The world is a global financial field
A few weeks ago our CEO and co-founder, Irakli, was interviewed by FutureBanking.ru. Here’s the translation of the interview, where he explains how a Russian FinTech team can work in the European market and why now is the best time to do so:
“We are one the first to see the world as a global financial field”, — Irakli Agladze.
The mild climate (smiling) and good conditions for FinTeсh startups.
In fact, there are two prerequisites. First — we were trying to build a similar ideology of products with Russian companies, but it all came to nought. Second — PSD2 (European payment directive requiring banks to open data for third-party services providers) in 2018 promises a lot of interesting development for FinTech, and we are trying to put it to our advantage, although it will not be easy, of course.
Another factor — the banks in Europe are not so much developed in comparison to the Russian ones, for example. And if the challenger banks for individuals already there (although not as massive, as it is in Russia), banks for SMEs are still not quite developed. There is Tide, Penta starts its way, few more, but that’s it. In general, it looks like the challengers are trying to change the system, but “High street banks” are not so willing to change, so European government tries to assist. Can’t wait and see what happens in the end.
What is unique about your service?
“Unique” is quite a loose concept. I can say that we are one of the first to see the world global in this segment: there are people working in the one country, have the passport of another one, and their families may live in the third one. Some people just like to move from one place to another — there are almost 250 million people leaving abroad worldwide. We are trying to solve the problem of finance management in this challenging cross-border world. We combine information on a person’s accounts in different countries, we do not let them forget about upcoming payments abroad, and help people, say, in London not to worry that their house in Spain will be out of the electricity for nonpayment. We give specific, actionable advice on how to “organise” finances.
There are, fortunately, a lot of competitors. There are services that help migrants to predict costs of living (expatistan.com, numbeo.com); there are services that are just PFMs (Coinkeeper and many others); there are experiments of larger banks but within one country (Yolt, Tink). So, there are a lot of companies to look at and “be better in something else.”
We have a team experienced in long-term movements, so we know all the migrant pains first-handed. I look at TransferWise and understand how I want to be like them. Unfortunately, due to bureaucratic problems of Spanish banks, I still can not use their services. Migrant pains, you know.
Exactly how it works and what you earn?
The application itself is an aggregator of accounts in different banks in different countries. Many people lose control over what is happening at home when moving from one country to another: a student loan, taxes, subscriptions, etc. And they don’t close their home “accounts” — it becomes their savings account of sorts. We show the user an overall picture of his/her finances, remind them what’s about to happen, or inform about something that, in our opinion, stands out from the pattern.
The interface looks similar to our favourite Google Now philosophy: each event or group is represented by a card that you can “switch off” temporarily or permanently, rebuilding the interface to the needs of each user. Those services that user needs the most — are on top, and the AI can learn from user feedback if the guess was incorrect, for example. All the notifications from us go primarily into support chat where users can ask questions, get clarification, etc. Chat is provided by “Magneta”.
Also, we add financial and non-financial services to the app that allow users to manage their money better. This can be a round-up service, or the service, which recommends restaurants based on the transactional activity of the user. Anonymous, of course.
It is from such partnerships we are planning to monetise our application. Opening an account with a partner, transaction fees, and so on. The banks and insurance companies, we also regard as partners. Expats need a place to open an account — we will be happy to help them. We also plan to have a paid subscription for the super-users — those FinTech lovers who would want to combine more than three or five financial services.
What’s your team?
We are a party of four. All of us at some point in time worked at Octoberry. Someone worked on Sense, someone — on other projects: Nonamebank (first mobile-only bank for businesses in Russia), reforming the corporate unit of Alfa-Bank application. Design, backend / ML and iOS — those are the expertise that we have now. And there’s me who is trying to create better conditions for guys to work in.
We could, of course, start outsourcing to the US/EU market, work a few years on our name and then come out with our own product, but for all of us it’s a big experiment, so we went a little more risky way.
What are your plans for growth?
First of all, finish the acceleration with the demo-day at the 4YFN conference and take part in Mobile World Congress. Then conquer the world riding on a unicorn, of course. Somewhere between this — a gradual increase in services within the application. We are already negotiating with financial and non-financial partners here in Europe, but we are trying to approach them very selectively, in order to keep the focus.
Do you have any plans to enter the Russian market? Revolut, for example, left.
Revolut is an example of the situation with Fintech in Russia. Despite the fact that we are apparently “lighter” service — we will be in Russia in a much more restricted format than in the EU. Regulatory framework, similar to PSD2, is not really expected in Russia. There are rumours, but some things are not that fast, and most importantly — the banks should be ready for it.