Latvia as a FinTech hub, in light of regulatory changes: An Interview with Marine Krasovska

By Evita Lune, PhD, Partner, Global Head of the FinTech Practice at Pedersen & Partners:

I have been impressed by dynamic and proactive work that Marine Krasovska, Head of the Financial Technology Supervision Department at Latvijas Banka, has been doing with the FinTech community in recent years. Therefore, I am very thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her about recent developments in the regulatory landscape in the European Union (EU) and Latvia in particular. 

Evita Lune and Marine Krasovska

 

Evita: How attractive is the Latvian regulatory environment for FinTech firms? What type of companies would you recommend choosing Latvia as a licencing hub? 

Marine: Latvia can be proud of its strong compliance culture and predictable legal framework, which foster innovations and customer protection. A licence issued by Latvijas Banka authorises a financial market participant to work and provide services in every EU Member State. 🏦Supportive regulatory regime provides guidance, helping firms navigate regulatory requirements efficiently. To enhance FinTech development, FinTech supervision departments were established in 2020, staffed with dedicated experts specialising in financial innovation. 📈 

🛠️ In order to facilitate the development of the FinTech market, the Ministry of Finance implements a FinTech strategy, aimed at encouraging the development and adoption of new financial technologies and services to enhance the competitiveness of the financial sector. Latvijas Banka introduced special tools: the Innovation Hub and Regulatory Sandbox, and later added pre-licensing assessment. It is an opportunity for potential market participants to receive valuable guidance and recommendations already during the document preparation stage, thereby strengthening their quality and reducing the time for subsequent licencing. 

💰Latvia offers competitive corporate tax rates and other tax incentives for start-ups and tech companies, making the country financially attractive for FinTech companies. Latvia also has one of the best regulation for start-ups: start-ups in Latvia may receive state aid. The aid programmes and their granting criteria are defined by the Law on Aid for the Activities of Start-up Companies. One of the types of support allows start-ups to reduce their labour costs. There are two support mechanisms available: the option to pay a fixed social tax per employee and exemption from personal income tax, or obtaining 45% co-financing for the remuneration of highly qualified workers. 📈 In addition to this, there are company capital share purchase rights available for employees. Granting the right to purchase capital shares is a bonus system designed by companies to attract and motivate employees. This is a valuable tool for young and ambitious FinTechs. The right to purchase capital shares, or share options, enables employees to acquire shares of the company at nominal price or free of charge after a specified period of time, irrespective of the current fair market value of the shares. The employee has the opportunity to realise shares and capitalise on any increase in the company's value. Another tool is the start-up visa, which enables non-EU founders of start-ups to travel visa-free throughout the Schengen area and obtain a certified e-signature.

💼Latvia boasts a highly educated workforce renowned for its strong skills in IT, compliance, and finance. The availability of skilled professionals is a significant advantage for FinTech firms seeking to develop and expand their operations. 

Evita: As a member of Holland FinTech I have heard a lot about current and upcoming regulatory changes in the EU. How do you see the FinTech ecosystem to evolve in light of the new European regulatory environment: Instant Payments Directive, MICA, AI Act, PSD3, DORA, etc. Please share the impact on business from each of them. 

Marine: Certainly, MiCA, DORA, PSD3, and FiDA, alongside emerging technologies like blockchain, AI, are creating new opportunities. 

🔒Until now, the EU lacked a unified legal framework for the crypto-assets industry. The new regulation establishes common conditions for companies across the EU, addressing gaps in national regulations that cause market fragmentation. This will create an environment conducive to developing a larger EU crypto-assets market and fully utilising the EU's internal advantages. MiCA aims to foster the growth of the crypto-asset sector in Latvia. It applies to those involved in issuing, offering, trading, or providing services related to crypto-assets. Financial market participants will need a licence from Latvijas Banka, valid throughout the EU. 

