FinTech Innovator Chats - Kimmo Rytkönen

In this edition of the FinTech Innovator Chats, Partner Evita Lune is joined by Kimmo Rytkönen, serial entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of Income marketplace. Evita and Kimmo discuss the potential of peer-to-peer lending, what "skin in the game" means for marketplaces, how Decentralised Finance (DeFi) will affect the industry, and why Kimmo’s expansion strategy has been global from Day 1.

 

 

Don’t be modest in your professional life – Evita Lune’s 10 pointers for professional growth

by Ieva Jātniece

There are women in this world who are very inspiring, and who lead by example. One of these women is Evita Lune – PhD in Economics, Partner and Global Head of FinTech Practice Group at Pedersen & Partners, and Speaker at the Līdere Forum. Evita Lune has been working internationally for years, recruiting high-level executives for various companies. However, her professional success has not diminished her feminine charm. “Don't let stereotypes influence you!” says Evita.

Evita Lune’s 10 pointers for professional growth

  • Follow the path your character has given you

By nature, I am an energetic and impatient person, so naturally I have tried many different things in my life. However, it has always seemed important to me to achieve outstanding results in whatever I do. I have worked for Shell, been the director of the EMBA program at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, and co-owned a fashion store. For the past fifteen years, I have been a Global Partner in the high-level executive search company Pedersen & Partners. If you do the best you can, life will constantly offer you new career opportunities. 

  • Be aware of your internal obstacles

I used to lack an objective self-assessment of my abilities. I was too modest in my demands, and my tolerance was too high – I tried to work with colleagues who do not keep their promises, or clients who were not always professional. It is common for many women to underestimate themselves, and fail to speak up in situations where something is not going well. For this reason, it is important to be aware of such obstacles, and to build your career and circle of clients more purposefully in the future.

  • Do not stay in the shadows

Not all people can be leaders, and not everyone has to take a position that causes them great discomfort. However, I often see fear and internal insecurity holding women back from taking the lead in the first place. I would like to encourage women to rise through the ranks, because leaders have more influence and power: if you have talent, if you are a smart, diligent, responsible person with high ethical standards, then do not stay in the shadows, but take responsibility and move yourself forward! By doing this, you will not only have more power over your own life, but you will also positively influence others.

  • Everything is dependent on your inner drive!

I work in the executive search industry, where I see that we are most inspired by people who are full of enthusiasm and passion. In their presence, others also want to do more and achieve more. A good leader is one who is able to inspire, to present the vision and direction in which the company should go.
At the same time, a good leader should not be neurotic or chaotic, one day in a good mood and the next in a bad mood. Instead, a good leader has stable energy and a clear direction, and understands that expressing emotions is inappropriate in a professional environment – just like discussing personal problems or talking about people behind their backs. This applies to both sexes, of course!

  • Families help you to achieve more

It is a myth that female executives are unable to have both a career and a family life. I have a lot of colleagues who are divorced or childless, and sometimes it seems that more can be done at work if you do not have family commitments. But this is not the case: I see that people who have failed in their personal lives are often less professionally motivated, less organised and less achievement-oriented than those whose lives encompass more than work. I myself have participated in the upbringing of my husband’s two children, as well as the two children we have together. In total, my husband and I devote a lot of time and energy to these four children, but it has not hindered our careers. People with children are very organized and motivated – we are able to evaluate priorities, and we do not waste time. Moreover, we cannot afford to poison ourselves with bad choices or self-destructive actions – we have to live long and support the next generation. I am convinced that having children only benefits our careers and achievements.

  • Do not let anyone lie to you

I have heard it said that strong women make men weak, but I cannot imagine why a self-respecting woman should ever choose a weak man. The men in my life have certainly not become weaker by associating with me – quite the opposite! I’m not just talking about my husband, who has always known what he wants to achieve and lived his life with purpose, but also my business colleagues – I have raised the quality bar for quite a few. A woman who creates constructive competition also helps to raises the standards for the men around her as well.

  • Know your contribution

Our country is too small to expect only the men to provide economic prosperity. If we use the opportunities given to us by our country to study, receive medical services, ride public transport and the like, but we choose to sit on the couch and not work, we are endangering the freedom of Latvia. It is an irresponsible attitude towards our country: we cannot export oil and gas, so we must export our intelligence. And women must contribute!

  • Attitude is everything

Different companies have different internal work cultures. However, it must be kept in mind that in workplaces where employees are humiliated and insulted, quality decreases over time – the best employees will leave. In the long run, companies with ethical values will win out.
I have also noticed that employees work more enthusiastically in companies where the work aims to bring greater benefits to society as a whole. This encourages employees more than standard business practices. 

  • Never stop learning

If you do not want to fall out of the professional environment, you need to learn technology. The use of digital tools has dramatically changed the world, and the way we work. Currently, the basics of economics are being thoroughly disrupted – with the use of cryptocurrency, every company can build its own economy.
You don’t have to be an IT specialist, but you must understand what technologies can achieve in a company and in a country, and how they affect all economic processes. Those who know how to use IT will definitely succeed, and surge ahead of those who do not, both in terms of personal career and the wider economy.

