I talk about development plans, the biggest challenges and the transactional and financial results recorded by Blik last year with Monika Król, vice-president, and Dariusz Mazurkiewicz, president of the company Polski Standard Płatności, which manages the system.
As the authorities of the Blik management company, how do you assess the past year?
Dariusz Mazurkiewicz: In terms of the number and value of transactions, last year met our objectives and expectations. We also managed to surpass another important level in terms of the number of active Blik users. There are already nearly 13 million people among our customers, and our users have paid in as many as 117 countries on six continents using contactless Blik.
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Although certainly not everything has been implemented as intended. I am thinking, for example, of the development of certain services such as recurring payments. We have not been able to expand the list of banks offering this solution due to the enormity of the IT projects carried out by these institutions. We have, however, managed to launch tests of the Blik Płacę Później (Blik Pay Later) service. This has cost us a lot of conceptual and regulatory work, so this year could be a breakthrough for this solution. Our business continues to grow very rapidly, and so does the company. Security issues remain a priority, of course. Due to the fact that Blik is the most frequently selected form of online payment in Poland, we are inevitably exposed to attacks. And this in turn necessitates investment in the area of cybersecurity. In the past year - and this is important - we have also taken further steps on the road to overseas expansion, and we hope that in 2023 we will be able to show off the effects of these activities.
As far as the Blik Płacę Później service is concerned, what potential does it have, i.e. how many customers do you think will use it and what value transactions will they make using it?
DM: I would like to point out that although from a formal point of view the service will be a consumer credit, we want to treat it as a new payment tool, i.e. not as a way to finance purchases, but as an easy and intuitive form of payment. The group of customers who want to facilitate their transactions in this way, rather than looking for a new way to finance themselves, is very large and growing rapidly. And it is to this group of customers that we want to target Blik Płacę Później.
OK, but how many of these customers do you envisage there will be after, say, 12 months of full implementation? How much capital will you need to serve all these customers?
Monika Król: We want to develop the service in a sustainable way, and our ambition is not to be the biggest lending company in Poland. We are taking a very responsible approach to this product, which means that not everyone who wants to use the Blik Płacę Później service will be able to do so. I think that for the next one and a half or even two years we will not need additional capital. We will be able to develop the service with our own funds.
So when will more banks offer Blik Płacę Później? As far as I know, for the time being the service is offered by Millennium to a closed group of customers. Am I correct?
DM: Yes, for now we are running a pilot program with one bank. We are focusing on fine-tuning the processes as much as possible and going out more widely. We are keen to keep the 'blik' experience with this product. We want it to be easy, simple and secure. We will certainly be introducing deferred payments this year to several other banks that are our stakeholders.
Let's move on to Blik's international expansion. When will it be possible to make the first Blik payments in euros and what needs to happen for that to occur?
MK: Last year we signed an agreement for our first acquisition abroad - specifically Viamo in Slovakia. The transaction has not yet been finalised, as we are waiting for approval from the Slovak financial supervisory authority. We hope that this will happen later this quarter. We assume that the first transactions will be completed later this half-year.
DM: Independently of the project in Slovakia, we are working on a solution under the working name Blik Euro, with which we want to go to Western European markets. Unfortunately, the financial services market there looks completely different from ours. Not everyone there understands what mobile banking is and how it is changing access to financial services. A large part of the population there, accustomed to traditional banking, does not feel the need to use electronic or especially mobile services. Our role is therefore to demonstrate, using Polish banks as an example, the benefits of offering customers their own payment solution that competes with Apple Pay or Google Pay. In any case, there has been a long-running discussion in the European arena about whether Europe needs its own payment solution to compete with US systems.
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As far as Blik Euro is concerned, for the time being we cannot reveal in detail what it will be. Certainly, in terms of the way it is used, Blik Euro will not differ very much from the tool that Polish customers are already familiar with in e-commerce. However, from the inside it will be a completely different, pan-European system, billed and managed in a completely different way. For the time being, we are working on it conceptually, then we will apply to the supervisors for the appropriate approvals, so that in the next step we can offer it to every bank in Europe. No one has done this before us. We certainly see a strategic role for the National Bank of Poland on this path to the internationalisation of Blik. The first service we will offer in the eurozone will be online payments, because this is where we see the greatest competitive advantage of our system. Especially since we already have an acceptance network outside Poland, as most foreign e-commerce payment operators allow or can allow Blik transactions to be accepted at any time.
And what is happening with your plan to enter into the Romanian market?
DM: Work is in progress. I think we will give an official update on the Romanian project in the next few weeks.
Going back to the summary of last year. I assume you don't have a full balance sheet yet, but can you say what financial results you expect?
MK: I can only say that it was a very good year in this respect, with high growth in revenue and net profit. This allows us to plan the company's expansion in the coming years with confidence, both in Poland and abroad, without having to seek external capital.
In view of this situation, do you expect that the ownership of the company may change in the near future? Can any of the stakeholders think about monetising their investment in Polski Standard Płatności?
DM: We know nothing about this. On the other hand, if any of the owners wanted to sell part or all of their holdings in PSP, they would certainly find many willing buyers and could count on their high valuation. Last year, when market sentiment was slightly better than today, independent analysts saw us among the Polish companies aspiring to become dollar unicorns. Currently, the atmosphere around technology companies is slightly worse, but our parameters are improving all the time. It therefore seems to us that we are a strong candidate to be among the unicorns.
There are several fintechs and foreign banks that have a lot of customers in Poland and at one time announced that they would offer Blik. I am thinking in particular of Revolut. Can, and if indeed, when these plans are to be expected to be implemented?
MK: We see no obstacles to Revolut becoming an important partner of ours. We are looking to cooperate on the Polish market, as long as our regulations and the financial supervision here allow us to do so. Talks with Revolut also concern other markets where we will want to expand and nothing stands in the way of cooperation if all formal requirements are met.
A few months ago, the media buzzed about a new solution called Blik Go by analogy with Amazon Go. Can you explain what this tool will be and to which customers it is aimed?
DM: In principle, our company is almost ready to offer this type of service, but whether it will reach customers and when it will do so - depends to a large extent on our partners, especially the retail chains that want to offer it to their customers. The comparison with the US giant's service is valid. Blik Go is supposed to allow you to handle a payment in a stationary shop without having to do anything. It's just that, for such a solution to work, retailers need to be ready for it, as the bulk of the work to be done is on their side. If this happens, Blik is ready to provide a tool that will allow such a fully self-service shopping experience to be crowned with payment, and this will be a better model than using a card.
Thank you for the interview.