JIŘÍ RAŠKA: THE MAN WHO BUILT A BANK BUT PREFERS FINTECH STARTUPS
HE BUILT EQUA BANK WHEN IT WAS JUST STARTING OUT. HE THEN RAN
TEAMS MANAGING SERVERS FOR THREE MILLION PLAYERS, AGAIN IN
THE SAFE AND STABLE ENVIRONMENT OF THE CORPORATE SECTOR. WHY DID
HE GIVE ALL THAT UP AND THROW HIMSELF INTO TO THE VOLATILE WORLD OF
STARTUPS? AND ULTIMATELY, DOES HE ENJOY HIS WORK AT CREATIVE DOCK?
WHAT MADE YOU CHANGE DIRECTION?
There were three main reasons: the offer came at just the right time, I was impressed
by the culture of ideas and enthusiasm about the projects here, and the interesting
people. David Bystrzycki, the former CEO of HomeCredit, personally recruited me.
There are several such big names here, and that’s no surprise to anybody. Attracting
the best people in the industry is what Creative Dock does.
I was working for a particularly long time at Equa Bank, where I enjoyed being
involved in the project right from the beginning and literally “building a bank”. But the
better you are at things, paradoxically the more routine the work becomes, more of a
maintenance job. And most of the creativity fades away. I compare that with work at
CreativeDock, where there are always several projects going on, at different stages,
and that initial enthusiasm doesn’t fizzle out after a few years. This is because there’s
always effort and the chance to modernise things and to make improvements. And
such a difference is fascinating. It’s a huge inspiration for me.
AT EQUA BANK YOU WENT FROM THE BASEMENT (SERVER ROOM) TO
MANAGEMENT. IN INTERVIEWS WITH DIRECTORS, IT’S COMMON FOR THEM TO ADMIT THAT THEY MISS SUCH INITIAL WORK, WHICH ATTRACTED THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED MOST OVER THE YEARS?
I can’t say that there has been any work that I really haven’t enjoyed. I’ve always
found something to get my teeth into. Every profession has taught me something. In
general, I enjoy IT and even today I still love “manual work”. Of course, this is more
of a hobby I pursue in the evenings these days. But because of that, I’m still involved
in what I did at the beginning. In management, I’m enjoying again seeing how
colleagues are progressing in their careers. You’re watching who is inclined toward
what, and you can prod them to where you feel the talent. At times, they’re not even
aware of it, so it’s great when they start to excel at their work and they enjoy it even
WHAT ATTRACTS YOU MOST TO THE IT SECTOR?
Maybe that feeling of euphoria when you come up with a real solution to a problem
and after all implementation twists and turns really does work out successfully. But
I’m also interested in coming up with new solutions or services that haven’t occurred
to anyone else.
WHICH OF YOUR PREVIOUS WORK ACHIEVEMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD
If it means Equa Bank, I gradually built up an infrastructure team as an administrator,
and then I took over the applications team. In both roles, I was able to design,
implement and even upgrade the solutions that are still being used today.
AND THEN YOU WENT FROM THE BANK STRAIGHT TO CREATIVE DOCK?
No, I was managing IT and Online Services for Bohemia Interactive for about a year
and a half. Together, we took care of everyday IT issues. That involved supporting
development teams, working together on designing new solutions, integrating all
possible systems, and then, of course, operating and running the whole system for
three million players, which proved quite a challenge at times. And then I was offered
the opportunity to be involved in CreativeDock projects and it was a done deal!
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU CAN EXPLAIN IT SIMPLY…
When I started, I expected to be working on Mutumutu insurance, a completely new
form of online life insurance. Well, on the very first day, I discovered that as CTO or
chief of technology [laughter] I’d actually be managing two. This is how it works at
CreativeDock. But I’m happy about that. Besides insurance, I unexpectedly got
involved in the Filip and Sofia project, the aim of which is to revolutionise the financial
LIFE INSURANCE DOESN’T SOUND LIKE A COOL INNOVATIVE PRODUCT...
That’s true. But we also want to change it. Life insurance has a terrible reputation in
general. It conjures up images of dodgy street vendors who you must be wary about
to avoid ending up in a scam in which you’re chucking money away every month. But
at Mutumutu it’s the complete opposite. It’s precisely because it’s an InSurTech that
people aren’t pigeonholed into a couple of pre-arranged categories, based on which
you basically pay prices listed in a table. The emergence of new technologies allows
customers to make assessments completely differently. Everything is transparent,
and each individual has a separate “drawer” in the database, with unique data. The
starting conditions are all the same, but if you live well for a long time, we will refund
up to 30% of your insurance premium.
