In the current financial landscape, collaboration between ecosystems and fintech companies is crucial, as it opens the door to new opportunities for growth and innovation.

As a global player in information and digital solutions, CRIF understands the importance of building strong partnerships. Leveraging its experience and expertise, CRIF is committed to creating significant synergies to bring cutting-edge solutions to the market and promote its services in an ever-changing world.

In this context, the collaboration between CRIF, led by InnovEcoS, CRIF's Global Open Innovation Hub, and Copenhagen Fintech, a leading fintech hub in global financial services, plays a pivotal role. It promotes synergy between ecosystems, focusing on attracting startups in a Nordic context and looking for potential partners to promote innovative and revolutionary services to the end client.

In this article, we interview Thomas Krogh Jensen, CEO of Copenhagen Fintech. Our discussion delves into the strategic aspects of collaboration and innovation within the dynamic and demanding realm of Nordic fintech, taking a closer look at the programs and initiatives offered by Copenhagen Fintech to both startups and corporations.

CRIF works actively within the startup landscape and is very interested and engaged in finding exceptional partners to enable CRIF products and services, as well as to learn and invest.

Thanks to commercial partnerships and proven PoCs within the Venture Client program we are able to stay at cutting edge from a tech and business point of view.

Since its inception in 2020, CRIF InnovEcoS has co-managed I-Tech Innovation, CRIF's acceleration program in Italy, in collaboration with Fondazione Golinelli. We make direct investments in promising early-stage fintech and agritech startups, with the aim of cultivating valuable partnerships and enhancing their success in subsequent financing rounds.

We also manage CRIF's expanding portfolio of investments, harnessing new technologies and providing training opportunities to startups. We prioritize mutual development, investing with a minority stake and selectively choosing startups that complement our core business.

What’s more, we adopt a localized approach through BOOM, CRIF's new Knowledge and Innovation Hub located near Bologna. BOOM includes a startup membership program and open innovation services, facilitating connections between startups and corporate entities. InnovEcoS manages the entire ecosystem.

We invite you to join us for an informative conversation with Thomas Krogh Jensen to discover all the details and updates about the Copenhagen Fintech ecosystem.

Looking at the recent Nordic Fintech Week 2023, how do you think events like these contribute to shaping the future of fintech in Europe? Are there any emerging trends or insights from the event that you find particularly noteworthy?

Let me start with a few numbers. I think these give us an indication of the impact such an event might have in Europe, but also beyond…

  • Almost 2,000 participants across the week
  • 200+ speakers
  • 117 sessions – keynote talks and panels
  • 4,420 minutes of content recorded at the main conference
  • 64 different nationalities in attendance
  • 2,843 meeting requests on our networking app

Based on the above numbers and the feedback we got, I would say that many of the participants left the conference with new perspectives, insights and connections. That is exactly what we were hoping for. We were hoping for the ‘butterfly effect’ – that those conversations, new knowledge and expanded network would be taken “home” and used in the transformation of the industry, ultimately leading to accelerated innovation and new partnerships.

This year, there were several topics that were really top of the agenda for many of our participants…

AI (surprise? – or not!). We’ve been talking about it for years, but now it has finally come to the point where everyone can see and understand the impact – including for the future of financial services. It will without doubt transform all parts of the financial value chain. All incumbents are playing catch-up and startups are building and launching new products and services.

Sustainability and ESG. Nordic countries are ‘home’ to many sustainable fintech startups that are building solutions to accelerate the green transformation and help incumbent institutions with their ESG data requirements. This is definitely also a hot topic in 2023.

Digital assets’ like crypto, NFTs, tokenization and CBDCs. Copenhagen Fintech launched ‘Nordic WEB3 Lab’ together with major industry players such as Chainalysis, Reality+, Fireblocks, Concordium and the European Blockchain Center. Over the next year we will explore opportunities and potential new revenue streams in WEB3. From the panels, keynote talks and roundtables we hosted, we also learnt how the industry is embracing digital assets and how the rest of the world is responding. In particular, we got interesting perspectives from the Monetary Authority of Singapore on how they are preparing for and experimenting with CDBCs to understand potential impacts and opportunities.

I would personally also be looking out for startups that work within the ‘Open Finance’ framework and the new regulation expected to hit the industry in 2024.

Given your unique perspective, what key strategies do you believe drive successful collaboration and innovation in the Nordic fintech landscape? Can you share specific examples of successful collaborations that have had a significant impact?

From our perspective, we have spent a lot of time building our ecosystem in Nordic countries and networked with the rest of the world. At a high level, our approach of basically being the glue that brings all parties together in mutually beneficial relationships has been very successful. This success in turn drives the opportunity for further collaboration and is a key enabler for further grow in the Nordic ecosystem and wider network.

As evidence of that, we have seen many exciting partnerships with fintech companies in Nordic countries. In sustainability, we have seen companies like Doconomy (SE), Matter (DK), Normativ (SE) and Enfuce (FI) enabling the established industry.

