Toms Jurjevs, the founder and CEO of Sun Finance, Europe’s second fastest-growing company, says using Sun Finance’s user-friendly lending platform is easier than finding a date on Tinder. At 21, Toms started out as the Regional Manager for a European fintech giant, but today he runs one of Europe’s leading lending platforms. Together with his team, he has designed a lending platform that successfully operates in eight countries across three continents, with plans to conquer the rest.
You are the founder of Europe’s currently second fastest growing company. How did it all begin?
It all started when I got in touch with my coursemate Emīls Latkovskis, asking him to come on board my endeavor. We built our team by approaching the people we trusted and set up Sun Finance in 2017, a Latvia-based financial technology company that runs an online and mobile lending platform.
Since the moment we launched our operations in Latvia, we knew we would pursue global expansion. We had designed a refined service with a key focus on technology and user experience. Soon after inception, we launched operations in Denmark, followed by Poland, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Vietnam and Sweden. That’s how a partnership of two evolved into the second fastest-growing company in Europe.
How does Sun Finance decide which markets to penetrate?
Every market which our company decides to enter represents a strategic choice based on detailed analysis. When it comes to entering new markets, one single approach is not feasible. Before making the move, we research the prospective market thoroughly to see how it aligns with our company goals as well as capitalize on our previous experience.
What happens next?
There is always a way to be smarter than local players by applying the international group-wide know-how and taking away a substantial market share from the competitors. When we set sail for Vietnam or Mexico, countries with a culture very different from that of Europe, we went on to recruit business development managers. Their job was to travel around the two states and explore their potential. These managers examined what could be achieved in each market, looked at the country’s legal and political environment, and analyzed the level of competition there. This allowed us to make forecasts for development and growth, and implement our matrix growth strategy. Sun Finance expands both geographically and product-wise. If we spot a low-hanging fruit, we pick it as quickly as possible.
Being Europe’s second fastest-growing company, what is your competitive edge when entering a new market?
Tech plays a major role. To date, we have invested more than ten million euros in our IT systems. We have developed a cutting-edge, data-driven customer risk assessment system that allows us to assess a client’s creditworthiness and loan term. These calculations include a great number of variables that are processed using data science models. They result in a customer’s credit score. This approach has proved efficient and effective, and we use it across all our markets.
Perhaps I may be seen as old-fashioned, but I do think that it is more important to stay lean and think business first rather than pursue fast growth and expansion. Keep bureaucracy to its necessary minimum. Spend every euro as if it were your last.
Fintech is seeing rapid growth around the world these days. How do you manage to stay ahead of the competition?
First, unlike other industry players we are more willing to give a chance to people who show the right attitude and potential—a CV does not tell the whole story. As a result, we have quite a few very young executive-level managers and other professionals. The average age at our companies is 31. We also want the essential people in the company to feel like partners rather than just employees, therefore we provide them with share options to give them a sense of company ownership.
Second, all our software is developed in-house and uses the latest technology. It is designed to be super scalable and adaptable to different geographies and products on our platform. And, with every next launch, the technology advances, so we always keep our products up to date.
As for many Fintechs, our business is based on a user-friendly service that drives the company’s growth and success. We have made applying for and receiving a loan hassle-free and as easy as possible.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business?
Covid-19 has increasingly forced people of all age groups to turn to online services and products. Once you go online, you do not go offline anymore because you realize it is simpler, easier, more convenient, and, overall, a better experience.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we were quite aware of the fact that consumer habits would shift, and people would use our services differently and to different ends. Yet, the shift in consumer habits has not had an impact on our returns—our clients have been very responsible with their financial planning during the pandemic.
Apart from the many challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic, it has also accelerated the shift from cash payments to digital solutions. That is why Sun Finance, and fintech at large, is becoming more and more relevant in the financial services market.
We see that Fintechs have been more agile than traditional financial institutions, especially in circumstances when people are required to stay at home; they start looking for remote tools. Therefore, those companies that have been fast at adapting to the new reality have simultaneously found a steppingstone for development. New solutions are being developed as we speak to replace the services that cannot keep up with the latest market trends.
What are Sun Finance’s most recent achievements and what lies ahead?
In the past four years, Sun Finance has experienced consistent growth. In 2017, our first year, we disbursed loans totaling 35 million euros, yet today we disburse more than that in a month. As a result, this summer Sun Finance reached a significant milestone of 1 billion euros issued in loans. What’s more, we reached this at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is where our employees deserve much of the credit for constantly striving to do more and do better. Yet, we do not intend to rest on our laurels, our medium-term goal is to become one of the strongest unicorns in Europe. We aim to appear on our potential investors’ radar as Europe’s leading online and mobile lenders.
For more information, visit: https://sunfinance.group/