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Banking Tech Awards
4th December 2024
Royal Lancaster Hotel

Banking Tech Awards 2022 Finalist: Olga Filipenko, ex Alfa-Bank Ukraine

Olga Filipenko, ex Executive Director & Chief Digital Officer, Alfa-Bank Ukraine has been selected as a finalist in the Women in Technology (W.I.T.) - Banking, Finance & Payments category in the Banking Tech Awards 2022.

Olga Filipenko, ex Executive Director & Chief Digital Officer, ex Alfa-Bank Ukraine

2022 marked the change of consumers' habits due to the war in Ukraine with a rapidly growing level of migration, restrictions imposed by the regulation bodies and new conditions of life — it all led to the new mobile strategy and everyday challenges for the bank. However, the number of digital bank users continued to grow, reaching 1.75 million by the end of June (now more than 2 million users). At the end of 2021, Sense celebrated its first anniversary with big numbers: 1.5 million unique users, record stats for loans and deposits, 17 updates, and 52 new features. Now it's almost doubled.

Olga has been the driving force behind this "digital revolution" in 2021, managing to turn a product into a new way of doing business with new approaches to features, service, and creating new offerings and marketing activities. The emphasis on digital development has helped implement a swift reaction to new market conditions, offering a reliable digital bank Sense SuperApp on mobile devices for clients all over the world. The digital bank has become the new trending platform––the words “first of its kind” have often been said in 2021-2022.

Сontinuing to introduce trending innovations in various areas. Olga’s idea has been not to differ from market rivals but to create completely new financial products in 2021-22.

  • Sense SuperApp was the first of its kind to introduce a possibility to sign up for a bank account remotely through a video chat within some 15 minutes. Later the process got even easier: when registering with Sense, the customer can now sync their supporting documents and ID within five minutes through the e-government app Diia (February 2021).
  • We were the first in the market to offer a card that was both debit and credit. Summer 2021 marked the launch of Cameleon card — the first credit and debit card with an endless grace period in the country. The product offers the use of personal funds and provisionally approved loan limits simultaneously. There are still no equivalents when it comes to the unique service terms in the country (August 2021).
  • We were the first in the world to organise a concert inside a mobile banking app. More than 60k people watched the famous Ukrainian singer Monatik live. The National Registry of Records confirmed it to be a world record (November 2021).
  • Sense was the first in Ukraine to introduce stock trading of leading international companies and to make investments available to everybody. Clients can purchase and sell stocks of Apple, VISA, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and other companies. The process is simple even for novices: everything is automated, and the stocks can be purchased in just one click. Operations with securities are made in strict compliance with Ukrainian legislation, including signing agreements with QES. The volume of trading within the first month (December 2021) reached $2.66m.
  • We were the first in the country to introduce military bonds purchase in the banking app, with no banking fees applied. The process is remote and takes only 5 minutes. Within the first month, purchases exceeded $6.8m, and now it has reached $13.4m (March 2022).
  • We were the first in the country to start a remote service video chat on a banking app. It can be used instead of the usual communication with an employee in a physical branch or call centre. Each issue can be solved face to face with an online support agent (July 2022).

New communication paradigm: chat leap, creative spaces, and meetings with critics

The first contact is through any convenient access point for the client. The bank’s support is available 24/7 where the customer needs it most, including the chat and video chat inside Sense SuperApp, the most popular instant messaging apps and social networks, as well as Apple’s App Store, Google Play, and Google Maps.

Chat is the most popular communication channel. Text and video chats have become a key support and service channel (over 60% volume of communication). Throughout last year, the number of chats through messengers had tripled, while video chat sessions skyrocketed by 30x. If last spring about 700 video chats were held per month, now the support team gets the same amount on a normal day. In total, the team handles some 7,000 chat sessions daily.

Instead of the usual branches - creative spaces. Olga came up with the idea to launch a network of creative spaces in major cities across the country. In 2020, the first AHUB opened its doors in Lviv; in 2021, the bank unveiled the second location in Kyiv. Any customer can visit the space to work, attend a lecture, or participate in AHUB’s “open podcast”. Every administrator at the hub is knowledgeable about the bank’s products and services, and can help download Sense or issue a bank card online. AHUB is an extremely good-looking space that’s popular among Instagram influencers, bloggers, and journalists.

Listening to feedback about Sense — and responding in person. In 2021, several top managers organised a meeting with “haters”, or people who actively criticised the digital bank and its products on social media. The meeting lasted for three hours, got covered by mass media, and has become a tradition that’s beneficial for both sides of the conversation.

First case results

Implementation of any new technology is always a risk for the already established processes that must be assessed by the team’s visionary. The key focuses of Olga Filipenko’s strategy have been the swiftness and reliability of the digital bank’s systems, integration of the new products in the market, and partnerships that allow clients to solve the maximum amount of issues in one app.

The initial results of this strategy:

- 2 m digital clients after 1.5 years of Sense on the market;

- digital loan-sales have grown from $10m in 2020 to $508m in 2021;

- 1st place in loans for individuals (market share 12.1%) among private banks in 2021;

- 1st place in deposits for individuals among private banks, with 90% opened online in 2021.

- Best Consumer Digital Bank (Global Finance, 2021); The Most Innovative Bank in Central and Eastern Europe (The Banker, 2022)

Despite the team being forced to flee to different cities and even different countries, it keeps updating the app every fortnight, presenting new products, and working on many tasks simultaneously in an effort to offer even more opportunities for Ukrainians in one mobile app. There have been 15 updates with over 30 functions added during this time of martial law. Sense is what unites us and makes us see what really is important.

Olga has been recognised many times with international awards, including being shortlisted in last year’s Women in Tech. In 2019, she was highly commended in the Rising Tech Star award category at FinTech Futures’ 20th Banking Technology Awards and twice was placed in the Top 50 Most Influential Women in FinTech (UAFIC) — in 2021, 2022. However, for our team, her greatest achievement is her understanding that we are making important products during a time when the world is rapidly changing. Ms Filipenko has shown her leadership by uniting the team around a big idea: if we cannot change what is happening in the real world, we can definitely create a digital platform where clients receive not only quick and remote access to everyday financial operations but also our support.