Sector leaders series: Meet Lina Žemaitytė-Kirkman
Rockit is a place where great Fintech and sustainability ideas are not only born, but also tested. A dynamic community brings entrepreneurs, disruptors and decision makers together to create a better future one project at a time. It’s a real pleasure to interview Lina Žemaitytė-Kirkman, head of „Rockit“ today, because this month the community is celebrating its four-year birthday as well as four-year achievements.
What are the biggest and most important achievements of our country, the Vilnius fintech ecosystem, from a local and global point of view?
Lithuania has made remarkable strides in the fields of fintech and anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CTF) in recent years. With its global ranking among the top 10 fintech countries and a flourishing digital technology industry, the country has established itself as a key player in the fintech landscape. Vilnius, the capital city, stands out as the largest Fintech HUB in Europe, evident from the number of licenses issued. This achievement showcases Lithuania’s vibrant and supportive ecosystem for fintech ventures.
Additionally, Lithuania aspires to house the new EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA), solidifying its position as a center of excellence for preventing money laundering in Europe. These achievements make Lithuania an attractive destination for fintech ventures, underscoring its commitment to regulatory excellence.
The Bank of Lithuania also deserves a special mention, as it has taken the lead in developing fintech solutions for capital markets, with a particular focus on crowdfunding, wealthtech, and green finance. This proactive approach highlights Lithuania’s dedication to fostering cutting-edge financial technologies and promoting sustainable finance initiatives. We are glad to see that the local regulator’s progressive initiatives have been recognized abroad as well – the financial market development promoted by the Bank of Lithuania and the Newcomer Programme have won the prestigious Global Impact Award at the 2023 FinTech RegTech Global Awards.
What makes our fintech ecosystem better than other countries or megacities?
Definitely the close-knit ecosystem: the Lithuanian fintech community actively seeks partnerships within, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing. The relationship between local regulator and the ecosystem players is something other European ecosystems envy Lithuania.
What is the size of our fintech ecosystem in numerical terms of companies and employees, what is its growth in a few years and what is its contribution to the state budget?
Lithuania’s fintech ecosystem is deeply integrated into the country’s economy, with indicators like wages, taxes, and investment size reflecting its importance. The community is gaining recognition and leading the way in the European Union and global markets, offering promising prospects for significant achievements and investments.
The Fintech Landscape in Lithuania 2022-23 Report from Invest Lithuania notes an 80% increase in the income generated from all licensed Lithuanian fintechs’ banking activities in H1 2022 over the same period in 2021, reaching €375 million. This was up 26 times on H1 2018, with the top ten highest-growth fintechs posting increases in revenue of more than 100%. The year also saw one of Lithuania’s biggest ever Series A rounds – kevin., which raised €61.6 million. In addition, the report reveals that 263 fintech companies are now domiciled in Lithuania employing 7,000 people – a 19% increase over 2021.
Fintech companies in Lithuania managed to secure a considerable total of EUR 67.9 million in funding last year, up a 3.5% compared with 2021. What is also worth mentioning that Lithuanian based payment fintech’s serve 10% of Europe’s population. It is a big achievement for a small country.
Vilnius, challenging the big European cities, claims to become the home of AMLA. What are the benefits of invoking AMLA?
According to the Basel AML Index, Lithuania ranks 8th among the most compliant nations in terms of protecting against money laundering and terrorist financing. Lithuania’s consistent high rankings in the field of anti-money laundering (AML) are not a mere coincidence. It is a collective achievement driven by the collaboration of various sectors, including banking, fintech, and others, all working together towards a shared objective of combating financial crime..
One very big advantage of our fintech ecosystem is the cooperation between different parties Both private and public institutions work together and have close collaboration. That is not always the case in other European countries. For example, The Centre of Excellence in Anti-Money Laundering (AML Centre of Excellence) was founded by the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Lithuania, the Bank of Lithuania, and several commercial banks. I think AMLA would arrive into the effectively set up ecosystem and could use the already existing best practices.
And of course, the city’s infrastructure is great too – from proximity of the airport to the work-life balance. Having lived in London for 8 years I cannot stop praising Vilnius and it’s lifestyle.
The “Rockit” team is a frequent participant of European and global conferences and events. Three key things, how do you present Vilnius, Lithuania to foreign investors, potential business partners, collaborators of ideas?
As Fintech and Sustainable innovation hub we are pleased to promote Vilnius and Lithuania as an excellent destination for partnerships with major financial players and investors in the Nordic and Baltic regions. With its thriving fintech ecosystem, Lithuania actively seeks to establish sustainable relationships with other fintech hubs across Europe. The country’s regulator is known for its friendly and accessible approach, making it easier for new players to enter the market and contribute to the economy. This collaborative environment, combined with Lithuania’s focus on sustainability and innovation, creates an ideal platform for fostering partnerships and driving growth in the fintech industry.
What questions do you usually get from potential investors, what are their expectations for Lithuania, Vilnius?
Investors commonly ask about Lithuania’s regulatory perspective and fintech strategy, the startup portfolio in the country’s ecosystem, acceleration programs available, and the level of communication within the fintech ecosystem. They seek insights into the regulatory framework, government support for innovation, the diversity and maturity of startups, available support programs, and the collaborative environment. Addressing these questions allows Lithuania to showcase its regulatory compliance, strategic vision, talented startups, supportive programs, and strong ecosystem, making it an appealing investment destination in fintech.
What is currently happening in the startup, fintech, Vilnius TechFusion ecosystem? What to expect from this next year?
Lithuania’s fintech market is gaining prominence as more companies expand globally, elevating the country’s profile in the industry. A recent study examined the perspectives of industry players on emerging fintech trends and identified open banking, instant payments, embedded finance, and digital currencies as the most promising segments this year. The rise of green finance, with several Lithuanian fintech neobanks already offering environmentally friendly products, such as carbon footprint tracking, and automatic offsetting of purchases also gains a momentum. The growth of this sector will be further propelled by supportive policies.
The Fintech Guidelines in Lithuania focus on key pillars, including attracting foreign fintech leaders to establish a presence, creating favorable conditions for product expansion and client acquisition, enhancing global recognition of the Lithuanian fintech sector, building fintech competencies, and strengthening risk management procedures to increase operational maturity. These efforts contribute to the overall development and success of the fintech ecosystem in Lithuania.
What has been achieved, where do you see a breakthrough and what are you planning for the 5th year of “Rockit”?
We are happy to have been a part of Lithuania’s fintech success story all these years. As the market matures our goal is to continue being the facilitator of ecosystem.
Also, we place significant emphasis on forging external and international partnerships with major players in the industry. The goal is to establish collaborative relationships with larger fintech and sustainability entities and institutions from around the Nordics, Baltics and the rest of the Europe. In addition, Lithuania is dedicated to enhancing the visibility and awareness of its fintech ecosystem beyond its borders. This involves us as well and we are actively promoting the country’s fintech achievements, capabilities, and opportunities to attract international attention and investment.
Furthermore, we seek to establish strong partnerships with other hubs across Europe, fostering a network of collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and innovation. These strategic initiatives aim to position Lithuania as a global fintech leader and foster mutual growth and success within the broader European fintech landscape.
Thank you for the interview and once again Happy Birthday to “Rockit” team!