  • You need to relax in order to be efficient

My hobby list is longer than my work list! My hobbies have given me the energy to go on frequent business trips, meet people all the time and sell services on a global scale. I have been water skiing for fifteen years – as often as five times a week on summer evenings – and I practice yoga every day without exception. As a family, we ride bicycles, SUP boards, and go on boat trips in the summer, and in winter, we all go downhill skiing. I have also been a winter swimmer for years. All of these activities help to clear my head and absorb energy for new jobs.

  • Suggestions

For your first job, I definitely recommend choosing a large organisation that can serve as a good learning opportunity. My first job was at Shell – this experience was like a professional guide to business. Once you have learned everything you can from your first placement, you can experiment further.
Finally, it is important for new employees to understand that material evaluation comes as a reward for working with an open heart. In the beginning, the work must be of excellent quality and the client must have a great experience – only then they will want to cooperate again and pay higher fees. It never happens the other way around – I cannot ask for a lot of money and only then try to do something great!

 

Anniina Brusi – a sharp leader of hot FinTechs

Riga, Latvia – Evita Lune, Partner at Pedersen & Partners, talks to Anniina Brusi, Country Manager at Ferratum Group, for Riga TechGirls.

Anniina Brusi is known as a high-energy Agile leader, who pushes things in the right direction, and finds opportunities instead of waiting around. She has over eleven years of leadership and management experience in the Finnish banking sector – primarily in sales, marketing, e-commerce, and product development. In recent years, Anniina has been working in FinTech companies such as Nets, Ferratum Group, and Zmarta Group, creating and providing better digital financial solutions for the consumer market.

Anniina Brusi – a sharp leader of hot FinTechs

Why did you choose a career in technology?

My move into FinTech was a natural career switch after ten amazing years in the banking sector. I’ve been privileged to work in different parts of the consumer banking sector, and have seen the industry from different perspectives. I have observed various twists and turns in the industry: the 2008 financial crisis, some major bank M&As, digital transformation, and now the coronavirus pandemic. These changes have broadened my knowledge and understanding, and have also provided wonderful experiences. 

The FinTech field is a lot bigger than I thought. Essentially, FinTech is all about service and product design; I would say that it breaks old and rigid processes in the financial industry, and combines the latest technological developments to build more customer-friendly solutions across all areas of finance – investment, banking, insurance, lending. 

Nowadays, technology is probably the biggest disrupter when it comes to banking – especially now that the banking industry has undergone digital transformation. In this sector, technology has become a vital element of renewal. 

Working in this field means constantly learning. We work in a very fast-paced environment using the latest technologies, such as PSD2, AI, robotic process automation, marketing automation, UX, IoT and many more, which makes it a very exciting place to work. My tasks vary from process development to product development, from marketing automation to brand management, and from vendor contract negotiations to compliance tasks.

Working as a leader in this industry demands a hands-on attitude, as well as strong analytical skills to execute your business strategy.

Your last two companies – Ferratum and Zmarta – are true challengers, fully digital firms. What have been the main differences between working for those businesses and for large incumbent firms?

To keep it short, customer-centricity and speed. These companies are doing everything to make their customers happy, and are constantly changing their organisations to support different circumstances. No one knows what the market will look like a year from now, so you must constantly renew your organisation. While this requires a lot from your employees, it is nevertheless rewarding. Players in this industry are usually agile, and do not have complex organizational structures. In addition, since FinTech interfaces with computer and mobile, the front-end development is crucial. Roles such as UX designer, digital product managers, full stack developers, and data analytics are very important in these companies. 

Which are the hottest FinTechs in Finland?

There are plenty of them! During these past years, many Finnish FinTech companies have managed to grow their businesses significantly – did you know that Finland has the most digital startups per capita in the world? The steady business environment together with the thriving startup scene makes Finland an excellent place to develop new innovative solutions. We have been able to build a strong ecosystem for FinTech companies: receiving financing, finding the right expertise, and building close cooperation between banks and other FinTech companies. 

Finland might be the best-kept secret in ICT and digitalization. And when it comes to banking in Finland, we have a high rate of digital adoption and a well-developed infrastructure for online banking and online credit. However, the Finnish banking market is dominated by four major banks, which together hold 81% of the market share. There is great potential for new challengers with innovative solutions – and of course, opportunities for cooperating with incumbent banks. 

Here are some Finnish FinTech companies to keep an eye on:

Why did you become a leader rather than a specialist? What motivated you to take leadership positions, and the associated challenges and responsibilities?

I have over eleven years of leadership experience now. Growing as a leader has been a painful but fruitful journey of development. I have always been motivated by a strong desire to encourage others to perform better, enable growth opportunities and make changes. When I succeed, I want others to succeed with me. And when people around me succeed, I will succeed too.

Leadership is generally a challenging task, especially with coronavirus, and in the current market situation. It is no longer enough to “just get stuff done” and achieve your KPIs and budget; as a leader I need to ensure the well-being of my employees, to respect them and involve them in all situations. 

During my career, I have seen a tremendous need for better leadership. This inspired me to do things differently, and motivated me to grow as one of the new generation of leaders. There are very few certainties about the future, but one of them is that the world will be very different from how it is right now. New technology, new regulations, new innovations, new products, new organisational models, new attitudes, tighter competition, and especially a new generation that requires a new kind of leadership, with new skills. In the year 2020, for the first time in human history, the global workforce comprises five different generations. Globalisation, cross-border organisations and remote work have made leadership especially challenging, as it is not always possible to be physically present. However, I feel that physical proximity between leaders and employees is not always necessary – but mental and emotional proximity are essential.

