#552: Meeting Dr Anna Pruska (CEO) and Piotr Kozlowski of Comarch at CUG

This episode is also available in video format on www.Loyalty.TV.

This episode is very different to our usual episodes as it was recorded quite spontaneously at a recent event.

The Comarch User Group is an annual meeting of Comarch’s clients who come together in the city of Krakow in Poland to learn, network, and be inspired.

We were lucky enough to be invited again this year, and like most of the audience it was our first opportunity to meet Dr Anna Pruska, who was appointed CEO of Comarch earlier this year.

Dr Pruska is a Doctor of Humanities in the field of International Relations and completed her Master’s studies in Finance and Banking at the Warsaw School of Economics, and she started working for Comarch two decades ago,

Most of you know Comarch as a global IT solution that powers some of our favourite loyalty programmes in the world, so to have the chance to meet their new CEO – a leading woman in the global technology industry was incredibly exciting.

We took the opportunity to ask if we could do a short interview to allow you as our audience to also meet her and she agreed.

We were also joined by Piotr Kozlowski who most of you will know as the Vice President of Consulting for Loyalty Solutions at Comarch.

Listen to enjoy our impromptu interview and we hope it’s the first of many we do together with the Senior Leadership team in Comarch.

Show notes:

1) Comarch

2) Dr Anna Pruska, CEO of Comarch

3) Piotr Kozlowski, Vice President of Consulting for Loyalty Solutions at Comarch

4) Watch the full interview at www.Loyalty.TV

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world. 

This show is brought to you by Comarch, a multi-country leader in customer engagement tools that help you forge meaningful connections and boost profits, leveraging over 10 years of experience in utilizing AI technology. From immersive loyalty programs to captivating marketing campaigns, Comarch helps you deliver personalized experiences across every touchpoint, gather valuable insights, understand customer behavior, and watch your brand recognition soar. 

Comarch, where innovation meets customer satisfaction. To learn more, visit Comarch.com.

Hello, and welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. Today’s episode is very different to our usual episodes, as it was recorded quite spontaneously at an event I recently attended. The Comarch User Group is an annual meeting of Comarch’s clients who come together in the city of Krakow in Poland to learn, network and be inspired.

I was lucky enough to be invited again this year. And like most of the audience, it was my first opportunity to meet Dr. Anna Pruska, who was appointed CEO of Comarch earlier this year. Dr. Pruska is a Doctor of Humanities in the field of International Relations and completed her Master’s Studies in Finance and Banking at the Warsaw School of Economics. And she started working for Comarch two decades ago. 

Most of you know Comarch as a global IT solution that powers some of our favorite loyalty programs in the world. So, to have the chance to meet their new CEO, a leading woman in the global technology industry, was incredibly exciting for me. I took the opportunity to ask if we could do a short interview to allow you as our audience to also meet her, and she agreed.

We were also joined by Piotr Kozlowski, who most of you will know as the Vice President of Consulting for Loyalty Solutions at Comarch. I hope you enjoy our impromptu interview. And I hope it’s the first of many we do together with the senior leadership team in Comarch.

Anna and Piotr, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Anna: Thank you for having us. 

Paula: I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. We’re literally grabbing 15 minutes, I think, in the middle of this incredible event. So, I was at the Comarch User Group last year and the year before in Paris. So, first time to have the CEO talking to us today. So, really thank you for the opportunity.  Piotr’s been on the show before, so he’s.

Piotr: Good to be here again. Thank you for the invitation. 

Paula: Fantastic. So listen first of all, you know, welcome to your new role. I think it’s incredible already what we’ve heard from you today speaking in different languages to recognize all of the clients in the audience and setting forth a new vision for what Comarch is going to be doing going forward.

We always start our show with a very general question and so I’m going to start with that of course as well. Just to get a sense of you as I suppose a consumer of loyalty and I’m going to come to you first. Just if you think about all the loyalty programs that you engage with in your daily life, can you tell our audience what do you love the most, which program and why?

Anna: Well, that would have to be Miles & More because it’s the program that I use very often due to my traveling. 

Paula: Okay. Yeah. Super. 

Anna: Mostly using the airlines, which are part of this program. And I would hope that one day this alliance would become also our partner in terms of loyalty. 

Paula: Gotta have the ambition. I love that Anna. Yeah. Fantastic. Thank you for that. And Piotr, give us yours. 

Piotr: Yeah, I think we made a choice not to mention our clients because that would be short kind of a, but yeah, of course our business life is very much about travel. I mean, if I were to pick the favorite program rate, it gives me value that is simple that has that quick path to redemption. That’s Accor Live Limitless. I think they, they grew the program, they grew the network. Amazing 50 brands in the portfolio they’ve got so they can hit, I mean, the high and low budget when you’re traveling. 

