“From my point of view, FinTech won’t exist as a stand alone industry…” – Interview with SolarisBanks’ Peter Grosskopff
As CTO, Peter leads the tech team of solarisBank. He’s the former CTO of HitFox Group and software engineering company Zweitag. Peter is experienced in building tech-heavy startups and fintechs.
Tell us about the mission of SolarisBank and why you chose Berlin as your headquarters?
We’re offering a horizontally-integrated Bank as a Platform (BaaP) with the sole purpose of enabling the actual products and services that people want to have. We’re essentially saying to all types of companies, “we’ve done the hard work of getting a banking license so you don’t have to.” If you partner with SolarisBank it’s really simple to enable a financial solution, so come build on our platform and realize your vision.
Berlin is the obvious choice for a tech company for three reasons. First of all, you’re close to all potential partners – from fintechs, to early stage startups and established digital players. Second, we love the inspiring entrepreneurial atmosphere you can only get in Berlin. Since the majority of people at solarisBank are entrepreneurs by heart, we wouldn’t want to build our company elsewhere. Third, as a tech company you need the best developers out there and need to offer them an enticing and enriching environment to work in.
What type of tech problems are you trying to solve at SolarisBank?
We’re helping digital companies invent and build business models in the financial sphere and technology is our enabler. Currently many fintechs and businesses who would like to offer financial services need a banking partner. That partner is often technologically inept and hails from an archaic mindset completely different to that of respective startups or digital businesses. Our goal is therefore straightforward: make a partnership with us as simple as as possible. And since we’re a tech partner with a banking license this has to start with our technology. We’ve built a state of the art API, which means less complexity for the engineers of our partners and a fast, straightforward integration with their systems.
What are significant shifts you have seen in the industry?
The most obvious and well discussed shift is the unbundling of banks. Customers these days are looking for the best financial services out there rather than a specific bank offering financial services. They simply expect the best digital service to be found via Google. Whatever institution offering that solution is no longer a priority. Traditional banks rely on business models which have been around for decades. Banks did not see the relevance of the digitalization of society for quite some time. This is where we come in, we use the business models of traditional banks but offer them on a platform with additional solutions to serve the digital society. This of course is the first step, our medium term goal is to provide services that exist in the current finance world and to make these accessible to digital companies. But we are also doing research on innovative concepts like blockchain because they will disrupt the networks and the way transactions are done in the future.
As the CTO, if you could tackle any technology-solvable challenge existing today, which would it be and why?
I know that this sounds quite practical but it’s true: I’m striving to build a scalable environment in an organizational as well as technical way.
What technologies do you use at SolarisBank?
We are mostly based on pure Ruby as a programming language, pretty independent from frameworks. In addition we use Grape to create APIs. Elixir which is quite a modern programming language and complimentary to Ruby complements the picture. So the idea is basically that whenever Ruby is not suitable, Elixir is a good addition. We have a polyglot mindset and want to create a mix of technologies – if we stick to one language we don’t have innovation inside the tech stack. If you introduce new technologies you increase your speed and agility and you attract the right staff – good developers want to use new technologies and have new challenges, so when you stick with modern tech you also attract good people.
What do you think the future of FinTech looks like 5 years from now?
From my point of view, FinTech won’t exist as a stand alone industry but will be integrated or connected with every business model on the internet. FinTech firms can be part of any company and serve a share of it. There are big opportunities for B2B companies to improve processes and define new products. I think FinTech is a bit of a buzzword, but to be honest it has always been there – for example, banks have been using computers for decades and were basically also just a company serving a service. What might be new and is way more important from our side is the ‘tech’ part of FinTech. Chris Skinner has been using the term “TechFin” as he says the emphasis should be on the tech component which is more important than the financial element and I completely agree with that sentiment.
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