Why Ask Me AnyFin? At Code & Pepper, we believe in testing assumptions and leaving no stone unturned when getting to the bottom of complex issues. But what are the right questions to ask? Now, that’s when things get really interesting… There is no one magic formula for a FinTech company. That’s why I’ve decided to sit down with founders, innovators and disruptors from different sub-sectors and with diverse backgrounds to look for the bigger picture: together.
Founder of Lombi.com says: ‘Ask Me AnyFin’ and is not afraid to answer…
Urszula Mścichowska-Mazurek is the founder and CEO of Lombi.com: a new startup on the Polish FinTech scene. With a Law degree and her own legal practice on the one hand, and years of activity on the financial market on the other, she is now venturing into FinTech with a clear vision of how to promote financial inclusion.
As the President of the Board at a prominent capital and investment group, she seems uniquely positioned to answer some of the toughest questions many FinTech founders have to ask themselves at some point.
I’ve had the pleasure to Ask Her AnyFin…
How to get product-market fit right (and not lose your soul)?
Adam Pogorzelski: You’ve just launched a FinTech startup called Lombi. You emphasize that Lombi is a response to an inefficient financial market, but what does it mean exactly?
Urszula Mścichowska-Mazurek: Lombi.com is definitely a revolution, not only in Poland, but also on the European financial market. For the first time ever, we provide customers with money they don’t have to give back. In short, it’s non-refundable cash with home delivery. Could there be a better service?
Today, the customer has to go through an embarrassing scoring process and risk assessment, submit various documents and certificates. We want to revolutionize the market.
In exchange for items left in deposit, Lombi provides cash with home delivery to everyone: rich or poor, with creditworthiness or not.
We don’t judge a person—only objects.
Lombi delivers cash in return for more or less needed items, which we collect free of charge from the customer. Lombi doesn’t judge a person—only objects. This makes a huge difference. It is the customer who decides whether to return the money and recover the object or to extend the refund period. And clients can do it as many times as they want—or not give the money back, and then nothing happens.
The client is not assessed, does not incur liabilities and will never be subject to debt collection.
For the first time in history, it is not the bank, but the customer who makes all decisions.
People are the most important to us. As our claim says: “Lombi—you are all that counts”. It is a one-of-a-kind solution on the Polish and European market and, I dare say, also worldwide.
AP: I’m wondering what’s the role of technology in this process. You are talking about home cash delivery in exchange for objects. The customer basically doesn’t have to go anywhere, but cash has to be delivered home somehow and objects have to be physically collected. What’s happening on the technological side?
UMM: Of course, Lombi.com is primarily a technology company. We use artificial intelligence, deep machine learning and blockchain technology.
Using the application on the website, the customer will be able to log in, select a few items, take three photos and upload them to the platform. Items are then assessed by our team: we send feedback and grant a given amount of money in return for the item left in deposit. Home cash delivery takes place physically through a network of our own representatives or through the cooperating courier companies. Our website and the dedicated application provide answers to all practical questions.
Cold analysis or warm heart? How to balance values in business?
AP: I suppose you’ve asked yourself this question more than once: why start a new business? On the other hand: what’s the best time to launch? Was it a matter of cold market analysis? Or maybe some circumstances made you think: this is what we need to do and now is the time to do it.
UMM: Lombi.com was born out of the growing difficulties in obtaining traditional financing, both on the Polish market and in most European countries.
Why start a new business? In this case, it’s very important to me that I can do something meaningful for others. The financial industry is rarely perceived that way. Of course, Lombi is an enterprise, not a charity—but so very different from other companies operating in the market.
Many people think that financial companies prey on their clients, but that’s not true and Lombi is a perfect example.
It’s very important to me that I can do something meaningful for others.
AP: That’s an interesting approach. I suspect it’s based on a specific business model with such an “empathic” approach to customers. On the other hand, every company has to be solvent. How to balance that? Do you ever worry that it might be impossible to maintain a business model that is not 100% focused on profitability?
UMM: This innovative solution responds perfectly to the needs of the customers and the market.
Lombi.com is an answer to current troubles on the financial market and to the economic struggles of many customers.
It might come as a surprise, but such a financial model actually benefits the company as well.
How to deal with the gender gap in financial technology?
AP: My next question isn’t about finances, but rather about parities. According to the Innovate Finance 2019 report on Venture Capital Investment, only 17% of all finance and technology companies have been founded by women. Why such disproportion in this sector?
UMM: That’s an interesting question and I think I have an equally interesting answer.