🛡️ In addition to opportunities, MiCA also presents significant challenges for companies to comply with regulation and navigate the comprehensive and complex requirements. This may led to industry consolidation at EU level, providing better quality of business models and corporate governance. The market has to ensure robust cybersecurity measures, data protection practices, customer protection, and financial stability to meet standards. Starting from January 2025, Latvijas Banka will be able to issue licences for operations under MiCA. Now is the right time for companies to adapt their business models and operations to align with the new regulatory framework, which may involve substantial changes in organisational structures, management, business processes, and investments, especially in compliance related to the field of ML/TF. Companies have to demonstrate strong organisational capabilities, adequate knowledge, skills and expertise to perform functions to ensure sustainability. 

🌐 DORA is another regulation that will apply to financial institutions starting from 17 January 2025. It aims to harmonise and consolidate regulatory ICT requirements across the EU, enhancing financial institutions' ability to manage ICT risks, mitigate cyber threats, and improve their cybersecurity capabilities. The main focus of the DORA regulation is centred on four areas: ICT risk management framework, ICT incident reporting, digital resilience testing, and ICT third-party service provider risk management. Key challenges in implementing DORA include ensuring compliance with rigorous cybersecurity and operational resilience requirements. Market participants have to allocate adequate resources, investments in technology and skilled personnel to address cyber threats. Readiness for DORA is affected by the lack of IT industry professionals on the market and variations in the maturity of management process capabilities among market participants. 

⚠️ In the financial industry, cybersecurity is crucial, as it safeguards business data and assets. Currently, financial institutions in Latvia are prime targets for cyberattacks, which can result in significant financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. AI-powered cyberattacks are an emerging threat in the global cybersecurity landscape. Weak cybersecurity can result not only in data breaches, business disruption, and loss of authorisation, but also affect the stability of the entire financial system. 

📊 The cloud infrastructure and outsourcing services are widely used in the financial sector. As the banking sector is being digitised, its reliance on third party providers still grows. Within the existing regulatory framework, certain IT outsourcing risks are not managed effectively enough. The DORA introduces stricter standards, and the European Supervisory Authorities will supervise the external critical service providers for the EU under the DORA. 

🤖 The European Commission has approved the AI act to address the risks and opportunities that AI can bring. The aim of the regulation is to improve the application of AI in the internal EU market and to ensure legal clarity and a solid foundation for the use of human-centered and trustworthy AI. The regulation should also ensure that the fundamental rights are protected and technology is used in a highly secure manner. It not only harmonises the rules for the deployment and use of AI systems in the EU but also defines prohibited applications of AI and lays down specific requirements for high-risk AI systems as well as obligations for the operators of such systems. 

💳 The PSD3 sets out more extensive SCA regulations and stricter rules on access to payment systems and account information. The aim of the regulation is to protect the consumer rights and personal information while improving competition in the payments industry. To enhance the regulatory framework for payment services, the provisions of the PSD2 and the E-Money Directive will be merged into the PSD3. Under these provisions, e-money institutions will formally cease to exist and will be referred to as payment institutions. Among a range of other services, they will still be able to issue e-money. 

🔓 To support innovation in the financial services sector and to improve the control of the EU customer data, the FiDa/OpenFinance proposal was drafted. It aims to develop open finance by stipulating requirements and creating incentives for data holders to share data in an efficient and standardised way. At the same time, customers would retain control over their data, and their data privacy and safety would be preserved. This should simplify the process of opening financial accounts and promote more personalised financial services, based on the shared data, and so access to and availability of the financial services would improve overall. 

Evita: As we are working with global executive search projects on a daily basis, I could characterize our Fintech talent pool as exceptionally strong – we have young C level executives, who have achieved a lot in their late 20ies/ early 30ies already and a dynamic career in a global scale up with a global hub out of Riga is a more desired growth path for most talented candidates as opposed to a classic corporate career. Would you agree with the argument that the small size of our country has pushed us to be very entrepreneurial and ambitious, develop global business models and advanced technology? 

Marine: The entrepreneurial spirit and ambition of our financial industry professionals has been affected by the small size of Latvia. So far, fintech entrepreneurs have mostly focused on innovations and looked beyond national borders to achieve growth. 🌍 Such practices can be observed on investment services platforms as well as in lending and consumer financing. These segments are characterised by large international market participants and fierce competition both on the European and global scales. 

