iGaming 2.0 – Harnessing The Power of Tech, Interview with Sara Björk-Södergård, Chief Product Officer at Paf

Taking full advantage of the myriad of tech advancements and talent in the world remains an ongoing challenge for the iGaming industry. When compared to other heavily regulated industries such as Insurance or Financial Services, it seems there’s still some catching up to do, especially from a customer experience perspective.

Harnessing the full power of tech requires industry development across the board. Aspects such as talent sourcing, regulation, social responsibility and new tech integration will play a fundamental role.

In this two-part interview, we caught up with Sara Björk-Södergård, Chief Product Officer at Paf to hear her thoughts on life after lockdown and attracting the best tech talent to our industry.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt from your Covid-19 experience that you will use to your advantage going forward?

“It’s difficult to point out one single thing. The pandemic has brought on a lot of change in many aspects. Not only did we have to adapt to the sudden change of switching from office work to homework. At the same time, we must meet the rapidly changing regulatory requirements that came as a reaction to Covid-19.

As the pandemic grew, new regulatory requirements and market restrictions increased. The timelines we had to adapt to the new requirements were short.

Our focus had to be to launch compliant solutions, and later improve based on data gathered.

I would say we are less afraid now of going live with something that is not perfect. We iterate with the help of findings from sharp testing. In many cases we’ve seen that friction in the customer experience can be solved by changing the way we communicate, no coding needed.

Having our entire tech organisation working from home has worked a lot better than I anticipated. My initial concern was how to continue to work efficiently and maintain business as usual with the rapid switch to work remotely.

I would say communication has been the biggest challenge and with time I have seen positive effects on, for example, how meetings are run. They have become shorter and more efficient. We make more 15-minute meeting reservations to quickly follow up with each other.

Also, chat practices have improved leading to better transparency, visibility and speed. Many employees have more free time thanks to not having to do long commutes.

I’m certain we will have a lot more remote work after the pandemic than before. Now I see an opportunity to open up for having more distributed teams and flexible working locations.

I’m happy we haven’t lost speed and that we are coming out a more efficient company.”

From purely a product and technological perspective, how can operators overcome the challenge of providing good customer experiences for traditional sports betting customers who don’t have any live events to bet on? Is this even possible?

“I hate to say it but it is just not possible.

Without real live sports events, there is no real sports betting to be done. Customers who love betting will not return to betting until their favourite sports are up and running.

That being said, Esports is an option for betting customers and it can at least give your betting customers something to bet on. Esports has become more popular every year and we believe that this trend will continue. But sports betting, as such, needs real sports; that is what the betting product is all about.”

How can we as an industry overcome the challenge of sourcing good tech talent? Some argue that iGaming can’t compete with other tech companies because of our industry reputation, causing operators to struggle to find good talent and have to pay over the odds just to attract the right person. Would you agree and how can we overcome this?

“The industry reputation is definitely a challenge when it comes to recruiting tech talent.

Paf has an advantage here towards most other gambling companies. Social responsibility, in combination with giving the profit back to society, helps us attract and keep talent. Many of our employees would not work for a regular gambling company.

The experience of working remotely, gained during the Covid-19 pandemic, might help to source good tech talent. As companies are more experienced and confident in cooperating successfully in a distributed environment, we can reach and employ people who otherwise might not have been available for recruitment.

We believe that a key solution is more openness within the gambling industry. We need to be open about the challenges we have with responsible gaming and how we are working on improving them.

If we are more open we will gain more trust and improve our reputation as an industry. This is also a reason why we at Paf decided to publish our customer segments openly for everyone to see.

By doing so, we acknowledge the basic facts and can show everyone what we are doing to become a more responsible and sustainable gaming company.

We also adopt this open thinking in regards to tech recruitment and we are openly showing what kind of technologies we are working with and what we are implementing.

This way tech people can themselves decide if we are on the forefront in tech innovation and development before they decide to join us.

Paf is an industry leader in responsible gaming and social responsibility is in focus in our everyday work. In 2018 we introduced a yearly limit that applies for all our customers. It started out as 30.000€ per year. Last year we lowered it to 25.000€, and from 2021 we will reduce the loss limit with another 5.000€.”

Editor’s Notes: From speaking with Sara its evident that Paf are setting a clear direction for their brand and leading by example.

The new ‘distributed environment’ we are currently operating in can be used to our advantage, giving our industry increased access to tech talent and a bold approach to social responsibility could be a useful template for the iGaming industry to adopt to ensure future growth.

In Part Two next week,  Sara will touch upon the more technical side of our industry’s ongoing journey to successful tech innovation and what role regulation will play in this.

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