Georg Ludviksson is the CEO and co-founder of Meniga – digital banking fintech that facilitates personal banking solutions in more than 20 countries. Founded in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2009 by Ludviksson and along with brothers Asgeir Asgeirsson and Viggo Asgeirsson. Meniga was one of the first companies to use PFM software in Europe. We caught up with him to find out more.
Who was your childhood hero and why?
Like many kids of my generation, much of my childhood was spent watching superhero TV shows. What particularly resonated with me was the fact that these characters were able to leverage tremendous super powers to do good and make the world a better place. To say that I aspired to be them is perhaps a slight exaggeration, although Spiderman was someone that I found particularly easy to relate to due to all of his vulnerabilities, and his character certainly provided me with somewhat of a positive outlook on society from a very early age.
What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
To always have an action plan and focus on the deliverables.
If you are ever faced with a challenge, stop and ask yourself “what’s the plan?” or “how do we do this?” before jumping on a particular course of action. This piece of advice is something that I have implemented throughout my entrepreneurial career, and without it, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to manoeuvre around some of the roadblocks that we have encountered over the years.
Having this kind of cautious mindset simply allows you to be as prepared as possible when you do eventually encounter a problem, whatever it may be. It has taught me to always raise money and build buffers where I can, and most importantly, not take anything for granted. Crucially, it enables you to plan for the long-term, which won’t just help with achieving your purpose but will also help with your overall mental wellbeing, which is crucial to sustaining good leadership.
What was the last book you read - and how long ago did you read it?
I actually spent the better part of Sunday reading a really interesting business management book called “Product Roadmaps Relaunched - How to Set Direction While Embracing Uncertainty”, which explores the importance of product roadmaps, their significance as a communication tool, and the ways that they’ve changed and evolved over the years. The book also offers a very practical guide into how you can articulate an inspiring vision and goal for your product, and how you can use your roadmap to align stakeholders and prioritise ideas and requests.
As a CEO, I think it’s important to find some spare time to continue learning about all aspects of a business, whether product strategy or leadership, and to always look to broaden my perspective and skills as much as possible.
Name one piece of technology you couldn’t live without and tell us why
Having been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, I’m well aware of the importance of maintaining a solid work/life balance, and the impact that it can have on your overall wellbeing. As a result, I regularly try to take breaks from technology, and find time in my busy schedule to exercise, get some fresh air or relax at home with my family - so I’d like to think that I could survive without technology. Having said that, I would certainly miss my laptop for staying on top of things, and my fitbit for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. I would also find it difficult without my Vivino app, which I use to discover delicious wines!
Who do you look up to in terms of leadership and mentorship?
There’s no doubt that I would not be where I am now without my two co-founders, Asgeir and Viggo Asgeirsson. Right from the very beginning, when we all quit our previous jobs at the big banks and started working together in Viggo’s living room to create this exciting new startup, we have always stuck together and supported each other - and there’s no doubt that the success and growth of Meniga to date is partly down to the dynamic that our co-founding team has had over the years.
We have always taken time to listen to each other’s ideas, and our collective passion for our company is what continues to inspire us and push each other to strive for nothing but excellence. Although I am today the CEO of Meniga, their leadership and mentorship has been absolutely vital throughout our journey.
What’s the biggest challenge/advantage you’ve encountered to date in the fintech industry and why?
I’ve experienced plenty of ups and downs throughout my career in fintech, and many of which have been vital in driving the ultimate success of Meniga.
In general, I’m a strong believer that behind every challenge lies an opportunity. After all, that’s exactly how Meniga was born in the first place. Following the financial crash of 2008, as people were losing their income, worrying about their savings, and experiencing a substantial drop in purchasing power, we realised the significant opportunity and favourable environment this created to start our own personal finance management company. Having set up Meniga in the wake of an economic crisis, we found ourselves in a really unique position where suddenly, an incredible talent pool had become readily available to us, and we were able to get some really skilled people onboard from the start, and get our company off the ground very quickly.
The most recent challenge we encountered was the pandemic of course, which has impacted so many people and companies everywhere in the world. While it has created challenges for most industries - including the financial industries - it has also significantly increased the demand for personal finance products and services. In times of economic uncertainty, people are in a greater need of guidance and help with their personal finances and customers are now, perhaps more than ever, relying on their banks to provide support more than ever. As a result, the number of banks we have partnered with and markets we have launched in has multiplied since the start of the pandemic.
Which activity are you most looking forward to doing when normality resumes?
First of all, I feel extremely fortunate that my family and I have remained healthy and safe since the outbreak of the pandemic, and that our company was not severely impacted by COVID-19. It’s been such a tough period for so many people and businesses around the world, and I’m grateful that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and slowly reclaiming a bit of normality in our daily lives, as we are able to meet with family, friends and colleagues in person once again. As someone who loves his music, I’m looking forward to when we can all go to a concert together and throw a big party. Also, given that I live in Iceland (where Meniga was founded), it can definitely get pretty cold and gloomy here in February, so I'm very excited for some vitamin D on the beach soon!
Is there a personal achievement from the past 12 months of which you are particularly proud?
I’m incredibly proud of how our employees have maintained high levels of performance during the past 12 months, which have been challenging to say the least. Each and every one of our staff have gone above and beyond to ensure that our company successfully weathers the storm and navigates the pandemic. We’ve managed to expand globally, sign new banking partners, acquire new customers and launch new products at a staggering pace over the past 12 months - and our team deserves a huge amount of credit for it.
I’m also very proud of how our new green banking solution, Carbon Insight, has grown over the past year, having already been implemented by several banks around the world including Íslandsbanki in Iceland and Crédito Agrícola in Portugal, and it is continuing to garner increasing amounts of attention and interest from financial institutions all over the world.
The solution provides digital banking users with a simple and efficient tool for tracking and offsetting their carbon footprint, based on their transaction data. As anxiety around climate change continues to grow, banks are realising the responsibility they have to help protect the planet, and the significant opportunity offered by green banking solutions like ours to pave the way for a major change in consumer climate action. The solution also serves as a great foundation for banks to introduce green products like green loans or green investments.
We’re now in the midst of one of the most important battles of modern history – the fight against climate change – and we’re extremely proud to be supporting our banking partners in trailblazing the rapidly evolving, and increasingly relevant green banking movement.
What inspires you in fintech today?
It’s without doubt the level of innovation and sheer competitiveness which I find most inspiring in fintech today.
Over the past decade or so, the fintech industry has evolved at a blistering pace, and the face of banking has changed dramatically as a result. Not only has the level of investment in the fintech space multiplied, and has the introduction of new regulations, like PSD2 and Open Banking, provided a number of innovation opportunities for challenger banks, consumers nowadays have come to demand increasingly convenient, transparent and personalised services. For companies like Meniga, this has meant that delivering anything but an excellent customer experience is simply not good enough, which has urged us to be even more innovative to ensure that we provide the best possible support for our banks and their customers.
This level of competitiveness and innovation within the fintech industry will undoubtedly continue to grow exponentially, and I’m really excited to see how new technologies like AR, VR and AI will further transform the fintech landscape and drive the ultra-personalisation of banking. Whatever the next challenge, I’m confident Meniga is perfectly equipped to deal with it.
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