Interview with Mr. Isaac T. Armoni, CEO of Wallter
One company that has managed to thrive in spite of the formidable challenges of the pandemic is Wallter, the European digital payments specialist. Here, Isaac T. Armoni gives us some background on the company’s success, and its mission to simplify banking, promote digitisation and provide tailored global payout solutions.
Good day, Mr Armoni! Thank you for speaking with us today. May we begin by asking how you’ve been faring so far in this new normal?
It’s a great day. Thank you. Wallter took some quick measures early on when the pandemic started, to ensure the safety of its employees and make sure our integrity and the continuity of our products and services remained intact. Managing a financial institution has its challenges. Doing it from your desk, camera and computer is even more challenging. We turned it into an advantage and, in 2020 and 2021, Wallter grew its client base, services and revenue more than in previous years. The entire online payment sector is increasing. Lastly, today you can speak to people all over the world without the need to travel. However, I think that the personal touch and human relationships are irreplaceable and we look forward to the “old” normality of meetings clients, employees, managers, affiliates and business associates face to face.
As an accomplished entrepreneur, did you always imagine going into the fintech sector? What was your inspiration for creating Wallter?
I have been an entrepreneur for over 15 years. My legal background in banking compliance, high-tech investments, technology and innovation drove me to develop better payments solutions. I cannot indicate a specific inspiration point, but I am constantly thinking with my amazing team how we can create, innovate and offer more products and services, provide a solution to meet current market needs and identify anomalies and provide solutions to resolve them.
Since its foundation in 2017, Wallter has grown to become one of the leading electronic money institutions in Lithuania, with a global portfolio of clients to prove it. Can you tell us a little bit about the initial goals of the company starting out?
Frankly, we started by providing better payments solutions. Combined with our AML regime, customer service CRM platform, excellent R&D teams, excellent client relationship managers and personal service, we created an online digital payment solution. We exceeded our initial goals and we will be rolling out some innovative solutions and products in the near future.
What were the hurdles you had to overcome to get where you are today?
I think that the hurdles are very diverse when you grow a company like Wallter. We constantly need to keep up with the regulatory requirements of the Bank of Lithuania and EU regulations, develop and implement internal and external practices to follow these requirements, while growing our business and acquiring more clients through innovative IT solutions which have to be competitive in the market. We had to build a reliable team, train them and make sure they come to work happy in a very competitive developing market. We continue to improve our excellent customer service and compete with other market participants offering similar services. These are some of the major hurdles we had to face in the growth of Wallter.
Presumably the pandemic was an unexpected setback for your company, as it was for the rest of the world. What was your response as a company to ensure that neither productivity nor the well-being of your staff was compromised?
The first decision we made was to ensure our team members were safe. We divided the company into capsules, and made sure that people had masks, gel, gloves and a safe working environment. Lastly, we hired transportation to and from the offices to eliminate the possibility of being infected. We made sure that all divisions were working and that all employees were assigned with dual tasks in case a fellow team member was infected by the virus and they needed to step in and assist. For those team members that were infected, we made sure they knew we were supporting them through several HR initiatives we took. We also provided PCR tests to the other team members. Also, being an international company helps a lot, as we are able to mitigate the risks of harsh COVID-19 waves.
On the other hand, some would argue that this situation has also offered an opportunity to push for more cashless transactions and work towards a more seamless payment model. Would you say that this holds true for your company?
Of course. Wallter’s volumes and transactions increased by 40-50% during 2020 and 2021. Our workforce doubled over this period. We also think the future will continue to be bright for cashless and seamless payment models and platforms. The younger users want to access payment on a 24/7 basis from their mobile phones, so we will explore this option in the near future. Wallter is currently working on partnerships with other service providers to offer more innovative services to our clients.
You mention Wallter’s innovative business model based on two pillars – your compliance and technology expertise. Can you elaborate on how these two factors work together to allow your company to create top-notch services?
We believe that creating a regulated business environment that allows our customers and users (corporations) to transact in a compliant manner is a key factor in our business model. Regulatory requirements are constantly changing. We adhere to those changes, stay informed, rapidly adapt them into our systems. This is often unpopular with customers, but it is mostly to ensure the integrity of Wallter’s AML, DNA and compliance regime. We have an amazing and innovative R&D team working day and night to ensure better products that are safer, secured and user-friendly.
Wallter has expanded its expertise into Europe, the UK and Singapore. How would you say the financial concerns in each region differ? Do you have specific services in place to cater for geographic factors?