💼 Historically, financial and IT experts emerged in the early phases of the financial industry's growth cycle. As a result, young experts had the opportunity to take on greater responsibilities and were exposed to more challenges to overcome and learn from. Every such challenge served as an accelerator and prepared talents for leadership roles faster than it would have been possible in larger countries where experts have followed the same path for many years and even decades. These experts were born into C-level executive roles. Any Latvian FinTech company should have a global mindset and outlook taking into account the dynamics of emerging technologies, development of innovations, changes in the generational and customer preferences. 

🏫 In this sense, Latvia is a fantastic place where a FinTech company can grow, test business models, hire top-tier talents and scale the business across the EU and beyond. Over last three years, the educational system has provided a solid foundation for the development of advanced technologies, launching new practical programs oriented on entrepreneurial FinTech business (RTU and RBS). Due to the rapid digitalisation of public and private sectors, FinTech companies encounters challenges with covering the gap in the talent pool as well as attracting young professionals and retaining them within the organisation. In contrast to the classical education that provides solid foundation for employees, the companies are increasingly seeking specific skills and value them higher than the formal education. Latvia offers excellent environment for acquiring these skills with strong emphasis on practical and hands-on learning to support continuous professional development. Even with limited talent resources, young entrepreneurs are compelled to think creatively and develop internationally competitive cutting-edge financial solutions. In this way, the challenge of limited resources becomes a catalyst for achievements and entrepreneurial success in the FinTech industry. Companies are focused not only on attracting young talents and surviving but also on retaining, mentoring and developing their leaders which allows them to build competitive and sustainable business models. 

🚀 Concluding remark from Evita: 

We all know Latvia is a small market, but our FinTech entrepreneurs have managed to turn this objective drawback into an advantage and have developed some of the most impressive and fast growing Fintech companies in the world. 🌍 Mintos, 4finance, Sun finance, Eleving, AvaFin are just a few examples. Latvian Regulator, as demonstrated by an example of Marine has been very open, accessible, proactive and welcoming for new business models and creation of a Fintech startup friendly ecosystem. In light of new and changing regulatory landscape and yet tightening cooperation among EU states in light of global geopolitical developments, choosing a strong and supporting EU hub in Latvia is advantageous and often an overlooked opportunity.

 🌟 Concluding remark from Marine

📈 Latvia has taken significant steps towards establishing a supportive regulatory environment for the FinTech industry. Our strong compliance culture, competitive tax incentives, and highly educated workforce make Latvia a compelling choice for FinTech companies looking to operate within the EU. The recent regulatory changes in the EU, including the MiCA, DORA, PSD3, and the AI Act, are set to transform the FinTech landscape, creating new opportunities while also posing compliance challenges. 

🛡️ The introduction of a proactive approach, such as pre-licensing assessments and support mechanisms for start-ups, has fostered a thriving entrepreneurial spirit. This environment is still new but ambitious, with professionals who are prepared to take on leadership roles in a dynamic and innovative market. Latvia continues to invest energy and resources in digitalisation and technology to preserve an attractive hub for the FinTech companies aiming to scale their operations across Europe and beyond. The combination of regulatory foresight, talent development, and a robust support system positions Latvia as a leading player in the global FinTech ecosystem. 🌍

Insights from Nordic FinTech Summit – 2024

By Evita Lune, PhD, Partner, Global Head of the FinTech Practice Pedersen & Partners

May 20, 2024 - Helsinki

Evita Lune, PhD - Nordic FinTech Summit, 2024

Nordic FinTech Summit is on my agenda every year due to an opportunity to see my Nordic clients and candidates all in one place and learn what’s cooking. Thank you, Ola Sundell and Janne Salminen for making this happen!

The most successful Finnish Fintech Multitude was announcing superb quarterly results today, so it was very challenging to juggle between the two events. My humble suggestion would be to bring someone from Multitude or CapitalBox to the stage to hear real achievements from the best. Jokela Jorma, Mantvydas Štareika, Antti Kumpulainen, and Kristjan Kajakas actually developed a profitable, well-funded, well-governed group of challenger companies.