These complications make leadership more challenging, but also more interesting. How does one then become a successful new-generation leader? I have been thinking about this question a lot. 

First of all, I believe that the most difficult job for a leader is probably persuading others to follow. This is only possible if you motivate your employees by inspiring them and setting a great example. Make sure that every one of your employees is accountable for what they are doing; this is easily done with clear and realistic roles and targets. 

In addition, I believe that self-learning is key element for successful leaders. Self-learning is one of the most interesting part in leadership, because it keeps your mind fresh and challenges you to constantly think of new ways to lead people and business. In addition, as a leader I must keep up with trends in my industry, and thus I have to love learning and sharing new information.

For my own development journey, I have built my own leadership philosophy, which includes my values as a leader. I did this mainly for self-learning, but my written leadership philosophy lets my team members and others know what I expect, what I value and how I will act in any given situation. Our values are our most natural motivators, so it is natural to refer to our own values when creating a vision or making a decision. Confidence is another key element of a strong leadership mindset. It comes from knowing yourself, and understanding (and appreciating) your own strengths and weaknesses. Confidence also comes from observing and analysing how you make decisions, both good and bad. I believe that each leader faces unique circumstances, brings unique backgrounds to their leadership position, and leads unique teams of individuals. 

So, to answer to your question, “Why did you become a leader rather than a specialist?”

The future needs a new kind of leadership and I want to be part of influencing that change. 

What has been the biggest lesson or challenge for you in your career in such a tech-intensive business?

Working in FinTech demands a strong understanding of the banking sector; you can’t be a challenger if you don’t know what to challenge. From a technology perspective, FinTech is a rewarding industry if you want to reskill yourself and pick up on trending technologies. I did not have a technical background, and to be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of technology. So I really ended up escaping my comfort zone to take new responsibilities in a tech-intensive business – which was perhaps a combination of courage and ignorance.
 
I had to learn everything from scratch, starting from the very basics: the meaning of terms such as API, PSD2, NFC, PCI, SaaS and many more. Quite soon, I realised that it is not only technical skills which are needed in this industry; there is also a need for professionals who understand the technology, the ecosystem it operates in, and how to commercialise new technical innovations. And so, over time, I got excited about technology. Working in FinTech definitely requires a passion for technology. A tip for those who are considering working in FinTech: you don’t have to be a strong technical expert as long as you have the right attitude and you are eager to learn. 

I know you have written a book – please tell us about it!

This book was written in collaboration with some very talented people – several young leaders, and the Finnish author and journalist Helinä Hirvikorpi. It was published in 2014. 

The book is called “From Manager to Leader” (Esimiehestä Johtajaksi) and we worked on it during our year-long leadership training. In this training, we were honoured to have coaching and mentoring lectures from many top Finnish leaders including former prime minister Mr. Jyrki Katainen, technology entrepreneur Mr. Pekka A. Viljakainen, Brigadier General Janne Jaakkola of the Finnish Defence Forces, and Ms. Maija-Liisa Friman, who was named Finland’s Most Influential Businesswoman in 2012 – and their thoughts about leadership are included in the book. 

From Manager to Leader is a unique combination of fresh thinking, advice for day-to-day work, and the wisdom of experience. It is a collection of thoughts about leadership from leaders across many industries and ages – not just from a dusty leadership guru in a corner office, or from the all-experienced leaders talking to the younger ones. 

Covid-19: the outlook for FinTech in the Western Balkans

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the emerging economies of the Western Balkans, a region where governments have imposed strict lockdown measures to control the spread of the virus.

From discussions with business leaders in the region across various industries, I have learned that consumer lending FinTechs are among the most hard-hit companies, for two reasons. As the newest actors in the microfinance sector, FinTechs are still under consolidation in terms of capital means and financial position, and their potential market took a big hit with the sudden unemployment spike and consumer spending freeze. Severe government emergency measures have forced FinTech lenders to make hard decisions by suspending repayments, restructuring existing loans and providing liquidity to their customers to manage the crisis. In response to the current unprecedented market disruptions, FinTech lenders in the region are taking quick steps to adopt new digital initiatives; moving their businesses online, maintaining seamless operations, making temporary business adjustments and rethinking their distribution channels. In general, FinTechs are heading towards a Low Touch Economy, which will likely be our post-pandemic economy. I have compiled some observations for individual Western Balkan countries:

Albania

  • Albania had an early and very strict lock-down, which completely paralyzed the commercial activity of FinTechs for several weeks.
  • Larger and more offline FinTech players were forced to take drastic measures: massive layoffs of up to 30% of their staff, salary cuts of up to 50%, and closing more than 30% of branches. Smaller and more online companies, and those operating through third parties, have found it easier to adapt and continue business. Marketing and training expenses have also been cut.
  • New business has been reduced by 80-90% compared to the same period in 2019, due to the lack of demand.
  • The Albanian government has imposed a payment and restructuring moratorium. All customers, individuals and businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 have the right to postpone loan repayments for a period of three months, with no penalty charged by lenders. The moratorium was initially miscommunicated as a mandatory restructuring for all borrowers; this error has caused repayments to drop by 60% or more compared to the previous quarter and distorted liquidity ratios, which has especially affected companies whose liquidity is highly dependent on their lending activity.
  • This reduced liquidity has resulted in: a) inability to continue financing, even with revived demand, b) inability to make repayments to institutional lenders, MFI creditors, etc., c) inability to pay operational expenses, especially staff salaries and point-of-sale lease payments.
  • In an effort to preserve cash for better times, consumer lending FinTechs have been careful with their lending activity, while FinTechs operating in the car lending segment have been focusing on debt collection. Similarly, there has also been a tendency to lower the average loan ticket, and tighten lending conditions.

