As some fintech companies are already taking over the retail side of banking, which is due to their agility, flexibility and mobility, Wandoo Finance, a Riga-based fintech company is in the loop of the game-changer shift. When approached by The Baltic Times Magazine, Raivo Tambors, the CEO, was eager to share his insights on what is already big in the fintech sector.
Why Wandoo? What was the start?
The very beginning of my career was a position at a boutique investment bank as a financial analyst. This was my first job after university. Then in 2015 my career path led me to Mogo, where I started as a business analyst and my last position there was the regional COO before I joined Wandoo Finance.
I can't deny that my goal was to become a CEO one day and Iveta Bruvele, the owner of Wandoo Finance, gave me this great opportunity. Once I met Iveta in person, and met the team, I knew straight away that I would love the microclimate at Wandoo Finance and this is the place for me.
You aim on your website to create easier ways to borrow and better ways to invest. Isn’t that something other lenders do? Where do you believe you have an edge?
Yes, other lenders have similar products, and in this industry, it is hard to separate oneself based on the product. Yet, I do believe that our clients should be able to get financing as quickly and simply as possible. To do this we strive to automate all the processes that can be automated. Here machine learning and scoring comes into play, in which we invest a lot of time and effort. This is something we are proud of at Wandoo Finance.
What are some of the biggest partners you have?
Our largest partner is an investment platform - Swaper. It is the platform that lets everybody invest in our products. We place our loans on the Swaper platform and anyone can invest in them, with an annual interest of up to 16%. The great part about this is that really anyone can invest, starting from a beginner to a professional investor through www.swaper.com. The investing process is simple, and you can start investing with as little as 10 EUR.
You say Wandoo is changing the landscape of personal lending. How?
Our client’s needs are at the very core of the company and, as I mentioned before, we work on automation every step of the way. Therefore, we implemented machine learning and are working on new ways to score our clients. This improves both our portfolio quality as well as the application process. Also, as a company we always look for something new, and we are never satisfied with what we already have - I do believe that this is the right mindset for successful innovation.
How is the fintech market in Latvia in general? How different, if at all, is it from that in Lithuania and Estonia?
The fintech market in Latvia is very active. It's due to the fact that successful fintech companies were established in Latvia right after the financial crisis back in 2008. At the moment, however, the legislative environment in Latvia is tough. Lithuania is in a similar legislative state. Now most of the fintech companies have their headquarters here in Latvia. Yet, they conduct their business elsewhere, for example, in Estonia. It's because Latvia has many professionals available in the industry, but due to legislative aspects, it's easier to run a business in Estonia. Each Baltic state is taking a bit of a different path and we will see which one gets to the desired goal first.
What are the goals you’ve set for yourselves in the near future?
The main goal for us is always growth. Growth for employees and growth for the company itself. New products and new markets are our top priorities.
Operational excellence is definitely one as well. With this I mean operational improvements. By doing so, we want to become the best in the markets we operate in currently and, of course, that will be the goal for any future markets we enter.
How has COVID-19 impacted Wandoo?
We had to adapt to new government-imposed restrictions in the financial industry. From our side to ease our customers' financial situation, we offered various options (split repayment in parts, refinancing, payment deferrals, extending the loan repayment, etc.). We had to make several operational adjustments – reduced costs, such as personnel and external IT, a tightened credit policy, partially put on hold marketing and promotional activities. Even though we had to pause the launch of new products, we used the time wisely. We reviewed most of our procedures and adjusted them to make our daily work more effective.
What is next for the financial markets? And what place do you see for Wandoo in them?
I think that the future for financial institutions and Fintech companies, including Wandoo, will be quite different from what we see today. Some Fintech companies are already taking over the retail side of banking. Fintech companies now are a lot more agile than the larger banks due to their size. My guess is that Fintech companies will take over the retail side of banks, while banks will ensure the backbone of the industry. We also aim to use these opportunities in the future. We are agile, and we will develop and offer even more financial tools to our clients.
How are the tougher Latvian regulatory lending policies affecting the local fin-tech market? Wandoo?
Latvian regulatory lending policies are definitely complicated. Thus, there is a trend, where personal lending in Latvia is decreasing the same as in other Baltic states. Mainly companies have their headquarters here in Latvia and the main reasons are the same as I already mentioned, that there are a lot of good professionals within the field here. Of course, I do think that patriotism plays a role, to some extent, as well. Wandoo is following the same path. We have our headquarters here in Latvia, but our operational part is happening in other locations.
When will coins in the wallets disappear once and for all? By 2050?
I don’t believe that fiat currency will disappear byl 2050, as a lot of it is driven by how accessible digital wallets are around the world. We are living in a developed country where we have access to these digital wallets and are able to manage digital currencies. Yet, there is still a large part of the world that does not have access to these things. This is the main barrier for a widespread application all over the world.
Is the rapid growth of the bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies of any concern to you? Why?
It is not a concern in a negative way definitely. In my opinion a certain switch in technology is happening now, something similar to the dot com bubble in 2000. I think that this will be a positive switch as the Fintech companies should give a faster and cheaper product to the end consumer.