A close look at 19 fintech ecosystems in CEE

By Katja Fiedler, RBI |

More than 65 per cent of the population in CEE is expected to be using digital banking services by the end of 2020 making the region an attractive market for fintechs, that is to say technology providers to the financial services industry or financial services providers utilizing technology as a core business differentiator. Hence, it comes as no surprise that some CEE countries lately have become true fintech hotspots with a growing number of financial technology startups, fintech associations and incubator programs.

Another indicator for the region’s potential for fintechs is the increase in fintech investments in many CEE markets. In 2019, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine showed a strong rise in investment compared to the previous year. Notable investments were made in companies such as SME Finance in Lithuania (19.8 million euros), Software Group in Bulgaria (17.8 million euros) and Twisto in the Czech Republic (14 million euros) – not uncommonly by local VC funds, e.g. Speedinvest from Austria, Startup Wiseguys from the Baltics, Eleven Ventures from Bulgaria and ENERN from the Czech Republic.

This and much more detailed data can be found in the CEE Fintech Atlas 2019 which has just been published. It is the second edition of the CEE Fintech Atlas which is not only an update on the size of ecosystems, the most important fintechs, the largest investors, the readiness of the countries’ population for digital banking and more. It also offers a special focus on Open Banking, a topic that gained momentum especially due to the second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) by the European Union.

At first, most banks considered open Application Programming Interfaces (API), designed to grant fintechs access to the banks’ customer data, a threatening idea. PSD2, however, led to a standardized and secure way of sharing sensitive client data – a perfect condition for the successful cooperation between banks and third party providers with a positive effect on fintech ecosystems. And this is even true for countries which are not regulated by PSD2.

As a consequence, fintechs have changed their role from disruptors to facilitators and enablers of a revolutionary banking transformation. Rather than competing with banks, fintechs now offer their services based on a safe banking infrastructure and the transparent use of data via APIs. Therefore, collaboration between banks and fintechs represents a promising climate for innovation. The winner of the partnerships between agile fintechs and established banks is the customer who benefits from smarter solutions.

With its focus on Open Banking, the CEE Fintech Atlas 2019 provides an understanding of the local implementation of this approach. This insight as well as a number of interviews with top-class interview partners such as fintech founders, representatives of national banks and experts from diverse fintech-related organizations make the CEE Fintech Atlas 2019 an essential read for everyone interested in the world of fintechs. Get your free copy at www.fintechatlas.com!

There you can also watch the webcast of the CEE Fintech Atlas 2019 online launch including keynotes by Christian Wolf, Head of Strategic Partnerships & Ecosystems, and Gunter Deuber, Head of Economics/Fixed Income/FX Research, both from Raiffeisen Bank International, as well as a panel discussion, focusing on fintech and Open Banking developments in CEE, with key players in the areas of banking and financial innovation.

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