Bosnia & Herzegovina

  • FinTech consumer lenders have been heavily impacted by Covid-19. They have seen a significant decrease in demand, with many consumers losing their jobs and thus their eligibility to apply for loans.
  • The demand for goods has changed. Customers now prioritise covering basic needs over buying luxury products such as laptops and smartphones, jeopardising retailer partnerships.
  • Some FinTech players were technologically ready to work from home offices using laptops and installed apps. At the same time, more traditional microfinance companies have been investing in digitalisation while lobbying for a more digital-friendly legal environment.
  • Sporadic business growth has continued through the opening of new branches.
  • In order to relieve the social and economic burden, the government has proposed several measures including a moratorium of up to twelve months, a grace period of up to three months, and a loan extension of up to six months. However, the final decision is made in a one-on-one consultation between lender and borrower.
  • Companies have reduced Opex significantly by cutting salaries and keeping a skeleton crew in the branches to carry out business activity, while taking advantage of government compensation measures.
  • New credit risk policies suggest that lending will shift away from red-flag industries such as hospitality and tourism.

Northern Macedonia

  • The macroeconomic outlook for Northern Macedonia is more optimistic, due to the government’s more relaxed lockdown measures and rapid reaction to assist unemployed people with their lack of income. As 50% of the Macedonian economy is closely linked to German investment in the automotive industry, it is good news that German companies are showing signs of revival and are bringing people back to work. The hospitality sector remains heavily impacted.
  • The government decision to cut the APR cap from 50% to 28% for three months has hit many FinTechs.
  • FinTechs that are financed by p2p platforms are experiencing a real crisis, and as a consequence the profit margins are at breakeven, or 0.5%. The banks are unwilling to lend to FinTechs under such extraordinary conditions.
  • Plans for further expansion by opening new branches are now on hold, while cost-saving steps such as salary cuts were taken in April.
  • Demand and collection have been heavily impacted, with the government extending instalment repayment periods by up to six months for banking clients and three months for microfinance.

Kosovo

  • The Central Bank of Kosovo has announced that borrowers have the right to discuss restructuring terms. The CBK has also eased provisioning, classification and penalties for all banking and microfinance clients, except for public institutions.
  • Demand for loans has decreased, while the criteria have become stricter, and there is less flexibility for lending.
  • The financial sector in Kosovo has not seen any salary cuts, layoffs, or branch closures to date.

Bulgaria and other CEE Countries

  • In general, FinTechs have accepted the measures taken by national regulatory bodies and are adopting their businesses to obey local legislations and respond to customers in the best, quickest way possible. This is challenging due to the constantly shifting situation. For example, in Poland legal changes happen on a weekly basis and it is difficult to keep up.
  • Growth plans are on hold for the moment, and the priority is on stability, liquidity and compliance.
  • Debt collection in Bulgaria is doing better than expected. Lenders are carefully negotiating and restructuring with clients. Unemployment has been the main cause.
  • Marketing cost-cutting is widespread, as campaigns are no longer happening during Covid-19.
  • In Bulgaria there was no moratorium on microfinance, just on banks. In other countries, the moratorium period varies from 1-2 months to the end of the year.
  • In Bulgaria, lenders have lost their appetite for risk. Some companies continue to lend, while others have stopped their lending activity, despite huge operational costs. A few smaller players have even shut down business in Bulgaria.

Pranvera Papamihali is the Country Manager for Albania and a Regional Consultant for Pedersen & Partners. Ms. Papamihali has extensive international Executive Search experience, having led and executed assignments across the Western Balkans and Europe. Her area of expertise includes Financial Services (Banking & FinTech), Telecommunications, Energy, Retail, and Healthcare. Moreover, Ms. Papamihali has been instrumental in building Pedersen & Partners’ presence in Albania, ensuring increasing market share and brand recognition. Prior to joining the firm, she gained vast management experience as the Head of Corporate Affairs at Telekom Albania and Head of International Relations & Translation Department at ALSAT Television. Additionally, Ms. Papamihali brings many years of experience as a diplomat within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Albania. She has lived and worked for several years in Germany as an Albanian language instructor at the George C. Marshall Centre for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Ms. Papamihali holds a Master of Arts degree in Hungarian Language and Literature from the University of Sciences Eötvös Loránd Tudomány Egyetem in Budapest, Hungary. In addition to her native Albanian, she speaks fluent English, Italian and Hungarian, and has good knowledge of German.


Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 54 wholly owned offices in 50 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Diana Danu, Marketing and Communications Manager at: diana.danu@pedersenandpartners.com

valeria.tiron Tue, 05/12/2020 - 14:39

"To me, the greatest achievement is achievement through others," Anastasija Oleinika, TWINO Group CEO

Riga, Latvia - Evita Lune, Partner at Pedersen & Partners, interviewed Anastasija Oleinika, Chief Executive Officer, TWINO Group, for Riga TechGirls. Anastasija is the CEO of the TWINO Group, a Latvian FinTech which focuses on p2p lending. TWINO investors come from all over Europe, and it offers loans to borrowers in Latvia, Poland, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, and Russia. TWINO employs over 400 people, with 70 working at the HQ in Riga, and has issued more than EUR 1bn in loans since launching operations. Anastasija is listed by Forbes Latvija as one of their “30 under 30”.

