Challenged from nowhere

Some time ago, futurists started talking about strong institutions being challenged by disrupters from nowhere. They said media outlets, banks and multinational corporations, like large hotel chains, would all come under fire. I’m a future-looking person, but I don’t think many of us expected such rapid change.

The change was fast, and now we have media houses without journalists, hotel chains without hotel rooms and start-up digital banks. The organizations like Facebook, Airbnb and fintech start-ups were all shaped by the digital era and challenge many of the traditional ideals of how business is run. It’s fascinating, and democratic, how people who lack platforms can build such large institutions. At the same time, it can be a bit scary reading about fake news spreading on Facebook and about Airbnb guests finding hidden cameras in the room they are renting. Failing fintech start-ups are another unwelcome by-product of this digital revolution. It’s not that it’s all doom and gloom, it’s just usually a bit messy in the beginning when new services lack clear frameworks. It will get better.

The media and the entertainment industry are more used to changes now, but banks are still considered stereotypically traditional. However banks also suffered political pressure when the new payment directive, PSD2, was introduced last year. Banks no longer have a monopoly on their customers' payment services and account information. Companies and clients may allow third-party operators to use their data while the money remains in their bank accounts, and in this way, banks are further challenged by fintech companies.

Nordic cradle of fintechs

As in many other contexts of digital development, the Nordic countries are mature. Easy access to IT skills and consumers who are keen on the latest technology are contributing reasons. There’s also strong collaboration between governments, regulators, financial institutions and businesses. Large Nordic banks know they must collaborate if they are to gain competitive advantage in the new era, and you see banks arranging hackathons and inviting fintechs in.

I have experienced two major things in financial terms in Sweden: less cash and Swish.

Sweden is set to become the first cashless country, so bring your card if you come over. No card? No problem, because Swish is at your service. It’s a mobile payment system that both consumers and businesses can use. I have read that up to 6.9 million Swedes were using the system at the start of 2019. Keep in mind that Swish was introduced by the larger banks, meaning it’s more an innovative solution from the incumbent rather than a fintech start-up. Now Swish is among the first mobile payment systems in the world with the majority of the country’s population as users.

Fintech in the true sense is represented by companies like Pleo, Mash, Payr and Klarna. Danish Pleo was founded in 2015 and offers a new, more flexible way to manage company expenses. Today, more than 3,500 companies use the service. Helsinki-based Mash was founded in 2007 to provide advanced proprietary algorithms, machine learning capabilities and an automated platform for finance and payment solutions for e-commerce businesses, both in Finland and internationally. Norwegian Payr was founded in 2016 and is developing innovative banking services for both consumers and businesses. Founded in 2005, Stockholm-based Klarna has the aim to make online shopping easier. They made it so easy that Klarna has evolved to one of Europe’s largest banks with 60 million customers across 130,000 merchants in 14 countries.

Although Orange comes from a background of being a traditional telecom operator, we are also a disruptor, providing payment and banking services to our customers in Africa and now Europe. This comes back to my thought about people lacking a platform. There are many countries in Africa where people don’t have access to banking services, but now hundreds of millions use mobile banking services, such as Orange Money, to send and receive money and to do businesses using their phones.

Things like this make me optimistic about the future. And while we tackle challenges, such as fake news, we also fulfill people's dreams, whether it’s about starting a media blog, operating a hotel business or selling handicrafts with mobile payment.

Simon Ranyard
Simon Ranyard

Simon Ranyard is Managing Director for Nordics, UK and Ireland at Orange Business and is based in London, England. With 20 years' experience in ICT in sales functions, Simon is driving a revenue growth plan by focusing on the innovative services that Orange can bring to its customers and on continuously improving the way we work with them.

In his spare time, Simon is a keen cricket fan and enjoys supporting youth development in the game.