SIBS: A 300 million users company with a startup state of mind

May 17, 2019
It was during SIBS Payforward Bootcamp, the fintech accelerator powered by SIBS and Beta-i, that ReThink met with Maria Antónia Saldanha, SIBS PAYFORWARD’s Program Director and Head of Brand & Communication at SIBS, to speak about the fintech ecosystem and what are the challenges it wants to tackle.

SIBS is now a major player in the market, with 300 million clients and present in Iberia, Africa and Eastern Europe, but how did it all start? SIBS was created 30 years ago, with the help and collaboration of different companies from different industries. The goal was to serve the digital economy, which didn’t even exist yet.

“SIBS grew up as a fintech in a time where the word fintech didn’t even exist.”

According to Maria Antónia, a collaborative and cooperative model is the only way to “do things”, so SIBS has created an ecosystem of a lot of companies, all the banks, and different industries from different countries. Because of this, the payment services provider still moves with the same spirit as a startup: “SIBS grew up as a Fintech in a time where the word Fintech didn’t even exist. We were brought up as a Fintech, we work as a startup – we’re very agile, dynamic and innovative, launching every month a new service or product.”

It was their own history and this understanding that it takes collaboration to innovate, that made SIBS decide to keep the circle going, by fostering innovation inside and outside their walls: “Well, SIBS was created with the help and collaboration of different companies from different industries, so it’s time to pay it forward. It’s our chance to do for others what they did for us. To help, to share knowledge, to share expertise. It’s a way for us to help other companies to grow and to accelerate in order to become as big as SIBS”, said the program director.

The program looks for scalable, innovative solutions that can complement SIBS offer or grow exponentially from it, by taking advantage of SIBS large user market: “When we launched the accelerator for Fintechs it was the first national accelerator focused on payment solutions. The main goal was to attract fintech startups that have solutions for payments, or financial services, or complementary services around financial services so we can boost them in order to provide services either in Portugal or in other geographies where SIBS is, mainly in Africa for instance or Eastern Europe.”

The challenges that the accelerator proposes to solve in collaboration with the startups are, according to Maria Antónia, “the challenges that society faces every day. We’re focusing on Client behavior and Analytics, Security and Authentication, Payment Processes and Payments and Future Stores.”

The accelerator is committed to solve these challenges by working in complete collaboration with the startups – for the four days of the Bootcamp, the startups worked in groups with SIBS mentors – collaborators that could give them insight into the processes that go into SIBS services and technical experts who can help the startups incorporate their technologies in practical terms – and ultimately help them propose more viable, interesting and profitable pilot projects. All this is done within SIBS environment, to allow for better sharing of knowledge and understanding of the business: “We’ve acknowledged that they want to get to know us where we are every day, where we are working on innovation every day – where we have our terminals, our ATMs, our POSs, and all of our teams. So this is something that we’ve managed this year, to bring startups inside SIBS, so they’ve been working during these days in our premises, alongside us, where we work every day.”

When questioned about the future of fintech, SIBS concedes they cannot guess it, but they can be a part of it by keeping innovating inside their business and fostering innovation in the financial market: “We don’t know how the future is going to be, we don’t know how fast the future can grow, but we know that if we work together – startups, corporates, associations like Beta-i, we can move faster, we can grow faster, and we’ll probably have more products, more solutions that make us brighter and our lives more efficient.”

On its third edition, SIBS Payforward is the fintech accelerator powered by SIBS and Beta-i. You can follow the news and the projects being developed by following SIBS Payforward on Facebook and subscribe to Beta-i’s newsletter.