Paula: Yeah. 

Piotr: And it’s very rewarding because you’ve got a really like a simple path to redemption. So that’s golden rule. I mean, 2000 points, 40 euro, I mean, makes the job. So I would go for it. 

Paula: The fact that you actually know the maths off the top of your head, Piotr is absolutely incredible. Great stuff. 

So I want to just go back a bit and learn more about the company itself, Anna. And if you don’t mind, just give us a sense of the scale of Comarch. You’ve just shared it with the audience. We’re physically here at the Comarch User Group. But for people who don’t have a sense of the company, would you mind introducing the whole business and what you’ve achieved so far in its extensive history? 

Anna: Comarch was established as a spinoff of the Krakow University of Technology, and we started by actually delivering projects for the incumbent telecom operator. That was straight after communism ended and we just became a market economy. And from then on, we’ve spread to different markets and different products, including the services sector, where our loyalty solution is part of the product suite. 

Paula: Absolutely. Incredible. And I think you mentioned six and a half thousand staff?

Anna: Yes, we have over 6,500 employees and over 500 million euros annual revenue. 

Paula: Incredible. And a publicly listed company as well. 

Anna: Exactly.

Paula: Yeah. 

Anna: We are currently traded on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. 

Paula: Okay. Which also, as you said, covers governance and Lots of transparency for your clients as well. 

Anna: Exactly.

Paula: Yeah. Wonderful. So loyalty I know of course, particularly Piotr, you specialize in that side of the Comarch business. I’d love to get a sense from you. Why do you think loyalty is such an important part of the Comarch business? 

Piotr: I mean, it’s an interesting story. I mean, if you look really like at what loyalty marketing is, it’s been with the today’s commerce for 40 years, not a long time.

Paula: Yeah. 

Piotr: It’s a really new practice. If you look how in the past companies have been doing the loyalty technology, that was mainly in house built. There were some very few, mainly American vendors who were providing the platform. So really Comarch over 20 years ago found himself right. There is a niche market, there is a space that is not addressed by the off the shelf platforms, vendor products. And that’s exactly where we jumped into. 

And we started to specialize. We started with the fuel retail clients first, then the portfolio of the domains that we were addressing with the loyalty marketing platform grew quite a lot. But I would say today, even we had on the film on the video about the history of Comarch, the success is also a good timing. And I think Comarch who the loyalty platform had a good timing where we were able to enter his market very early when it started to grow and actually grow together with it and innovate it together as well. 

Paula: Indeed. Yes. And I saw on your LinkedIn profile that innovation is a favorite word as we would expect, I suppose, for an IT company. Do you have any thoughts about, I suppose, the key business trends that are informing your plans for the company? I know you have a lot of ambition. You’ve already said that loyalty is already doing super well for you guys this year. But you know, what do you see happening just in terms of trends that you’re focused on to take care of your clients needs?

Anna: Well, definitely AI is the buzzword of today, but it’s also a necessity for us as an IT company. We do need to implement AI capabilities into our systems. And this is what we also have been doing. And within the loyalty suite, we have been implementing AI technology in the fraud detection module. 

Paula: Okay. Yes, I do remember that even from last year’s conference. It was very insightful.

Anna: Yes, we’re still going to build up AI capabilities within our products. So this is definitely what we’re going to work on this year to increase that effort. Okay, to provide this to our customers. 

Paula: Yeah. And I see it’s on the agenda. I know for the next couple of days as well. So we’re going to be talking a lot about that. And Learning from Comarch, I think, in terms of your AI case studies, I guess, as well. So super exciting.

In terms of, I suppose, loyalty trends, Piotr, you have a, you know, finger on the pulse of exactly what clients are talking about, what they need. I’m sure AI comes up as Anna says, in every conversation.

Piotr: It has two dimensions. Like, so we, I mean, It is the best word, but I mean, we take it down to the earth a little bit. I mean, there’s a little bit too much magic around AI. 

Paula: Yes. 

Piotr: So we like to take it down to the earth and we like to embed it into our core products. One area is fraud, definitely. Why fraud and loyalty and AI works together quite well, go hand in hand very well, is if you look at the value we are having in the programs as they are growing in size. I mean, I have more value on my master more or a core account than I have my checking account. You either spend it or either you invest it, right?

So, but if you look at how secure those accounts are, I mean, definitely loyalty account is much less secure than a bank account. So that’s something that becomes really attractive area for criminals. Let’s put it this way, and that’s where definitely us as vendors, we need to respond to that.

The other area where definitely AI is supporting us is the whole topic of a personalization, which is a holy grail of loyalty, of course. 

