Getting closer to the startup world as a way for corporations to innovate
01 Oct 2018

Interview with Tamara Krištúfková, Retail Banking Business Development, Slovenska Sporitelna (ERSTE Group) by Michal Tomek


General impression of corporations is that they are rigid, colossal elephants moving very slowly and adapting hesitantly to anything new. Except maybe for those that boomed during the internet and startup era which have innovation written in the DNA. But what about companies in such a conservative industry as banking?


The innovation team of Slovenská sporiteľňa

Tamara Kristufkova is an external cooperations coordinator in Retail Banking Business Development team, and she thinks of the corporations a bit different than the picture depicted above. She is precisely the person trying to bring innovation and new concepts to such a big Slovak bank as Slovenska Sporitelna, member of ERSTE group, is. „We work at the boundaries of the corporate world and the world of startups and innovation. I love it,“ says Tamara.

The team has for example worked on the Google Pay implementation in the bank. Their daily job is to improve the products and services of Slovenska Sporitelna through UX design, human-centered design, design thinking, more agile approach, and so forth. Sometimes it is not only fun. „Right now we are working on PSD2 legislation implementation in the banking systems which is a quite a long-term project.“ 

Tamara has been in Slovenska Sporitelna for four years, in the innovation team for a year. She had already known the startup community in Bratislava for quite a time before and has always been open and keen to bind the two worlds. „As a company, we wanted to be closer to the environment that can innovate so fast. We wished to soak in the know-how, the atmosphere, the process of transforming ideas into products and businesses and think of the ways how we could implement that in our everyday corporate life.“


It‘s about the first impressions

The first contact with Campus came when a new colleague joined the team. He knew the place and had already previous experience with the Campus team. Suddenly, he started to talk about all the startups, people, the community, the whole vibe of the space. „The companies in the co-working space were appealing to us, too. As a bank, we had already started looking into the new technology of blockchain, and a Slovak blockchain company, DECENT, was part of the space.“ 

As one of Slovenska Sporitelna ‘s target groups are students, Campus‘ location in Mlynska dolina which is a student hub with tech faculties and student colleges all around, meant a strong argument in favor of the cooperation. „We have a team in our organization that supports young entrepreneurs, so it made sense. That way we could give the benefits of Campus‘ events and venues to the students we support.“ 

The team leader got in touch with the Campus founders, and they agreed on a visit. The first impressions were great. „I wanted to introduce the Campus to my colleagues, so we went for a breakfast event. A project manager and a few people from HR joined me. Their reaction? They were astonished by the atmosphere. People seemed happy to work there while having such a drive and passion for their projects. “


Bringing corporations and hackathons together

Both Campus and Slovenska Sporitelna started to think of the ways they could cooperate and create synergies. „We held a press conference in the venue, one of our project teams spend some working days in the space. When they returned, they were amazed. Based on that experience, we strongly encourage our colleagues to get out to a different environment and meet the community in Campus. It helps to really think outside the box.“

When Campus was organizing a blockchain hackathon in cooperation with DECENT, the team invited Slovenska Sporitelna to participate. „We went to the hackathon on Friday, and our main business architect took part as a speaker. He presented the options and use cases of blockchain technology in the banking industry based on our own solutions.“ The communication with DECENT continued even after the hackathon as they worked on some solutions with which we could have helped each other.


Feeling the vibe all around

Other aspects of cooperation include Dusan Duffek (Campus co-founder) introducing the startup and innovation world to the the bank‘s employees. „On the other hand, there are already discussions to talk in Campus about how big corporations work and how we can implement some innovative solutions from third parties. We are also thinking about launching a CoderDojo group in our venue for our employees‘ kids.“ CoderDojo is a global volunteer-led community of free programming clubs for young people between 7 and 17 which is covered by Campus in Slovakia. 

Tamara comes to work in Campus from time to time, and she loves it. „The people, the technology, the community, networking, it‘s all there. You can grab a cup of coffee at the bar, talk to anyone, and take a piece of the Campus atmosphere with you. The vibe of the place is truly authentic.“ 

Truth to be told, it‘s not only about business and tech. When asked which event was the most engaging, Tamara answers with a smile: „I loved the exercising events for a healthier back. It‘s something that forces you to take part in, think about it and do something for your health. Moreover, it covers a different topic than business or technology which is refreshing.“



Which company/startup/non-profit organization in CEE inspires you and why? :) I like their company culture and passion they have for the work. Their philosophy that „client satisfaction is the most important“ is palpable in everything they do.


Top three (audio)books/blogs/podcasts that changed your way of looking at the world?

Franklin Covey – 7 habits of highly effective people

The Daily Show ☺ But I started to watch it when Jon Stewart was the host.

The Postman’s Knock! is a blog about calligraphy, and it helps mi to develop my creative side and relax. 


Your most favorite treat from Campus bar?

Fresh fruit. But I heard there is a great oatmeal in offer so I need to try out☺


Were you not doing what you do, what career path could we see you pursuing?

Hmm, that is a tough question. Probably a teacher. Or I‘d go to politics, there is a lot of room for improvement.


A quote you live by?

“Carry your own weather” by Franklin Covey. Explanation here.

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