Announcing Baltic Partnership with SEB – Continuous collaboration to accelerate fintech development on Baltic markets
Lighthouse Development Program is thrilled to announce our continuous partnership with SEB as the official banking partner in the Baltics. The strategic partnership enables Mastercard to discover and work with fintech unicorns of tomorrow and SEB to help accelerate local fintech community’s growth through a global network of resources. In a chilling winter afternoon, we sat down with Siim Lepisk, Innovation Manager in Baltic Strategy and Customer Insights at SEB, to understand their ambition and strategies to become the fintech innovation leader across the Baltic region.
Lighthouse team: Siim, very happy to have the opportunity to interview you. Before we start, could you tell us more about your role and what you have done to drive innovation within and outside SEB?
Siim Lepisk: I believe banks’ values lie in helping their clients grow and offer better services to influence the society. I also believe banks have to innovate in order to assist along the journey. As an Innovation Manager, my job is to encourage our employees to be more intrapreneurial and help our partners to succeed with their digital growth. I have been driving new initiatives for SEB employees, partners and clients appreciate, including Innovation Centers in Baltics, Growth Program for established companies, Design Driven Innovation for employees, Open Banking platform for fintechs and more.
Lighthouse team: With your experiences in SEB and innovation, what is your expectation about Lighthouse program? Why is Lighthouse program valuable for SEB?
Siim Lepisk: At the beginning of 2018, we organized the first two Open Banking hackathons in the Baltics, involving more than 30 teams over two weekends. We saw strategic collaboration opportunities with several teams, which led us to think outside the system and seek great partnerships in order to better support these fintechs financially and through our expertise.
We have strong, existing relationship with Mastercard and co-invested in several fintechs with NFT Ventures through our venture arm. SEB is ambitious to be the leading bank in open banking across the Baltics. Participating in Lighthouse program is a natural yet important step for us because the program combines these partnerships with our solid footprint of innovation in the Baltics.
“We believe Lighthouse program creates a truly appealing value proposition for fintechs and SEB has formed a number of new strategic partnerships as a result.”
Lighthouse team: What do you expect from the startups? What is SEB looking for?
Siim Lepisk: Strategic partnership is the most essential – cooperation that brings value to both fintech companies and bank customers. We have several collaborations established and actively underway in the fields of payments and customer loyalty. In addition, we are vigorously looking for new partners with value propositions in the following three areas: First, better financial planning and financing for SMEs and retailers. Secondly, private savings and investment solutions that raise financial awareness among children and youth. Lastly, solutions that improve banks’ digital services through cutting edge machine learning and artificial intelligence.
When we invest between 50 to 200K € to early-stage startups in the Baltics, we expect a strong team with technically unique product in at least a prototype phase. For companies which have gained market traction, we are able invest 500K € or more if there’s a good strategic fit.
Lighthouse team: Very exciting time ahead for SEB and fintechs in the Baltic region! What should aspiring fintechs have in mind when developing project with SEB?
Siim Lepisk: SEB is the first bank in the Baltics that initiated the Open Banking Sandbox and now launched the open banking APIs, which are great resources for the fintech community to develop their products. We also established Innovation Centers with Innovation Managers in every Baltic country, who have deep understanding of both startup businesses and how to navigate the local ecosystem as well as corporate corridors to form fruitful partnerships.
Lighthouse team: Comparing to Nordic markets, how do you view the Baltic fintech ecosystem? Could you share some of SEB’s strategies to work with fintechs going forward?
Siim Lepisk: The value offered by fintech companies for both private and corporate customers is relatively extensive in the Baltic countries. Both Estonia and Lithuania have achieved considerable success with their fintech unicorns such as TransferWise and Revolut. SEB has 2 million customers across the Baltics, which some might argue is not a “real” mass market for global-looking fintechs. However, with talented engineers, supportive ecosystem and our agile approach as a partner, Baltic market is definitely an excellent “test bed” for global fintech innovation.
Lighthouse program is one of the cornerstones for us to establish a Pan-Baltic strategic network with Mastercard, fintechs, early stage VC funding and other players. We also continue to drive open banking initiatives and build external partnerships. With our market position, resources and expertise, we are excited to create a prospering ecosystem with Mastercard and fintechs in order to help our customers to achieve their success, faster and together.
Lighthouse team: Thank you so much for sharing your time and opinions. Any final remark?
Siim Lepisk: Lighthouse is a one of the most effective ways to establish fruitful partnerships with Mastercard, banks and investors. Take that chance and apply by February 18th!