When the three largest banks in a country go bankrupt, entrepreneurism is what emerges from the rubble.
Meniga, a leader in white-label personal finance and online banking solutions, was spawned in 2009 when 80 percent of Iceland’s banking system plummeted suddenly. It was an enormous shock, creating stress and tough times for Icelanders from high inflation, to lower salaries, currency devaluation, 10 percent unemployment and just general uncertainty.
“There was a lot pressure to give them some relief and support,” said Viggo Ásgeirsson, chief human resources officer and cofounder of Meniga. “Comprehensive personal finance management was clearly something that could help, and we became early movers in that space in Europe.”
Seven years later, economic battle wounds aside, Meniga has more than 25 percent of the country’s households registered in the Icelandic standalone platform, which continues to be used for feedback and testing. The Reykjavík-based company has also expanded to offices in London and Stockholm.
The name Meniga refers to a well-known household Icelandic children’s pop song called “Eniga Meniga” released in 1976. The song is about a person fussing over not having enough money to buy the things they want. The company took that concept, relaying and indicating that Meniga can help better manage customers’ finances and get more value for their money.
“The traditional banking model is currently being disrupted by the FinTechs of the world, meaning they need to redefine themselves and improve their roles as a trusted advisor, which is where we come in and help banks on their journey to reconnecting with their customers,” said Ásgeirsson.
Seeking out ways to solve that problem is part of the goals, while Meniga also maintains a mission to work with retail banks across the world to improve their online and mobile banking user experience and create new revenue streams. Most known for being one of the first white-label personal finance management firms in Europe, the product portfolio has evolved to also include business finance management, as well as data-driven solutions, such as transaction-based market analytics and card-linked marketing.
“Financial literacy, or lack thereof, is one of the major issues of our time,” said Ásgeirsson. “People can really improve the quality of their lives if they handle their finances well, but too many are struggling badly to do so.”
But Meniga’s growth didn’t come overnight. With any new business, especially being the first in an industry, it’s never smooth sailing. The company started with four employees and now has more than 100.
“Our biggest hurdle over the past seven years is, in my opinion, associated with the rapid growth of the company — mostly structural and people-related issues,” said Ásgeirsson. “We have overcome it by acting fast but with care and respect on every issue, with open communication and appropriated processes and procedures.”
When it comes to working with average citizens and their financial health, Ásgeirsson said that’s where Meniga’s forte lies, in that the company is “alive to the concerns of ordinary folk as they look to make ends meet, save and plan for retirement — tasks made considerably more difficult by the continuing fallout from the 2008 financial crisis.”
Now, after three rounds of investment totaling $14.77 million — the most recent round this past August — the company currently works with more than 40 million online banking users across 20 markets and over 60 banks. But speaking more globally, Meniga is a United Nations World Summit Award Global Champion for positive social impact and was awarded “Best of Show” in 2011, 2013 and 2015 at Finovate Europe.
Meniga’s next steps include the continuation to help retail banks improve the online and mobile experience and customer engagement, while maintaining a strong force against customer disintermediation, which, Ásgeirsson said, is the biggest threat to banks, especially in light of mobile payments through Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba and other similar platforms.
Ásgeirsson said Meniga will “focus on our data-driven solutions to help banks provide a more personalized customer experience through, e.g., relevant advice, product recommendations, tailored card-linked offers and market analytics.”
And if anything, he said that, if the company does just a little bit to help the lives of people in Iceland and across the world, that gives the company cyclical fulfillment. “Our way of doing that is to work with retail banks and provide them solutions that help them to help their customers better manage and understand their money,” said Ásgeirsson.