“Make Sure That You Plan for the Long Term”

Brite Payments founder Lena Hackelöer says 'fintech is such a loud, exciting industry' and shares insights into building a successful payments company

Lena Hackelöer

Lena Hackelöer is the founder and CEO of Brite Payments, a Stockholm-based fintech company that provides A2A payment processing and merchant services. Lena has over ten years of experience in the financial technology industry, working with some of the world’s most recognised fintech brands such as Klarna and Qliro.

In this interview, Lena talks about her career journey, what led her to start Brite Payments, and what trends she sees in the fintech and payments industry. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Here’s what she had to say:

Lena Hackelöer (Full Q&A Interview)

Q: What inspired you to start Brite Payments?

A: I joined Klarna back in 2010, which was my first introduction to fintech – since then, there has been a huge level of growth in the industry and the space has evolved drastically. Throughout the last twelve years, I have worked across the space, closely monitoring the developments and how businesses have adjusted their offering to suit new customer demands – be that B2B or B2C.

I felt that despite the rapid development of the industry in many areas, there was still a gap. There was still the need for a business that would provide a strong, largescale instant payment offering with an attractive brand positioning for both merchants and consumers. Our tech lead Robert Arnesson, who had already started building what was to become the starting point of our technical infrastructure, shared this vision. It also resonated well with a fund which is powered by Swedish family offices and tech entrepreneurs mostly, and Brite Payments was created.

Q: If there was one piece of wisdom you could share with other executives in the fintech industry, what would it be?

A: I think the most important thing is to make sure that you plan for the long term. In an industry so fast-moving like fintech, it is imperative you make sure that your teams are prepared to adapt to any market volatility or changes that may occur.

The fintech industry is continuously growing, and as easy as it is to focus on a deluge of opportunities that are presented to you in the present, I would suggest taking a step back to consider your long-term plan before jumping onto opportunities too quickly. Many decisions we make are sticky; choosing to develop a new feature or product also means to say no to another, at least for now. This has a long-term impact on how the business is positioned against competitors, and making the wrong choices can become costly very fast.

Q: Which fintech-related trends stand out for you lately?

A: Fintech is such a loud, exciting industry, but there are a few trends, in particular, that stands out for me at the moment.

One of the biggest trends in the industry is undoubtedly embedded finance, and there is a great deal of work being undertaken to educate on the transformative nature for businesses and consumers. We have already seen significant changes to businesses within the last ten years, where financial services have been embedded into previously non-financial digital businesses on a widespread scale – with some of the most famous examples including the likes of Uber and Deliveroo. However, I am interested to see how the trend develops further and the innovation that this fosters across sectors once these new tools are available to them.

Another trend set to make a significant difference to both merchants and consumers recurring payments and the evolution of using open banking rails. It is no surprise that the industry is looking to the use of digital payment methods for recurring subscriptions because it alleviates multiple problems. Currently, with card payment subscriptions, consumers face the regular frustration of card expiry and the laborious process of re-inputting their details to keep a subscription active, and this inconvenience contributes to a significant churn volume for merchants. They also must protect against businesses who actively seek to poach consumers to alternate subscription providers – so the need for an improved method is glaring. Open Banking is creating amazing opportunities for improvement, and I am looking forward to seeing the adoption of digital payment subscriptions across sectors.

Finally, a trend that cannot go unnoticed in 2022 is Crypto. Although it has been making the headlines for a number of years now, it is certainly gaining traction as a payment method amongst mainstream businesses, so I am interested to see how this progresses further

Q: What are the best ways fintech companies can accelerate their growth?

A: I would say this depends very much on the business model – is the company focused on B2C, B2B or perhaps – like Brite – on B2B2C?

For any businesses whose primary target group are other businesses (at least in the first step), I would advise forging strong alliances with partners who share a similar merchant target group, which can help to gain faster access to targets while building credibility and thus traction in the market. B2B is also a people business, so hiring the right people to interface with your B2B counterparts is of the most important priorities. For B2C businesses, depending on how competitive the market and how unique the offering is, looking for alternative or more creative ways to acquire customers can be game-changing.

Q: If you could share one of your favourite quotes related to business, what would it be?

A: It may not be a quote, but I strongly believe that a wrong decision is better than indecision. Fintech is a fast-moving space, and we are forced to make decisions in absence of perfect insight on a regular basis. If we were to wait to get all the details all the time, we simply would not be moving fast enough. And speed is key. Unsurprisingly, as a consequence, I also subscribe to the fail fast principle – it’s better to execute and fail and then learn from the mistake rather than not executing at all.

Q: What positive technological and scientific innovations do you anticipate in fintech over the coming years?

A: There are a number of innovations and improvements that I am anticipating for fintech in the near future, and I believe that these are primarily driven by the consumer desire for convenience and speed.

I expect to see significant improvements in underlying processing infrastructure – this is a continuous process, but we are already seeing that the ability to process payments instantly is improving rapidly, which is a great step for merchants and consumers alike. I also anticipate improvements in digital authentication methods, which still proves cumbersome for a large proportion of users across sectors. These developments will fuel the increase in consumer-focused fintech business models, enabling a much-improved consumer experience in a mobile-first economy.

Additionally, I believe that we will see innovation to support instant decision making, for example, real-time credit checks in the lending process based on open banking – another demonstration of the industry’s shift to speed and convenience for consumers.

Q: How do you keep up with developments in the industry? 

A: For the day-to-day business developments in the industry we follow the industry media, and as a team, we discuss the latest announcements on a daily basis. However, I find that the most valuable source of information to find out how the industry is developing is to speak directly with our merchants. We are in very regular contact with our merchants because their insights are generated from customer feedback – and they will often indicate the direction of consumer needs which helps us to stay agile and responsive.

Q: Please summarise your business life in three words.

A:  Fast, competitive and collaborative.

Q: What is next for Brite Payments in the years ahead?

A: For the near future, we are working to establish the operations of the different markets that we currently operate in. We will be hiring locally to develop deeper connections with our local customers, and in the years ahead this will include the new markets that we will be entering. We are always looking to increase our market coverage and provide our full product offering for merchants.

At Brite, we are continuously innovating and we are excited to be launching new products for specific verticals throughout the year and beyond. The advantages that instant payments can offer across markets is significant, and Brite Payments will be demonstrating this as we continue driving our growth with a focus on merchant and consumer convenience.

Q: Lastly, what is the one thing you want everyone to know about Lena Hackelöer?

A: One thing I am proud of is the work that has been done by our team to bring Brite Payments to where it is today, and the culture we have managed to build along the way. To me it is important to balance high-end ambition and great work culture, helping to ensure that the team feels motivated. Obviously, business goals will always be at the core of the work we are doing at Brite, and working here is a high-paced job. But you are doing it whilst being cheered on by a team that ensures you are being supported, motivated and heard. I will always aim for Brite to be a high-achieving fintech, yet be a motivational place for people to work.