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Ryszard Szopa (Affirm): Poland has great potential to become a center of fintech innovation

Why did Affirm decide to open an office in Warsaw and not, for example, in London, which is quite obviously associated with fintech companies in Europe?

We opened an office in Poland because of its exceptional potential when it comes to engineers. I know what I’m talking about – apart from Poland I’ve also worked in the US and Switzerland. Our country was a logical choice as a place to open an office focused on technology development. First of all because of dynamic and developing IT market and talented programmers, but also because of its central location.

Poland has a huge potential to become another important fintech innovation hub in Europe. As Affirm we also want to be part of it.

Your goal for this year is to recruit 100 people – at the moment how many specialists have you recruited?

Currently, we have already recruited 13 specialists. We are also in the process of conducting further talks. Recently we have intensified our efforts to increase the number of employees in our company.

We are currently conducting an employer branding campaign. Members of our team will be present at key programming events in Poland, talking about the culture and values of working at Affirm. We’ve also decided to award a sign-on bonus of between PLN 100k and PLN 200k – depending on experience – to every person who starts working at Affirm before the end of June 2022.

This has already resulted in a significant increase in our talent pool. It’s also worth noting that employees who joined us before the start of this program will also receive a similar bonus.

In fact, Affirm is not offering its services in Poland at the moment – why? Poland will be the place where Affirm’s product is created and developed, but we won’t experience it on the consumer market right now – that doesn’t seem quite fair to customers.

We want to provide our services to as many people as possible. However, I leave the broader plans and geographic expansion to the teams responsible for overseeing those parts of our business. My primary focus right now is on building an expert team of the best and most talented engineers from this part of the world.

However, as I have stressed many times, we see great business potential in Poland, otherwise we would not have made such a significant investment here.

This is actually the first time Affirm has ventured outside of its home country – the United States – at least when it comes to building an office, because you also offer your services in Australia, among other places, right?

Yes, that’s right. This is the first time we decided to build a team from scratch outside of the United States. True, we have offices in Spain and Canada, but they were created through acquisitions of local fintech companies. Here we are faced with the task of recruiting the entire staff.

In one of your interviews you stated that the BNPL market in Europe is more mature than the one in America – what do you mean by that?

The numbers speak for themselves. Currently, the overall BNPL adoption rate in the United States is in the low single digits. While there are many countries in Europe where adoption is much more widespread. My comment in this regard was just to clarify that the United States is experiencing really rapid growth. Europe is still seeing a lot of growth in BNPL, but the region is further along the adoption curve compared to the US.

Once you decide to enter the European market or – Poland – how do you want to win over the competition? BNPL is pretty well covered here. Klarna is strong in this part of the continent, plus Twisto and PayPo are ramping up.

I once said that we are in a race that will have more than one winner and I still stand by those words. In my opinion, the demand potential in our industry is really high, and there will be more consumers as the industry grows.

What BNPL fintechs offer to consumers is pretty obvious, but what does Affirm offer for merchants and e-commerce? What do you attract them with?

Our solutions enable our partners to provide affordability, which dramatically increases customer conversions. As proof, I can point to the fact that platforms and networks like Walmart, Amazon, Shopify and Target choose to work with Affirm.

Most of our competitors specialize in allowing consumers to pay in bi-weekly installments for relatively inexpensive products. In addition to this, Affirm also offers deferred payment for up to 5 years on purchases of $17.5k.

Additionally, we do not charge late repayment fees. We are currently working on the Debit+ card, which consumers will be able to use as a standard debit card with the ability to split their repayments into parts and then defer them using the Debit+ app. We have also launched a proprietary cashback program – Cash Back Rewards, linked to our customers’ savings accounts and our shopping app.

How will you reconcile working from Poland for US fintech? I know that you rely on remote work – but what else? Asynchronous communication?

Each of the Polish teams will be assigned a separate product area. Of course each team will work according to Polish working hours. Work will be reported by managers.

We want to stake on the operational independence of the Polish office. We have brought in a so-called seed team with the task of “seeding” our corporate culture in Poland and supporting the onboarding process of new engineers.

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