By Daniel Dragomir, CEO & Co-founder TechHub Bucharest |
Technology empowers entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs worldwide to improve the quality of life for an increasing number of people. Today a financial professional in Bucharest can build a fintech product that could significantly improve the lives of people in South-East Asia by giving them access to financial services for the first time. And this is just the beginning.
We are going through a shift of paradigm and we will see a radical evolution of financial services in the years to come. The marathon for defining the future of banking has started and, for the first time in history, it is a democratic race open to all the players: banks, insurance companies, telcos, tech companies, entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs alike. You can run this marathon no matter where you are, in London, Prague, or Nairobi, irrespective of whether your office is in a skyscraper on Wall Street or in a co-working space in Vienna.
It’s difficult to predict now who the winners of this marathon will be. The good news for us all though, from a consumer perspective, is that we will have access to better, simpler, more user friendly financial products.
Technology also shifted the power play from companies to consumers and, while consumers learned that tech products make everything possible, their expectations consistently increased and they are demanding more and more from their financial service providers.
If we take a look at the fintech ecosystem, there are several startups that have built new products from scratch and have acquired hundreds of thousands, even millions of users by focusing on offering a better user experience to their clients. Let’s take the example of Pay Key, a company that promises their users to instantly top-up, pay their bills and get customer support instantly from within social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp.
Business opportunities do not stop at providing a better user experience. According to the Global Financial Index of World Bank, there are 1.7 billion people worldwide that do not currently have a bank account. Fintech products such as M Pesa or Hover offer people in developing countries, with poor infrastructure and no access to internet, access to basic banking services. It is an important step towards offering equal access to finance and reducing poverty.
And examples could go on! In insurtech, Cuvva offers their users the possibility to close an auto insurance for a couple of hours when you borrow your car to a friend. Startups such as Persona aim to leverage the blockchain technology to disrupt the KYC processes of today. Digitalization brings along a series of challenges and new opportunities for fintech products in the fields of security, AI, chatbots, data analytics, voice banking, etc. One thing is certain: there’s a world of opportunities out there for building businesses in fintech.
However, where does Romania stand in the marathon for defining the future of banking? For a very long time we’ve heard that Romania’s strengths are its good developers and an excellent internet infrastructure. These alone are not enough though to drive us forward in a marathon where the stake is building innovative fintech products.
The Romanian entrepreneurial ecosystem has made significant steps forward over the past 5 years, and this development is explained by the existence of several driving factors. First, there are more and more active communities of entrepreneurs and professionals built around initiatives such as Fintech Camp, Impact Hub, TechHub Bucharest, Spherik Accelerator, CoWork Timisoara, or Fintech Month, to name just a few.
Then, we see more and more promising fintech startups born in Romania such as Confidas, Instant Factoring, Minutizer, Pago, or ThinkOut. Moreover, big companies have started developing an increasing number of programs to foster collaboration with startups (such as Elevator Lab), or intrapreneurial initiatives.
These add up to the fact that there are several acceleration and pre-acceleration programs now taking place in Romania, and access to early stage financing is offered through the first local investment funds for early stage startups such as Early Game Ventures and Gap Minder.
We can now see that we have all the prerequisites to build entrepreneurial & intrapreneurial fintech initiatives that can compete globally. However, we need more financial professionals to step forward and start building products – now it’s time for it, since we have the right context and the required resources to make this happen. Should more empowered financial professionals do this, Romania has the potential to be one of the first runners in the marathon for defining the future of banking.
Daniel Dragomir is CEO & Co-founder of TechHub Bucharest and jury member at Elevator Lab (Fintech Partnership program by Raiffeisen Bank International).