While payments in general are the same all over the world, regulatory requirements, AML checks and compliance differ from one jurisdiction to another. We always combine localisation of products and services and globalisation of Wallter as a service provider. We make local payments using our network of local banks to make payment quicker, more cost-efficient and safer. Financial concerns around the globe are similar. AML laws and regulatory requirements are mostly similar. In each market we work in, we adapt to the local laws, rules and regulations, and hire local consultants to better understand the market requirements and needs. As a company, we often set higher standards than the requirements, so we can sleep better at night.
Wallter is also the third-largest electronic money institution (EMI) in Lithuania. When it comes to approaching clients, do you have specific industries you lean towards working with?
Wallter provides its service to corporations from all industries, excluding our prohibited activities and industries (for example, selling arms, selling drugs, etc.). We welcome any regulated customers and any customers who seek our solutions.
With more people relying on the digital space today, has your company taken steps to accommodate this rapid transition in terms of ensuring financial security? What kind of payment solutions would you suggest to ease this concern?
Yes of course. Financial security is at the core of our services. We always balance rapid and reliable services with regulatory requirements and regulations, while ensuring that our clients’ funds and transactions are safe and secured. We designed and built our system architecture to provide maximum security, our on-boarding digital identification, our 2FA requirements, and other measures like artificial intelligence and monitoring tools to identify unwanted patterns. We also initiate outside controls, and an IT audit is performed by an independent and reputable company. Our penetration test resulted in no successful penetration into our systems, and our clients’ information, data and funds remained secured. We constantly monitor hacking and cyberattacks to provide better security and respond to such threats with measures in accordance with our procedures. As the world is becoming more digital, these measures are key to the integrity of our services and our reputation.
Much has been done in the direction of pushing for financial evolution, if PayPal’s cryptocurrency and Tesla’s bitcoin integration is any indication. Where does a cross-border financial institution like Wallter stand in the face of these changes?
Under the current regulatory regime, Wallter can provide only fiat-to-fiat services. Our platform will soon introduce the ability to view your digital assets in other wallets and, through integrations and affiliations, Wallter clients will be able to be redirected to our trusted regulated partners in order to buy and sell digital assets securely. We believe that the more the digital assets world moves towards regulation and compliance, the more we will see the use of blockchain technology on digital banking platforms.
Are there any other trends you’re looking out for in the industry that you think will further your goal of accessible digital banking?
The major trends occurring in the banking and digital banking world are digital assets and open banking. We are at the beginning of this revolution. As we progress in time, in regulation and adaptability of these trends, we will see a quicker, smooth, compliant and transparent digital banking system. We don’t need to look for new trends, we need to expand and perfect the ones mentioned above. We are talking about an entire banking universe in size and magnitude. Wallter has made a lot of regulatory preparations for such trends and changes and, as soon as the regulators and the corresponding banks allow such changes, we will be ready to offer innovative services with all AML/CTF requirements.
Having been in the industry for more than 20 years, are there any valuable life lessons you have picked up along the way for aspiring businessmen?
If anyone seeks my advice, it would be to obtain knowledge of your regulatory environment, adhere to it and innovate your technology. Offer something the market needs. A solution. Hire a great team of passionate professionals. Position yourself first. Be patient, as changes and innovation happen over time and you need to make sure you are compliant and regulated, rather than focusing on quick revenues.
Do you think it will be possible one day to live in a completely cashless society?
If you ask me this question in 15 years from today, you will laugh at the question itself. The cashless world solves a lot of money-laundering and tax-evasion issues and I strongly think that we are heading in this direction. Governments and the public will benefit from the results of a cashless society. I highly recommend moving in this direction.
What can we expect to see from Wallter in the coming years?
Regulatory technology innovation. Wallter will continue to offer tailored products and services based on our clients’ needs. We shall continue to identify market trends, needs, anomalies and demands. Innovate. Strategise and position ourselves as leaders. I hope to be able to offer digital asset services using blockchain technology and open banking, perhaps look into lending and crowd funding options and any other innovative trends we may identify. Stay tuned, as we have great minds coming together to innovate at Wallter.
Isaac T. Armoni (Esq./MBA) Chief Executive Officer
Banking, Compliance and Legal professional with proven 20+ years track record of success while working for various global companies and banks. Employing his comprehensive experience in Venture Capital, IT, Start-up, Banking, Finance, Aviation, Compliance and Corporate Banking, Isaac brings his proven expertise, knowledge and network of international Banks, Affiliates, Lawyers and other service providers to Wallter®. Isaac holds a LLB and IMBA (cum laude) degrees.