As part of our Forbes 30 Under 30 Finance interview series, ARYZE spoke with Simão Cruz to discuss Portugal Fintech, rising trends in the fintech sector, and the importance of collaboration to close the gaps within the industry.
Portugal Fintech is a community designed to foster inter-communication and collaboration between different players of the fintech ecosystem. Their ultimate goal is to “close the gaps” in the financial industry and help fintechs to flourish in Portugal and beyond. The organisation was founded in 2017, when fintech startups were struggling to grow in Portugal due to a lack of contact between important stakeholders such as established banks, insurance companies, and the general public. Simão Cruz wanted to help change that, so he co-founded Portugal Fintech:
There were a lot of people that came together to create Portugal Fintech. They came from different backgrounds, from venture capital, legal, consulting, entrepreneurship – all these many areas with the aim of creating this non profit association totally focused on helping startups grow.
Today, Portugal Fintech helps startups to 1) access talent, 2) build relationships and partnerships with incumbents, 3) determine the best capital streams and 4) navigate the regulatory seas. In short, Portugal Fintech enables startups to access the resources necessary to grow and thrive.
Cruz himself, who is only 24 years old and studied management, has always been interested in entrepreneurship and innovative tech. He first got involved with fintech at BiG, a prominent Portuguese investment and savings bank. His work for BiG involved researching the best practices of leading banks and fintechs, and from there he began working closely with startups.
Cruz believes the best way to build successful fintechs is to foster contact between different players in the financial industry, creating a seamless integration process for startups. In order to create a physical space for this to happen, Portugal Fintech has built the ‘Fintech House’:
The Fintech House was a big step for us. We’re trying to bring the entire ecosystem to this five-floor historical building in the center of Lisbon. Not only does it have over thirty startups in our over one-hundred and seventy seats, but also the entire ecosystem around it. So, we have players like Visa, various banking representatives, Accenture on the consulting side, all the cloud infrastructure providers like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and so on. We are trying to put them into the same space at the same time working to develop better solutions.
According to Cruz, these silos within the financial sector are not the only areas that need improvement, which has led to several new trends within the sector. Simão believes that as the industry becomes more modular, it becomes easier for individual companies to build solutions for niche demands. New fintechs are also building products tailored to largely untapped markets; Cruz cites Africa as an example of a previously underserved area that is increasingly being addressed by fintech. Social responsibility is another rising trend, where responsible investments are flourishing and many fintechs are working towards solving big-scale environmental and human rights issues. Finally, data driven fintechs, and those which work to replace outdated digital infrastructures, are also proliferating.
With so much knowledge within his field, it is no wonder that Simão Cruz is a member of Forbes Europe’s 30 under 30 for Finance 2020. Cruz seems to feel that his young age is irrelevant compared to his values, goals and work ethic – although he acknowledges that it does provide a fresh perspective:
I think it’s pretty good to see younger people tackling these issues – and I would say that for any area, not only fintech. Fortunately [my age] has not been a problem in that process of listening really closely, seeing what is needed, trying to implement those things and consequently bringing value to the ecosystem. I think there can’t be many barriers to that and that’s what we should keep doing.
In the future, Cruz says that Portugal Fintech is working to transition their growing network online. They are already creating a virtual membership platform and a learning portal with the goal of expanding into a more and more international network of fintech stakeholders. To learn more about Portugal Fintech and Simão Cruz, please visit their website and connect with him on LinkedIn. For more insights into the future of finance, please visit ARYZE’s blog and website.