“Digital banks will want creativity to outlive”, says Laura Chaves, CPO of Banco Subsequent

“Digital banks will want creativity to outlive”, says Laura Chaves, CPO of Banco Subsequent

O Next has a different story from other fintechs. It was created in 2017 to be the digital bank of the Bradesco, but little by little it gained some autonomy in its operations. “Next has gone through an interesting metamorphosis, which begins and continues with this strong connection to Bradesco, but now with a strategy of its own. We are using the advantages of having more freedom”, says Laura Chaves, CPO of Next since last September.

Responsible for the financial products vertical, Laura is the first woman to be part of Next’s C-level team. Born in Portugal, but with Brazilian citizenship since 2011, she has more than 15 years of experience in the financial sector. Before joining Next, she worked at BTG Pactual, Itaú Unibanco and Santander, as well as fintech Zoop.

The executive arrived at Next at a time when the digital bank wants to strengthen its products — hence the creation of a board dedicated to this — and not just in the financial area. But 2022 came and the economic scenario began to ask for caution, in addition to creativity to direct resources. In an interview with BUSINESS seasonLaura details Next’s plans, explains why she accepted the challenge of leading the product area and shares her vision on the future of digital banking.

Época NEGÓCIOS – Brazilian digital banks are going through a difficult time, with cost containment and a reduction in the flow of investments. How is the Next bank, which is backed by Bradesco, facing this current scenario?

Laura Chaves – We are part of a well-known conglomerate, with open results in investor relations, so there is no doubt about the group’s financial power. That’s why we don’t feel the pressure so much, we don’t need to do calculations of burn rate or how much time we have to survive. This brings relief, of course, but it does not lead to relaxation. We continue to have demanding shareholders, who will not accept returns that are not interesting. Even without being forced to make major detours, as is the case with several fintechs in Latin America, there is a concern in the sustainable development of the business, in respecting the return for the shareholder and in fact executing a very responsible management of resources.

EN – Does this concern generate a greater need to monetize current customers, instead of spending time and energy attracting new accounts, which start free?

Laura – I understand that premise and tend to agree with what’s behind it. That’s what we’re seeing in the market, this movement of slowing down the acquisition of new accounts a little and focusing on monetizing the customers you already have. I would say that we are not giving up, we are not going to stop conquering new clients, but in fact there is this concern. We cannot forget that the cost of capital has increased, the cost of opportunity has increased, and I cannot be wasteful in the management of investments. We have not yet reached the critical mass that translates into the exact mix of customers we want, so we will continue with acquisition strategies, but with an increasing importance in making the customer we already have profitable. We want to gain principality, that is, we want to be the number one bank for most of our account holders.

EN – What kind of audience forms this critical mass that Next wants to attract?

Laura – In fact, our target is anyone who wants to have a digital experience, with a complete product portfolio, launches as often as possible and adapted to their profile. There is no exclusion of audiences. But, following a trend that happens here and abroad, my biggest audience is that customer characteristic of digital banks: young people and with a little lower income. Back in the day, we started with a brand tone and a language that was well targeted at young people, and that has had an impact for some time. In addition, we have overlapping customers, which are Next and Bradesco. But the current audience and the target are not the same. If everything goes as planned, one thing will converge on the other.

EN – As part of its acquisition strategy, Next has partnered with other companies, such as CNA, Ingresso.com and the digital game store Nuuvem. What other paths are you exploring?

Laura – We have several channels of customer acquisition, and it is healthy to have a mix that is not just performance marketing, partnerships or a customer that indicates a customer. There is also a concern with acquisition cost and efficiency. The profiles and the assertiveness rate are different when you go to the “open sea”, through performance marketing, or when you explore the world of partnerships, for example. Based on this variety, it is necessary to get this strategy right in order to obtain funding with an interesting return. One of the channels that has attracted many customers is nextShop, our marketplace. It helps us to attract a new type of audience organically. So it’s super strategic for us.

EN – You have worked in traditional institutions, such as Santander and Itaú, and also in another fintech, Zoop. From your experience, what is the future of digital banking?

Laura – It’s hard to have a single bet on what’s going to happen. In the current scenario and in the near future, I see some trends. This monetization pressure will increase, and perhaps some investors will have less tolerance, which could lead to the death of some fintechs. It will be necessary to look for new and more assertive sources of revenue. At the moment, long-term bets tend to be a bit dammed up by the cap table of fintechs.

Another trend: just as you see retail verticalizing and trying to enter the financial market, fintechs will have to look for this expansion, invading this territory. I also believe that many digital banks will have to start with guaranteed revenue with some more traditional products, a more basal revenue. And that involves a remodeling of the segment. I also see a need for diversification, whether expanding to other areas such as cybersecurity, or something related to the usability associated with the app. It will be necessary to imagine a natural unfolding of what the company already offers, using some creativity to survive. The model with just the recipes that we have today will be put aside a little.

EN – What motivated you to go to Next?

Laura – I realized that I was an important player at a turning point. There is a huge focus on becoming one of the most relevant digital banks in the market, with a resilient offer that brings different services to customers, using data and innovation. In addition, the bank underwent a major expansion, which also attracted me. Some areas didn’t exist, like mine. This also weighed heavily: the opportunity to create a product board that did not exist. It was difficult not to accept the challenge.

EN – What was the best and worst decision of your career?

Laura – I think about it a lot, and I usually think about the worst ones, because we charge ourselves a lot (laughs). The best was the passage through [escola de educação executiva] Insead, twelve years ago, because it brought me a lot of baggage. We live in our own little world and there you meet people from different sociocultural contexts. In addition, it opened the doors to the internationalization of my career. Portugal offered me an incredible quality of teaching, and I took advantage of it. However, a country with less than 11 million inhabitants and economic growth with little expression in the last fifteen years statistically translates into fewer opportunities.

I came to Brazil at a very positive moment. In 2010, the country had grown by 7.5%. Furthermore, I was lucky enough to find an incredible cycle of financial market development. I remember arriving and feeling that there was a huge delay in Brazil in relation to opening accounts, paying slips, the entire ecosystem. Today is the opposite. People in Europe want to talk to me to find out how it works here, they want to benchmark with Brazilian digital banks. I had the opportunity to be part of this moment of true digitalization of the sector.

EN – And the worst decision?

Laura – It was more at the beginning of his career. I was in a company with a meritocratic culture, of fairness in the compensation of employees, and then I decided to go to another that was the opposite, had a much more relational model. When you’re more junior, you don’t pay as much attention to it. But, in the end, it turned out to be a worthwhile mistake, because it forced me to deal with less comfortable organizational models.

EN – Thinking about your career, where do you still want to go?

Laura – What I want to be able to do is not so tied to charge. When you get to a certain career level, you start thinking about how to transform the industry you’re in. I think I want to be much less attached to categories that don’t translate to me, and much more focused on the impact I’m able to generate.

Source: Época Negócios

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