Last Thursday a closed club discussion was held, which was devoted to innovative financial technologies in traditional business areas. This time, the club participants were airBaltic Senior Vice-president in E-commerce, Marketing and Sales Jouni Oksanen, Maxima Head of Corporate Relations Ivars Svilans, Printify representative James Berdigans, Rietumu Bank Senior Vice-president and Member of the Board Eugene Dugaev, as well as experts of the financial industry and startup environment representatives.
The chief guest of the evening J. Oksanen represented airBaltic – three years ago it was the first airline in the world to start accepting bitcoin as payment for airline tickets.
"Now about 100 tickets a month are purchased by using a cryptocurrency. The number is not big, however it sets tendencies,” said J. Oksanen, Senior Vice-president in E-commerce, Marketing and Sales, when looking at the statistical data.
"In the future, it is anticipated that blockchain technology will make life easier, as companies will be able to exchange information much more quickly. All loyalty programmes will be available in one digital wallet and, for instance, it will be possible to use the accumulated points in one time at the airport."
J. Oksanen also believes that the blockchain technology could finally introduce changes for the industry players in the unclear operation of aggregators and global distribution systems that eat up a big part of the profit of airlines and hotel chains.
The Maxima chain of supermarkets differs from others due to the fact that it offers different services in addition to the opportunity to buy everyday goods. I. Svilans emphasised that the widely discussed payment services directive PSD2 will change many industries.
"We also have to look wider. Possibly, in the future, a supermarket will be a physical place under a roof, with heated premises, staff and a logistical centre, which will probably perform many functions that now we only sneer at, or are not aware of. For instance, it is theoretically possible to deliver a child to their grandmother, located several dozens of kilometres away, by using the already existing system of logistics." Certainly.
Maxima also feels interest on the part of startups, which are ready to offer different solutions. In the future, it will definitely take place much more often.
"However, startups have to take into account that big companies are slow, look at new solutions suspiciously and have a large bureaucratic apparatus. We have to be convinced that changes will not affect our operation in a negative way. Therefore, those who introduce innovations, must be able to answer a very simple question – can we recharge all bank terminals in the entire chain of stores during one night? And can we really offer something that gives additional value to the company?" emphasised I. Svilāns.
The representative of Printify, J. Berdigans, also faced a situation where a big company was unpredictable.
"In the USA, we had four months of negotiations on cooperation with a big corporation. We had gone as far as the conclusion of an agreement, when, all of a sudden, one of the company representatives informed us that there would be no agreement. All of this hard work was in vain."
J. Berdigans, in the fintech area, was positively surprised by a recent announcement from Estonia about issuing the Estcoin cryptocurrency. "If Estonians make it, they will be far ahead of many countries in their development."
Rietumu Bank, the chief partner and supporter of the Rietumu FinTech Club discussions cycles, deals with cryptocurrency and blockchain solutions on a daily basis. We constantly think about how to use these solutions more efficiently. "The bank is open for cooperation with startup companies. Certainly, they have to accept our conditions – to be ready to work with the Rietumu Bank data, in our premises and with account of our payment conditions. There are no other obstacles to joint cooperation and a joint search for solutions in the fintech industry," said Senior Vice-president of Rietumu Bank E. Dugaev.
Rietumu FinTech Club is a meeting place for representatives of financial technologies, who intend to discuss the most topical tendencies and share their experience. Three successful meetings is confirmation that the industry of financial technologies is very interesting and prospective for new business enthusiasts. This initiative is currently being implemented by the Latvian Startup Association Startin.LV in cooperation with Rietumu Bank.