In the AI field, we have good examples such as Lucinity (ISL), (DK) and (NO).

In digital assets and WEB3, good examples are Chainalysis (US/DK), Lendwill (NO), Reality+ (DK/UK) and Firi (NO).

All these are examples of companies (and there are many more) that have scaled their solutions with partners, and many are global leaders in their field.

How do you see the role of Copenhagen Fintech evolving in terms of services to startups and corporate partners? Are there any new initiatives or programs in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

We have just – as I mentioned – launched our WEB3 Lab. We are very excited about that and hope to see many partners from outside the financial industry joining. We are also looking into doing that for Sustainability/ESG when we publish our report on the Nordic ‘impact fintech ecosystem’ together with PA Consulting in 4-6 weeks.

We have also launched a new Fast-Track Partnership program for financial institutions where we can – together with them – build a Lab-as-a-Service (LaaS) to help them do open innovation and partnerships faster and better in specific areas (defined by them). This is also very exciting for us and will soon be launched with one of the big regional banks.

We are also exploring the concept of Nordic Nights, where we run networking events in other regions with local partners. Bringing our experience and knowledge directly to local markets. There is of course also the opportunity to learn from local companies as well.

What do you believe other European countries could learn from the Nordic fintech ecosystem, especially in terms of regulatory frameworks, talent development, or market strategies?

I think the Nordic fintech ecosystem in general is quite open, inclusive and collaborative. There is great collaborative spirit, openness to help and focus on sharing. This probably comes from being relatively small countries in a relatively small region. I would also say that the concept of collaboration originates from our education systems, where the concepts of working together and looking after each other are taught at an early age.

The Danish regulators have played their part by establishing an innovation lab, a regulatory sandbox and participating in discussions and panels at the event. The Swedish Central Bank (Riksbank) is experimenting with E-kronar. We also find them very open to having conversations, even if those conversations are on challenging topics.

With regards to talent development, I feel that we are good at embracing the university and education network in general. In the future we are looking to do more in this area by further supporting the ideas and companies that are emerging, through the programs we offer at the lab.

The incumbent financial institutions - like most others, sometimes find it hard to innovate and form the necessary partnerships, but there is a willingness to try and make the necessary changes. A willingness to listen and “really” try makes a big difference; we have seen that mindset shift with our partners in recent years, and that has ultimately generated positive results.

I would say a good example of this would be how Nordic companies have embraced the true potential of Open Banking (PSD2) to accelerate innovation and partnerships, especially in the SME segment. This has ultimately produced companies like TINK (bought by VISA) and AiiA (bought by Mastercard).

In the context of investment trends in fintech startups, can you provide insights into the current investment landscape in Nordic countries and how this compares to global trends? Are there any specific sectors or subsectors within fintech that are gaining more traction among investors? Considering the rapidly evolving fintech space, if you were to bet on three fintech trends for 2024, which ones would you choose and why?

In many ways we follow the global trends regarding investments. Total investments and the number of investments are significantly down from an all-time-high in 2021, and valuations are generally down. Financing rounds are also typically a bit smaller than in the past.

Investors are certainly more focused on a clear path to profitability and on ensuring that the right team is in place to deliver. I would also say that companies have to be very clear about what problem they are trying to solve, and be able to demonstrate a demand. With these components in place, we don’t see a lack of investor interest.

We are also seeing more interest in b2b startups than in consumer-oriented solutions. Obviously with some exceptions, such as Klarna (SE) and Lunar (DK).

In Denmark, from a scaling perspective, we are seeing companies like Pleo (expense management), Agreena (financing regenerative practices in farming) and Crediwire (financial dashboards for SMEs), who are great examples of companies on a high-growth scaling journey.

For 2024 and beyond, I would point towards several trends…

Breakthrough in embedded finance. We will see many different sectors embed financial services and products in their current offering on the market.

Digital assets will continue to gain traction and incumbent financial institutions will start dipping their toes into learning and experimenting with smaller, more niche use cases.

We will see the real value that AI can bring and the business models it can challenge and enhance.

The customer journey will finally start to mirror the experience in other more digital industries with less legacy technology. It will be more personalized and will give customers access to new advisory models powered by AI and Open Finance.

The transformation to more sustainable businesses of many of Europe’s SMEs will be accelerated by fintech solutions and for financial institutions will be a license to operate in all parts of the value chain.

This article is part of a series that aims to help startup founders and corporates to navigate and understand the value of open innovation and partnerships.


InnovEcos is CRIF's Global Open Innovation Hub. Our mission is to guide the discovery of future business models and technological trends to innovate services, products and processes through research, experimentation and collaboration with startups.
In the last three years, we have scouted +630 startups , intercepted +74 and run +18 PoCs and +7 pilots through our Venture Client Lab.

If you're a startup looking to make a difference or a company interested in open innovation experimentation, reach out to us.