Paula: Yes. 

Piotr: And there are different dimensions where we take it. And I think that will be discussion going forward for the next days. How exactly we planning or we doing it already because it’s not never an end journey.

Yeah. The other area, which I would say when you mentioned about transits, we think I would say a loyalty being hype or sometimes when overhyped which is good only one hand, but I think we are seeing more and more categories, which historically were not using loyalty marketing as a way to build stickiness to the brand, engage clients to go that direction. That, that’s mainly with the brands which are bypassing the intermediaries. So if you think about any up producers, outdoor sports equipment, I mean white goods and so on, these companies are starting to build loyalty programs to bypass the retailer and get to know who is my end customer.

And that’s, I think, the biggest shift that we are seeing. In the past, we’ve been working with the retailers, airlines, banks, but now we are seeing all the brands who tried to just get into the front of that end customer to look into how loyalty marketing using points with mechanics can actually help them.

Paula: Yes. Yeah. And again, there’s some wonderful topics at this conference as well, talking about loyalty as a monetization strategy for business as well. So again, I suppose as a business leader, Anna, that’s probably music to your ears. Anything that delivers new revenue for a business. I think there is that opportunity that loyalty programs are now seen as a revenue driver. Maybe in the past and expensive investment. So are you hearing that from your clients as well, Anna? 

Anna: Definitely. This is what our customers and our clients are looking for. They are looking for expanding the programs to include different partners to profit exactly from that. And as a trend of the, they in terms of loyalty.

Paula: Indeed. Yes. And you’ve worked with a lot of the partners. I know yourself over your career. I’ve shown, I believe. 

Anna: We can also benefit from the fact that many of our customers are banking and finance institutions, so we can easily integrate our loyalty systems with the banking systems for our customers. And this is what is also happening that we see happening. 

Paula: So sometimes it’s increasing complexity, but I think your role is to simplify it and bring that cross-sector expertise. And as you said, Piotr, I like the new sectors that you talked about that disintermediation. I think that is something we’ve seen some big brands do that.

Piotr: They will bring a lot of new thinking about how to engage clients through the loyalty program. So, so it’s a it’s definitely a kind of a fresher into the industry. 

Paula: Yeah. 

Piotr: And I think talking about monetization, I mean, we were just parallel to us. There is a session about it, right? 

Paula: Yeah. 

Piotr: But I think what you mentioned, it’s a trend with us for a decade or so were, and it started in the travel space where the allies realize they can monetize the currency by selling it to somebody to partners, providing a very attractive award. But I think there are more categories that can benefit from this model as well, but it’s more about in business mindset. 

So right now we’re having a parallel session. We’re as an inspiration one of our guests, David Feldman is giving the speech, you know, as an inspiration, how you can monetize the program and treat it not as a marketing function that contributes to the overall growth of your business, but it can be business on its own, having its own PNL, its own revenue. And I think that’s amazing potential for a number of the brands forever, for sure. 

Paula: Indeed. Yes. Yeah. And I’m remembering some of your words as well, Anna, just now as well, in terms of, you know, your intention for this session. So exactly as Piotr was alluding to, it’s to inspire people and give them lots of food for thought. I know what you guys specialize in is bringing all of your amazing clients together. We’ve had lots of them on our podcast actually over the last couple of years, Anna. So please God, we’ll have a lot more now. Once I get to meet everybody over the next couple of days. 

So I know we’re short on time, but I did want to ask you as a woman in technology, particularly that’s something that I just really admire, you know, the fact that you’re leading such an extraordinary company. We have a global audience of people who really just, I suppose, look to people like you for career growth.

And I often particularly felt myself when I was running a loyalty program, you know, there’s so much leadership skills that you kind of need to bring the organization along the way. So I wanted to ask you any advice, any tips that you’ve learned in your career to become the CEO, what would you say, particularly to women in technology or women in loyalty, what can they do to become better leaders?

Anna: I think it’s very important to build up your own expertise so that there is a strong foundation for what you can show for yourself. And then it’s important to you know, be confident in what you’re doing and to really believe in yourself. And, you know, it’s a hard word world out there. It’s also a world where there is, many men working, I would not say male dominated, but probably that is what it is. 

Paula: Yes. 

So, you know, never give up and and fight for yourself and believe in yourself and keep going, you know, have that inner strength and inner courage and believe in yourself.

Paula:  I’m sure. Yes. Yeah. 

Anna: This would be my advice.

Paula: Indeed. Yeah. And I’m sure you get asked that question a lot, Anna, do you? 

Anna: Yes, I do. I do get asked a lot of questions. How is it to be a CEO of an IT company being a woman? 

Paula: Yeah. 

