Q&A, Q&A- Startups

7 Questions with Brian Nolan and Zbi Czapran of Finteum

Photo: Brian Nolan (left) and Zbi Czapran


Finteum is among the first set of startups selected to present to leading investors like InnoCells (Banco Sabadell), Santander InnoVentures, Universal Investments and Vidici Ventures at the 12th FinTech Forum, 19th Nov. 2020 in Frankfurt: https://ftf12.eventbrite.com

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, both at work and leisure.

Hi, we are Brian from Ireland and Zbi from Poland, both living in London. Together we have worked for 20 years in banking and in building technology solutions for enterprise. Brian was a director for UBS in Treasury in Zürich and New York in liquidity management, and before that in Bank of Ireland. Zbi has built technology for enterprise and financial services companies, such as IHS Markit. Outside work, Brian likes to stay healthy and go running. Zbi used to have free time for travelling and trying out European beers, but now his home life takes up most of the free time.

2. Which product or service do you offer, and who are your competitors?

Finteum is making it possible for bank treasurers to borrow and lend to each other for hours at a time, instead of overnight and longer (htttps://finteum.com). We have built a platform for interbank intraday lending, focusing on intraday FX swaps that settle very quickly and mature at a pre-defined time on the same day. Later we are planning to extend it to intraday securities borrowing and intraday repo. We are a seed-stage fintech startup with 5 people. We are doing our first paid engagement with a large bank, which started in March 2020. Primarily, we compete with workaround solutions that banks employ, such as withholding outgoing payments (known as throttling). We are based in London, which is the European hub for FX, but we also used to enjoy frequently visiting banks around Europe, pre-covid. We participated in the F10 Accelerator in Zurich in 2018-19. Nowadays, we travel around the world visiting banks via Zoom! We enjoy explaining how they can save up to €40m per year with our solution, which will be in production in 2021. We will do a trial later in 2020 and we are interested to speak with more banks about participating.

3. How did you get the business idea and take it from launch to the first customers?

Intraday liquidity management was a problem that Brian worked on at UBS treasury. A lot of people over the last 2-3 decades have talked about creating intraday lending markets, but nobody made a proper effort until we started. We started in 2018 and spent the first few months talking to potential customers and refining the value proposition. We built the first version of the solution in early 2019 and did a trial with 4 banks in May 2019. We extended it to FX swaps in the summer and improved on it, and continued demo’ing and speaking to potential customers. In October we won an ISDA-ICMA-DTCC-Barclays hackathon, we finished second in a UBS competition and we expanded the team with angel funding. All of that hard work and momentum paid off and led to our first bank customers in early 2020.

4. How have you financed your startup? Any lessons would you like to share from the fund-raising journey? 

We have bootstrapped very frugally. We built nearly everything ourselves. We got CHF15k support from the F10 accelerator in Zurich and then we raised some angel funding in 2019. It was quite lucky that we found a supportive angel. We haven’t focused much energy on fundraising – instad we spoke with investors occasionally who we passively connected with. Invariably, investors have told us to get more traction with customers, so that has been our focus. We planned to raise seed in 2020, which now looks difficult with covid. It’s possible, but we will need to be lucky again. The lesson is that fundraising is never as expected.

5. Which are the key trends and opportunities in (European) financial services?

This is an obvious one, but liquidity management is going to be more important post-covid. A lot of non-financial companies were surviving pre-covid on thin cash balances, which became a big problem very quickly. Governments and central banks stepped in this time to keep businesses going, but they might not feel as generous a second time. It’s likely that many organisations will need to improve their liquidity management practices and offerings – both financial services companies and their customers.

6. What’s on your bookshelf/ reading list?

For the Finteum Christmas party we did a book exchange. Brian received “Exhalation:Stories” by Ted Chiang, which is a series of sci-fi short stories and Zbi received “The Myth of the Strong Leader – Political Leadership in the Modern Age” by Archie Brown.

7. Your favorite place for a coffee and/ or a drink?

We are isolating from covid, so this one feels like it’s somewhere in between a trick question and a cruel joke! But seriously, we have had more drinks in the London office of R3 than anywhere else in the last two years – they have been a supportive partner company, and they also supplied free coffee and beer for the long days and nights!