

“We had valuable discussions with almost all the mentors during our 24 hour-long creative process,” says Dániel Trencsényi, one of the team members. “Some mentors helped us by asking the right questions to help us find our way when we didn’t know where we were going, and some mentors helped us by hardly challenging our ideas. The latter was a great way to make us believe more and more in ourselves and in our concept.”

The team spent 20 per cent of the time defining their idea – to make sure everyone was on the same page – before pushing it forward into development. They put their success down to this initial groundwork and also to clear and concise presentation.

“I believe that presentation is key. It’s really hard to distill 30-plus hours of work into a compact two to three-minute pitch, but it was the primary way we were able to communicate our idea to the jury. One has to pay close attention to what to keep and what to leave out of that short speech, so that it translates best to the audience,” says András Pop, from the team.

The call to enthusiastic, creative and energetic minds is sounded for this year’s event. No matter what your level of experience, develop a strong idea and you could end up walking away with the top prize – and a boost to your professional development.

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