Some promising ventures to watch in Finland: Coinmotion led by Antti-Jussi Suominen educates crypto enthusiasts to work with crypto for long-term wealth creation. Luckily, with MICA regulation in the upcoming years, the platform will be available for European investors from outside Finland. While one may think that more is better, Coinmotion scrapped the cards and payments business to focus on the core.

It was good to see Latvian FinTech entrepreneurs like Armands Liseks taking the stage and kicking off new ventures. The success of Latvian online lenders and associated businesses is underrated, probably due to their focus on other markets than Nordics. There is a lot inGain can offer to non-finance industries looking to innovate their offering with financial products.

Georg Hauer reconfirmed the future of banking being customer-centric, with consumer retail brands in front and BaaS solutions in the back and that emerging markets have jumped over the branch banking stage: from unbanked directly to mobile banking. The banks, which choose to ignore the trend will most likely end up like Nokia phones versus Apple. Juha Keski-Nisula from XMLdation discussed how to view CBDCs from a Fintech Perspective and finally taught us all what FinTech really means: Finnish Technology 😊.

Insights from Money 20/20 Summit – 2024

By Evita Lune, PhD, Partner, Global Head of the FinTech Practice Pedersen & Partners

June 6, 2024 - Amsterdam

Evita Lune, PhD - Money 20/20 Summit, 2024

AI and Generative AI are high on the agenda both with incumbent banks and FinTechs. AI is used for daily functions in client onboarding, CRM, collections, and customer proposition development, while generative AI makes the internal processes easier and more tools become available, as highlighted by Marnix van Stiphout, ING and Joanne Hannaford, Deutsche Bank.

In the era of personalization when all different service providers know so much about everyone, there is a risk of overpersonalisation, or the phenomenon that we never like about our mothers – they tend to wand to know too much. Mastercard hosted a stage about that.

Baltic regulators are particularly favorable for FinTech ecosystem development including crypto exchanges, EMI-licenced companies and neobanks. Jēkabs Groskaufmanis (Invest in Latvia) as well as neighbors from Finance Estonia and Invest in Lithuania were there to convey the message.

Bunq announced on the stage a partnership with Mastercard open banking. Now all Bunq customers will be able to add all their banking Apps on Bunq and manage their expenses and budgets with the support of AI assistant Fin.

Incumbent banks are pretty happy about their achievement in digital transformation and do not seem to be disrupted by FinTechs. From several stages I heard the same message: FinTechs never really disrupted us and never will. They are nice support to the system, ecosystem players, suppliers, and nothing more.

Evita with Emin Can YILMAZ, Founder and CEO, Param; and Amit Malik, Associate Director at EBRD, Member of the Supervisory Boards at Aion and Vodeno.

*On the photo: Evita with Emin Can YILMAZ, Founder and CEO, Param; and Amit Malik, Associate Director at EBRD, Member of the Supervisory Boards at Aion and Vodeno.

How to find the best CEO? Partner Evita Lune interviewed by serial entrepreneur Matiss Ansviesulis

March 29, 2024 - Riga, Latvia

Evita Lune, Partner and Global Head of Pedersen & Partners’ FinTech Practice, was recently interviewed in a podcast hosted by serial entrepreneur Matiss Ansviesulis regarding our approach to executive search and the process of finding the best CEO.

*Note: the interview is in Latvian language.

Here are a few highlights from the interview:

1. In effective networking, I prioritize adding value in every conversation. For me, networking is not spontaneous but rather systematic within relevant business circles.

2. After years of working with corporate clients, I found my niche in working with FinTech scale-ups due to their openness to novelty, direct and authentic culture, global ambition, and technological advancement.

3. In completing assignments, the maximum number of candidates on the long list has reached 700, while in more usual cases it is around 100-150 candidates. Despite the abundance of candidates, only a few are truly successful and talented.

4. For CEO mandates, I develop an individualized pitch based on the specific candidate's soft spots and why it would be relevant for them to change jobs and join our client.

5. While we assist in developing the Executive Value Proposition within each mandate, the ability of the hiring manager/body to pitch their company and the position is crucial for attracting shortlisted candidates.

