As Lithuania's financial market matures and the financial institutions face more stringent licensing requirements, the fintech ecosystem becomes increasingly important for a successful business. The term' fintech ecosystem' describes the synergy between technology and services providers that allow new players to start operating faster, says Anton Zujev, Head of a Lithuanian company group Forbis.
Stricter criteria for financial institutions
The number of e-money and payment institution licenses issued in Lithuania is among the highest in the EU. As a result, the Bank of Lithuania has started communicating that companies licence applicants will face even closer scrutiny. Mr Zujev says that companies wishing to enter the market should consider stricter regulation as an opportunity to build a better business.
"At the moment, many financial institutions are dealing with the challenges of digitalization, while the new entrants are waiting for licences longer and undergoing a thorough screening. The Bank of Lithuania requires new entrants to be more advanced, have an experienced team and a clear business plan. These measures ensure that the new companies will benefit Lithuania and the financial market as a whole. A more rigorous licencing process gives the start-ups an incentive to create a sustainable business and collaborate with experienced players in the financial ecosystem," said Mr Zujev.
A helping hand for the market entrants
According to Mr Zujev, the resources of the fintech ecosystem is what currently makes it easier to enter the financial services market. Forbis group of companies, operating in the field of banking IT technologies for almost 30 years, has created such an ecosystem. The group provides a full range of technologies and services that help financial institutions obtain a licence and expand their operations. The group consists of Forbis, which designs and develops banking IT solutions; Fininbox, which provides banking SaaS and assistance in the licensing process; and Contomobile, a licensed e-money institution providing fast access to a payment initiation service.
"We have created a unique environment within our group of companies that allows us to develop technological innovations, test our products, improve and deliver them to our customers. Now that the AML, KYC and service quality requirements for financial institutions are on a par with those for banks, our solutions give our clients the chance to enter the market with confidence," said Mr Zujev.
Simultaneously, members of the Forbis group share their experience with other players from the financial sector, contributing to the development of fintech in Lithuania.
"Over the last few years, we have seen a huge leap in the Lithuanian fintech sector. We provide a wide range of services to Lithuanian and foreign financial institutions, follow the latest trends, and feel obliged to ensure our know-how benefits our clients and the entire financial technology community. Our companies are active members of organizations uniting the Lithuanian fintech community – we participate in Fintech Lithuania and Fintech Hub LT. We also contribute to the strategic development of the sector as members of the Lithuania Ministry of Finance's Fintech Sector Development Analysis Working Group," commented Mr Zujev.
Offers solutions for licence applicants
Forbis group's companies have tailored their services to financial institutions at all stages of development. Among the solutions offered are banking-as-a-service, payment integrations and IT systems for growth-oriented companies.
"Thanks to Contomobile, an e-money institution belonging to our group, we can provide a banking-as-a-service solution that allows an unlicensed institution to use our licence, operating under its own brand name," said Mr Zujev.
According to the expert, banking-as-a-service is an ideal option for institutions licence applicants that want to enter the e-money services market and test their business plan.
"By signing an agreement with Contomobile, companies receive access to our know-how, a mobile application and comprehensive KYC processes. Licence applicants that start their operations via our licence can prove to the Bank of Lithuania that they are already profitable and successful," added Mr Zujev.
Reliable IT solutions for licensed financial institutions
Throughout the licensing process, financial institutions are assisted by the group's company Fininbox, providing banking SaaS and currently serving over 20 financial institutions from Lithuania and other European and Asian countries. The company gives clients access to the CENTROlink system, enabling SEPA payments in Europe.
"The Bank of Lithuania is monitoring how soon a financial institution launches its operations after receiving a licence – the timing might influence the other decisions of the regulator. To help companies with a newly required licence, Fininbox ensures that they become part of CENTROlink as soon as possible," said Mr Zujev.
The group's largest clients - banks - work with Forbis to develop their own IT architecture and unique technological solutions. Forbis is constantly engaged in R&D activities and focused on developing new banking technologies, making it the go-to partner for banks, focused on growth and performance improvement.
A year of sustainable growth
The Forbis group experienced substantial revenue and customer growth in 2020, driven by the pandemic-induced digitalization of various services. In 2020, the group's revenue increased by 4.7 %. Although the financial services sector felt the impact of the pandemic and slowed down in 2021, the Forbis group's revenues remained stable, and the companies proved that they had reached a stage of sustainable growth, says Mr Zujev.
"Last year, we served a record number of clients. It reassured us that our services are competitive and that our clients trust us. We hold the IT services, information security and quality management certificates, and our partners know that they work with top quality providers. We will continue developing innovative solutions and helping our clients operate in an increasingly competitive fintech market in the coming years," said Mr Zujev.
To date, Forbis Group has worked with clients in Europe and beyond. However, Mr Zujev states that in solidarity with the independent state of Ukraine and recognizing the atrocities of the Russian attack, Forbis companies unilaterally terminated contracts with Russian-owned banks and other financial institutions.