The Business Year

Jorge Carvalho

PORTUGAL - Telecoms & IT

Jorge Carvalho

President, SoftFinança

Bio

With a background in civil engineering, Jorge Carvalho began his career as a systems engineer at NCR Portugal in 1985. In 1987, at Olivetti Portuguesa, he was part of the factory team that developed the software for the ATM Olivetti 6400 that would later equip the Multibanco network in Portugal. He moved into commercial management positions for the financial sector at NCR Portugal and RIMA. As an independent consultant, he was responsible for the software development of the Ford Loyalty Program at European level. He founded SoftFinança, SA. in 1990. He has diversified SoftFinança’s business both industry and market wise, while remaining focused on a lifelong commitment and knowledge of financial institutions IT needs and evolution

SoftFinança focuses on the complementarity of services to financial customers, with particular emphasis on relationship channels and establishing lasting relationships with all the main banks operating in Portugal.

Can you give us a brief summary on the evolution of SoftFinança?

I founded the company 31 years ago in 1990. We perceived an opportunity for a company to be focused on developing software for the financial market. Fintechs did not exist when we started, but today we see what they are all about. There were only two companies in Portugal at that time focused solely on the financial market, and we were one of them. We started as a project company developing projects for the financial market, namely banks and insurance companies, covering solutions from the mainframe to the branch. We’ve been doing this for many years, so we’ve acquired the knowledge and skills to make the shift that we made some seven, eight years ago to being a product driven company. With the majority of the projects we have done at SoftFinança, we realized there was a middle ground between the institution and the client. That wasn’t a strategy as such, just something that happened a couple of times, and from then on, we capitalized on that specific know-how. Those were and are the channels of the bank or institution. This kind of relationship between the institution and the client is even more relevant today. Key factors in this business are user experience, convenience, and ubiquity. Predictions are that around 80% of physical banks could well disappear by 2030.

Considering this premise, what is the impact of digitalization on local financial institutions?

That vision would be the trend and I also agree with it. Things are moving more in that direction daily. That’s the reason why the relationship between the institutions and clients is so important. We are specialists in self-service solutions at SoftFinança. To simplify, let’s say that we have fewer bank notes in our wallet, even though there are still some ATMs in operation. We are constantly heading toward a paperless world. We have seen many changes with the relationship dynamics between customers and the banking industry with customers coming in and out of their branches. One example is having ATMs outside the financial institutions. Even though it takes the customer out of the branch, it speeds up the transaction process, provides convenience and is less expensive. Then, all of a sudden, clients were pushed out of the branch and started to do other things like online banking from their home computer. Again, that took clients out of the branch, so banks didn’t have them on their premises and were struggling to get them back.

Since they couldn’t speak with the clients, how could they sell their products?

This is the cycle of an app, as the relationship between institutions and clients is a delicate balance. When we look into the evolution of the number of bank branches per inhabitant in Madrid, for example, we see branches from the same institution on both sides of the street in close proximity. The same phenomenon exists in Portugal. The ongoing challenge is to establish a digital connection with your customer. I have no doubt that physical banks will tend to disappear, and banks for day-today retail banking lean more toward digital options for cost-effectiveness.

What are your main targets for 2022-2023?

We are focused on selling abroad, but we are not looking to open offices here and there. We believe that one of the keys to success is having good local partners because there is a culture and a local network that you can’t ensure yourself in another country. You share what you should share, build trust through relationships, and reap the returns on that. We opened in Senegal because we thought it was the best path, and the objective is to broaden our client base there and sell abroad. We are selling increasingly in Portugal even though the market is not particularly elastic. In 2022, we expect to significantly increase our international revenue.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

You may also be interested in...

André Moura, CEO of BladeInsight

PORTUGAL - Telecoms & IT

André Moura

Interview

CEO, BladeInsight

Filipa Mota e Costa

PORTUGAL - Health & Education

Filipa Mota e Costa

Interview

Managing Director, Janssen Portugal

PORTUGAL - Real Estate & Construction

Pedro Lancastre and Juan-Galo Macií 

B2B

Portugal

View All interviews