In an age defined by rapid technological advancement, the future of banking lies in the hands of those who embrace digital transformation. The global financial landscape, together with the one across the CEE, has been undergoing a seismic shift during the past decade, driven first and foremost by an increasingly tech-savvy customer base.
Having this in mind, startups are emerging as the torchbearers of a change that traditional banks can’t afford to ignore.
From mobile-first approach and personalized banking to open banking, APIs, and neobanking – these are just some of the solutions that fintech startups have been bringing to the table and changing how banking services are done – prompting banks and financial institutions to adopt these changes.
According to a recent report by CEE Legal Matters on banking and finance law, digitalization is among the top priorities for the banking sectors in countries such as Bulgaria and Romania.
For Kamen Bankovski, founding member of Bulgarian VC fund Vitosha Venture Partners, banks have recently been under heavy fire from the increased competition by tech innovation, incumbent startups, and changing customer expectations.
“Although currently in a decline, fintech has been one of the most funded industries by venture capital for the past quite a few years. That capital euphoria has brought about huge leaps of innovation in the industry and has pushed banks to explore new technologies such as AI, blockchain, and data science to improve their operations, product offering, and customer experience,” Bankovski tells The Recursive.
According to Steliana Moraru, COO of OTP Leasing Romania, such developments mean that banks aren’t just competing against them anymore, prompting many of them to accelerate digital information processes through the help of such startups.
“Banks aren’t anymore competing just against themselves, but actually we have competitors from many domains – fintechs are the challengers, neobanks are the challengers. Then you have software companies and tech companies that provide a certain kind of experience for our clients and they now actually expect that experience. It doesn’t matter that we have financial services, because the clients expect a certain type of interaction with us – easiness, paperless, access to applications, self-services and so on,” Moraru tells The Recursive.
In this article, we showcase 20+ CEE startups that are aiding banks in their digital transformation, while also highlighting the urgent need for traditional banks to evolve and adapt to the new digital realm.
Omnichannel digital products
Founders: Ioan Jacob, Serban Chiricescu
Solution: FLOWX.AI is an enterprise platform helping banks and other financial institutions transform customer and employee experiences into omnichannel digital apps faster, easier, more affordable and through a smooth integration of existing legacy systems.
In May this year, the Romanian company raised $35M in a Series A round, dubbed as the largest one in the country’s startup ecosystem.
Founders: Teodor Blidarus, Sergiu Negut
Solution: Romania-founded FintechOS platform simplifies and accelerates the launching, servicing, and expansion of financial products and services, helping businesses recognize value up to 5 to 10 times sooner than with other approaches.
With FintechOS, companies can get up and running with new financial solutions in as little as 12 weeks. The company connects with any ecosystem tech or service, financial and non-financial, and can plug anywhere in the tech stack.
In 2021, the company closed a $60M Series B round, and has so far raised more than $90M in investments.
Founders: Daniel Nicolescu, Sebastian Ionita
Solution: Symphopay is a payment platform acting as a digital layer on top of bank systems, helping merchants and banks to integrate and use payments as a business tool to create customer engagement while optimizing the costs. Founded in 2015, the Romanian startup has raised a total of €1.9M in funding over 3 rounds.
Country: North Macedonia
Founders: Dime Galapchev, Ivica Atanasovski, Igor Madzov
Solution: FinqUP is a North Macedonia-based startup that offers a SaaS financial solution for banks, investment and insurance funds that are looking to embrace digital transformation. Founded in 2021, FinqUP seeks to bridge the gap between traditional fund management practices and the use of digital technologies, by offering services such as personalized platforms for presenting, buying, and monitoring insurance policies, or one-click purchase option for a travel insurance policy before a big trip.
The startup has raised over €100K so far, from investors such as Vitosha Venture Partners.
Name: NF Innova
Founders: Vasa Segrt
Solution: NF Innova is a software development and digital transformation company that focuses on digital banking. Founded in 2015, the Serbian company offers an omnichannel banking solution based on the company’s four-pillar business model consisting of Digital Branch, Dual Brand, White Label Banking and Partner Ecosystem, providing solutions for companies looking to adapt to the digital world.
Founders: Dobromir Piekarski
Solution: Finantequ is a Polish software and consulting company focused on mobile finance. The company provides mobile solutions as well as ready to integrate add-on platforms and components for mobile channels.
The Polish company has provided solutions for international banking groups like Santander, Unicredit, Raiffeisen, National Bank of Kuwait, Danske Bank and mBank.
Founders: Sorina Bera
Solution: Allevo provides software solutions that help banks, companies, microfinance and public administration process financial transactions and achieve compliance. The open source distribution model enables lower TCO, end-to-end interoperability and operational risk containment.
The Romanian company builds applications for financial institutions that offer payments and transactions, automate flows, and offer compliance with regulatory and industry standards.
Solution: CIF is a Serbia-based solution that provides risk management and compliance solutions to banks, ministries of finance, supervisory agencies, insurance companies, pension and investment funds companies.
