Sun Finance, one of the fastest-growing fintech companies in Europe, has recently expanded and firmed up its foothold in seven new countries. Behind the bullyish Riga-based company stands Toms Jurjevs, the founder and CEO of Sun Finance, and his 700+ hard-working team members. “I believe in the power of dedication and hard work as well as innovation. Therefore, I am always looking for possible improvements and opportunities to align my business to future needs,” Toms Jurjevs, who is a graduate of the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, told The Baltic Times Magazine.
With so many lenders in the industry, what is so distinctive about Sun Finance? Tell me, please, about your clients. I understand your primary focus is the B2C segment, not B2B financing, correct?
Indeed, our primary focus is the B2C segment, we do not provide B2B loans. However, our market research reveals that in such countries as Kazakhstan and Vietnam our services are extensively used by sole traders, who use the money to finance their day-to-day needs.
In Vietnam, for example, about a half of the borrowers take out loans to purchase raw materials, to, say, run their street food stalls. In Mexico, pretty much like elsewhere in the world, people spend loads of time on their mobiles, therefore, a product aimed at mobile phone users has good potential to acquire a small business loan. We continue to monitor market trends for B2B products.
Sun Finance is in its fourth year of operation in the financial market, which is very competitive. What are your greatest accomplishments so far?
Since we are in fintech, technology plays a crucial role, and it is our technological solutions that give us the competitive edge. All our software is developed in-house and uses the latest technology. It is designed to be super scalable and super adaptable to different geographies and products on our platform. And, with every next launch, the technology advances so we always keep our products up to date.
Secondly, we use top-notch in-house built risk analysis tools. Each new market means a new culture with particular consumer behaviour, which is why data science is a crucial part of our business. We have developed complex risk assessment models that take into account consumer behaviour and other local characteristics. To be competitive locally, we always have people on our team who know the country's local mentality.
Finally, our mindset is what distinguishes us from our competition. We are always business-oriented, we think lean, we do not overspend, and we try to anticipate every situation that comes our way.
What benchmarks have you set for Sun Finance in the future?
Sun Finance will hold its course. We will continue to expand geographically by penetrating new markets. We will also work towards expanding our range of products in the existing markets. We refer to this as our matrix strategy — we expand both geographically and product wise. From this originates our short-term goal of becoming the first ever Latvia-based unicorn with operations worldwide. We have established our market position, yet, in the long run, our ambition is to become the largest online lender in Europe if not in the world.
You have offices in 7 countries, according to your website. Do you really need them when working remotely has become a new norm?
We started in Latvia, then we launched in Denmark, Poland, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Vietnam, and finally Sweden. Seven countries in three continents. We currently have around 5 million customers in our group across all seven countries.
At the end of the day, we are focused on how to beat the targets we set ourselves. We know we have the best technology and risk management tools, the best mindset and position to look for opportunities for how we can continue to grow internationally.
What trends have you been witnessing in the last year and a half marked with COVID-19 and the quarantine restrictions?
Because of COVID-19 people in all age groups are adapting to online services and products more and more, day by day. Once you go online, you don’t go offline anymore because you will find it’s more simple, easier or more convenient, and just a better experience.
What’s next for the financial market? What do you see for Sun Finance soon?
We launched instalment loans in Kazakhstan in January, with plans to expand them across all locations. Next is buy now pay later (BNPL), which we plan to launch later this year. If this is cracked and cracked profitably, then the market is immense. It is now competing with credit cards. However, compared to many of the giants in the space, we want to tackle it while remaining profitable.
You are a significant player in Latvia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. What’s your take on the country’s entrepreneurial environment?
I like to think of Latvia as an agile European country. We are an EU, NATO and OECD member state. The start-up ecosystem is getting stronger and stronger year after year. Latvia has potential to become a leading player in the fintech segment as well as other tech segments in Europe together with our Baltic neighbours, especially Estonia. We do hope that with our story we will inspire young Latvian entrepreneurs to develop successful businesses and penetrate the global marketplace.
How have the more stringent regulatory lending policies affected your fintech?
Globally, fintech is defined as an industry with one of the biggest potentials for growth. It is very important for Latvia to take a common step with other Baltic countries and see financial technology as one of its top priorities, so that we can create more jobs, grow our economy and provide greater benefits to our country.
Is the social factor important to Sun Finance?
I believe that the world’s leading companies have to be role models for others. Therefore, the larger Sun Finance becomes, the greater our responsibility towards society and our planet. Since the beginning, we have actively engaged in wildlife protection. Last year, we extended our support to a number of climate initiatives that help to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, regenerate nature, and promote circular economy. This year, we became a Green Office through participation in the World Wildlife Fund’s Green Office environmental programme and we also became a carbon neutral company. We will continue to support initiatives that promote sustainable business models, engage in wildlife protection, and climate change.
PHOTO: Toms Jurjevs is founder and CEO of Sun Finance which has 700+ team members now
Photo author: Arturs Kondrats