"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
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