The Serbian company also offers risk consulting services which includes internal capital assessment, credit rating, allocation of collateral, data gap analysis, regulatory compliance gap analysis, and financial risk management for non-financial enterprises.
Founders: Maciej Krasowski, Joanna Mamczur, Tomasz Cichowicz
Solution: Fizen is a one-stop-shop financial integrator that develops open banking technology for retailers, companies, and corporate accounts. Fizen connects bank APIs and external service providers. Last year, the Polish startup raised a €250K pre-seed round led by LT Capital.
Founders: Cosmin Cosma, Danut Covalciuc, Dumitru Taraianu
Solution: Finqware provides open banking API solutions for banks and financial institutions. It enables the integration of financial products into existing retail products. With Finqware’s solution, enterprises can get updates from across multiple bank accounts with insights through custom-built data enhancers. Founded in 2018, the company has so far raised over €3.2M in investments.
Founders: Kostas Siabanis, Megaklis Vasilakis, Jef Stals
Solution: Wysely provides open banking solutions for banks and financial institutions. The solution enables credit risk management, customer onboarding, and more. Wysely’s machine learning algorithms produce risk insights and rank customers into risk categories, and also provides solutions to leasing companies, real estate and proptechs, and more.
Name: Iris Solutions
Founders: Mihael Mihaylov, Galya Dimitrova, Merdihan Ismailov
Solution: Iris Solutions is a payment institution that offers open banking solutions and services. The Bulgarian company’s solutions such as IMOHUB and Digital Print provide a secure and accessible environment for the business and clients. Founded in 2018, it has attracted over €500K in investments.
Founders: Dritan Mollanji, Elias Vouteris
Solution: OpenPay is an Albania-based fintech startup that is developing a QR payment ecosystem that allows customers to pay by a mobile app at one end and merchants to accept low-cost payments at the other end. The method is also beneficial for banks, as it allows them to save a lot of costs and offer such payment methods to their clients.
Founders: Raul Popa
Solution: The Romanian startup uses typing biometrics technology to recognize people based on their typing patterns. The technology is used for various use cases such as CEA (Continuous Endpoint Authentication), 2FA/MFA, SCA, risk-based authentication, fraud detection, and identity verification. Founded in 2016, Typing DNA has so far raised more than $8M over 5 funding rounds.
Name: Viva Wallet
Founders: Haris Karonis, Makis Antypas, Panos Tsakos
Solution: Greek neobank Viva Wallet provides payment processing solutions to European SME merchants.
The neobank offers businesses acceptance of 24 payment methods, allowing them to create business accounts with local IBAN, and issue a debit card. The cloud-based neobank had developed its own POS application, advanced e-commerce payment systems, and add-on Google play devices.
At the end of 2022, U.S. bank JP Morgan Chase acquired a 49% stake in Viva Wallet, turning the Greek neobank into a unicorn.
Name: Resistant AI
Country: Czech Republic
Founders: Jan Jusko, Jan Stiborek, Josef Stach, Karel Bartoš, Martin Grill, Martin Rehak, Martin Vejman, Tomáš Laube
Solution: Resistant AI is a Czech startup that provides AI-enabled KYC and AML solutions for financial institutions. The solution protects automated decisions against online fraud, while also providing fraud detection for documents including invoices, payroll slips, bank statements, KYC documents, and more.
After closing a $16M Series A round in 2021, the company expanded into areas such as InsurTech and Crypto trading, announcing a partnership with a leading company in the financial crime risk data and detection technology sector.
Founders: Alex Migitko, Miloš Milovanović, Miroslav Minović, Uroš Šošević
Solution: Blinking is a Serbian startup that provides KYC (know your customer) solutions for banks and financial institutions. Its solution features customer onboarding, identification & verification, biometric authentication, transaction monitoring, and more.
A software development company with a focus and expertise in building and developing digital identity, identity verification, and user data protection. Blinking aims to develop practical software solutions for digital identity management and protecting personal user data.
Country: Czech Republic
Founders: Krystof Hilar, Michal Tresner, Tomáš Strýček
Solution: ThreatMark is a fraud prevention service provider delivering real-time client recognition solutions, enabling banks to build completely trusted and safe online banking systems. Founded in 2015, the Czech company has so far raised more than $6.6M in funding.
Cloud-based core banking
Solution: The Croatian fintech provides a cloud-based core banking system that is used by over 10 million people globally.
The Oradian system enables financial institutions to become more efficient, know and control their portfolios and serve more clients, while giving financial institutions access to leading technology without large migration costs.
Founded in 2012, Oradian has raised over $1.8M in investments.
Founders: Dāvis Barons, Matiss Ansviesulis, Patrick Köck
Solution: AvaFin is an online platform for personal loans that assesses applications by analyzing online data and credit intel from traditional sources and utilizes advanced algorithms and machine-learning capabilities to quickly evaluate and score.
The Polish company offers loan products to consumers in markets such as Poland, Spain, Mexico, the Czech Republic, and Latvia.
If we’ve missed anyone that you think should be on this list, give us a shout at [email protected] – we’d love to hear your suggestions!