Cryptocurrency adoption is on the rise. The European fintech market is strong and given that Europe is a global leader in the development of both financial institutions and financial markets, it is only natural that it is the birthplace of fintechs. In recent years, the trend of including financial processing in various product offerings as an add-on service is a common practice that has gained considerable momentum. This trend has been called Embedded Finance and the advent of blockchain and decentralised financial services has only strengthened its rise.
Cryptocurrencies have become an asset class with a market cap of over $2 trillion to its name. This growth was primarily driven by the active adoption of cryptocurrencies across the world. Yet, despite growing adoption, the gap between crypto and fiat worlds is still far from closing.
We recently spoke with Petr Kozyakov about his personal journey in the payments industry and about the growing cryptocurrency sector. Petr is the co-founder and CEO of Mercuryo, a cryptocurrency infrastructure company providing a range of payment solutions to accelerate growth and boost the revenue of businesses worldwide. We especially looked at embedded crypto solutions for the fintech market and how to launch crypto operations in a fast manner. So, if your fintech company needs inspiration and guidance towards integrating crypto solutions into your product portfolio, you should be reading this.
Hello Petr, we are very happy to have a chat with you today. Could you please give us a brief overview about your personal journey and how you became a founding member and CEO of Mercuryo?
The first time I came into contact with cryptocurrencies was because of an issue I had with making a payment. At the time I was trying to send payment for advertising services from Asia to the United States and no efficient options were available at the time. So I decided to try and make a payment in Bitcoin – the transfer went smoothly and the overall experience proved to be very fortuitous.
Later, in 2017, as the crypto boom was taking place, myself, Greg and Alexander (fellow co-founders of Mercuryo) received a lot of questions from different parties about how to buy crypto and whether we could provide them with a solution for that. Since we are experts in online payments, we decided to give it a go and actually built a service that would help people get access to crypto with relative ease.
Following that decision, it occurred to us that, from a strategic viewpoint, this was a major opportunity to bridge fiat and crypto worlds and bring them together. That’s how Mercuryo as it is known today began.
Mercuryo is based in London, England. What is your opinion on the environment for creating fintech companies there?
The UK is a very healthy environment for fintech companies, and I’d go as far to say that globally it is one of the leading countries in this landscape. This is not only due to an openness for collaboration, knowledge sharing and a healthy regulatory environment, but also London’s long history within financial services which makes for such a cultivating environment. There is a seeming openness from consumers to the idea of giving new entrants to the market a chance, as well as healthy competition, and expectations of seamless customer experience set the bar high for fintech businesses.
It’s also rare to see agile and disruptive startups setting up ‘home’ right next to tech giants like Google. And, quite frequently, they are not only neighbours, but business partners too, learning from each other. It’s exciting to see this combination of global tech players and new startup fintechs working together, innovating and adapting for the good of consumers.
Could you tell us what Mercuryo’s core mission is and what crypto solutions it could bring to the fintech industry?
Fast and efficient international payments are greatly needed today, with many companies developing solutions in this direction. At Mercuryo, we take a somewhat different approach – we use crypto as a tool for putting in motion next-generation cross-border transfers. Our team believes that cryptocurrencies hold great potential for revolutionizing finance and payments by enabling cheap and straightforward transactions. And we have a clear plan on how to make crypto universally available.
First of all, we work with crypto projects that require fiat solutions. On this front we began with offering an opportunity to buy cryptocurrencies with bank cards. Then we also provided the ability to sell crypto and have the money sent to any VISA or Mastercard card. After that we built a solution for crypto companies that enabled them to accept payments via traditional debit and credit cards. And there are still more services that we plan to add in the future.
Another major field that we pay attention to is crypto for businesses that operate in traditional finance. Here we are working on embedded solutions for launching crypto-related services that fiat companies can make use of. By introducing such solutions a fintech company can provide its clients with the ability to buy/sell/deposit/withdraw cryptocurrencies – all within the framework of the company’s interface.
There’s been a lot of talks about Embedded Finance and Blockchain and what they represent for the future of digitized economies. What would be three core components of financial services that businesses could leverage?
The trend of including financial processing in various product offerings as a by-service is a common practice that has been gaining considerable momentum in recent years. And the advent of blockchain technology and decentralized financial services has only empowered this trend further.
What makes Embedded Finance exciting from a fintech perspective is not only the possibility of developing creative solutions to various problems but also the availability of new, modular technology that acts as the foundation for those solutions.