Anna: But you know, I mostly perceive myself as simply being a human being. And this is how I would like to be perceived. Okay. Yeah. By everyone.

Paula: Keep it simple? 

Anna: Yeah. Keep it simple. We’re all human beings. 

Paula: Yeah. And if you think about your vision then for the year ahead, and I guess both of you in terms of, you know, where Comarch is going. We’ve talked about some of the buzzwords and everything, but what is it that you’re laser focused on particularly in terms of taking the company to the next level?

Anna: We would definitely like to expand in foreign markets and strengthen our presence in the key markets, which for us is the Middle East, Asia, Southeast Asia region, the United States and Western Europe. So this is where we want to grow and, you know, want to develop our key solutions in the key business areas, in the telecommunications, services sectors and in the finance sector.

Paula: Okay. Yes. 

Anna: And loyalty is part of that strong strategy for a good roadmap for our product. 

Paula: Indeed. Yeah. And Piotr airline wise, what are you focused on for the year ahead? 

Piotr: I mean, it’s definitely, we if you look at the product side of it, yeah. So, what we developed to make the programs more relevant, we typically are looking at new kind of revenue streams.

It started in the COVID times really where programs and airlines were looking for, I mean, diversified revenue streams for the program, subscription topic, huge thing, you know, after the Amazon Prime effect, you know, everyone is exploring it. And so as we, I mean, we, of course provide the capabilities, but then it’s how it’s business case by our clients personalization and we can call it hyper personalization is a big topic. You know, we, there are, it’s partly related to AI, I think, but on the other hand, we are working on how we can give more control to personalize the program back to the clients. 

Paula: Yeah. 

Piotr: So, I mean, if you look at the recent relaunch of the programs that we are supporting from JetBlue, for instance. I mean, they have given customer control to select and design the program themselves. I’m getting a menu of the benefits from which I can select some of those, which are best responding to my needs. So that’s self personalization, hyper personalization and new revenue streams directly to program. That’s going to be the theme in terms of geographies.

I’m always advocating to the, our management board, LATAM, Latin America. I’m a big fan of that, you know? So, I think, you know, the reason I’m mentioning this is, We’re looking at in terms of loyalty, because here we have more of a global perspective on all the solutions. But we’re looking always at the markets which are having a growing middle class because that’s exactly where they’re buying medium kind of a premium products. And that’s exactly where the kind of a frequently operating loyalty programs are really making the job.

Paula:  Yeah. 

Piotr: So that’s my perspective. My input. LATAM. 

Paula: Indeed. Well, it’s close to my heart as well, purely because from a content creation perspective, I believe Latam is going to be the biggest podcast listenership in the world by 2030. So that was something I learned this week as well. So you’re right. Latam is really exploding in lots of different ways, both for loyalty and for content. 

Piotr: So I’m gonna look into that.

Paula: We’re totally aligned. Totally aligned. So I guess a closing question maybe would be I like to ask maybe a general question about things you might be proud of. That either you’ve, you know, seen happen in the company, that different maybe regions have achieved. So again, you’re still fairly new in the role, Anna, but again, doing incredible work already. But if you were to say something that you’re most proud of, that Comarch has achieved over its maybe 25 years as a publicly listed company, what would you say?

Anna: You know, I’ve been with the company for the past 20 years in different capacity. And I’m amazed at how it has grown and developed. You know, when I started in international sales, it was quite difficult for me. And I started with setting up Comarch’s business in Western Europe. And I remember going to client meetings and, you know, having to introduce myself, the company from scratch. It was quite tough at the time, and right now it’s become much easier. In the business, we are a known name. We’ve made ourselves a brand name and I’m really proud of that. And you know, it makes it much easier now to acquire new business for us.

Paula: Okay. Yes.

Anna: I think this growth has been really amazing.

Paula:  Indeed. Yeah. And as I said, we’ve had some of your clients on the show and I know many of them have followed you around the world and you followed them around the world. So that kind of client endorsement is something, again, I think you can be incredibly proud of.

Anna: Exactly.

Paula: So there’s a lot being achieved over the years. Okay. We will leave it there. So Piotr Kozlowski and Anna Pruska, thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Anna: Thank you for having us. 

Piotr: Thank you. 

Paula:  This show is sponsored by Wise Marketer Group, publisher of The Wise Marketer, the premier digital customer loyalty marketing resource for industry relevant news, insights, and research. Wise Marketer Group also offers loyalty education and training globally through its Loyalty Academy which has certified nearly 900 marketers and executives in 49 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals.

For global coverage of customer engagement and loyalty, check out thewisemarketer.com and become a wiser marketer or subscriber. Learn more about global loyalty education for individuals or corporate training programs at loyaltyacademy.org. 

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