FinTech is one of the busiest sectors of the startup world — after all, no matter what business you have, as long as you want your financial infrastructure to be modern, you will have to delve into FinTech. That’s why today, ECOMMPAY Head of Marketing & PR, Anastasia Zenсika, is reflecting on the past decade of FinTech and talking about what we should strive for in the near future.
Anastasia Zencika, ECOMMPAY Head of Marketing & PR
What is ECOMMPAY?
Not many FinTech companies offer a full payment infrastructure to their clients — which has made ECOMMPAY one of the leading international payment service providers. Their payment solution combines acquiring capabilities, all of the top payment methods across Europe, the UK and Asia, mass payouts, and other technologies.
Headquartered in the UK, ECOMMPAY has 4 offices around Europe and a back office in Latvia. “I am really proud of this place — the people who work here have built an amazing team that feels like a family. We’ve spent a lot of time developing the company culture, and it has paid off,” says Anastasia.
The history of ECOMMPAY is quite unusual. Originally, our founder was in the construction business, but as a result of a conversation with friends about how difficult it was to expand their businesses as well as a lack of innovation around merchant accounts, he decided to take the challenge and get into FinTech. That was 10 years ago, and now ECOMMPAY has more than 700 employees and is a sustainable business.
Anastasia joined ECOMMPAY soon after the company was founded — as the 7th employee: “The company and the FinTech industry as a whole is changing all the time, but people are growing alongside, and I love it.”
FinTech — how did we get where we are?
Anastasia believes that when talking about the field of FinTech, the event that marked the moment of technological revolution was the release of the iPhone in 2007. It would have been almost impossible to predict its impact on society — how we would switch from paying with coins and bills to paying with our phones.
Not too long after that, in 2010, Bitcoin was developed. “I remember buying 1 BTC as a gift for my friend who then bought a dress for that money,” laughs Anastasia — a dress worth 1 BTC now would be quite exceptional. The hype behind cryptocurrencies today is incomparable to the “weird thing” they were back then, and almost all big businesses use cryptocurrencies or blockchain technologies to some extent.
Anastasia also reflects on even simpler things — like how even a decade ago, people didn’t really believe that we would become an almost cashless society where most transactions are made with cards. And it has been a big change in a lot of ways — when people mostly used physical money; it was not easy to track and budget your finances. Now, banks track all your incoming and outgoing transactions, divide them into sections, and visualise the results in graphs. Many people are becoming more financially literate as a result.
Getting an competitive edge
When Anastasia started in ECOMMPAY, around 80% of its customers had a solid offline presence. Meanwhile, right now, around 65% don’t have any offline presence at all. In fact, most of their biggest clients are completely online. In 2021, ECOMMPAY conducted a survey of online payment habits in Latvia. 45% of respondents admitted that the pandemic changed their payment choices, and 20% switched to online payment options where possible. It’s a testament to the dramatic change that only a few years can have in our modern world, where technology jumps forward in leaps and bounds.
Products like Google Pay and Apple Pay are something that many merchants in many countries have already implemented or are looking to implement. Not many ECOMMPAY clients in the Baltics use these solutions — but the biggest ones do. Smaller companies are mostly still sticking with the usual payment methods that require entering credit/debit card information. This is not convenient for users and is one reason the industry is changing: “Even a couple of years ago, all our clients wanted was a payment form that worked so they could get their money,” says Anastasia. “Right now, the focus has shifted to improving the payment process — entire teams in companies are working on the customer experience. We cooperate with them very closely and even have a research office that analyses how users behave on a webpage, and how to improve that process.” If all you care about is that a transaction between you and your client is possible, you are falling behind competitors that are making that transaction smoother.
Most CMS systems used by new startups (Wix or Shopify, for example) already have integrated payment solutions. A good start, but Anastasia emphasised that it’s important to understand the needs of the consumer. For example, if you are only selling in the Baltic States, your focus should probably be on Open Banking — because paying through the bank is very popular here. If you expand into another country, that might no longer be the case (although Open Banking is becoming more popular throughout Europe). Or it might get more complicated because there are a lot of new local payment solutions that need to be integrated. And if you switch to paying with cards only, you won’t be able to get to all of your potential customers.
“Ideally, I would recommend talking to your consumers from the very beginning — understanding where they are located and what kind of methods for payment they use,” Anastasia advises. Perhaps all your customers only go through Instagram Shopping, and all you need is Google/Apple Pay.
FinTech success in Lithuania
For a while now, Lithuania has been known as a country that has a very strong FinTech startup scene. According to the 2021 Invest Lithuania Fintech Report, there are a total of 265 FinTech startups operating in Lithuania (compared to 41 in Latvia, according to Startin.LV startup database), with 147 fully passportable FinTech licences issued — ranking first in the European Union.
Anastasia believes that this success is a result of both good timing and the ability of the Lithuanian government to make decisions quickly. During Brexit, Lithuania decided that they would help simplify the procedures of licensing a FinTech company (on top of the existing ease of establishing a business) — and due to that, a lot of new companies were founded or moved there. “We are really missing that kind of flexibility and speed of action,” she says.
While Latvia is certainly behind, Anastasia believes that we are moving in the right direction — 10 years ago, it was much harder to start and do business in Latvia. There is still a lot of work to do, especially getting help from experts from abroad. Lithuania has a more practical and positive look on diversity and increasing its talent pool. Creativity and innovation always benefit from a variety of ideas — so it’s important for people from different backgrounds and geographies to come together.
Anastasia mentions that it’s not just about getting people to come here but also not losing who we have: “In the past, Baltic States used to lose a lot of talent to European companies that paid more. I am glad to see it has improved — our companies have increased salary ranges, and some people are even coming back.”
Until 2025, ECOMMPAY plans to strengthen its position and increase awareness of its services in the UK and Europe (splitting the two markets up due to how different they are). The plan is to triple turnover in that time: “It’s something we track, and we have this information in our office where everyone can see and track how we are doing,” Anastasia says.
However, the most challenging part of the near future is the need to keep innovating. Banks are increasingly competing with the FinTech field, and new companies are founded every week. As a result, it’s not just about improving what you have now but trying to predict the future. Anastasia emphasises: “At the moment, we are building a specific team that would focus on innovation and analysing needs of consumers in the future and how we could develop something for those needs.” In addition, more and more big businesses want not just a payment service but a full infrastructure of payment services.
In conclusion, Anastasia adds that it’s also important to continue building the Latvian startup community — exchanging opinions, helping out and mentoring, as well as just motivating each other:
“A lot of companies in Latvia try to do things without asking for help — but when you talk to people around you, it’s possible to get so many good ideas and feedback before you even begin. FinTech has not historically been a community where people openly talk about their products in development and share ideas. That’s changing, and it’s nice to see that people from your industry are more willing to connect — as that’s the only way for the industry as a whole to develop quicker.”
ECOMMPAY is a member of Latvian Startup Association Startin.LV. Want to learn more about us? Visit our website and join the community of over 7 000+ startup enthusiasts by following us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Originally published at https://medium.com/@startinLV