By Dr. Jens Woloszczak, Founder & CEO of Spotcap
While fintech is certainly making the world a flatter place, speaking from experience, the mechanics of operating a fintech across borders can be challenging. Success requires balancing local operations with a global approach.
Opening offices internationally raises brand awareness on a global level, creating relevance in an era of globalisation. By extension, operating in multiple markets attracts investors and influencers with international scope. In Spotcap's case, for example, we realised that our product and platform's appeal isn't limited to one market. After launching in Spain, we expanded into the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. By managing to keep operational and organisational complexity low, we have enjoyed good levels of growth across two continents.
Regulation can cast a dark cloud over the high-octane plans of young, innovative fintechs. Startups – particularly fintechs – need to be adept at navigating regulatory frameworks, especially while regulatory models are still in embryonic states themselves.
As such, opening in unfamiliar regulatory territory absolutely requires local expertise, which is why it's essential to hire an industry leader who knows the market inside out. Expert navigation is crucial when dealing with harder issues like compliance, new business landscapes and access to data, as well as softer things, like customer preferences and cultural nuances.
A local go-to-market approach
Localisation requires abandoning a generic approach to product and marketing. Part of this is choosing new offices judiciously. Fintechs should select markets that hold regulatory similarities, rather than drastically different approaches to compliance. For example, an office in Brazil might sound seductive, but the time and manpower required to establish compliant operations there may render it commercially nonviable.
Your product, go-to-market strategy and communication should adapt to the local environment. Luckily, I've found that this comes somewhat naturally with the assembly of a strong local team. Accordingly, company culture needs to be nurtured in any international firm – it's important that team members feel connected and part of a larger entity.
While localisation is key to success, it must be channeled through a global framework of lean, scalable principles. Essentially, you want to avoid ending up with x different settings in x different markets.
Brand awareness & talent
We live in a global age – an international brand is crucial to attract the attention of investors and influencers. At Spotcap we use a number of strategies to build brand awareness. A cardinal strategy is to leverage the rising trend of collaboration within fintech – i.e. partnering with corporates and stakeholders. Increased brand awareness can be capitalised on in the recruitment process.
Access to talent is a consistent pain point for startups – so much so that we recently launched a Fintech Fellowship in the UK to inspire the next generation of fintech thought leaders, while simultaneously helping to fill the talent gap. Recruiting can be challenging at any stage of a business, which is why it's good to have people on the ground in the new market, or at least people familiar with the landscape.
By creating new international infrastructure, fintech is helping businesses transcend borders. By extension, the excitement around fintech makes it a great time to be an international fintech. However, attention must be paid to regulation, localisation and maintaining a cohesive company culture. When done right, it's an incredible industry to be part of.
By Dr. Jens Woloszczak, Founder &CEO of Spotcap
Jens holds a degree in industrial engineering from the Technical University of Berlin and studied economics at Cass Business School. He worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company for more than five years, where he focused on the commercial banking sector. Working for major European banks, Jens experienced the outdated approach these banks took towards working with SMEs. He co-founded Spotcap after seeing an opportunity in the industry: to use technology to change the SME banking landscape.He will be speaking at the Global Expansion Summit in 2017.