London’s best taking on the world

Norris Koppel.

PHOTO: Monese

Founder and CEO of Monese Norris Koppel was just elected EY entrepreneur of the year for London and South East England. The company’s plans go beyond the United Kingdom as Monese continues to grow all over Europe.

Are you rather a British or an Estonian entrepreneur?

I think I will always be an Estonian businessman at heart. I am Estonian, born in Estonia; I have an Estonian passport and most of our team is based in Estonia which is also where we pay taxes. So, I believe we are very much an Estonian company, even though it might not seem so at first glance because of Monese’s international grasp. We want to be a global company, but we started in Estonia. The bulk of the team will always be based in Estonia.

How is business? What about profit and turnover in recent years? How many new clients have you attracted?

We have a little over 1.2 million registered users today. We are growing quickly: we have grown by 3-5 times every year so far. Several hundred percent a year. The same goes for turnover, and looking at international growth in different countries, we are active in 31 countries and plan to launch Monese in six countries outside the EU inside the next 12 months.

You plan to continue expanding?

Yes, it is one of our plans for the near future. Another plan is to launch products our clients want to see, including credit, savings accounts etc.

Why do you not offer credit cards right now?

Our business focus has been multi-stage from the beginning. When we started, we offered our clients the chance to get lightning quick access to banking, accounts and cards, but the plan has always been to move forward and eventually offer clients everything they would expect from a typical bank. It is natural growth in the right direction: not only to grow internationally but also to complement our range of services.

When will you start issuing loans?

Inside this year. I would not go into detail at this time, but we plan to offer all manner of credit services, not just loans.

How are traditional banks treating you?

I believe the time is right for traditional banks and fintech companies like us to find avenues for cooperation, which is what we can see happening.

Traditional banks are much more open to cooperation than they have been before, and I believe there are plenty of opportunities for partnership out there.

What separates Monese from Transferwise?

Transferwise is rather an international payments and currency exchange company. Monese is a more bank-like product where currency exchange and transfers make up only a small part of services offered. Our services go beyond wire transfers.

What is the competition situation between mobile banking service providers today?

A lot of service providers have cropped up in Europe and the UK, and I believe that in order to stand out, one has to offer a simple product that addresses a clearly defined problem.

Fintech-banking companies all look the same at first, but differences emerge once clients really start to use their services. Monese stands out for its radically international outlook. We serve our clients in 12 languages, including phone support – it is quite rare to offer call-in customer support in so many languages.

Most of our clients use us as their primary bank account where they land their salary, meaning they trust us completely with their finances. That is where we stand out from a lot of other companies that have not achieved this level of client trust.

To what extent do GDPR and lending violations corrupt the market?

I cannot comment on lending. You mean…

… Revolut. (A Latvian fintech that found itself at the center of a scandal for facilitating dubious transactions in the UK after it secured a banking license – ed).

Where we’re different is that for two years before we opened the company to clients, we worked on making sure nothing like that would ever happen and our conduct would meet all regulations, including monitoring of money and services with the help of machine learning, as well as reporting suspicious activity to the police.

Transferwise cofounder Taavet Hindrikus has said that the current Estonian government is hurting the country’s reputation and making it difficult to hire specialists. Do you agree?

I agree completely. What is currently happening in Estonian politics is not doing our reputation any favors.