The chairman of the Ukrainian Association of Fintech and Innovation Companies (UAFIC) has expressed hope that fintech companies from his country “will change the world” after the end of the war.
Rostyslav Dyuk delivered a keynote address during the inaugural Global Government Fintech Lab – which brought together senior public servants exploring the opportunities created by fintech – on 1 June in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia.
“It’s impossible to be ready for a war. Ukraine is now heard all over the world but unfortunately the reason for this is very sad,” Dyuk said via a video broadcast from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
There were about 100 Ukrainian fintech companies in existence in 2018, a number that had more than doubled by 2021. “In the past four years Ukraine has developed a healthy fintech ecosystem and I hope that, after the war, Ukrainian fintechs will change the world,” Dyuk said.
As Moscow’s invasion nears its 100th day, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said this week that one fifth of his country’s territory had been seized by Russian troops.
Fintech companies were facing all sorts of challenges, Dyuk said, including losing staff to Ukraine’s war effort and having to relocate to ‘safer parts’ of the country – “if it’s possible to find a more safe region in Ukraine”.
Fintech’s ‘transformational’ potential
UAFIC exists to advocate for fintech-friendly legislation, promote collaboration inside and beyond the country and promote fintech skills and talent. Dyuk mentioned RegTech (regulatory compliance), digital lending, blockchain and payments as among the fields in which Ukraine was strong.
Fintech, Dyuk said, had the potential to “transform” the economy by improving productivity and helping to “secure more and better-paid” jobs. But acknowledged that it would take “years” to rebuild the country after the war. “Creative thinkers” would, he said, need “freedom and opportunities to dream big”.
Dyuk also highlighted the ‘Fintech Challenge for Ukraine’, an EU-supported hackathon launched a fortnight ago to develop technological solutions that will ‘enable access to and provision of everyday services to Ukrainians and help the country’s recovery’.
The hackathon, which is being organised by UAFIC alongside the European Digital Finance Association – with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (DG Fisma) providing finance – is inviting the private-sector and individuals from any location worldwide to create solutions that will: ‘provide timely multi-sectoral assistance to refugees, displaced and non-displaced persons’; ‘enable companies [with] the provision of everyday services’; and ‘help in the recovery of a resilient and modern country’. Participants are asked to focus on challenges including financial and payment services, insurance, DeFi (decentralised finance) and web3; ‘social resilience and the fight against disinformation’; and cybersecurity.
Workshops to generate and refine ideas will be held from 8-10 June, with members of Ukraine’s public administration due to be involved. The hackathon ‘proper’ will take place from 17-26 June. A concluding hybrid event will then be held in Brussels, with the best idea winning EUR 10,000 (about £8,500).
Seeking to support Ukraine
“We were very keen to incorporate Ukraine into our agenda for the first Global Government Fintech Lab, and are very grateful to Rostyslav and his colleagues in Ukraine,” said Global Government Fintech editor Ian Hall, who introduced Dyuk’s video message on stage in Estonia and urged the Lab’s attendees to promote the hackathon.
The EU’s financial services commissioner, Mairead McGuinness, spoke at an online event to launch the Ukraine hackathon on 16 May. Setting the context of the high-level actions the 27-member bloc has taken since Russia’s invasion such as sanctions, as well as the provision of military and humanitarian support to Ukraine, she described the hackathon as a “smaller and less immediately obvious” way that the EU could help.
“The fintech revolution has demonstrated that there are so many creative minds seeking technological solutions to all sorts of problems in the world, and that’s true too in Ukraine,” McGuinness said at the event.
Ukraine’s minister of social policy Maryna Lazebna and National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) deputy governor Oleksii Shaban, as well as Dyuk, were among further speakers at the 16 May event.
Lazebna said that Ukraine’s progress at digitising welfare payments prior to Russia’s invasion had stood the country in good stead given the challenge of distributing payments by non-digital means. She also highlighted how digital money transfers had enabled people worldwide to send money to Ukrainians. Shaban, meanwhile, highlighted the resilience of Ukraine’s banking system. “This may sound like a miracle, but the Ukrainian banking system is operating in a ‘business-as-usual’ mode,” he said. “About 78 per cent of bank branches are open today. The NBU and banks are doing all they can to save clients’ deposits, make uninterrupted payments and support the economy. The digital banking infrastructure continues to work smoothly.”
Estonia’s finance minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus delivered the opening keynote of the Global Government Fintech Lab.
Further information about the Lab can be found on the Global Government Fintech Lab webpage.
Watch Rostyslav Dyuk’s address to the Global Government Fintech Lab here (4min 45sec) =>
Fintech Challenge for Ukraine’ hackathon kicks off – our news story (16 May 2022) reporting the launch of the Ukraine hackathon