6. CEO profiles and types of FinTechs vary significantly depending on the form of ownership. Firms owned by financial investors focus on growth towards the next valuation cycle, while privately-owned firms often bootstrap and focus on profitability. They are less affected by financial market cycles.

Evita Lune will be speaking at the FinTech Board Members Academy

Evita Lune, Partner and Global Head of the FinTech Practice Group at Pedersen & Partners, will be speaking at the FinTech Board Members Academy workshop: Empowering Excellence, on January 25-26, organized by the Baltic Institute of Corporate Governance and Fintech Latvia Association.

Evita Lune speaking at the FinTech Board Members Academy

 

The inaugural edition of the "Fintech Board Members Academy: Empowering Excellence" will be held on January 25-26. This meticulously crafted, two-day, in-person event is tailored for industry leaders, bringing together over 10 local and international speakers to provide comprehensive insights into critical topics shaping the future of the fintech industry in Latvia.

The Academy is organised by the Fintech Latvia Association in cooperation with the Baltic Institute of Corporate Governance and will help you understand the expectations of the Regulator and get insights from industry professionals as well as established market participants on how to fulfill those expectations in a compliant manner, including topics like establishing a compliance and internal control system, creating an effective governance structure, risk management, etc.

For more information about the Academy and to register: fintechacademy.lv. Admissions open until 22 January.

Evita Lune and other Jury members awarded new winners of the University of Latvia (UL) Business Incubator program

Evita Lune at the University of Latvia

 

This week Evita Lune, a Partner, and Global Head of the FinTech Practice Group at Pedersen & Partners had the honour to evaluate the ten most focused teams who completed the eight-week phase of the pre-incubation program at the University of Latvia. The jury awarded 3 teams a cash grant to further develop their ideas: ReCyclone, Purefy and Kyukvi. 

“I would like to thank the Business Incubator of Latvijas Universitate for inviting me to be a patron and a mentor for this program. I am looking forward to seeing the progress of the teams in the next 12-week stage, which will start in January 2024. I am also excited to meet the new batch of aspiring entrepreneurs joining the incubator soon. 

I believe that supporting the start-up ecosystem is crucial for Latvia's economic and social development and the region. I encourage other individuals and companies to donate and act as mentors for the Business Incubator at Latvijas Universitates and help the next generation of innovators succeed."

Partner Evita Lune interviewed at the Nordic FinTech Summit

Evita Lune, Partner and Global Head of our FinTech Practice Group, shared her insights with the Nordic Fintech Magazine during the Nordic FinTech Summit in Helsinki. Watch the video to learn more about the challenges of attracting and retaining top FinTech talent, discover what brought Pedersen & Partners to this prestigious event and find out how Evita describes the Nordic Fintech ecosystem in just three words.

Opportunities for women in different cultures: why do we give away top positions to men?

The LIDERE (LEADER) Forum is a Latvian forum dedicated to inspiring women to reach greater heights of achievement. LIDERE has successfully organised five major annual events since 2018, providing a platform for renowned public servants, businesswomen, academia, cultural ambassadors, sports stars, among many others, to speak up, share, encourage, and propel women’s issues to large regional and global audiences.

Evita Lune, Partner and Global Head of the FinTech Practice Group at Pedersen & Partners, addressed the 2020 LIDERE forum, where she shared the floor with Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, the first female president of Latvia, Ilze Viņķele, Latvian Minister of Health, Laura Keršule, Vice-President of LMT, Lotte Tisenkopfa-Iltnere, founder of Madara Cosmetics, and Gunta Jēkabsone, Chairperson of the Board at Augstsprieguma tīkls AS. The event was attended by 1,000 live participants and 10,000 streaming.

In a recent publication of selected highlights from LIDERE forum speeches, Evita’s contribution draws on her observations from her extensive background in Executive Search, specifically in FinTech, and the blatant absence of women candidates for top level positions. She reflects on the lack of opportunities for women around the world who are bound by legal restraints, stereotypes, traditions, and unfair treatment in the workplace. On the other hand, women in other developing or developed countries hold themselves back from seizing opportunities and rising above their comfort zone.

