Shift4 Payments Lithuania CEO Tadas Vizgirda: I can safely say that Vilnius is unrivalled in the fintech sector
The financial technology sector of Vilnius is renowned worldwide. It is home to a wide range of companies offering a variety of financial solutions to consumers, from traditional banking services to instant transfers and payment systems – all developed in the capital of Lithuania.
According to the 2022 data of the Vilnius TechFusion business ecosystem, 326 financial sector companies are operating in the capital of Lithuania, employing almost 5 000 people. The sector is growing annually: since 2021, the number of companies has increased by 39 per cent and the number of employees has grown by 17 per cent. The average salary of employees in the sector is over EUR 3 000 before tax.
Shift4 Payments Lithuania, a US-owned company, is a great example of this growth: after hiring almost 300 employees in 2023, it now has almost 600 employees. Tadas Vizgirda, CEO of the Vilnius-based company, says that this is not the end of the story, and they plan to expand further in 2024, recruiting another 100 employees.
What was 2023 like for you as the CEO of Shift4 Payments Lithuania and for the company you manage?
I think that when times are good for the company, times are good for the CEO. One of my biggest challenges in recent years has been to grow SHIFT4 in Lithuania. We started to reap the first fruits last year. However, our biggest growth has been this year, when the number of employees grew from 300 to almost 600.
I always thought that growing at such a pace was a huge challenge and expected it to be much more difficult, but we have managed to build a new core of employees by taking advantage of the right circumstances. The shutdown of other companies, rising inflation and impending recession have helped us to release the brake and push harder on the accelerator. The result has been the biggest leap in our company’s history.
However, I would like to stress that growth is easy, but quality growth is much harder to achieve. What helped me to meet this challenge as a manager was the trust of the top managers of our company in the Lithuanian branch. After such a leap, Jared Isaacman, the founder and owner of the company, came to Vilnius to encourage the employees and to hear from me how this has come to reality. To sum up, when you have a lot of trust from the top management and you find yourself in the right circumstances, no challenge is too big.
What are the plans of the company and your attitude for 2024?
I think our growth pace will slow down a bit, but this is normal. We have to take some pauses so that the quality and the culture of the company does not suffer. I would like to point out that it is dangerous to grow at a high pace at the same time, as it can not only destroy the positive environment we have created in the company, but also cause insecurity among employees. Nevertheless, next year we will try to reach 700 employees in the Lithuanian branch. Yet I am not entirely sure about this target, since it depends on what kind of professionals our US managers will be looking for in Lithuania, but at a similar time last year I said that we would recruit around 100 employees in 2023, and we ended up with almost 300.
According to the data of the Vilnius TechFusion ecosystem, the number of talents working in tech companies in Vilnius has grown by 22 per cent (compared to the period of 2020–2022). Do you feel a lack of talent? How do you compete for talent with other companies?
First of all, we should define the concept of competition. Nowadays, competition is no longer about offering double salaries to attract employees. It’s about finding a unique agreement between the two parties concerned.
At Shift4 Payments Lithuania, we don’t promise unrealistic heaps of gold to prospective and current employees, but we do try to listen to what the employees themselves want. During the pandemic, we realised that employees wanted to be shareholders, so we decided to give them shares. They don’t have to buy them back or take out loans to acquire them. As a result, employees are motivated to stay in their jobs and keep an eye on how the company is doing in the market and on the stock exchange. This gives them a certain responsibility, because everybody wants the share price to rise and for both the company and the customers to succeed.
Of course, in addition to this incentive, we also offer other benefits. These include trips to conferences, to our head office in the US, where we give them the opportunity to get to know and explore the country. We also pay large bonuses for a prospective employee they invite to work for the company.
Dan Filby, the leader of AccuSourceHR, a US company that has opened its branch in Vilnius, said that they have chosen our city due to the technological literacy of its workforce. You have worked in and visited many countries around the world. Do you also feel that Vilnius tech talents stand out by technological literacy compared to the US or other countries on the Old Continent?