Evita: So, Anastasija, a great opportunity to meet you in person. Obviously, I have heard a lot about you – not only from TWINO founder Armands Broks, but also from the public – about your new role, and your achievements in the past. It’s quite amazing how many top-class certifications you have achieved. Starting with the Riga First Gymnasium – which we all know is highly competitive, with ten applicants for every place – then again at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, the CFA, the Corporate Governance Institute and so on. Can you tell me what motivated you to take all these challenges and get all these relevant certifications?

Anastasija: It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Evita, and thank you very much for being here. Talking about my qualifications, my motivation has never been the end result of hanging certificates proudly on the wall. What interests me is the complexity of the process. Due to my competitive spirit, I often think “Hmm, others have failed at this. This is going to be a challenge, and it’s going to require hard work. Am I up for it?” My first reaction is usually that I’m scared to fail, but then I think: “So, what if I failed? Then at least I will have tried, so let’s try this.” I have to admit that maybe I’m an unusual case, because I have been lucky enough not to have experienced any major failures to date, so I might feel a bit bolder than some.

However, I’m sure that if I hadn’t got into SSE Riga on the first attempt, I would have used that moment to either accept that I didn’t get in, or to take a year out to do something else and then try again, and not define it as a failure at the end of the day.

Evita: Excellent! So, you were ready to accept failure, but it never came to you, and I hope that it never does come to you.

Anastasija: It is more about not stopping when the first attempt doesn’t work out. You can say: “Fine, I failed,” or you can keep pushing, keep doing.

Evita: And what are your goals in general in your professional life? Did you strive for the CEO role or did it come to you?

Anastasija: It definitely came to me, and it happened rather unexpectedly. I’ve always been more of a technical person; I like numbers a lot, I like working in Excel, it excites me. I can spend long hours just trying to reconcile the balance sheet! So I always thought that becoming a CFO would probably be my highest achievement, and it would definitely come later in my life. However, I quickly understood that although numbers are interesting, they have no value by themselves. You need to see the big picture, where the numbers fit, and it is only then that you develop an intuition about what you expect to see in the numbers you are working with. At that point, you start to understand how specific analytical factors, product ratios, components affect the end result.

From there, I started looking at business as this huge mechanism that is driven and its success defined by, first of all, the numerical parameters that we set for our product, second, the processes that we have inside the organisation and their efficiency, and third, by our people and their attitudes. A motivated team can deliver in time and overachieve their KPIs – conversely, if you give the same team a similar task but without a clear purpose in mind of why they are doing it and why it’s important, they will keep missing deadlines.

These are the things that excite me. There are so many different angles to business, and you can try out different combinations of things. It’s like a playground. When you have that freedom, you understand that there is always room for improvement, no matter which direction you look in.

Evita: The TWINO platform itself scores pretty high on the Pan-European scale when I look up the different rankings. What’s the reason behind this? What’s so great about your platform?

Anastasija: Yes, we are fourth in Continental Europe by investment size.

Evita: Who are the top three?

Anastasija: The industry leader is Mintos, also from Latvia, with Younited Credit (France) and Auxmoney (Germany) competing for second and third place.

However, we are a little different from Mintos, for example. Their platform works with various parties that are not directly related to their business; they are an intermediary, a marketplace.

Since the inception of the TWINO platform in 2015, we have positioned it a bit differently, offering only loans that the TWINO Group has itself issued in various countries. To grow our volume, we actually need to grow the issuance volume in our countries. We always look at this very consciously, because we need to optimise in terms of product economics and general profitability – we need to be able to reach into a market and find that sweet spot. Obviously, we can increase volumes, but then the total profit may go down. This is why our business is not based on the total volume of demand that we can generate from our investors, but on the supply of quality investment opportunities that we can offer to them. As we only offer loans that the TWINO Group has issued, we can guarantee the quality of the loans and make assurances to our investors that their investment is safe. We also provide buy-back options for loans that perform worse than expected.

I believe that this guarantee of quality, the safety of the investment, the assurance that we (well, our algorithms) have examined each loan that is issued, is the reason that so many investors stick with the TWINO platform. Recently the industry has seen huge spikes in the interest rates offered to investors, with return rates of up to 20%, but we have never offered that. We know that with the quality of the portfolio that we have, the return that we can safely guarantee to our investors is lower, more like 10-12%. If an investor is willing to undertake a higher risk, we say “fine, you are welcome to go to another platform, but our competitive advantage is elsewhere.” What we are offering is the quality and safety of the investment.

We also maintain personal relationships with our key investors. We ask them how they are doing, sometimes they come over to our office to meet the team, we meet them at different conferences and events, just to talk. We gather their feedback about our platform, and introduce changes that make all our investors happier. [...]

Read the full interview here (Riga TechGirls Medium account).


