Serbian fintech surprise
Eastern Europe, Balkan state, ex-Yugoslavia – this is how I described Serbia when talking to people from other continents. Today, ‘Serbia’ has become well known in the closed circle of computer scientists.
As a tech-savvy contractor and cheap developer haven. And just by historical coincidence, as a WHO-approved vaccine catalyst for Russians.
Serbia not only emerges as cheap labor for many wealthy European and American software companies, but also as a nice hub for Russian-speaking crypto and gaming start-ups. Is there anything interesting happening in the local fintech or IT space?
Yeah. You’ll never guess what it is.
Exchange kiosks. You heard me right. Currency exchange is usually done in bank branches, at the cash desk. Well, not here. Here in Serbia, foreign currency exchange or ‘menjacnice’ is done by trading companies that have taken more duties on themselves than you might think.
In these places you can exchange currency, send a money transfer to another person locally or abroad, buy a gift card, place a sports bet, withdraw money from your card (instead of ATM), collect gold, pay utilities, taxes, fines, tuition, get a loan, open a wallet, etc. What what do supermarkets do for people in latin americaWhere great apps in Asia, here surprisingly enough — currency exchange operators.
What happened with the banks, you ask me. Local banks are as simple as it gets, with most not even having standard mobile apps. The ones that won’t let you indulge. No money transfer to another person’s card or phone number, minus a variety of utility bill payments. Don’t dream of analytics or lifestyle features that spoil people in other countries.
Local credit cards may be limited for online purchases, especially in marketplaces and international services. Even though ApplePay and Google Pay are quite popular, cash is still the main means of payment for Serbs. So progress finds its way, hiding in the strangest places.
We think that Western European neobanks, like Revolut, are coming soon. It seems even more interesting to know that Serbian companies and skilled IT people are moving en masse to Western Europe – to the UK, Germany, Portugal, to create IT start-ups and neo-banks there. But not within their own country. This is the common fate of the small countries of Eastern Europe. Being too small to attract international companies. Too different to be consumed by America’s global tech giants. Too weak to possess everything. Too desirable for talents to have them stolen.
To be frank, over the past couple of years a flood of foreign IT companies has poured in, boosting the market and paving the way for local competitors: Russian Yandex.Taxi, Finland’s Wolt and Spain’s Glovo, to name a few. to name a few. So maybe things are looking up?
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What the Money is a lifestyle channel about fintech, e-commerce, business and innovation by Anna Kuzmina, CBDO at 131. From Russia. With love. Follow Anna on Medium, Telegram или на VC.ru.