In the spring of 2021, Ola Laurin took a trip to Sollentuna to visit The Factory. The motive for this trip? Curiosity to understand what Wellstreet is doing and why it is exciting. Fast forward to January 2022, and we are welcoming Ola as the newest member of Wellstreet’s Fintech Board. But, let’s back up a bit. You missed out on all the good parts.
The name Ola Laurin will ring bells to anyone who has been following the banking industry in Sweden for the past 21 years. But if you are not acquainted with him and his work, let us introduce Ola the right way.
Ola Laurin - From Swedbank and PayEx to the Fintech Board
Maybe not the most conventional career start for someone who spent 21 years in the banking industry, but Ola Laurin began his professional life as a lieutenant in Swedish Naval Forces in 1994. From the year 2000, when he started working for Swedbank, to 2021, Ola had a chance to meet new challenges through the different roles he held within the banking industry.
Right now, Ola is the CEO of PayEx, a thousand-person payment company with headquarters in Stockholm. But he wasn’t exactly planning on assuming this role. Ola said,
“I was chairman of PayEx, but in December 2021 I was asked if I would like to take over as a CEO, and I just couldn’t say no. Sitting as chairman and suddenly you get an opportunity to lead the company into the next phase is a fantastic opportunity, one cannot pass on.”
With Swedbank owning 100% of PayEx, Ola’s challenge as the CEO is to transform PayEx to become a more fast-moving tech company, and ceasing to be a part of a big banking structure. To this remark, he added,
“I believe my experience being a part of PayEx is very valid for the Fintech Board because I can go in with another perspective - not only as someone who has spent two decades in the big banking structure but also as someone from the payments industry. This will aid us in seeing how we should work with partners in the future in that company. Because historically we, banks, have been developing things ourselves, but that is probably not the future. Some things that are core you will do yourself, others you should try to buy from the Fintech companies that are out there that can help build your customer experience. And ease your customer journey.”
Ola Laurin Joining the Wellstreet Fintech Board
After having left the executive management of Swedbank in early 2021, Ola sought a change of scenery given how his past experiences were tied to the big banking structure. It was time to do something different.
Not planning to go back to an operative job and prior to getting the CEO position at PayEx, Ola dedicated himself to board work and began to engage himself with Wellstreet from the sidelines. Having liked what Wellstreet presented regarding the work that its team has done in the past, and the grandiose plans for the first Fintech fund, sparkled joy. As Ola put it,
“Sitting in the cold old banking structure you see all the challenges that exist within this structure. At the same time, you see the Fintech companies being out there and challenging you in every vertical of your industry. So I thought I should bring my competence to the table because I think that the big banks will be the major purchasers of smaller Fintech companies in the future, but also they will play the role of investors when these companies achieve growth.”
So what is Ola’s goal in joining the Wellstreet Fintech Board?
“I want to contribute by giving the buyers point of view, i.e. the banks, and try to challenge and give a realistic perspective of how the big banks are working all from the backs of the system structure. But also give an insight into as well as how the system structure works in the big banks, which is rather complex. For the new Fintech companies, bank processes can be challenging - there are so many decisions to be taken, and much set up from the legal and compliance perspective.”
If you are wondering what Ola's superpower is, the most correct answer (when it comes to work) would be the experience of working with the corporate institutions and investment banking and the unique B2B perspective he brings to the Fintech Board.
Fintech Industry Moving Forward
We talked to Ola about the future of the Fintech industry. On one hand, he said, the competition within the industry is increasing, with so many bright ideas, some of which will never see the light of the day. Maybe due to the lack of a valid business case, scalability, or the idea is too broad. But one thing holds for certain - entrepreneurs need help to be focused on the right things.
On the other hand, the Fintech industry continues to challenge itself, Ola said. In addition to that, it will also be challenged by the incumbents, as the Fintech companies are on the faster track than the old players (i.e. banks). Ola also added,
“The old players need to reinvent themselves, in order to catch up with the speed that Fintech companies are changing the industry. And I also think that profitability is a challenge for many Fintech companies. As long as you have an equity market that is a bull market and there is so much money out there for financing and doing investments, it is very easy to find the capital you need to continue to develop your ideas. But when the market gets squeezed, there will be challenges around financing.”
The Future of the Fintech Board
“Very excited about the people who are sitting on the board. I believe that we are very complementary to each other with the backgrounds that we have, what we have done, and I already think that we have had a lot of great discussions. But also we are very early in the phase, the portfolio of the Wellstreet Fintech Fund I is not filled yet. There will be many meetings to be had”, he adds with a smile.
As for how being a member of the Fintech Board will challenge him, Ola said that the biggest task ahead is the change of perspective, as until now he was only the late phase investor. Since oftentimes the bank takes the ideas when they are fully flushed and developed.
“Now I need to change my mindset and see what kind of value can that idea replace within the banking structure and if it will actually work. So for me, it is a change of mindset that is necessary.”
Ola will be accompanied by other noteworthy names in the industry, namely Lena Apler (founder of Collector), Carl-Viggo Östlund (ex CEO of SBAB and Nordnet), Erika Eliasson (ex dCEO of Lendify and ex CEO of Goobit), and Kenneth Nilsson (ex CEO of Resurs Bank). Along with them, the board is completed with two Wellstreet representatives, the founder and CEO Mikael Wintzell and the Partner and Fintech Fund Manager Armando Coppola, who is pleased with Ola’s arrival.
Armando says, “Banks and other financial institutions need help to adapt to new market standards and become more efficient. Wellstreet Fintech Board is in the crossroads of these sectors and we are fortunate to have Ola with us, as he will certainly bring an extremely valuable contribution to the conversation.”