Evita Evita Lune is a Partner and Global Head of FinTech Practice Group at Pedersen & Partners. Out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments, she has completed over 100 senior level FinTech assignments in over 40 countries. Ms. Lune works extensively with Nordic FinTech clients, bringing effective Executive Search solutions to support their global expansion plans on all continents. Ms. Lune also supports clients in the Middle East and South East Asia, by engaging Nordic talent to drive digital transformation worldwide. In addition to her Executive Search accomplishments, Ms. Lune’s previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director, and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels. Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw – one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe – and participated in the Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls, a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards and a Contributing Advisor at the Digital Freedom Festival.  Ms. Lune has been recognised by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row.

Ms. Lune has a PhD in Social Economy. Evita Lune speaks fluent Latvian, English, and Russian and has passive fluency in German, Swedish, and Polish.


Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 54 wholly owned offices in 50 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Diana Danu, Marketing and Communications Manager at: diana.danu@pedersenandpartners.com

Pedersen & Partners appoints Partner Evita Lune as Global Head of new FinTech Practice Group

January 13, 2020 – Riga,  Latvia – Pedersen & Partners, a leading international Executive Search firm with 54 wholly owned offices in 50 countries, is pleased to announce that Partner Evita Lune has been appointed Global Head of the newly-launched FinTech Practice Group. Evita will also keep her position as Regional Head of the Baltics.

Evita Lune has championed Pedersen & Partners’ global FinTech engagements over the course of several years. Out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments, she has completed over 100 senior level FinTech assignments in over 40 countries. Ms. Lune works extensively with Nordic FinTech clients, bringing effective Executive Search solutions to support their global expansion plans on all continents. Ms. Lune also supports clients in the Middle East and South East Asia, by engaging Nordic talent to drive digital transformation worldwide. In addition to her Executive Search accomplishments, Ms. Lune’s previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director, and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels. Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw – one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe – and participated in the Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls, a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards and a Contributing Advisor at the Digital Freedom Festival.  Ms. Lune has been recognised by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row.

“Evita has been with Pedersen & Partners for over 15 years. During her early tenure, she effectively led our Baltics, Poland, and Belarus teams, developing and growing seasoned teams with substantial bottom line impact. Evita is a globally minded leader known for her relentless drive and client commitment, having driven the development of an innovative holistic growth strategy for our Digital Economy component, and built the foundations of our FinTech Practice Group. She has assembled an agile cross-border team of strategically equipped consultants which has already secured a solid portfolio of partnerships with public and private equity-backed FinTech clients positioned at every level. We’re confident that under her leadership, our FinTech Practice Group will build momentum, drive innovation and ultimately business growth,” stated Gary Williams, Chief Executive Officer at Pedersen & Partners.

“The core competence of Pedersen & Partners’ FinTech Practice is our ability to support challenger organisations – scaleups, attackers, game changers – to fulfil their global ambitions. Our FinTech clients are there to shake up the global financial services ecosystem by applying innovative technologies and business models to cut out middlemen, include underserved market segments, and offer financial services in a much faster, more effective and user-friendly way. Our global FinTech team is able to help our clients to navigate in the global financial services ecosystem, identify market gaps, and advise on the right direction of their international expansion plans. I am excited to start 2020 at the helm of the FinTech Practice Group and secure Pedersen & Partners’ position at the forefront of FinTech Executive Search,” added Evita Lune, Partner and Global Head of the FinTech Practice Group at Pedersen & Partners.


Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 54 wholly owned offices in 50 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com.

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Diana Danu, Marketing and Communications Manager at: diana.danu@pedersenandpartners.com

FinTech Practice Group

FinTech Practice Group

The core competence of the Pedersen & Partners FinTech Practice is our ability to support challenger organisations – scaleups, attackers, game changers – as they fulfil their global ambitions.

Our FinTech clients are there to shake up the global financial services ecosystem by applying innovative technologies and business models, which can cut out middlemen, include underserved market segments, and offer financial services in a much faster, more effective and user-friendly way. 

Collaboration is the new innovation – in the past, people thought knowledge was power, but sharing knowledge is even more powerful

Riga, Latvia - Evita Lune, Partner at Pedersen & Partners, interviewed Susanne Hannestad, CEO of Fintech Mundi, for RigaTechGirls.

Evita: Susanne, you have held powerful roles for over 18 years now. You have taken on impressive Board responsibilities for various Tech, Fintech and Financial Services companies. So, how did you get here?

Susanne: When I was with Nordea – remember that banks are obliged to follow strict legislation about appointing Board members – I was able to access positions on associated Boards, such as Visa Norway, MasterCard Forum and eventually MasterCard Europe. I believe the position I held in Nordea and my external visibility both contributed to my ability to get other board positions. At Nordea, we innovated a lot over the years, and acted as intrapreneurs. Of course, all the changes we made attracted media coverage – we were first to bring in chip cards in 2004, we were first with many other things going forward, and we started card acquisition from scratch in Norway – and these exposures helped to raise my public profile.

Evita: What about your personal challenges? In order to achieve such a high position, and just as importantly to stay there, you must have held these executive positions for long periods of time. So, what does it take from you in terms of learning, work-life balance, self-discipline, and any other pressures?

