Handelsbanken: ‘Everyone realises the importance of P27’

Handelsbanken’s Deputy Head of Nordic Payments, Lena Gredenhag, explains how P27 may change banks’ relationship to payments and help “create magic” across the Nordics.

Like many other banks, Handelsbanken is in the midst of a tectonic shift when it comes to payments.

While payments have always been part of the 150-year-old bank’s “bread and butter”, they weren’t always considered of high strategic importance.

“But that’s changed in recent years,” explains Lena Gredenhag, Handelsbanken’s Deputy Head of Nordic Payments.

“There is increasing recognition that payments are really an important glue that connects us to our customers.”

This new thinking comes as payments move higher on the strategic agenda in the wake of technological changes, changes in customer behaviour, and the introduction of new regulations, not to mention the shift to open banking that followed.

“That really got people looking at payments in a new way,” she says.

As open banking opens up the banking infrastructure and give other parties access to bank’s customers, it comes with both benefits and challenges and put a greater focus on payments, according to Gredenhag.

“It allows us and others to provide our customers with new and even better payment services,” she explains.

“But it also challenges us in the customer interface. After all, if you don’t have the customer interface, what do you have?”

Handelsbanken’s new attitude toward payments is also being driven by the potential future arrival of the new pan-Nordic payments platform currently being built by P27.

Leading an ‘agile IT train’ at Handelsbanken

The expected launch of a real-time, cross-border, cross-currency payments platform will provide Handelsbanken and its Nordic peers with a new robust and resilient payments infrastructure that enables a range of new possibilities.

“P27 presents a big opportunity for us to further improve our offering to customers in the Nordics, but it also allows us to streamline our  processes and reduce complexity internally” she says.

As Deputy Head of Nordic Payments at Handelsbanken, Gredenhag oversees 13 different teams in what she calls an “agile IT train” focused on developing new payments solutions while at the same time preparing the bank and its customers for the potential future arrival of P27.

“This is one of the biggest IT-initiatives that we have at the bank,” she explains.

“Payments infrastructure might not be thought of as such a hot topic, but everyone realizes the importance of P27.”

Gredenhag also serves as Handelsbanken’s representative on the P27 Advisory Board, which she considers an important forum for such a far-reaching initiative.

“It’s important to have a body that can serve as a steering mechanism for the whole process,” she says.

Gredenhag is especially looking forward to bill payments and other new Layer 2 solutions that P27 will enable. Other benefits of P27 include the ability to leverage new kinds of data as well as help increase connectivity and integration between the Nordic countries’ economies.

“I don’t think we’ve really taken full advantage of the potential that exists when you leverage real-time cross-border, cross-currency Nordic payments,” she says.

“If we can do that, it will really create some magic in the Nordics.”

Value-added services around payments

Perhaps more important, however, is how Handelsbanken communicates with its customers about the  changes that will come with P27.

“We need to demonstrate to our customers that the potential future migration they face will ultimately be beneficial for them, we are working really hard to set up new digital processes that make the potential future migration as smooth as possible for them,” says Gredenhag.

“It’s very much about the story we as Handelsbanken tell our customers – that we are shifting focus from payments to value-added services around payments.”

She believes the arrival of P27 will enable Handelsbanken to serve its customers even better by making everyday banking more efficient and offering new and better solutions that allow customers to focus on their core business.

“P27 will provide both Handelsbanken and our customers a great foundation for future developments and innovation,” she says.

NOTE: P27 is still in a preliminary stage, and the establishment of P27 is subject to regulatory approvals and requirements.