Banking on Success in Berlin
FinTech expert Jörg Diewald from unicorn Solaris in an interview on what makes Berlin special for the finance sector.
Berlin Partner interviewed Jörg Diewald, Chief Commercial Officer at Solaris. Solaris is one of the FinTech unicorns based in Berlin.
Solaris Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Jörg Diewald – © Solaris Group
1. Jörg, describe your company in a few sentences.
Solaris is Europe’s leading embedded finance platform. Solaris’ proprietary modular B2B tech stack and scalable licensing system empowers its partners – from large global non-financial companies to innovative fintechs – to offer unique, customer-centric financial services. Founded in 2015, Solaris pioneered the Banking-as-a-Service market with an unparalleled combination of tech and banking services. Today, the company employs more than 800 people at ten locations in Europe and India.
2. How has Berlin’s thriving FinTech landscape influenced the beginnings and growth of your company?
Berlin is the central startup and tech hub in Germany. Solaris was founded here as part of the finleap ecosystem and was able to benefit from the city’s established founder and investor network, especially in our early days. Access to international top talent was also crucial for the successful development of our platform. We have grown with the city and the fintech scene and have thus contributed to making Berlin one of the most important fintech hubs in the world today.
3. What specific aspects of the Berlin FinTech scene do you consider particularly conducive to your company’s success? What do you feel is lacking in Berlin’s FinTech ecosystem?
Berlin is a vibrant city and attracts top talent from all over the world. Engineers, marketeers, but also bankers feel at home here. We have grown up as a scene, built innovative and sustainable business models, but now need to show how attractive our companies are to international investors. This requires a different approach of positioning and advertising our ecosystem, which will also lead to attracting more later stage growth capital.
4. Are there specific initiatives or programs that your company has launched to attract and retain talent in Berlin?
While headquartered in Berlin, we are a truly inclusive and international company with Solarians from over 70 different nations. To attract top talent, we embrace a remote-friendly approach while our teams use our office locations as a destination of choice for collaboration.
5. Could you provide some examples of how your company has benefited from emerging technological advancements in Berlin (such as AI or Blockchain)?
As one of the first companies to receive a preliminary custody license from [the regulator] BaFin, we were not only able to follow the exciting development of blockchain up close, but also empower some of the crypto pioneers on our platform. Berlin has its finger on the pulse of the times, especially when it comes to innovative technologies and their applicability. We are currently experiencing something similar with AI. Here, too, our teams are already experimenting with exciting solutions. “Berlin’s special feature, and certainly its greatest strength, is that it is not a classic financial metropolis, but a tech powerhouse …”
6. How would you assess the Berlin location compared to other global locations where your company operates?
With offices in the major fintech hubs across Europe, we are able to benefit from the strength of the fintech ecosystems in each country. Berlin's special feature, and certainly its greatest strength, is that it is not a classic financial metropolis, but a tech powerhouse and a melting pot for all industries and their respective stakeholders. The synergies here are truly unique.
7. Are there specific challenges associated with operating your company in Berlin, and how have you overcome them?
Sometimes we miss the old Berlin-Tegel Airport. Many of our employees choose to move to Berlin and use our office locations. One of the challenges they all face is finding affordable housing in Berlin to embrace this beautiful city. Our remote-friendly approach offers the opportunity to work from outside Berlin, opening up a wider range of opportunities for our employees. However, the bureaucracy is very challenging too, for example when it comes to the simplest administrative procedures such as a new ID card. This can be very stressful for new employees.
8. To what extent has Berlin's culture and ecosystem influenced your company's corporate culture and innovation strategies?
Berlin breathes the spirit of tomorrow. New movements and trends were and are being created in this city by the unique mix of people that meet here. Solaris brings together engineers, marketeers, and bankers that all feel at home here. Being open to different perspectives, finding new approaches and learning with one another creates a special mindset. There are no limits to creativity in our teams at Solaris.
9. Are there specific projects or initiatives that your company plans to implement in Berlin in the near future to continue leading in FinTech innovation?
At an early stage we started thinking of how to make an impact and a difference beyond our core business. For this purpose we created our NPB (Nature, People, Business) framework, which is our own take on ESG. In that context we also have employee network initiatives of which Futura is our most prominent one. It is dedicated to closing the gender gap in the fintech industry and was launched two years ago. We are extremely proud of this initiative as it tackles one of the biggest challenges in our industry and has made a significant impact on our company already.
Thank you, Jörg.
Source: Berlin Partner, the Economic Development Agency for Berlin