AND HOW DO YOU CHECK IF SOMEONE IS ENTITLED TO SUCH A BONUS?
Almost everyone today has a smartphone, more and more people wear magnetic
bracelets and such like. So, all you need to do is link up with our system (and by the
way that’s a benefit of InSurTech). There’s no problem finding out who’s walking or
cycling, and we’re planning parameters for indoor sports. But you can lead a healthy
lifestyle tracked through a variety of different parameters. And if they show that you
care for your health, you deserve a reward.
OK, SO THIS IS THE INITIAL ENTHUSIASM OF A NEW PROJECT. BUT ON A
PERSONAL LEVEL WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT QUANTIFYING YOUR OWN
MEDICAL DATA? I NOTICE THAT YOU’RE NOT WEARING A BRACELET
I’m mainly taking measurements via my mobile phone. But I tried some bracelets and
can honestly say I like the idea. My goal is at least 6,000 steps every day and I can
monitor this with my mobile. I don’t have a bracelet because I don’t even wear a
watch. But I understand that the main issue for you is the sharing of personal data. I
don’t have a problem in this case. Allow me to say that I know a bit about that
[laughter], so I’m sure that thanks to a really bulletproof solution there won’t be any
data leaks. And if I get the benefits of being willing to share something about myself,
that’s OK from my point of view. And with standard insurance policies you must
disclose personal data and you’re okay with that. So where is the problem?
WHAT STAGE IS THE PROJECT NOW AT? The testing before launch stage. The first was the friends and family mode, a trial
phase of the final product with hundreds of Creative Dock employees, their relatives
and acquaintances. And with that further testing and finishing. Then, the service will
be available to the public. But we’re a startup, not a corporation, so you can expect
the complete launch this year, not in five years [laughter].
AND WHAT ABOUT FILIP AND SOFIE? HOW EXACTLY WILL THIS PROJECT
CHANGE THE FINANCE MARKET?
That’s what people are asking me about. And often sarcastically. But I understand
that. Every day, people are introducing something “revolutionary”, which usually
means just a new flavour or a basically button. We’re all fed up to the back teeth of
meaningless slogans. But we have our work, not slogans, to show for ourselves.
Creative Dock has already come up with Zonka. Back then, our colleagues dared to
say that loans from people would change the consumer credit market, and many
people just laughed. But three years after the launch, people have borrowed more
than two billion crowns with Zonka every year. Indeed, new things often just look
completely unrealistic. And just after that they become reality.
THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT. WHAT WILL THE FILIP AND SOFIE PRODUCT
As I said, almost everyone has a smart phone. Often, it’s an essential part of life.
Apart from their mobiles and maybe their keys, many people often don’t carry
anything else. They do their level best to make that they don’t lose their credit cards.
By the way, I have this issue too. And that really gives us an opportunity. So, we
decided to use mobile phones to make payments even quicker and more convenient,
while involving a community of ordinary people in the development, from the very
beginning. In short, you can’t just lump all customers together in one group. They
need services that they use. And which they themselves are helping to design, so
that customers get what they want and need from them. I generally don’t get involved
in new projects because they’re cool. Rather, I need them to make sense. To me and
other people. So that I want to become a new customer myself. That will flag up
whether we’re creating something fake and unnecessary.
WHAT FORMS THE BASIS FOR DEVELOPING YOUR NEW SERVICES?
In general, our approach comes up with a solution to the problem that we feel is the
most pressing on the market. But as soon as real customers start using it, the main
thing we consider is their opinions, experiences and preferences. How they make
use of the service, what suits them, what they would do better and any glaring
omissions. We want to create something new. And gradually to add additional
features in line with what real users want.
HAVE YOU RUN UP AGAINST LEGISLATIVE OBSTACLES? TODAY, PEOPLE WANT EVERYTHING REGISTERED AS QUICKLY AND EASILY AS POSSIBLE. BUT CZECH LEGISLATION ISN’T COMPLETELY FRIENDLY WHEN IT COMES TO ONLINE IDENTIFICATION VERIFICATION IN BANKING SERVICES.
That’s exactly the problem we’re dealing with right now. Unfortunately, our
innovations are often hitting similar snags. Unlike that of other countries, Czech
legislation is far from being so quick and responsive. So, either we must wait, or we
have to think of another solution. Everything is possible. But it requires the time,
energy and unfortunately the enthusiasm of people to find new horizons.