Yes, the gender gap is real. Technology, innovation and finance are mainly associated with male activity. But the world is changing: women are more and more active in business. At least, that’s what it looks like in my business environment.
Women have all it takes to develop a business or introduce groundbreaking financial solutions:
creativity, analytical thinking, precision, consistency, attention to detail and highly developed empathy, as well as the ability to recognize people’s needs.
Why are only 17% of all FinTechs founded by women? Why don’t we rather ask: how many of these female-founded FinTechs have succeeded? In my opinion, there are more of them compared to successful FinTechs founded only by men. It might be a good idea to look at this issue from this perspective and compare the success rate of these FinTechs: companies founded by women versus companies run only by men.
AP: You’ve touched upon an important topic. Namely, that technology and financial indicators aren’t the only values in business. In other interviews, you’ve emphasized that emotions, empathy and social impact are equally important. How exactly do they help? Men would often state quite the opposite: emotions and empathy interfere with business.
UMM: I think we can’t generalize and look in the same way at every business or service.
In the case of Lombi, I am confident to say that empathy has a big impact on the company’s success. Mostly because we interact directly with the client. Our salaries depend on clients’ interest in our service. The company wouldn’t exist without the customers. We must be open to people and their expectations. We need the right approach and that’s what makes empathy so important.
By stepping into our clients’ shoes we can come up with the right solution. You cannot distance yourself and rely on numbers alone. Without understanding the client, this business will simply fail.
What’s the competitive advantage of advanced technology?
AP: The theme of technology returns in the next question. Could technology itself become a competitive advantage in this type of service? Do you think that technology and digital maturity are important factors, ensuring the success of a given project? Or are they secondary?
UMM: Our FinTech, Lombi.com, is primarily a technology company. Advanced technology is our ticket to the European and even global markets. Lombi.com has at least a European outreach by design.
That’s why we have to rely on artificial intelligence, deep machine learning and blockchain technology. They are the solutions of tomorrow and we can’t ignore that fact. We have to move with the times and keep pace with new developments.
Only thanks to such technologies as AI, ML and blockchain we can significantly reduce costs and influence the User Experience.
Without technology, we are not able to provide our service the way we plan, which is on the European and global arena.
How to build trust in digital financial services?
AP: Many people approach all financial services with prejudice. In this case, there is also the technological aspect. Even minor mistakes can make the user lose confidence in the service. This is a big risk in the FinTech industry. How are you planning to build trust among your potential customers?
UMM: I believe that the service is so thoughtful and addresses the needs of customers and the market so well, that it inspires trust by definition. Web applications and digital tools are only intended to support the User Experience. The solution itself should be simple, intuitive and easy to follow; it’s supposed to guide the user through the application step by step.
Despite this technological environment, the client still feels the support of the company. Trust is built-in; the solution is so straightforward that there’s no reason to anticipate issues or feel threatened by the company.
The system based on deep machine learning is constantly evolving and immediately reacts to any difficulties experienced by the users.
This approach reinforces and restores trust.
Secondly, we are a capital group with a few hundred employees. We have experience in providing financial services offered in the door-to-door model. Our organisation is mature, with market credibility built over the years and our communication policy is focused on customer care. We wanted to incorporate our collective experience into the solutions offered by Lombi.
AP: What about the notion of trust or partnership in business? Lombi is a completely new venture with a clear leader. But building a startup is hardly a one-man or one-woman job.
UMM: That’s true, business partners who can support you with experience and knowledge are essential. I’d even go a step further and say that the right choice of partners is more important than the idea itself.
What’s the use of a brilliant idea or an innovative business model if partners can’t get along?
Business partners who can support you with experience and knowledge are essential.
It also helps when business partners have different competences. It definitely facilitates cooperation and business development.
We have no problem with that in our company. We’ve been working together for years now and our team copes well with difficulties. We always support each other and use our various experiences in the financial and legal industry. This way, we’ve been able to develop such a great and innovative product, and start a company like Lombi.
AP: What more could you wish for, then? What else is on the horizon?
Urszula Mścichowska-Mazurek: I wish I would never lose sight of what’s the most important: the person on the other side. Then we will be able to move forward and achieve all our goals.
Adam Pogorzelski: May it come true! Thank you for all your answers and a great conversation.
Ask Me AnyFin: your peer-to-peer insights platform
Feeling intrigued to check out Lombi.com and its new FinTech app? That’s what Ask Me AnyFin is also about: inspiring curiosity, sharing stories from the trenches, reaching like-minded FinTech professional and shedding more light on real-life challenges. If you’re a founder, an innovator or a disruptor with a FinTech story to tell—let me know and join the conversation.