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the first female president of Latvia; Laura Ikauniece, Latvian athlete; Elina Garanca, Latvian mezzo-soprano; Mara Zalite, Latvian writer and cultural worker, and the Līdere forum speakers are just a few of the successful Latvian women Evita mentions as inspiring role models.

Evita’s speech concludes with an invitation and a challenge to women to put aside their fears, timidity, indecision, reluctance to take responsibility – and instead, live a fulfilling life in which they set and achieve ambitious goals.

The upcoming sixth edition of the forum, the growing interest towards the issues addressed, and the loyal audiences who attend year after year are a continuous testament to the important work done by Solvita Kabakova, the founder of LIDERE, and her team in advancing these issues both regionally and globally.

Train your “ambition muscle” as you train your body and mind: Evita Lune discusses women’s ambition and leadership

“We have many talented women, but they lack the ambition to take up top executive positions, especially on a global scale,” says Evita Lune, Global Partner at Pedersen & Partners, and one of the supporters of Novatore Impact Summit in an interview conducted by Līva Melbārzde, former Editor-in-Chief of Dienas Bizness. This international forum will take place in Riga this year from 22 to 23 September, with the main aim of encouraging and motivating women to aim for the highest goals in their careers by realising their full potential.

What are the main career milestones that propelled you into management?

I am a Partner at Pedersen & Partners, which means that I am a co-owner of a group which does business in 50 countries. Day-to-day, I work in the field of global financial technology, handling a portfolio of FinTech clients, and I also lead the Baltic Team at Pedersen & Partners. Our firm has very strong teams here in the Baltics, and I can confidently say that we are the best executive search firm operating in the region. I reached this position by working hard and focusing on top quality. It is a fact that any work can be done in more than one way – perhaps just “good enough”, or perhaps brilliantly. In my projects, I have always strategized to do something better, and it is this constant keenness to do quality work has allowed me to achieve my current level. Of course, my education has also played a role, and not only academically – I obtained a PhD in socioeconomics from the University of Latvia, and I had a wonderful first job at Shell, an international company. It was a great experience, as I learned how to work at a high level and to build a global business. In addition, I also worked at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, as a Director of the Executive MBA Program. There, too, I was lucky to work in an academically excellent environment. This experience encouraged me to set my own example of excellence in the organisation where I work.

But you had a personal ambition to become a manager, didn’t you? I mean, sometimes people are excellent specialists in their field, yet they never become managers.

I am determined, and I don’t suffer from any self-doubt or shyness. It’s the opposite – I’ve always considered that I know everything better than anyone else and can do everything in the best way possible.

It’s still a rather widespread behaviour among women that even when they have all the necessary knowledge and skills to become a manager, they start questioning themselves endlessly – will I really make it? What would your advice be to these women?

I absolutely agree. In my work, I have noticed that women look to find fault with themselves more often, and tend to be too self-critical. My advice would be that we should train our “ambition muscles” just as we train our bodies and minds. The best way to do this is to simply start applying for different jobs, above and beyond your comfort zone. For example, it often seems easier to only call people whom we know, opting for a kind of “back-office” position, just to avoid confronting anyone new and avoiding risk. It is all nice, easy, and familiar. However, this is not a position that leads to career success. The good news is that the problem can be solved – after all, I too used to have problems starting conversations with people I didn’t know. I got rid of this complex when I worked in my clothing store – there, I had to not only say hello to strangers, but also ask how I could serve them, and help choose what fitted them best. I got wonderful energy from these conversations, and my shyness in talking to strangers disappeared completely. However, if we continue to do nothing and refuse to step out of our comfort zone, we never realise our potential, and we lose so much in our lives by doing this.

Women also sometimes believe that they must choose between family and career. Are these two things really so incompatible?

