Tipping. point | The Swinto experience — Part One

  1. The foundations
  2. At the heart of it
  3. Initial Versions
  4. What we stand for
  5. The spirit at Swinto
  6. The title of this post
  7. Stay tuned
August 2021 Kosova, during our company retreat — the team took a moment to reflect on how far we have come.

There is something rather odd about looking back at the story of something new, recollecting a series of events, people, designs, discussions, obstacles and all the humanity in the middle that formulates the plot of great endeavours.

What will be the start for some will feel like a sentimental dream for its founders and creators. I find myself in the wonderfully saccharine position of having stopped for a few moments to look back on the miles that we as the team at Swinto have sprinted behind us. In such moments there is always the danger that perseverance will lose out to exhaustion and yet our ability to overcome in the face of great difficulties is what has come to truly define us.

This will not be the comprehensive story of Swinto, I didn’t want to write a straight-up bio but instead to use this post as a reveal and show; through a mosaic of history, app features and guiding principles, what we mean by the “Swinto experience”.

A visual representation of the Swinto Experience, imbuing our product and visual approach.

The foundations

It was during a dinner in early 2018 that my fellow co-founders with over 20 years of experience in Banking in Switzerland familiar with each other from their time as students at the University of Zurich; Alban, Petrit, Arlind and Hetem, discussed ideas for solving the core issues that still define our product; of transfers from Switzerland and Kosova.

Later in the year, I would find myself stopping by Zurich. I’d promised Alban that the next time I was in Zurich I would call him first. So at a cocktail bar, in late 2018, somewhere in the centre of the city with all the decor and atmosphere of the19th-century, Alban discussed the idea of building a solution — what followed was a frantic back-and-forth of questions and “theory-testing”, a mish-mash of Albanian, English and various jargon.

An early version of a slide outlining the problem — May 2020

It would be some time still until the ball really got rolling but there was, in the following weeks and months, a ball and us co-founders were slowly weaving together the proverbial kick for the proverbial roll.

Like all origin stories, there is a cloud of occurrences, here and there, of what was said and when but of course; the true origins for such things come from the soul, that is to say; an eternal desire to conquer our collective hardships. Anyone of a people, folk or family that have endured a mutual history of adversity can understand the altruism that gives our sense of who we are, our identity.

Much later at another night in Zurich, caught between good drinks, Petrit had asked me how I would define our identity, what makes our community. I gave an unsatisfying answer at the time however after all the sacrifice, goodwill and hard work; I feel more and more that this venture which we have started provides the best answer I can give to that question.

At the heart of it

There is a tendency to treat money in the form of digits, statistics and models, while all these are important in the analysis of finance we run the risk of missing the point when it comes to the people that earn it, that use it and critically; that rely on it.

When we send money, receive it or make a payment; we are expressing something much more meaningful, we are telling a story, creating a feeling, and taking a financial vote on what is important to us. It could be an aeroplane ticket on a holiday, a loaf of bread or money to take care of loved ones.

In the human experience of money, it is not only a consensus mechanism of credit but our practical and common instrument in shaping outcomes that we believe in.

Photo from our TV advert of a family receiving money for Leka’s birthday

It is why for us fees, tariffs, hidden costs and the unbanked are not only bylines but issues we strive to tackle. In architecting solutions that reduce barriers to entry and cost, we participate hand-in-hand to help people through their financial journey.

Humanising finance is a core belief of ours; it is through leveraging technology and an ecosystem model that we offer an innovative financial platform that allows for instant, low-fee, easy-to-use digital finance;

  • Instant transfers across borders with zero fees
  • Convenient payments at stores near you
  • Instant cash deposits and withdrawals at any time
  • Servicing hard to reach places

The solution is a reliable, trustworthy and state-of-the-art platform that has the ability to reach across generational, geographical, educational and income divides — a new way of using and managing money, one that reflects the human stories that they tell.

We are building an interconnected financial home for everyone.

