Monese, one of the rising stars of the UK fintech scene, visited Vilnius for a week-long workation. The company was part of this year’s Workation Vilnius program – an initiative by the city, aimed at introducing Vilnius business environment to global companies
After a week of getting to know the local business scene, Monese’s VP of Finance, Amish Mody, compared the fintech scenes in London and Vilnius, talked about the company’s plans to acquire a financial license in mainland Europe, and why emerging cities are sometimes better for up-and-coming startups.
“Lithuania is actively promoting its fintech scene, it is close-knit and very collaborate, and that is a huge advantage and draw for fintechs from all over Europe,” commented Mody. “Of course, the UK has the advantage of having a big community of fintechs offering various kinds of services and access to capital.”
A big part of the workation experience in Vilnius was meeting other startups and fintechs to share knowledge and get familiar with the local ecosystem.
“After meeting a couple of companies in Vilnius, it seems that Lithuania is an extremely attractive destination for companies to launch their businesses or establish support centres,” elaborated Mody. “Having favourable conditions for support centres is essential for any startup. The companies I’ve discussed with had compliance, HR, development teams here. All of these are crucial for any up-and-coming fintech startup.”
Monese has secured post-Brexit licensing coverage and has plans for a more localised service for its customers across Europe, which includes the introduction of European account numbers (IBANs). Using the opportunity, the Vilnius fintech community suggested Monese to consider acquiring their European e-money license in Lithuania.
“A fintech can never be an island; it can never operate alone. The world today is globally more interlinked and connected than ever before. Europeans will continue to travel the world, study abroad or work in another country, regardless of Brexit,” said Mody. “Here at Monese, we have been a globally-minded business from the start. We knew we would need to be set-up to serve many customers in many countries around the world, regardless of and even post-Brexit. We have secured post-Brexit licensing coverage in Belgium, and we are firmly committed to offering more localised products, services and partnerships across Europe.”
If Monese decided to set up part of their processes in Vilnius, they would be joining an increasing number of fintechs and other startups. The Lithuanian capital has a thriving startup and fintech scene with almost 250 active startups, 38 of them being fintechs, present in the city. Currently, the fintech companies in Vilnius are employing 2600 specialists, and 88% of them, according to Invest Lithuania, are planning to expand their Lithuanian team. 70% of fintech startups in Lithuania are located in Vilnius.
“The fintech cluster has already become a calling card for Lithuania,” commented Julius Norkūnas, a technology expert at Invest Lithuania. “By attracting fintechs from the UK, Israel, USA, among other places, the country managed to become the regional leader of the sector. The companies establishing their operations in Vilnius do so due to competencies of the local talent pool, innovative approach of the Bank of Lithuania, and effective regulatory systems.”
Apart from the reasons mentioned, the country has established a sandbox environment which allows fintech companies to test their products in a real marketplace without looming regulatory sanctions during the first year of operation. Additionally, it takes only three months to get e-money or payments license in Lithuania, approximately two to three times faster than in other EU jurisdictions.
Monese visited Vilnius as participants of the Workation Vilnius program. Launched in 2018, the program gives businesses the opportunity to spend a week in Vilnius, network, and learn about the local business ecosystem.