In our family, we have raised four children. Personally, I’ve never taken long breaks or holidays, even when the children were very little – I don’t want to say that there were no difficulties, but everything could be done with planning. Among my female friends, there are some who have raised as many as seven children, and they have achieved even more in their careers. I think that the family gives an additional impetus to achieve more, to be a role model for one’s children, be an equal partner to one’s husband and overall live as a balanced person, not a bundle of unhappiness. I have seen lonely men who seem to have all the time and resources in the world to gain the highest achievements – but after some time, they become unmotivated and destructive, suffer a preventable burnout or give in to bad habits. I don’t have time for anything like this, as I have different responsibilities. Therefore, to me, family and career are complementary. I can also say that personally, if I had to do only housework and could not socialise or express myself intellectually, I’d be very unhappy. Hence, the myth about choosing between career and family is obsolete. Today, we don’t even speak about work-life balance anymore; we talk about an integrated life which includes all aspects of happiness. This is the aim that we should strive for.

What advice would you give to a woman who has no shortage of career ambitions, who has not yet reached the very highest level of management, but who is forced to face discrimination on her way there? This could range from silly remarks to deliberately ignoring her opinion – perhaps showing that women cannot play in the same career league as men after all.

I should say first that here in Latvia, this problem is less pronounced than, for example, in Central Asia or Latin America. However, if you find yourself in such a situation, firstly I’d suggest developing your skills above that of all your male colleagues! Secondly, be sure to express your opinion in any situation where it is possible – be loud and visible, yet try not to fight with the same weapons as men. You should work with all your personality, and appreciate what nature has given you as a woman. It is important to be competent, visible and strong with the management skills that women have acquired, but there’s no need to fight men on their own territory. On the contrary, a woman should find a way to be respected as a manager and an opinion leader by staying true to who she is, realising and using her strengths.

This summer, the European Parliament adopted a directive which states that at least 33% of a company’s board and 40% of a council should be made up of women. What does this directive mean for women and the labour market in the Baltics?

Our global clients are listed companies with over 250 employees in countries such as the UK, Ireland, and Germany. These companies have been working according to these principles for some time already, without awaiting the adoption of the directive. We work with them to ensure that women are represented accordingly – not only in the final result, but earlier on in the search process. For example, if we have 10 final candidates, at least four should be women – otherwise, these companies don’t even accept the shortlist. However, this has not always been the case.

First, this directive is a real opportunity for female applicants to be considered as potential candidates for a position. Second, this is also an opportunity to improve company performance, as studies show that when companies have women on their boards, their performance, effectiveness, and sustainability improves. Thanks to the presence of women, the management team is less aggressive, less destructive, less intra-competitive. There are cases where men are ready to sacrifice the business for their ego and their victory. The presence of women has a balancing and calming effect. We have also seen this in our own firm – the Pedersen & Partners governance consists of 15 partners, three of whom are women.

I have read a study which found that, by anonymising the candidates’ questionnaires, the share of women in leading positions increased by as much as 70%. Can you comment on this?

Our executive search services are mainly used by companies which have high governance standards. Conversely, our situation is the opposite; these companies ask us to provide female candidates, but we sometimes have difficulty in finding and attracting them.

What are the reasons for this?

We focus on top leadership positions, i.e. CEOs, CFOs, TCOs. Female finance, marketing and HR directors can be found more easily, but women are few and far between at the very top. We have many talented women, but they lack ambition to take up a top executive position, especially on a global scale.

What should a woman do if she sees in herself the skills and potential to take up a top management position? How does she go about it with confidence?

First, she should signal her willingness to take up an executive position, by making it clear when the time is appropriate. Second, she should consider her current job from the following point of view: perhaps it will not be possible for her to take up a CEO position, maybe the company is too large, and then it would be useful to look around for smaller companies where it would be possible to gain CEO experience. Third, she should consider her own skills and understand what is still missing. At the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, our Executive MBA program consisted of 12 courses which formed the basis of what each CEO should know. However, one should not fall to the opposite extreme! Many women are very diligent students and have “true achiever syndrome” where they are ready to pursue one degree after another without finding any practical career applications for them. It is very comfortable to study just for the sake of studying, but it is also necessary to gain experience in practice – this real-world knowledge brings added value. Among the skills that CEOs should acquire nowadays, I would strongly recommend digital and technology; without these, you will be excluded not only from management positions, but also from higher-paid jobs in the labour market in general. And one should certainly follow the latest IT trends and learn how to use modern technologies – if necessary, from your own children!

