Interview with Athanasios Navrozoglou of Natech
Natech is a fintech company in northwest Greece. Based in Ioannina, the company serves customers in 40 countries and has recently expanded to Germany and sub-Saharan Africa. Natech provides the necessary digital infrastructure for integrated banking services and has become an indispensable partner to Banks with online operations. Today we discuss with Mr. Athanasios Navrozoglou President and CEO of Natech as he explains the innovation, and vision of the company. Mr. Navrozoglou has been included in the 40 under 40 list of Fortune Greece for 2021. Here's what he told us.
Tell us a few things about how it all started? How is Ioannina-based Natech, in Greece's periphery, considered among the leaders in global banking?
Natech was founded in 2003 as a technology solutions provider for small financial institutions, mainly credit unions, in Greece. We felt we were in the right place to fill a gap in the market at the right time. There were not that many options for IT systems for such small players. We started developing financial software when the Cooperative Bank of Epirus - a local bank, then a credit union- needed an ERP system to provide core banking functionality. This sheer need evolved into a complete portfolio of Banking solutions focusing on the entire life cycle and supporting daily operations. As these institutions grew, so did our solutions.
Natech now offers an integrated suite of modern pick-and-play banking products covering almost every aspect of banking and financial needs. The company is one of the 32 global financial software providers, with a strong presence in Europe and Africa. Through the years, we gained numerous trusted and prestigious customers who operate in more than 40 countries. This certainly brings pride and satisfaction to the team.
Could you tell us about the innovation and the unique value proposition that Natech brings to the market? What does Natech do exactly?
Natech offers financial software and services developed in-house. We provide the digital infrastructure banks need for core banking, anti-money laundering, digital channels like e-banking and mobile banking, payment systems, compliance reporting, adherence solutions, etc. Not only do we develop software, but we also offer a holistic service experience from support to back-office banking services. The main innovation that we introduce is that our systems are live and non-disruptive to a bank's operations. Our clients do not have to take their systems offline to consolidate their balances and ledgers. This is a revolution in the banking industry. It saves precious time to the back-office functions, enables a 24/7 operation without using offline balances, improves data consistency across departments, and most importantly, enables Banks to work in a wholly digital environment. This is something that no other company is offering at the moment globally.
What are the main customers for Natech, and what type of value do the company and its products offer?
Natech's software is preferred by Tier 4/5 banks, e-wallets, digital banks, and other financial institutions in various countries. Our prime focus is the European and sub-Saharan financial institutions, which is reflected in our numerous deals in these regions. Our customers operate in more than 40 countries. We have recently expanded with a new branch and team in Germany and Africa and with distributors in Cyprus, Nigeria, Zambia, and Kenya. The main driver for our fast growth is the similarity of regulatory frameworks across the EU and that over 90% of the core functionality is identical for our Turkish and African clients. This makes solution development and the client support a lot easier. At the same time, we focus on supporting customers in similar time zones until we expand to other regions such as the US, where again we see similar needs.
Natech grew by an impressive 40% in 2020. How did the pandemic affect your plans?
We create solutions that are designed to change as financial institutions do and systems that have been tested through the 2008 financial crisis and the Coronavirus pandemic. Natech is known for providing resilient, technically excellent solutions that serve small and large banks locally and internationally throughout their entire growth trajectory.
Regarding our reaction to the pandemic, we operate in small teams, which made it easier to adapt to the new developments and reorganize so that most of our workforce worked remotely. Simultaneously, the pandemic conditions expedited the need for digital offerings and placed significant regulatory pressure upon Banks. To this end, the banks accelerated their digital transformation programs while they focused on saving costs, and that's precisely where we excel at.
You recently expanded to Germany, and you already have partners in almost 40 countries. How does the Greek innovation ecosystem compare to Germany and other parts of the world?
The Greek innovation system is gradually catching up with the ecosystem in Central Europe. Many factors contribute to this, with the increasing investment activity playing an important role. You see, the available funding, the all-time low-interest rates, and market liquidity in conjunction with Greece's relatively lower employment costs have given the right spark that was needed. There is definitely a lot to be done, but we are on the right track.
Regarding the paperwork needed to set up a company in Germany and Greece, I feel that we are probably less complicated and perhaps better positioned now, more than ever, almost at par. The main challenge is the shortage of available resources, especially human capital. Going global requires talent and expertise to tackle global problems. Greece's remarkable growth in the startup/scaleup ecosystem has created some irregularities in the remuneration and the availability of resources. The challenge is to sustain the favorable conditions in our country when we face difficulties in the future.
Many Greek companies, especially startups, find it challenging to attract, hire and retain good talent. You are based in Ioannina, and you are constantly growing. How do you navigate the recruitment challenge?
During the last years, we have been facing severe recruitment challenges for our offices in Ioannina and Athens, especially when hiring experienced developers. We believe that the major issue here is the brain drain coupled with the unprecedented growth of tech companies in the last three years. Natech's staff retention rate is almost 90%. Our strategy is straightforward: we invest in building and communicating our corporate culture and our excellent work environment to attract new members for our constantly growing team. Also, we actively assist students from the local university in entering the labor market by offering mentorship programs and internship schemes. We participate in career days and organize Natech open days for recent graduates and more senior candidates. Over the years, we have created our own talent pool; however, we occasionally collaborate with recruiters. I'd say that our recruiting strategy succeeds because we attract people that are fascinated with what we do and how we do it.