With an impressive career spanning nearly 35 years, Ulrika Valassi has established herself as a recognized figure in the financial industry. In a recent interview, we had the privilege of discussing her career and gathering her perspectives on the future direction of the industry.
From Executive Roles to Board Seats
Valassi's journey began at SEB, where she served for over 20 years in various credit and risk management roles. Her tenure at SEB as Vice President and Head of Credit Administration in New York instilled a deep interest in improving risk and governance. Embracing change as a fundamental element of improvement, she stepped into the Head of Credits role at Landshypotek, a smaller institution. Here, Valassi experienced firsthand the difference you can make in a type of organization where things can move faster and one can experiment more.
Taking her vision forward, she founded her own consultancy to support entrepreneurs, leveraging her extensive knowledge, experience, and network within the financial sector. Having acquired invaluable experience working in companies of various sizes, Valassi expanded her involvement by assuming positions on numerous executive boards. Notably, she ventured into assignments at Hemfosa, Qliro, Intrum, Hypoteket and Dreams Securities, among others. However, a particularly cherished opportunity emerged when her colleague, Alexis Kopylov, extended an invitation to join the board of his new venture, DBT Capital. This innovative company focuses on providing modern and smart financing tailored to SMEs, a cause that resonated deeply with her.
I truly believe Sweden should focus on this area. He told me that he gathered a great board, but was in need of a ‘no-sayer’. Well, I’m not always saying ‘no’, but I always love challenges!
Ulrika initially embarked on her journey with DBT Capital as a member of the board. However, she quickly recognized her longing for the operational side of the business and seized the chance to transition into the role of Head of Risk Management. After rejoining DBT's board, she has since taken a new direction and now serves as an advisor at Insatt Niam Credits and holds executive board roles at Ålandsbanken, Sparbanken Sjuhärad, Insatt Group and Swedencare.
Valassi's alignment with Wellstreet's ethos was evident during her initial interactions with Wellstreet's founding partner, Mikael Wintzell. Her passion for governance, innovation, relationship building, and customer-centricity resonated with Wellstreet's core values. Encouraged by the positive feedback about Wellstreet's track record and reputation from industry peers, Valassi gladly accepted Wintzell's invitation to join the Fintech Board.
I’m excited about the companies that Wellstreet is interested in because I believe that SMEs are the backbone of Sweden. Here, these companies have the best tools to succeed. The ecosystem you built around the portfolio provides ‘enough skin in the game’.
By 'skin in the game,' Valassi refers to the blend of expertise and commitment that encourages stakeholders to invest not just for capital gain, but also out of genuine care for the founders and the industry at large. The Fintech Board is instrumental in the due diligence process, discussing the portfolio's potential and innovative solutions with other industry experts. It presents an excellent opportunity for Wellstreet to assess the founders' commitment and find ways to mitigate risks while increasing potential.
With clear expectations, you are attracted to independent thinking - for the company and the individual, which frees up space for creativity and dynamism. This dynamic, in turn, drives people and companies forward and upwards.
Fintech's Future: A Forward-Thinking Perspective
With the advent of Wellstreet's “Fourth Wave of Fintech”, SMEs have emerged as critical players in the fintech ecosystem. Large corporations often struggle to modernize their legacy infrastructures from within, making the external support of SMEs a viable, time-efficient solution. Recognizing this shift, the broader industry is now paying keen attention to this space.
As the Wellstreet Fintech Fund and its thesis mature, the Fintech Board is prepared to guide portfolio companies through their next steps, be it technological growth, market expansion, or enhancing commercial efficiency. Furthermore, as the fourth wave gathers momentum, it's time to prepare for the innovation curve that will define the next five to ten years. Despite the challenging macro financial market conditions, this is a pivotal opportunity for adaptation and innovation. The Fintech Board serves as an ideal forum for debating and defining the future of fintech.
In closing, Armando Coppola, Partner and Fund Manager, expresses his enthusiasm for Valassi’s addition to the Fintech Board:
It will be interesting to take part in the fintech development process going forward. The Fintech Board will be the perfect space to discuss and nail what should be the ‘Future of Fintech’. It is a privilege and we feel fortunate to have Ulrika Valassi joining us at the table, concludes Partner and Fund Manager Armando Coppola.