SME Banker of the Year 2023 nominee: António Fery Antunes (Millennium bcp)

SME Banking
08/05/2023 Article
profile picture of António Fery Antunes

António Fery Antunes

Millennium BCP

Head of Direct Channels for SME and Corporates

António Fery Antunes is the Head of Direct Channels for SME and Corporates at Millennium bcp, which develops the digital value proposition for Business Customers. At Millennium bcp since 1995, worked as Risk Analyst, Relationship Manager in Corporates Division, developed Internet Banking Services in the first Millennium website for Companies ("", Best European Internet Bank service for Corporates in 2002 l Global Finance). Responsible for Value Added Services & Cash Management Division SMEs and Corporates and Head of Micro & Entrepreneurs Customers Segment. In 2019 led the launch of ‘M Accountancy’, 1st Open Banking service for Companies in Portugal, which integrates Companies, Accountants with the Bank, a digital service distinguished by Portugal FINLAB an innovation award from Bank of Portugal, the Portuguese Securities Market Commission and Insurance Supervision Entity. Born in 1972, has a degree in Mathematics Applied to Economics and Management.

"We keep our heart close to the SMEs on the pain point and connecting them "

In the course of your career, what have you seen change in terms of demands/needs of SME clients? And what role should a bank play in meeting these demands?

Despite the constantly changing world, I believe that the essential for an Entrepreneur have remained relatively unchanged over the past 25 years: create a team who believe in the company's vision and potential and work with suppliers as partners.
Regarding financial services, it is expected that banking sector play a similar role supporting businesses, and that is what Millennium BCP has been doing for its business customers since its establishment in 1985.  
In addition to serve needs of companies by size and activity, supporting SME in their early days with a simple and convenient onboarding process, implement payment methods that allows them to manage payments and collections efficiently, as well as providing financial support when they need to grow their business, but also in times where not everything went as planned.

What have you found to be effective in leading your SME banking team/in your leadership position?

Firstly, it is crucial for our digital transformation work to have the desired impact on our customers that we identify and correctly understand the real needs of SMEs. Secondly, we must make choices. Saying yes to some projects means giving up on others, so managing priorities is critical. Finally, we approach everything with great enthusiasm and dedication. This is what we do every day and we strive to leave our mark.

"....we have launched the most comprehensive 100% digital account opening solution for businesses and entrepreneurs in Portugal."

Briefly describe, what would be your top 3 achievements/ projects delivered by your bank for SME customers?

Last year was a decisive year for Millennium bcp in terms of innovation for businesses.
We launched iziBizi for Entrepreneurs and SMEs, which won awards for Best Digital Transformation Project, Best Future of Business Models, and Best Banking Project in Portugal in 2022, among more than 300 other digital projects across the country. IziBizi is the first fully-fledged ERP that is totally integrated with the Bank, leveraging account aggregation and payment initiation in the open banking environment.
In addition, we also have launched the most comprehensive 100% digital account opening solution for businesses and entrepreneurs in Portugal (more info HERE). This enables entrepreneurs and business owners to initiate a relationship with Millennium in a very convenient way, when and where they want to do it. During this digital journey, they are also invited to select one of our transactional bundles that better fits their needs, personalize their debit and credit cards, and choose the branch where they want to have a more personalized conversation.
Finally, we have also recently launched two additional digital services to help our business customers thrive. One is a digital onboarding process to our payments gateway that integrates with our customers' online commercial shops (more information about Payments gateway). The other is M2030, a collaborative digital platform where our SME Customers and European fund consultants work together to identify investment payments and aggregate all necessary documents (such as invoices) to accelerate access to European Community funds within the legal procedures defined in the country.

What would be the most significant business case that you've applied and learned the most out of it? Both positively or negatively?

One of the biggest surprises I had in the world of SME Banking was certainly during a visit to a company, two years after launching the first bank website for businesses in 2002. At that time, we were convinced that everything we were doing on the internet was serving the day-to-day needs of our business customers, from the smallest to the largest Company. Although our transactional website is still by far the main digital access to the bank for Businesses (processing payment and collection volumes equivalent to 60% of Portugal's GDP), during that 2004 visit to present the main features of our business website, the CFO surprised me: "António, the bank's business website is fantastic, but it's not what I want. What I want is to have access to all the accounts of the Banks we work with in my ERP and be able to decide to move those accounts without having to access each bank and manage different users, passwords and security credentials." That feedback bothered me, but I knew that if we wanted to lead and strengthen the relationship with our SME customers, we would have to prepare ways to satisfy this need. At the time, we developed and called the service as “B2B integration” (years later, someone within a consultant company would start talking about "the ecosystem"), meaning that since 2007, we have been providing to customers direct integration ERP/Millennium bcp via webservices.

The advent of open banking – that we adopted as an opportunity, not a threat - has helped us to integrate also the accountants of our customers in the bank, and since the end of last year, enabled us to launch iziBizi, the first all-in-one for SME, awarded as the “Best Digital Transformation Project in Portugal” in 2022, and now PayTech finalist for “Best Business Payments System – UK & Europe” and “Top Tech of the Future by a Bank”.

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