The practice of embedded finance allows businesses to leverage three core components of financial services with better value offerings:
- The first is the transfer of value in space, which means that companies with embedded finance solutions gain value by becoming more convenient for their clients. By providing an all-in-one seamless customer experience these companies position themselves as attractive shopping venues, which gives them better chances to gain and retain customers.
- The second is the transfer of value in time, which means that companies with embedded solutions save time for their clients by allowing them to conduct financial operations on the spot, without having to resort to third parties. Likewise, the business is able to retain value over time by providing ongoing convenience to their customers.
- The third is risk management, with a businesses’ customers having a degree of confidence in the embedded finance system after consistent use, trusting it to complete the transaction.
The main challenge faced by companies and other institutions is the integration of crypto services. What kind of issues would embedded crypto solutions solve and how are you supporting your clients in the implementation of the main steps at Mercuryo?
One of the greatest values of Mercuryo’s solution stems from the reality that a company would need to solve a long list of problems before it can launch crypto services on its platform. It would have to determine how to onboard clients, conduct KYC processes, obtain licenses, store the crypto that it takes custody of, etc. Companies that come to Mercuryo can gain access to our wallet through an API service that we offer, thus allowing them to provide crypto services without having to worry about various technical details – since we take care of that on our side. Our solution can be used by both fiat and crypto companies, and its modular nature means that businesses can choose themselves which of our products and solutions they wish to integrate.
As digital services become omnipresent in our day-to-day life, cyber threats have also been growing in recent years. What is your approach when it comes to risk management for cyber threats and/or scammers?
From the very beginning of Mercuryo, we started working on our own anti-fraud system, as we understood that buying crypto with bank cards would be an all too good of an instrument for fraudsters to pass up. Today our system can analyse more than 200 parameters in real time, including blockchain data for every transaction. We’ve managed to build a state-of-the-art security system that acts as the basis for all our internal monitoring and the foundation upon which we build our services.
Mercuryo hosts a talented team of 100+ staff. How do you make sure to attract the best people?
I am not just extremely proud of the business we have created, but of the people behind our business. Without them, I do not believe we would have flourished in the way that we have. You’ll regularly see employees of Mercuryo featuring in our blog content and in our LinkedIn content as well, sharing their expertise and giving glimpses of behind the scenes at Mercuryo. From this content and insight, we regularly have candidates getting in touch to enquire about open roles at Mercuryo and I genuinely believe that’s because people connect with other people, not just with a brand.
Alongside this relatively organic growth, our in-house talent team also spends a great deal of time sourcing and speaking to candidates as our business scales. Fostering a healthy company culture is extremely important to us, so we spend a lot of time getting to know potential candidates during interview stages too. We’re not solely interested in professional experience and expertise, but whether there is the right cultural fit between a potential employee and our business.
What are the key crypto trends we should be watching out for in the future?
First of all, the launch of the first CBDC (“central bank digital currency“) seems to be the most realistic expectation for the next several years. To my mind, the first to achieve a full-scale launch like that will be China’s digital yuan.
Another thing to look out for is settlements in stablecoins for large companies. To give an example, not too long ago VISA announced that it will support transactions in USDC on its payments network. By 2022 we will likely hear more news from the company about broadening their operations in this direction.
The launch of the first embedded crypto solutions for fiat companies is also something that we are looking forward to. Right now, there aren’t that many projects that help crypto establish connections with fiat, but this is going to change. In fact, I’m certain that this innovation is going to be among the biggest in the crypto field in the foreseeable future.
What are the main lessons you have learned as an entrepreneur and founder of a cryptocurrency infrastructure company and what would be your advice for young entrepreneurs looking to get started in this industry?
If you find an experience as a consumer to be unpleasant or simply inadequate, then don’t be afraid to look for a solution (or, potentially, invent one yourself). This is why myself and my co-founders launched Mercuryo, after we tried unsuccessfully to transfer fiat currency internationally. The money either simply wouldn’t arrive or would take days at a time to transfer. We then explored trying to transfer the funds using cryptocurrency instead of fiat, and whilst the process wasn’t perfect back then, it transferred immediately.
My advice would be to listen and act upon those light bulb moments, and those gut feelings that tell you there’s a better way or a better solution. Then find the technology or the right partner you need to make it work. Network, read and engage with people who share the same passion as you and don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way – you will learn and develop through them.