They say that we have many smart, educated, and ambitious women here in the Baltics. Therefore, it is a bit surprising that there is still a shortage of top managers to attract.

In general, the situation here in the Baltics is very good. As women, all possibilities are available to us. In modern companies, there is no gender discrimination, and applicants are judged on their knowledge, skills, and ambition. In Latvia, we have at least one unicorn company, and there are others with the same potential. I suggest pursuing a career in a company which is modern, open and meets sustainability standards. It is useless to try to succeed in a company that is rotten at the core. If the company is led by an old men’s club with rigid backward thinking, don’t struggle there; go to a company which works based on modern standards and values. There is always the possibility of setting up your own company, where you will be able to create and lead just the way you want. Of course, one should bear in mind that a small, undetermined company will most likely not become a unicorn, as it lacks ambition. It is important to look at the specifics of one’s company regionally, if not globally.

Why is it important for you to support the international NOVATORE Impact Summit for economic empowerment of women, which will take place on 22-23 September this year?

I want to inspire other women to become the best version of themselves and achieve more in their lives and careers. For us, proper governance principles are very important, and the participation and inspiration of women is a great example of proper governance. I am glad that Latvia and our entire region in general is moving in the right direction. I see this event as a contribution towards our becoming an advanced and democratic society. Personally, I have never encountered the attitude that I am lacking something professionally, either because I’m a woman or because I’m from Latvia. We sometimes undervalue our freedoms – if anyone doubts this, go to Afghanistan and try to live there. It is silly to miss out on the opportunities that we have! I believe that we also have an obligation towards our country, which has given us the opportunity to educate ourselves and raise our children – even more so, because Latvia is a small country. We are not a large, wealthy nation where women can afford to live at men’s expense. Let’s build our riches together, and not just be lazy and consume! If we want our country to be prosperous, then we have to work – not with shyness and modesty, but with pride in ourselves and our achievements.

Partner Evita Lune interviewed on the University of Latvia Student Business Incubator podcast

Evita Lune, Partner and Global Head of Pedersen & Partners’ FinTech Practice, was recently interviewed by a podcast hosted by the University of Latvia Student Business Incubator. Evita is an alumna of the University of Latvia, and she takes a keen interest in her alma mater’s young entrepreneurs, supporting the Business Incubator as a private donor and patron, and mentoring students in their early business journeys. She initially decided to donate after she participated in their Blockchain Accelerator program herself at a time when the companies in the blockchain environment were at the peak of ICO (Initial coin offering), issuing coins, tokens, and currencies. A selection of the points that Evita covered in the podcast:

• New ideas and new companies allow us to look at things from a different angle, and they give fresh impetus to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the basis of every demographic country and modern economy.

• Within the Blockchain Accelerator project, it was interesting to understand the new form of raising finance, and the way in which economic relations changed in general when issuing money was no longer the sole domain of the state, but could be done by any company. Taking part in this program and learning about new technologies and ways of doing business globally was a fantastic experience.

• Supporting young entrepreneurs is not only personally satisfying, but good for the industry as a whole. Some of my FinTech clients at a certain level of maturity are often interested in creating their own incubators and accelerators, and they see a real return on investment when these new companies and ideas contribute to the growth of the business.

Evita concluded with three tips for young entrepreneurs:

1. In business, having the newest or best idea is not necessarily the most important thing – instead, it is more important to find a niche that can be implemented successfully. The winner is often the one who can fulfil an idea very well, even if it is an old idea.

2. Young entrepreneurs should think globally. We have the opportunity to live in a free country and an open economy, and we are not limited to our own country or city. Many ideas in business incubators are too modest – global plans do not always require huge resources!

3. Choose great teammates, because collaborating is a better experience than sitting alone. Team members who can dance until dawn are not always the ones who are most valuable in business! It is necessary to carefully consider the people with whom you want to build a company. Difficulties, challenges, and indeed victories are much more enjoyable when shared with your partners.

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