Banks still dominate the financial sector, but things will change very soon as fintech is the future, said the representatives of the banking and fintech industry in Romania and the region during the NEXT FinTech – The Bridge to Inclusive Finance, the finale of the most important acceleration program for fintech startups in Romania.
“Fintech is the future. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, the financial environment was rapidly evolving thanks to technological advancements. And we are talking about more than just online banking. Online banking revolutionizes the way individuals and businesses finance. But today, we are also talking about peer-to-peer digital lending between small business owners. Our credit evaluations, right there in the farmers’ field, from a mobile device! Such tools expand financial inclusion considerably for those who otherwise may face barriers to accessing financing”, said Markus Aschendorf, Chairperson of the EFSE Development Facility.
NEXT FinTech is the first accelerator program specifically designed to offer investment readiness and go-to-market support to startups in financial services and related industries. The program was initiated in 2020 by Techcelerator in Romania, with the support of the Development Facility of the European Fund for Southeast Europe (EFSE DF).
11 early-stage companies that participated in the acceleration program had the opportunity to present their products and the progress they made during the three months of acceleration. The 11 startups are 22Trust Venture, AlphaBlock Technologies, ENSO Business, Finpathic, Investory Toy Factory, KidsFinance, Leaseman, OptimRent, Monett, TimedFX, and ZoomReport.
4 startups were awarded by the international investors jury following the pitching session: 22Trust Venture, with the title of BEST PRODUCT, Leaseman as BEST STARTUP, Investory – BEST PITCH, and ZOOM Report – POPULARITY AWARD.
NEXT FinTech – The Bridge to Inclusive Finance (February 24th) had 370 registrations from 36 countries.
“This rising tide of fintech fits in the natural course of technologies – they are becoming a more and more important part of our life and it was normal to make their presence felt in the financial sector. New technologies bring undeniable benefits to customers by providing cheaper access to financial products; therefore, it is considered to play an important role in financial inclusion”, said Bogdan Mihai, Deputy Director of the National Bank of Romania – Financial Market Infrastructures and Payments Oversight Department.
“As a regulator, when we talk about fintech, we see it as an interaction between finance technology and regulations. And all these should move in sync to help the fintech sector develop. In general, around the world, the regulators start to realize that to reach the full potential of financial technology, there have to be some changes in the supervisory approach”, stated Papuna Lezhava, Deputy Governor and Member of the Board, National Bank of Georgia.
Tanja Jakimova, Senior Advisor in financial stability at the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia, considers that “financial security becomes the biggest challenge as financial services become digital”.
Nika Kurdiani, Deputy CEO of TBC Bank Georgia, said that banks still dominate the financial segment, but lately has observed three trends. “The first one is the fact that banks themselves start to be innovative. The second trend is one that I mostly observed in the payments industry; we see more and more payment gateway services and startups coming up. And the third trend is the regulatory trend: the fact that financial innovation is promoted and supported”, explained Nika Kurdiani.
“The financial sector is still in the banks’ hands, but, for sure, things will change quite rapidly,” said Mihaela Nădășan, Deputy CEO of Banca Transilvania – IR & FI and Markets.
“From the very beginning, we were a bank dedicated to startups, so looking at the fintech startups was a business opportunity for us. But, later on, it turned out to be a business approach. Meaning that we are learning from them how to be agile”, added Mihaela Nădășan.
Olimpiu Balaș, Founder of TechVentures Bank, considers that for many fintech companies, it is harder to work with banks because a bank is a more regulated institution than a fintech or than a non-banking financial institution.
“For us, it is easier because we are working on creating the reports for national banks, for the European Banking Authority, and we know the challenges and restrictions”, said Olimpiu Balaș.
The speakers of the event were Markus Aschendorf, Chairperson of the EFSE Development Facility; Bogdan Mihai, Deputy Director of the National Bank of Romania – Financial Market Infrastructures and Payments Oversight Department; Papuna Lezhava, Deputy Governor and Member of the Board, National Bank of Georgia; Nika Kurdiani, Deputy CEO of TBC Bank Georgia; Tanja Jakimova, Senior advisor in financial stability at the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia; Mihaela Nădășan, Deputy CEO of Banca Transilvania – IR & FI and Markets, Romania; Olimpiu Balaș, Founder of TechVentures Bank, Romania; Teodor Blidăruș, CEO of FintechOS; Ashot Arzumanyan, Partner and Co-founder of Smartgate VC (US/Armenia); Aylin Lim, Finance Director of Technolera, Turkey; Dan Oros, Head of Marketing at Google & Youtube Romania; Cosmin Cosma, President RoFin.Tech; Cristian Dascălu, Partner at GapMinder VC, Romania.