Interview with Alex Kelaiditis of Flexfin
Flexfin offers financing and cash flow management services to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Founded in 2017, Flexfin uses technology and a modern user-friendly platform to provide liquidity to SMEs in Greece and Cyprus. The company's vision is to change the way small businesses think about their receivables by leveraging simple, transparent, and practical financing solutions with minimal paperwork and no hidden costs. We talk today with Alex Kelaiditis, co-founder and executive director. Here's what he told us.
Tell us a few things about Flexfin. How did it all start, and what exactly does the company offer?
In all markets, but especially in Greece coming out of an almost 10-year long economic crisis, access to financing remains a major issue and an obstacle to growth. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are one of the segments most affected by this, constantly struggling to secure banks loans or government grants to be able to cover their day-to-day expenses. Having observed this gap and knowing how trade finance can benefit companies, we established Flexfin to enable SMEs to use invoice financing to unlock liquidity quickly and without hassle. Partnering our risk approach with technology has made Flexfin what it is today - the only independent factoring company in Greece and Cyprus servicing a wide clientele. We offer flexible financing solutions for companies, providing them with cash immediately instead of waiting for months to be paid. We also help them with managing their collections, monitoring their payments, and picking up post-dated cheques – in general taking the headache out of their receivables so that they can focus on what matters most: growing their business.
This sounds fairly disruptive. What differentiates you from the rest of the industry?
We see three key differentiations.
The first is our risk approach. Our view is that a high-quality receivable is in itself worthy of financing regardless of who is receiving it. In this respect, we offer our services to a much wider audience than the traditional institutions, who typically treat factoring as a lending product, often requiring additional collateral or personal guarantees by the entrepreneurs.
The second is our technology. This market has not benefited from as much technological progress as others, and it has enormous potential for efficiency gains from digitization. We are gradually trying to incorporate automation in all steps, from customer onboarding and invoice management to risk assessment and payments to deal with a large volume of transactions more efficiently.
Last but not least, it is our culture. We have a client-centric approach, constantly striving to improve the client experience. We challenge the established norms in search of improvements and always try to put ourselves in our clients’ and partners’ shoes instead of asking them to change to fit our model.
What would you consider to have been (or be) your biggest challenges so far?
Growing our business – offering liquidity in a market starved of it, sounds like an easy sell. However, ours is a financial product, which requires trust. In a market not used to such products being offered by non-banks and with hesitation about predominantly digital products, growing awareness and bringing in new clients pose challenges. It has taken a lot of optimizing our marketing channels, be it social media, press, radio, or cold calls, to grow awareness and build trust.
What are the biggest lessons learned from your journey so far?
Firstly, stick with a good idea. Capital for good ideas is available, and there are so many things that need improvement or change. However, ideas need to be implemented, and while mistakes will be made and the disappointments will be plenty, it is essential to push forward and not lose sight of the end goal. It is also truly crucial to surround oneself with positive influences. There need to be different views, driven by diversity in the team, but they should all focus on finding solutions and moving forward.
Lastly, challenge everything – just because something is being done in a certain way does not mean that it is optimal. This rings particularly true in the financial world, where perceptions, processes, and technology have been stagnant for decades.
Would you share with us your impressions about the recent deal between Viva Wallet and JPMorgan? It seems that Greece can innovate in fintech as well. Right?
In one word. Wow. While Viva is not an organization we have much insight into, it is clear this deal is a massive vote of confidence from a highly sophisticated institution, for the Viva team and what they have created and Greece and European fintech. Disruption in financial services is happening everywhere, and the businesses that manage to build products that appeal to a large audience are bound to be successful. And while several initiatives have been around for a while in disrupting consumer financial services, the advent of such offerings for businesses is still nascent, be it SMEs or larger corporates.
Alex, thank you very much for being with us today.
Thank you too.