I think it all depends on where in the world you compare it to. Comparing Lithuania with the US is simply not possible because of the different sizes of the countries, but it would be much easier to compare Vilnius with a major US city. Even though we don’t have programmers from Silicon Valley, looking at the average of major US cities, I would say that I don’t see a big difference in terms of technological literacy. I could even say that Vilnius is definitely better than some US cities. Of course, the fact that the technology workforce here is much younger than in other countries also contributes to the potential of the Lithuanian capital in this area. However, we should not forget that significant investment is needed in order to reach the full potential. Only investment can help employees continue to develop their talent and not to stagnate with the knowledge they have. Looking at the product we are developing, I believe that it allows us to do just that. It makes it easier for our employees to develop and use their various skills in the company.
Could we call Vilnius the hub of investors from all over Europe? If not, what is lacking?
Speaking as the CEO of Shift4 Payments Lithuania, I can safely say that Vilnius is unrivalled in the fintech sector. I’m delighted to see that the Bank of Lithuania and the Government have embarked on a strategy to become the strongest in the sector by creating laws, liberalising the banking system and making the country an attractive location for fintech investments. When there is a good environment for investment, the best programmers and technology specialists automatically concentrate in that place.
Vilnius has all the competences and experience to continue to compete with the major financial hubs around the world.
Speaking as the Chairman of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania, I would note that there are many successful companies not only in fintech, but also in other areas. For example, although we are not a pan-European hub for life sciences, there has been a great progress made, compared to 10 years ago. And these are just a few examples that show that in all strategic sectors we can be proud of the great progress that has been made in the last decade.
You are one of the initiators and organisers of the Foreign Investors Annual Summit. What benefits have these events brought to Vilnius and Lithuania?
This is one of the largest business events in Lithuania, which we have been organising since 2022. Although we had planned to start organising it earlier, the pandemic has adjusted our plans. It is an event where managers and representatives of foreign companies that have invested in Lithuania, foreign investors, decision makers, experts, business owners and government representatives meet and discuss. The goal of this event is to discuss topics that are relevant to business and find solutions to current challenges together.
Not only entrepreneurs, but also Lithuania as a whole benefited from the last event. American entrepreneurs who attended the event returned to the US to share good feedback and state that Lithuania is getting stronger and that they are considering investing here. This has also brought benefit to Lithuanian entrepreneurs who want to expand to the US. They were able to meet their potential partners, learn about the market rules and prepare for it in advance.
You are the long-standing Chairman of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce. What are your achievements?
This year is very important for us, since we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the American Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania, which obliges us even more to grow, improve and meet business needs. I joined 13 years ago as a manager, which is a very important anniversary for me.
The most important part of the Chamber is its members – over 190 today. We estimate that they collectively create more than 43 000 jobs in Lithuania. This is a large part of not only the Lithuanian economy, but also a significant contributor to the Lithuanian GDP. Our main result is long-lasting cooperation with the Lithuanian government, the representatives of the US government and the Embassy in Lithuania. We are the backbone, the essential link between Lithuania and America. I could give an example of the record celebration of the Fourth of July, the US Independence Day, this year, which brought together more than 4 000 participants who cherish and sympathise with American traditions. In the course of our work, we have developed various business missions, working committees, strategies, and we have also been active in a variety of fields. We organise more than 100 business events and industry meetings a year, even though we only have two employees. I am grateful to all the members of the American Chamber of Commerce who contribute not only to the growth of the local business environment but also to the strengthening of bilateral relations.
This year, Vilnius celebrates its 700th anniversary. What would you wish for Vilnius in the short term and what long-term vision do you see for our city?
Vilnius has finally grown up and reached its adolescence. I believe in a very bright future of this city, so the direction I would like to see it take is to strengthen interconnectivity, discover more promising sectors and attract more and more tourists to this great city. I have noticed that when people come to Vilnius for the first time, they often fall in love with it and want to come back. And sometimes people are so impressed with the city that they move to live here.
Get the latest report on Vilnius TechFusion ecosystem here: https://vilniustechfusion.com/en/booklet/