Spain is positioning itself as Europe’s ‘centre for silver fintech’. Among those leading the charge are Luis Castillo and Nuria Domínguez Soto of startup SeniorsLeading. Natasha de Terán went to speak to them
Combine a healthy Mediterranean diet with a mid-century baby boom, a rise in longevity and steady fall in the birth rate and you get the Spanish situation – an ageing population. While close to a fifth of Spanish people are over 65, a whopping 41 per cent are over 50 – formally part of the so-called silver economy.
The good news for them is that the question of how to ‘silverise’ the digital economy – and digital finance in particular – is front of mind in Spain. Earlier this year, a 78 year-old retiree from Valencia became a celebrity when his campaign ‘I’m old, not stupid’ garnered a nationwide following. He appeared on radio and TV, got a meeting with the Spanish Economics Minister, was profiled in the New York Times – oh, and secured commitments from the country’s leading banks.
Carlos San Juan is neither a lightweight nor a Luddite. A retired professor of urology, he launched his campaign on Change.org and his New York Times interview was organised by WhatsApp and conducted over Skype. Nonetheless, he felt that banks had forgotten about older people like himself, leaving them to fend for themselves in the digital diaspora. Shuttered branches, reduced banking hours and digital confusion were among his gripes. His generation were being consigned to dealing with apps and other online services that had neither been designed for them, nor explained to them.
The campaign personalised the issue, vividly evidencing how the transition to digital is leaving many of the wealthiest (and most vulnerable) prisoners of their own money. And it perhaps hit the collective Spanish conscience particularly hard because it was thanks to the wealth of these older generations that the younger ones had survived the 2008-2014 financial crisis, a period commonly referred to locally as the Great Spanish Depression.
In Spain, the business case for ‘silverising’ or ‘serving silver’ is unquestionable. So, while it’s surprising that the incumbents have managed to ignore it, there is a lively fintech scene seeking to do just that. Indeed, well before San Juan launched his crusade, Luis Castillo established the Silver Economy Commission within Spain’s MAD FinTech cluster. His aim was to deep dive the problem and stimulate innovation and investment. The Commission looked beyond fintech – into travel, tourism and commerce – and concluded that the silver economy was the future for Spanish fintech and that Spain was best-placed to be the centre of silver fintech.
Castillo didn’t just buy into the conclusions, he put his money where his mouth is as CEO of startup SeniorsLeading whose first fintech product – a card and app that rewards spending by passing savings to children and grandchildren – is due to come to market later this year.“We know the triggers that motivate the silver generation – the family. The family unit is a reality in Spain, it’s right at the centre of our culture,” says Castillo. “During (and in many cases since) the [financial] crisis, more than 40 per cent of over-65s in Spain were obliged to help their offspring. It was thanks to pensioners that families could continue to operate during the crisis.
“Our product, based on an app and a card, builds on this culture – the importance of family. As an intergenerational tool, we hope it will incentivise the silver generation to get into the digital world – and indeed it puts them at the centre of it. Using our product, they can pass on the benefits of their spending to their children and grandchildren; this really ties the family together and seeks to empower seniors’ digital transformation, motivating them through something tangible and important – the economic benefits they can pass to their families.
And it has an obvious appeal for merchants as it will enhance loyalty and extend their native customer bases.”While SeniorsLeading’s product is yet to launch, Castillo and his co-founder and general manager, Nuria Domínguez Soto, have big plans for it. “Spain has huge potential and is a great market to start in, but once we are underway here, we aim to expand to other markets in Europe and further afield,” says Domínguez Soto. “Our vision is 100 per cent international – our population is ageing, yes, but so are many others – it’s at least a 900-million-person opportunity. “And just as the problems we are facing here are global, so can the solutions be global too.”
Fuente: Fintech & Finance News