Roman Itskovich, Vp Of Financial Products At Ebury
Roman Itskovich, VP of Financial Products at Ebury

What is Ebury’s mission statement?

Ebury, the global business finance specialist, is empowering the SME sector to trade smarter with the world, giving smaller businesses the negotiating muscle they need to maximise profits and perform like major corporates.

Global trade is the catalyst for economic growth in London both today and tomorrow.

Accounting for over 99% of all private UK businesses, small firms are critical to the Government’s ambitions to double the country’s exports to £1trillion by 2020.

By 2016, over half of SMEs expect to be exporting their goods and services around the world. Yet, as we begin to trade with the wider world, the complexity in doing so increases. Research shows that British businesses lose up to £10billion a year by failing to manage market volatility on their overseas transactions.

Many SME importers and exporters would benefit from greater financial firepower and expertise, which is usually only afforded to big businesses and has long been kept beyond their reach.

Banks are still not servicing Britain’s smaller firms properly because they view them as less profitable. The rates that they offer the SME sector are often prohibitive, and their services remain too slow and cumbersome for nimble businesses that are seeking to take advantage of new opportunities.

This is where Ebury comes in. Ebury works with over 3,000 business and organisations across Europe, providing them with greater, and faster, access to finance, while helping them to manage currency risk and strategically plan their approach to overseas payments.

Ebury has now loaned more than £5million across Europe and has traded £6bn in foreign exchange over the past three years. From offices in London, Madrid and Amsterdam, Ebury can process transactions in more than 120 currencies – quickly and easily through a managed service.

We want to make global trade as simple, safe and, ultimately, accessible for SMEs around the world.

Where are you headquartered?

Ebury’s HQ is in London, right next to Victoria. We also have offices in Spain and in the Netherlands.

Being headquartered in London has some very tangible benefits for a rapidly growing FinTech company, such as Ebury. London now stands as one of the world’s major financial hubs, and as the home to Tech City and the likes of Google Campus, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the city has become such an epicentre of FinTech as well. Its standing is certainly helped by brilliant transport links with Europe and the wider world.

A further benefit for us stems from the fact that there is a great appetite for change and innovation within the city’s business and financial communities, so in terms of Ebury’s future growth, the opportunities are endless.

Recruiting the world-leading talent is a real priority for Ebury. While there is little doubt that London’s universities continue to lead the way in terms of turning out the innovators of tomorrow, the key challenge that Ebury faces is sourcing first-class talent fast enough. There is stiff competition for talent within London’s fintech sector and when you’re growing as quickly as we are this can be problematic at times.

Who do you think will be the most influential figures (or companies) in FinTech, in 2015?

I think we will see TransferWise becoming bolder in terms of product development following its latest funding round. I think we’ll also see a stronger push from companies such as Funding Circle, Market Invoice and ourselves within the SME lending space, which should speed up UK business growth.

We’ll also start to see a greater impact from Bitcoin-related companies on the back of the Chancellor’s review of this industry – we may even see some banks integrating digital currency this year into their services.

Finally, we should see investment in the FinTexh community increase, with the number of FinTech programmes, such as the Barclay’s accelerator, StartupBootcamp and Techstarts, continuing to expand. I’m sure we’ll also see a number of interesting new offerings coming out of these programmes.

What kind of year do you foresee for your company, and the industry as a whole?

2015 is going to be the year that FinTech comes of age.

With £342 million having been invested in UK FinTech companies alone in the past year and with investment in FinTech having tripled around the world between 2008 and 2013, 2015 is the year when the impact of that investment will really start to pay off.

We foresee the same future for Ebury, which has seen phenomenal growth over the past six years, having loaned more than £5million across Europe and having traded £6bn in foreign exchange over the past three years.

However, with more small businesses than ever seeking out international trade opportunities and with the FinTech industry now entering the mainstream, 2015 should be a particularly significant year for us. I fully expect to see SME exports increase by at least one fifth in the UK over the coming year, with the need and demand for services like ours growing simultaneously.

What are your key targets for 2015?

At Ebury, our ambition is to empower businesses to trade smarter with the world. We have already experienced significant success in achieving this throughout London, Spain and the Netherlands. Over the coming year, we hope to cement this success, while exploring further opportunities for growth.

With regards to product development, our aim has always been to make smart global trade accessible to small business leaders. As such, we are investing heavily this year in simplifying our products further from technology and financial perspectives, with a view to making it even easier for the businesses that we work with to trade and transact with the world.

What will be the most important opportunities for FinTech in 2015?

Global trade is the catalyst for economic growth both today and tomorrow. This widely accepted truth fuels Britain’s determination to close the gap in its persistent trade deficit.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the British Government is looking to double the country’s exports to £1trillion by 2020. However, with British businesses still losing up to £10billion through market volatility on their overseas transactions, I believe that global trade offers one of the biggest opportunities for growth and new innovation in 2015.

Beyond international trade, I think Bitcoin will drive a number of new and exciting offers in terms of payment technology this year. I am particularly interested to see is whether we will start to see some of the banks integrating digital currency into their services this year.

Finally, I believe that the insurance industry, which has yet to be fully digitally disrupted, will offer up some great opportunities this year. I am certain that we will see an increase in the number of big insurance firms that are plugging their expertise (and funding) into the start-up community. If managed properly this is potentially good news for the insurance sector. Entrepreneurs looking to disrupt a sector will often face barriers that are hard to overcome and mentoring from larger firms can make a significant difference when an industry is seeking to innovate further.

What are the key hurdles for growing your business this year?

Talent, talent, talent!

Finding the talent we need is a constant hurdle for us. We are expanding and so does our need for people – but the right people with specialised knowledge. The UK is becoming a magnet for talent however the rate of our growth makes recruitment a constant drive. Perhaps we shouldn’t complain – it is a great problem to have! We want to make sure we offer, and continue to offer, the highest quality of service to all our clients and having the right staff is inherent to this.

What are your thoughts on the current state of FinTech?

If 2014 was the year that FinTech became ‘a thing’, 2015 will be the year that it goes mainstream.

In the UK, FinTech has dominated the media and business agenda over the past 12 months – perhaps a little unsurprising for an industry believed to be worth £20 billion in annual revenues, but nonetheless, FinTech is in a very exciting place right now. With investment into the sector at its peak, there is plenty of room for further growth, innovation and development over the coming year.

(image credit: Ebury)

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