Susanne: I was headhunted as a manager when I was 28, and since then I have always held managerial and executive positions. I believe that I connect well with people, and get good ideas from people. I have always been ambitious on behalf of the unit or the company I’m leading, and the people I work with love being a part of a growing business, and seeing it going forward. When I was younger, I played on a handball team, and when I worked together with my team-mates, I always knew what the goals were. I think that this focus is my most important character trait. I have always been a keen learner, whether formally at schools or more practically within companies, and I have always learned a lot from talking to people.  My focus has been on growth in all aspects, lifting the person, lifting the unit, and on being an agent for change, to make sure that we get the growth. Finally, you should always make sure that you have time for yourself in doing what you do.

Evita: What about the innovation aspect that you mentioned? In the field of technology, quite a lot of knowledge is required – were you ever afraid to play with technologies and participate in this innovative growth, driving innovation, creating something new and having people follow you, especially in an area which is changing so fast?

Susanne: Banks are conservative, so I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it is possible as long as you understand the powerplay and politics within a bank or a larger corporation before you come up with new things, and as long as you demonstrate that your innovations are good for the bank or corporation going forward. I believe that the greatest challenge is to manoeuvre and understand the corporate politics. Technology units usually have a lot of good people, so it is important to get together and make sure to present the ideas in a way that is interesting and beneficial for the executive management or the Board.

Evita: In terms of being proactive and participatory, many people are quite smart but prefer to stay in the shadows. They are often afraid to speak up and say something which might not be received well, or else they just don’t have this drive to be in the frontline and in leading positions. So, did you undergo some discomfort when taking on leading positions? How did you handle this interpersonal part, and did you ever think, “Why should I be the one”?

Susanne: I always make sure that my people are with me. I also make sure that I use my communication skills with both my employees and my bosses, not always focusing horizontally. When I communicate upwards, my strength comes from knowing that my team is on my side and has my back. It is vital to share achievements and celebrate; every time we had a launch, we would cheer for each other! It is also important to make sure that my community – the people around me – are happy that we are moving forward successfully, and this encourages them to buy into the innovations. Of course, you will always have laggards, but eventually they will see the light if the unit continues to move quickly and reach milestones.

Evita: And now, let’s talk about your newest project, Fintech Mundi. What motivated you to establish it?

Susanne: I was with Nordea for 10 years until I left in 2012, but I became a chair of the Fintech company Zwipe three years before that, although the word “fintech” did not exist in 2009! This worked out so well that they wanted me to be their Executive Chair, so I left Nordea and worked for Zwipe until 2015. While at Zwipe, I realised there are so many Fintech companies out there, that Fintech was becoming a global trend, and that many Fintech companies were going to escalate in volume. I got in contact with a South African in London, a Briton in Tel Aviv and an Irish person in Dublin, and we discussed the ways in which we could help Fintech companies to scale with our experience and networks, building up companies to create a Fintech ecosystem – back then, accelerators and incubators were still in their infancy. That was the start of Fintech Mundi. What also motivated me was the entrepreneurship. Banks are conservative, and at this point they were still stuck in the financial crisis and caught up in the recession. But at the same time, there was all this innovation with the Fintech companies always in front, growing, with younger people, very tech-savvy and so forth. As a kind of facilitator, I thought that was very interesting and it gave me a lot of energy. Of course, I love the international space – the wider, the bigger, the better for me.

Evita: Perhaps you could highlight the hottest Fintech companies from Norway – no, not Fintech Mundi yet, that will be my next question! But in terms of what our readers should know about Norwegian Fintech, which names would you mention?

Susanne: There are several! A few niche bankers such as Aprila, and an older one, Bank Norwegian, which is doing interesting things with consumer lending. I would also like to highlight Huddlestock, which is more investment-focused. They have a dashboard and sell into bank markets, it’s B2B and kind of a white label, ever since they realised it’s easier to do B2B than B2C. Another B2B fintech is Quantfolio, selling mostly to banks. Finally, I would like to mention Neonomics, which provides open banking – they have more than 1,300 banks in 25 European countries, and are growing fast. There is fierce competition in the open banking arena.

Evita: If you could highlight a little bit about Fintech Mundi now, what are the interesting start-ups that everyone should know – in particular, are there any that have especially high potential or a nice objective?

Susanne: Fintech Mundi operate across the Nordic and Baltic states. I would highlight the up-and-coming Finnish company – Cloud Asset – a month ago, they won an award in Finland at the Forum. Two others to watch are both from Sweden – Acuminor, which is a credit risk assessment company, and Doconomy, a company that offers sustainable banking – and I believe that each of them offers something unique, something different.

Evita: Now I will ask just one question related to the gender aspect. Why should girls and women stay close to technology and develop their careers there, either as specialists or as leaders or as entrepreneurs?

Susanne: Entrepreneurships are fun, risky and very rewarding and we need both genders and diversity. I’d say that the Nordics are quite liberated, but women need a little bit more incentive to invest and found companies, so the awareness is there. We need to have a balance of all categories of diversity.

The majority of students in law, medicine and business are women, way above 50%, but in technology it’s a little bit lower, although I think that is changing. You need all aspects; even if some women and girls are afraid of math, science or technology, we need all types of professions to build tech companies. We need leadership, and girls and women are good at leading. They just need the confidence and understanding, and maybe they need a role model to understand. This shouldn’t be a hindrance – it’s a mental barrier, both individually and in society, so Go Do, Go Make!

Collaboration is the new innovation. It is important for so many aspects of business – for Fintech, and also for banks – because as a leader, you can’t stand alone, you need to collaborate. In technology, you see that there is a need for your product, but you also need to make sure that you interact with the customers, and that your functionality is appropriate. In the past, people thought knowledge was power, but now we know that sharing knowledge is even more powerful.