Initial Versions

By the end of 2019, we had taken the first steps in shaping the product and features of a fintech app, one that would be easy to use, with a gentle learning curve and the sophisticated, technical fortitude of synchronising multiple settlements, real-time confirmation of currency exchange orders, integrating differing nodes of suppliers to straddling transactions across borders at an instant.

January 2020 Barcelona, Spain — the first walk-through of the App and discussion of core features.

Our altar pieces are the Swinto iOS and Android mobile applications and from the onset, I knew we had to get the product design right. Our driving goal was to design an intuitive user experience that empowers users.

The major challenge was fading away from the intimidation that comes from using financial services; sending money by mistake, dealing with jargon users don’t understand, smoothing data input steps and walk-through wizards.

Designing a mobile-first, digital finance app for a target audience that mostly still used cash and visited bank branches in person; turns out is a more challenging task than at initial face value.

Due to the wide spectrum of user personas, we invited much more users than usual for user tests to take part in Switzerland and Kosova. After each user test, we had to go back to the drawing board and design something that ever more conveyed the touch-and-feel likeliness of cards and wallets.

A large part of our user base would not have used a FinTech app before and the concept of your finances living entirely on your device was going to be, for the most part, entirely new to our users.

An initial design of the Home view for the App — February 2020

It wasn’t until early 2021 that we had really achieved our core-design UX and UI language. We dialled back the up-front nature of our design, re-organising steps and functionality so that all the capabilities were still available but without the “weight of action” from the first view.

I directed the design to follow the way we more naturally think when using our money and the financial paths we tread. When sending and/or receiving money, we think about the people first not the amount or the method, we think of our family and friends. Each of these paths means something for us and each person we think of changes that path in some small way.

A screenshot of the 3rd version designs where Alban is pointing our bugs on the initial app — something that would continue from then onwards and gladfully resolved.

By bringing people to the fore we were removing friction in the app-experience, hence;

Onboarding is all digital (no paperwork or in-person visits) with step-by-step progress which can be completed in under five minutes.

It is why sending and requesting money pre-selects the possible beneficiaries who have those capabilities and why we ask how often you would like to repeat that send/request, if at all.

Multiple currency accounts are a drag-and-tap away from activation and switching to a different list of transactions dedicated to that currency is seamless.

It is why your beneficiaries are your contacts, people on your device, family, friends and loved ones. It is why you upload profile pictures and can leave messages 😊 with every transfer.

February 2020 Prishtine, Kosova, discussing an initial roadmap for core features — taken just before the COVID19 pandemic would change everything.

Paying for your groceries, petrol or items online is only a QR-Code scan away. It is why depositing and withdrawing cash is available at local merchants to you by viewing our live map with one tap.

It is why accounts for payments of utilities or usual bank transfers are branded, searchable and pre-loaded for you.

Detailed, step-by-step help info pages are located in all the key features of the app in all three languages to help guide you when you may not be certain of the steps required.

It is why live chat customer support is at hand to support all queries and why you have a profile page with all your documents, currency account management and subscriptions easily accessible at any time.

This means that remote areas do not have to plan for visits to the city to wait for hours at the bank branch, it means anyone above the age of 18 can set up an account that is their own without having to depend on others and the traffic of finance is instant, no more waiting for half-a-day to tomorrow to wait for payments to clear.

Swinto was designed from the ground up to empower people to have full, fair and transparent control of their finances.

The latest iteration of the design — Lab environment version (the balance on this account is simulated).

What we stand for

The brand name came together after multiple different versions — its neoteric character connotates swiftness, technology, expertise, an active word “to Swinto” with rounded edges representing our humanising feel and connection.

We are bankers, technologists, creatives, lawyers, social media marketers, designers, engineers, customer support agents, website managers, accountants, artists, auditors and writers.

We go skiing, wear suits and hoodies, play ping-pong, watch Netflix, make videos, drink too much coffee or too little, play music from Rock to Reggae, some of us eat vegetarian, others steak.

