They are the hot new trend in finance, and Marius Jurgilas’s mission is to lure them to Lithuania. Yet even he has been shocked by the “overwhelming” number of enquiries from UK “fintech” companies in recent months.
The reason is Brexit.
Financial technology companies are making last-minute plans in case of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March. Many are looking to secure financial licences in other EU states to protect their operations, and this Baltic nation has an eye on helping to fill the gap.
Mr Jurgilas, a Bank of Lithuania board member, has had some notable successes.
Customers of new-age bank Revolut might not know it has acquired its banking licence in Lithuania. Google’s parent company Alphabet has one too.
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Mr Jurgilas insists his country’s new direction is not all about Brexit.
“It was a coincidence,” he says. “Mostly we just want innovation to happen here, not 10 years down the road after things are implemented in Sweden.”
The start-ups with EU credentials
Marius Jurgilas is not alone. On the seventh floor of a shiny new office block, the Blockchain Centre is on the hunt for hot new fintech markets in Lithuania’s name.
Inside, it is silent and the mood intense. Workers in headphones stare at black screens awash with code.
Motivational posters on the walls carry messages such as: “The future will be decentralised.”
This one-year-old centre – which offers co-working space and consultancy services to start-ups using blockchain technology – plays to its EU credentials. Its website has an EU rather than a Lithuanian domain.
But chief executive Egle Nemeikstyte says the centre is casting its net far beyond Europe. Australia, Singapore and Israel all want EU partners.
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There is still plenty of scepticism about how blockchain should be used, and Ms Nemeikstyte sometimes has to dissuade people from jumping on the bandwagon.
“Lots of people come to us with ideas and we say that’s great, but you don’t need blockchain for it. Go ahead without it,” she advises.