Evita Lune is a Partner who drives the firm’s Global Digital Economy. She has completed over 100 senior level assignments in over 40 countries within this practice, out of her total portfolio of over 600 assignments. Ms. Lune works extensively with FinTech clients from the Nordics and supports their global expansion plans on all continents by providing effective executive search solutions. She also supports clients in the Middle East and South East Asia with bringing Nordic talent to drive digital transformation in other geographies. Her previous experience includes three years with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga as the Executive MBA Program Director and six years with Shell in international and regional marketing management functions in Riga, Budapest, and Brussels. Ms. Lune was a speaker at the CEE FutureTech congress in Warsaw – one of the most important business summits in Central and Eastern Europe and participated in the Blockchain Pre-Accelerator Program at University of Latvia. She is also a blogger for RigaTechGirls, a Jury Member of CEE Capital Markets and FinTech Awards and a Contributing Advisor at the Digital Freedom Festival.  Ms. Lune was recognised by Forbes as one of the top 25 most influential women in Latvia for two years in a row. Ms. Lune has a PhD in Social Economy. Evita Lune speaks fluent Latvian, English, and Russian and has passive fluency in German, Swedish, and Polish.


Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 57 wholly owned offices in 53 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Diana Danu, Marketing and Communications Manager at: diana.danu@pedersenandpartners.com

Pedersen & Partners and Simonsen Vogt Wiig co-host Global Opportunities in FinTech event in Oslo

Oslo, Norway – Pedersen & Partners Executive Search and Simonsen Vogt Wiig, a leading commercial law firm, co-hosted the Global Opportunities in FinTech event in Oslo at the end of August. The event was specifically designed for Norwegian FinTechs, and offered insights on FinTech global capital market activities, regulatory aspects to consider, commercialization and scaling required to succeed globally in FinTech. Among the key speakers were:

 

  • Evita Lune, Global Digital Economy Partner at Pedersen & Partners, who provided an overview of the industry and the global opportunities for Norwegian FinTechs, including recruitment challenges in finding and managing disruptive leaders and cross-cultural challenges in the Executive Search process.
     
  • Partner Morten Wilhelm Winther and Senior Lawyer Kasper Formo Asplin of Simonsen Vogt Wiig stressed the importance of careful analysis of the legal framework while targeting international expansion and the regulatory limitations to be aware of during the process; and the relevant aspects of intellectual property rights and taxation.
     
  • Susanne Hannestad, CEO at FinTech Mundi, presented The Nordic Fintech Manifesto.

Some of the main conclusions that were highlighted during the discussions were centered on the fact that the capital markets activity in FinTech has reached the record high of 120 billion USD during the first 6 months of 2019 and, as a consequence, the Nordic capital markets landscape is experiencing an enormous influx of interest from investors. A recent example was last month's announcements regarding the Nets and Bank Norwegian agreement to provide open banking infrastructure. An outstanding advantage of the Nordic FinTechs is that their cashless society experience and technological advancement provide great opportunities globally and offer a variety of avenues for continuous development. Furthermore, the Nordic leadership style including respect for people, honest and transparent communication, rational, professional, and data-driven approach, is highly regarded on the global FinTech landscape.

 

Full event video


Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 57 wholly owned offices in 53 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com.

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Diana Danu, Marketing and Communications Manager at: diana.danu@pedersenandpartners.com

 

Evita Lune on jury board at the CEE Capital Markets & FinTech Awards 2018

Evita Lune, Partner for Global Digital Economy at Pedersen & Partners, took part in the jury of the 4th CEE Capital Markets & FinTech Awards in Warsaw, Poland.

The goal of the annual CEE Capital Markets & FinTech Awards Gala is to distinguish both publicly-listed and PE/VC-backed companies who are leading the dynamic and fast-paced changes in the CEE region’s capital markets sector. Additionally, such events bring a more targeted investors’ attention to both startup and established companies in CEE and Baltic region and exciting investment opportunities.

This year the event also placed emphasis on the disruptive FinTech sector. According to Thom Barnhardt, CEO of CEE Business Media: “These companies are capital-hungry to feed their global ambitions – and our Capital Matchmaking Day connected VC and Angel Network Investors with a flock of 15 impressive young companies.”

Nominations for the awards were received from Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, while the international guests came from UK, USA, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Israel, India, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The final short-list consisted of 84 companies competing for top prizes in 6 categories in the FinTech and 13 categories in the Capital Markets sectors. Jury Members included Investment Bankers and Brokers, Pension and Fund managers, representatives from five Stock Exchanges in the CEE region, VC investors and Associations targeting CEE's Capital Markets.

Evita Lune presented the award for the best IPO of the year:

“It was great to be part of the Jury suggesting the nominations and contributing my opinions on the shortlist in the six FinTech categories. It’s impressive that Pedersen & Partners’ expertise in the global FinTech arena is recognised at such high-level event,” stated Evita Lune, Partner for Global Digital Economy at Pedersen & Partners.


Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 56 wholly owned offices in 52 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at www.pedersenandpartners.com

If you would like to conduct an interview with a representative of Pedersen & Partners, or have other media-related requests, please contact: Anastasia Alpaticova, Marketing and Communications Manager at: anastasia.alpaticova@pedersenandpartners.com

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