We have just received our degrees and we have managed departments in leading international institutions, we share memes, news articles and we share our opinions, we have played professional Basketball and hiked great mountains.

We are the new.

This is us, what we stand for. We are crafting a new culture at Swinto. Everything from our visual language and design to our customer support approach reflects our guiding principles and the people within it, from all walks of life and each with our own flavour of what Swinto means.

App store screens for iOS
A moment at our offices eating Fli and Ajran with the team — such moments have defined our startup culture.

Building something new usually requires thinking in new ways, seeing problems from different angles, and constantly iterating.

We are committed to financial inclusion, the unbanked left out of the financial system, the environment and driving a positive impact in society. Tackling such issues is not easy but it is at the core of who we are and while the solutions are out there it will take new approaches to find them.

As such Swinto will continue to be shaped by the people that believe in the positive impact it can provide, it will be shaped by innovators, those with differing opinions and those unafraid to change things for the better.

The spirit at Swinto

It is inspiring to see the spirit that has imbued Swinto by the people working on it every day; on this, that which resonates most powerfully to me are the lines from the second stanza of Naim Frasheri’s poem “Fjalet e qirrit”.

do të tretem, të kullohem,
të digjem, të përvëlohem,
që t’u ndrinj mir’ e të shihni,
njëri-tjatërin të njihni.

- Fjalet e qirrit — Naim Freshari

We have had to think of out-of-the-box solutions, be quick on our feet, persist in overwhelmingly difficult situations and we are proud of how far Swinto has come. Financially speaking for a startup, it is never an easy decision to delay entering the market until it is a product we are proud to recommend to our own family and friends.

Our doggedness in fully crafting a product to match the ideals we espouse has allowed us to push the boundaries of what can be achieved through creativity and tenacity, it is a lesson we take with us as we move forward toward future development.

Enjoying a joke with Alban outside the offices at Swinto — November 2021

With Swinto I have had the privilege of working with some of the most outstanding people; in addition to my co-founders and I, there has been a multitude of 100+ persons working at various times on Swinto, from inception to every line in an agreement, every edge on a design file and to the last function in the codebase. From Switzerland, the UK, Spain, and Germany to Kosova. I say this with the humble acknowledgement that it has been the shared experience and desires of so many.

I find it moving to partake in an orchestra of innovation and humanity and I respectfully bow before all the people and their families that have given a part of their spirit, sacrifice and work toward the noble aim of making people’s lives a little easier today than it was yesterday.

Listen to our Keynote in full for a walk-through of Swinto

The title of this post

Before concluding this first part I felt it was necessary to explain why I set the title Tipping. point — it is always an arduous attempt to encapsulate such a broad subject succinctly and it was important to get this right.

The history of the use of “tipping point” is capricious to put it lightly; swinging from racist political rhetoric to business buzz-words and intellectual commentary. Therefore the reason I thought it best to explain my choice of the title is so that it could not be construed through a negative connotation.

It was important for me to be able to truly convey the full breadth of our experience, which includes the downturns, heartbreaks and challenges as part-and-parcel of the great successes, passion and achievements. I think the definition from Merriam Webster puts it best;

the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place

The ideas behind Swinto are to bring technological innovation in finance for a positive, more inclusive financial arena that works for everyone.

We want to provide the rocket fuel to a fair, connected and people-friendly financial ecosystem, one that spurs wealth creation, innovation and brings down the barriers to finance that hold us back. This requires all of us, your grandmother is as vital as a banker in changing how we think about finance, that is why we are a community, mission-driven company and we would love for you to join us.

As part of our brochure for Merchants, we welcome businesses of all sizes.

Stay tuned

If you enjoyed this post; on the story and product, then stay tuned for part two of this series where we will focus on the technology and ecosystem model that are the driving engines behind Swinto. You can do so by following our pages;