The Madrid Capital FinTech Cluster (MAD FinTech) has recognised, for the fifth year, the 10 most outstanding FinTech companies on the national scene for their innovations, new launches and contribution to boosting the FinTech sector, with the selective TopTen FinTech 2021. According to Salvador Molina, president of MAD FinTech, these are “ten absolutely solid entities to have as a reference for anyone who wants to look at how this disruption is evolving”:
The awards ceremony took place at CaixaForum Madrid on 17 March and Carlos San Basilio, Secretary General of the Treasury and International Finance, was the special guest to present the trophies to the TopTen FinTech 2021.
Representatives, founders, managers and CEOs of these FinTechs attended the proclamation ceremony, where they collected their accreditation trophies and discussed their main challenges for 2021. Among them were Jorge Guillamet, commercial director of Aplazame; Roberto Ceruelo, CEO of BilliB; Alfonso Sáinz de Baranda, business development director of Bnext; Giorgio Semenzato, co-founder and CEO of Finizens; Benjami Puigdevall, CEO of Imagin; Pablo Casals, Sales Director at October España; Aiyana Moorhead, Country Manager Spain at Pleo; Carles Marcos, Country Manager Spain at Qonto; Luis Castillo, CEO of SeniorsLeading; and Antonio Cantalapiedra, co-founder and CEO of Woonivers.
Challenges and opportunities
The assembled executives agreed on the growth opportunities for the digital sector that the crisis is generating, although the negative side is the lack of recovery in essential sectors for the economy, as highlighted by Roberto Ceruelo (BilliB), and the lack of a legal framework in Spain that would allow these businesses to develop quickly and efficiently. “In Spain, public administrations are in shock and we do not see that they are going to make the necessary changes to ensure that this demand will be served, and not under-served,” said Antonio Cantalapiedra (Woonivers).
Despite these difficulties, two of the Top Ten FinTech 2021 companies have entered Spain during this turbulent period. They are Pleo and Qonto, who emphasised that “there is a large market of young and experienced people very willing to work”, explained Aiyana Moorhead (Pleo), in a country “with very good talent and with the capacity of an economy based on SMEs and the self-employed”, in the words of Carles Marcos (Qonto), who, on the other hand, highlighted the weaknesses of the bureaucracy to create a company, as well as the view from the outside of a lack of efficiency and little capacity to innovate, He highlighted as weak points the bureaucracy involved in setting up a company, as well as the external view of a lack of efficiency and a scarce capacity to innovate (of the latter he pointed out that “I believe that this is quite the opposite”), but Spain “is more focused on the small, while in other countries the economy and business structure helps to grow”.
If there is one thing that characterises Spain, it is its rapid adoption of these financial technologies, as Alfonso Sáinz de Baranda (Bnext) pointed out when he acknowledged that during this year of crisis they had noticed how the use of digital payments had increased, although it continues to coexist with cash. Hence, Jorge Guillamet (Aplazame) announced the upcoming launch of a virtual card in the Aplazame app, which will make it possible to pay at any merchant with it, whether or not they are associated with the Aplazame platform.
Companies are moving to continue to respond to a demand for new uses while “banking is still in a process of transformation”, as Giorgio Semenzato (Finizens) stated. This opens up a window of opportunity for banking-FinTech collaboration, especially for these startups, which “by mentality and culture” tend to be fast and flexible, as Pablo Casals (October) explained.
Sometimes, the bank itself launches itself into the market with a FinTech born in-house, as CaixaBank has done with Imagin, which has gone from being a neobank to a more complex platform. “It is no longer a mobile banking platform but a lifestyle platform”, with leisure experiences and “a financial service that has gone from being the focus to just another part of the value proposition”, said Benjami Puigdevall (Imagin). A digital model in which services are hybridised to offer a potential that goes beyond the financial. And a phenomenon that knows no age, as demonstrated by Luis Castillo (SeniorsLeading), whose FinTech focuses on seniors: the over-65s with an estimated spending capacity of 15 trillion euros worldwide by 2021, 3.5 million of them in Europe. “The silver economy is the new FinTech territory,” he said.
Sandbox and public-private partnerships
The trophies to these innovative FinTech companies were presented by Carlos San Basilio, Secretary General of the Treasury and International Finance, who acknowledged that “we have an unfinished business” when it comes to facilitating the creation of companies in Spain. “Governments are repeatedly trying to implement strategies to facilitate the creation of companies and their growth, and to get out of the micro-SME universe, which is a differential factor, but is not necessarily the best,” he said, and announced a public consultation to focus on these issues.
San Basilio took the opportunity to highlight the role that the Sandbox will play in the concrete development of the Financial and FinTech sector. The projects – out of the 67 submitted – that will enter the first round will be announced in May and will serve to pave the way for a regulated environment in which the government intends to “support the private sector” to develop technology-based products and services that serve user demand.
Streaming of the proclamation
The event was streamed on Youtube, and you can re-watch the ceremony from this recording.