Iván Muck, Co-founder & CEO at ff.next tells us how the fintech company is helping youngsters gain financial knowledge.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Iván Muck: Fortunately, everyone in our closer environment is healthy and safe. Despite COVID-19, our operations also remained stable, and we can ensure our continuous revenues by providing our end-to-end services for our partners. Furthermore, our mobile-first, end-to-end remote lending and onboarding solution, Flint is having momentum due to the global pandemic too.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ff.next.
Iván Muck: I’m a 27-year-old entrepreneur, the CEO and Co-founder of ff.next, the startup we founded in May 2017. My vision – and the reason we founded the company – is to help youngsters gain financial knowledge and thus help to develop a society with better financial consciousness that eventually results in a stronger economy.
I have been working as a Fintech Analyst at a global management consulting firm before realizing I can have more impact on the financial education and thus lives of youngsters and their families and co-founded our fintech startup. As a former CEMS MIM student, I studied in Hungary, Germany, and Austria and gained experiences in the field of education & the special needs of Gen Z while volunteering at a Hungarian NGO for 5 years.
Regarding our company, not a single act or event, but several different impulses and experiences led to the foundation of ff.next. Two of our founders worked at a global management consulting firm as Fintech Analysts, where they got to know the fascinating world of fintech. We recognized that youth banking as such is a poorly covered segment and that there are very few design-driven retail banking solutions on the market.
At the same time, several of our colleagues volunteered in a non-profit organization aimed at preparing high-school students for their final exams. They had seen how severe the lack of financial consciousness amongst youngsters was and that this issue originated from the deficiencies of the educational system.
Also, 400 thousand Hungarian families were affected by the global financial crisis & foreign currency loan crisis in Hungary, in which many of our families were involved. We felt the urge to make a difference on all these terrains by founding our own company focusing on the financial education of youngsters and their families.
We believe that taking control over your finances is a lifetime of work and starting to learn about financial literacy and how to manage your money is vital from a young age. In order to increase the financial consciousness of youngsters, they must be involved in financial services early on, which require digital solutions, interfaces, and in the end – applications that can be used easily and intuitively.
We are revolutionizing financial education and providing the appropriate tools, platforms, and eventually the right customer experience to younger customers by helping financial institutions serve their true needs.
How does ff.next innovate?
Iván Muck: We are a diverse team bringing different interests and expertise to the table. However, we all agree on one thing: every member of ff.next is dedicated to creating design-driven and youth-centred solutions for the mutual joy and benefit of our clients and the end-users at the same time.
Design thinking is in our veins, and we consider ourselves as serial-workshoppers. Our UX-focused approach enables us to help financial innovators speak the same language younger customers do.
We have developed significant domain knowledge: we became experts of GenZ and millennials in terms of their needs and rapidly changing tendencies. We continuously conduct extensive research with the help of our own research panel, a local non-profit organization teaching high-school students.
We empathize with huge financial institutions since we have been through banking procurement as well as IT security processes; therefore, we know what it requires to adopt new solutions to the already existing infrastructure.
This is the reason why we serve our customers the way it is suitable for them, considering the needs of all other stakeholders at the same time. We also provide high-level flexibility in terms of customization; we work closely together with our partners when delivering them the perfect solutions.
Our expert design team is capable of establishing a unique and unmistakable visual language for your brand, from custom illustration to the whole image.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Iván Muck: As our customers include fintech startups as well as large financial institutions, it is worth dividing the issue of our turnover into two parts.
In the case of our current projects, implemented in cooperation with fintech startups, our partners have established companies with stable capital that are no longer in the initial phase, so they are not significantly affected by the crisis. We also consider the situation as an opportunity in their case, as the pandemic can also have an accelerating effect on the product development strategies of these companies.
In the case of banks, of course, we had to count on the decline in the number of innovative projects, but we are confident that our products and services can help them even in this difficult situation. Such a digital solution could be, for example, our end-to-end, mobile-first e-sales product, Flint, which we created together with Lippert Software & Consulting.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Iván Muck: We are extremely grateful for what we achieved last year despite the global pandemic and some adrenaline-charged moments. Throughout 2020 we have doubled our revenues from ‘19, after a 10x increase from ‘18, reached profitability, and worked with 20+ clients ranging from large financial institutions to fast-growing fintech challengers.
Since our focus is on digital solutions, the pandemic generally had a positive effect on the demand for our products and services; therefore, we did not have to make difficult choices regarding human resources; furthermore, we even hired some new colleagues throughout 2020.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Iván Muck: We adapted to the needs of each and every one of our partners. In some cases, we could work fully remotely with our clients, but for the convenience of our more traditional partners, we were also happy to apply a hybrid model, in which we worked with a few of our colleagues on site.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Iván Muck: We applied for and fortunately received support from the Hungarian government for financing the wages of our colleagues working in the area of research and development. Furthermore, we also won several grants for transforming our end-to-end, mobile-first banking e-sales solution, Flint, and optimizing it to SME lending too. This was a great opportunity since several SMEs are fighting liquidity problems due to the pandemic, so our solution really can help them get the necessary funds to continue operating.
Your final thoughts?
Iván Muck: We look very much forward to the end of the pandemic to finally meet our colleagues in person and eat and drink something together with them.