Why high-impact fintechs will help shape Stockholm’s future

As co-founder of Sthlm Fintech Week and program manager for the Mastercard Lighthouse Program, Lana Brandorne has her finger firmly on the pulse of Stockholm’s burgeoning fintech scene. So, what does the future hold in store for the sector? And what opportunities are likely to arise for anyone keen to get a foot in the door?

Few sectors have moved as quickly and innovated as relentlessly as fintech, and Lana Brandorne has tracked every trend along the way. Most recently, she has seen how regtech and identification solutions have come to the fore; this segment forms the focus of the latest batch of applications to the Mastercard Lighthouse Program, a Nordic and Baltic development scheme fueling fintech sector growth.

Thankfully, Lana is unfazed by the sector’s furious pace. Originally from Riga, she spent a decade living in seven different countries before moving in 2015 from the Netherlands to Stockholm, where she joined the city’s vibrant startup collective SUP46. Once there she set about gaining expertise in a single sector, fintech, and topping up her knowledge with clear sustainability goals.

“While working at an NGO and taking additional courses in sustainability and change management, I continuously came across mentions of Stockholm,” says Lana.

“At the time it seemed that Sweden was the mecca of driving sustainability initiatives, and had been since the early 1980s. I was driven to learn more from the best and decided that Stockholm would be able to offer me an environment for professional growth. It turned out better than expected as it allowed me to discover the vibrant startup scene and for the first time to consider entrepreneurship as a potential future path.”

After two positions at local fintech hubs and one fintech venture, Lana co-founded Sthlm Fintech Week, an annual event that very quickly showed its value. With its aim of clearing obstacles to growth, the inaugural edition in 2019 sold out. What started as a hobby project is now one of the Nordic region’s leading forums for the sector: a community-driven fintech conference with more than 120 speakers led by industry experts.

With the sector flourishing, Lana has no regrets at all about her move to Stockholm and recommends job seekers and founders with the right expertise to consider making the jump.

“First steps in Sweden can be hard, but when you do connect to the right people it seems that everything is possible. I consider myself lucky to have met inspiring and supportive individuals and encourage people to start off by building relationships based on good will.”

As Sthlm Fintech Week 2021 approaches, Lana can look back at a year that has been difficult for everybody. Her team at Mastercard Lighthouse Program had to adapt quickly in order to continue offering high-quality advisory, coaching, and networking services for the program’s participants. Similarly, the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated a move online for the annual fintech event. However, the pandemic has not had a negative impact on the sector. Quite the opposite in fact, as social distancing has fueled a large-scale transition to digital solutions.

But Lana is not blind to the fact that the sector will need to continue evolving to keep on top of future consumer and business needs.

“Of course the fintech ecosystem is not all a bowl of cherries,” she says, citing an overabundance of applications to last year’s Mastercard Lighthouse Program with a focus on KYC (Know Your Customer) identification technologies.

“I would never argue that KYC regtech ventures are not needed in the ecosystem as they are at the core of each transaction, but I had hoped to find more founders tackling large global issues like ‘poverty premium’ and would like to see them in upcoming programs.”

What fintech needs next, says Lana, is to find a pathway to train “cross-silo leaders” with multiple areas of expertise if the sector is to foster greater sustainability and more impact-based solutions. Historically, specialists in the Nordics have kept to their finance or technology silos, and bridging the two is already a challenge for some. As the ecosystem matures, sustainability goals will increasingly be added to the finance and technology elements, adding a new level of complexity. But Lana is more than ready for the challenge.

“The move to Stockholm has been a great step for my career development. I truly appreciate flat organizational structures and gender equal work environments. While winters can be a bit cold and dark, Stockholm does have many other benefits to offer including its amazing summer season.”

Article produced by Michal Gromek and edited by Invest Stockholm.