T-Mobile Poland and Alior Bank have announced the conclusion of their five-year joint venture that began in December 2013. Customers of T-Mobile Banking Services in Poland will have their accounts automatically transferred to become full account holders at Alior Bank and will gain access to their respective branches and digital platforms.
T-Mobile Poland and Alior Bank had embarked on the venture to offer banking services under the T-Mobile brand in Poland due to the clear synergies and respective strengths such a partnership would entail. It allowed Alior, a medium-sized bank, to manage the necessary back-end operations, infrastructure, and licencing required, while T-Mobile Poland brought millions of mobile users and a household brand name.
At the time, such partnerships between telecommunication and banking providers was commonplace due to the relatively light levels of regulation in countries such as Poland, as well as the impetus to increase competition in the respective industries that typically have high barriers to entry and had not benefited from the types of disruption seen in other industries.
Despite being heralded as a successful example of a non-traditional player entering the market for financial services, it appears that the joint venture was more of a flash-in-the-pan moment than a breakthrough success story, as the collaboration was formally concluded at the start of September 2020. Existing T-Mobile Poland customers will be automatically transferred to Alior Bank platforms from November 29, 2020.
While the partnering of the two firms had seemed ideal due to the infrastructure capabilities of Alior and the sizeable user base of T-Mobile, the actual offering proved somewhat unpopular with Polish customers.
Initially, the T-Mobile-branded offering was expected to attract two million customers within five years and ahead of a new five-year agreement. However, T-Mobile Financial Services only acquired 226,000 customers in year one and less than 60,000 in year two. As such, it became quite clear early on that the targets set could not be achieved for T-Mobile, resulting in the venture’s cancellation.
The dissolution of the venture stands to show the difficulty that even established firms face in trying to enter a market defined by long-term relationships and reputations and now saturated by FinTechs and digital banks.
GlobalData’s 2020 Financial Consumer Survey shows that preference for financial service providers in Poland strongly favors incumbent banks followed by digital-only banks. The ability of telecommunications companies and retailers/supermarkets to gain traction with Polish consumers is far more difficult, as across multiple product areas, those types of providers consistently rank lowest.