Today, in our interview session we have Maria Woncisz.
Maria is the Country Manager Europe at Luno, a leading global cryptocurrency company on a mission to upgrade the world to a better financial system.
How did you become interested in fintech?
I worked in tech, public affairs and lobbying in my career and I’ve always been fascinated by the impact that innovation can have on people’s lives. Technology has empowered billions of people globally to have access to the world’s knowledge, information, communications and services and ye there’s a significant proportion of global population with no access to the financial ecosystem. I was looking for an opportunity with a big social impact. I wanted to work in a field and a company that really wants to change the world.
And this is why fintech and especially cryptocurrencies are so interesting. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have unique properties that can potentially help solve some of the problems around accessibility, security, transparency and trustworthiness.
For me working in a fintech like Luno gives me a unique opportunity to play part in a revolution that could improve the lives of billions of people.
What is Luno?
Luno is a leading global cryptocurrency company with over 2.7 million customers in 40 countries and a team of over 250. We are headquartered in London and operate across Africa, South East Asia and Europe, with 7 offices worldwide.
Our products and services make it safe and easy to buy, sell, store and learn about Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies.
We have 3 key products:
- Luno Wallet: Cryptocurrency conversion, storage and consumer payments
- Luno Exchange: Professional cryptocurrency trading platform
- Luno Enterprise: Open API’s, institutional investors, merchant integration
The existing financial system was built for a non-digital age, ignoring the needs of the modern individual and with many unnecessary inefficiencies and gatekeepers.
The world now has access to new technologies like decentralised cryptocurrencies that is quickly making these old systems and ways of thinking redundant. Like communication evolving from landlines to mobile phones, or post to email, money is now finally catching up with other information revolutions.
Our vision is to upgrade the world to a better financial system - decentralised cryptocurrencies are enabling us to reimagine the financial system to upgrade the world to something better: Money that can be moved around cheaper, faster and safer, cutting out unnecessary intermediaries and accruing all this value to consumers.
Products and services that are completely interoperable with a good balance between transparency and privacy, with a much better user experience. More effective and less restrictive and costly regulation. Money that becomes intelligent and programmable. And most importantly, a fair financial system with open and equal access for everyone.
How did you come to join Luno, and can you tell us about some initiatives you lead here?
I was approached by Luno when I was at Adzuna, a London-based startup, managing four markets. I have been interested in cryptocurrencies for a while so the opportunity to work in the industry, the company’s vision and the opportunity to lead the launch in European markets was really one not to be missed.
At Luno we are really focused on education in the field of blockchain and cryptocurrencies and I’m particularly proud of our project called UniCrypto, a tour of over 16 universities across Italy to teach about blockchain.
We collaborate with academic institutions, with banks, regulators, media, influencers and various communities to help demystify and democratise cryptocurrencies.
What do you think are the unique exchange features that make Luno different from others?
Localisation: First of all, we put a lot of focus on localisation to make our customers’ journey as pleasant and smooth as possible. We want our product to best reflect the needs of the local community.
We translate all our content, provide customer support in a local language and make sure that the payment methods are those most in use and in demand locally. We also engage with our community offline in each market to make sure we collect feedback and are in touch with our customers.
UX: We started in emerging markets and our app has been built for mobile-first. All functionalities and services are all available on mobile as well as desktop with the easiest, smoothes UX in mind.
Education: We make it safe and easy for anyone to begin the journey into the world of crypto. For that reason, we ensure that we provide all the necessary educational materials for our customers to feel informed and confident.
We invest a lot in creation of new content, we run webinars, a variety of online and offline initiatives in partnership with industry experts, academics and academic institutions to spread awareness of cryptocurrencies and blockchain in an effort to democratise the use of cryptocurrencies.
How can technology solutions help institutional players to mitigate many of the biggest risks involved with cryptocurrency trading?
Crypto is often seen as an untraceable funding mechanism but there are many systems available that are able to track funds on chain.
Further, crypto exchanges are increasingly required under regulation to know their customers, which requires the use of external partners to identify and verify customers via electronic means.
Fraud prevention is also required to ensure financial crime is mitigated and for this, there are a number of solutions available to reduce the risk.
Is the future of crypto exchanges decentralized or centralized?
I think that the concept of ‘decentralised’ is intellectually interesting but at the moment, from the perspective of the optimal solution for customers in the short term, it’s just not there yet. In 5-10 years it should become possible, as we see adoption accelerate and the industry will understand better what is neeeded.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in a career in the cryptocurrency space?
Having worked in various industries, I’d say that so far I find crypto by far the most open of all. I see people from such diverse backgrounds - it really shows how inclusive it is.
If anyone wants to join a cryptocurrency project, I’d definitely suggest doing your own research - find out more about the founders, the team and the funding and backing that the company has.
Thank you Maria for answering our questions and we wish you all the best.