Meet Monto’s CEO, Leonard Schreij: “I’m a technology optimist”
Published April 6, 2022
2022 is a year of growth and development for Monto. Our CEO Leonard Schreij talks about how we got here, and what's ahead.
Since Monto’s launch in 2021, our team has been picking up the pace. We’ve signed a handful of customers and welcomed amazing new talent. To make room for our growing team, we just moved into a brand new office space in central Stockholm.
We were also recently acquired by Fortnox – Sweden’s leading accounting software provider – along with our sibling company Capcito. Besides being a humbling milestone, the acquisition brings new resources and exciting co-operation with an owner that cares about SMEs’ success as much as we do.
In conjunction with the deal, Michael Hansen, co-founder of Monto and Capcito, has stepped in as EVP at Fortnox. Michael is in charge of everything fintech, and a big part of that is to make sure that Monto and Capcito thrive as key parts of Fortnox.
The new CEO of Monto is Leonard Schreij. Back in 2016, Leonard joined Michael Hansen as one Capcito’s founding members. Since Monto and Capcito are tightly interlinked, Leonard was the natural choice for taking Monto to the next level. Here’s his take on our past, present and future.
The blueprint for Monto’s SaaS service comes in part from Capcito. Could you walk us through how Capcito got started?
Launching Capcito in 2015, our goal was to deliver the best possible working capital experience for SMEs in Sweden. The vision was — and is still today — to give “all businesses easy access to fair financing.”
As many of you will know, SME:s have been highly underserved when it comes to access to financing. Even though they account for 40-60 percent of GDP in most economies, securing a loan or a credit line has been either too slow, expensive or impossible. As a result, cash flow shortage has unfairly become a chronic problem among young, promising, or otherwise healthy businesses.
Our founders experienced this barrier first hand, through their own businesses and investments.
Historically, traditional lenders have turned away SMEs for a simple reason: assessing their creditworthiness is hard. Much harder than, say, doing it on a publicly listed company. When it comes to SMEs, traditional lenders base their decisions mostly on outdated annual reports and static credit bureau data. Combine this with manual processes, poor unit economics, and a lack of understanding for SME needs, and you end up with a €1 trillion funding gap for SMEs in Europe.
With Capcito, we devised a way to base our credit assessments on up-to-date information. We were the first player to integrate real-time accounting data into our credit scoring engine. With better quality data, we could make better decisions. This unlocked benefits not just in terms of serving more companies with less risk, but also laid the foundation of a leaner and smarter business; with credit agents empowered by the right information; optimised portfolio risk through real-time monitoring; and financing products that were tailored for the SME audience.
Another key enabler was responsible data sharing. This has been Capcito and Monto’s top priority from day one. We’ve made sure that businesses know that their financial data sharing ends up benefiting them – through faster, more transparent and more affordable services.
What enabled Capcito’s success?
In all of this, our technology was key. We built everything from scratch, and brought on board key accounting software partners in order to access real-time data for credit decisions. We essentially embedded automated financing inside the leading accounting systems in Sweden.
We grew the Capcito team from four to 45 people in three years. Along the way we got some great investors onboard, including SEB and Schibsted – who exited when the Fortnox acquisition happened. To date, Capcito has paid out over SEK 2.5 billion and helped thousands of Swedish companies access smooth and fair financing. And we feel like we are just getting started.
On top of technology, our secret sauce is a dedicated team of credit experts who guide our customers to the best possible financing setup. Our culture is super strong, we are our customers’ biggest fans. This positive, customer-centered energy has translated perfectly into Monto’s culture as well.
And how did Monto enter the picture?
Our idea of a financing service aimed at SMEs required us to build a full end-to-end lending management system. In 2019, SEB told us they were interested in licensing the Capcito technology platform to automate and optimise their invoice financing products, and that's when we got our first SaaS client. The idea of Monto started to take shape.
Usually, focus is the essential ingredient of any success, so we had to think deeply about the future of our SaaS opportunity. As the pandemic struck in early 2020 we decided that the primary goal was to make sure the lending business stayed healthy.
The pandemic became a time machine in terms of accelerating digitalisation. Interestingly, this was also the time when the lending industry truly woke up to the value of having real-time financial information on their borrowers. As the world shut down, Capcito could monitor what borrower segments were being positively or negatively impacted and could take proactive measures to adjust credit and risk exposure. Other lenders were blindfolded.
Going into 2021, we made the strategic call to break out Monto into a separate business and make sure we could deliver on our vision faster – through enabling more lenders to serve businesses, with better credit intelligence tools powered by real time data sources.
What are the plans for Monto going foward?
We have plenty of exciting initiatives in the pipeline. We are developing our products, primarily Connect and Assess, in order to give our customers the best possible ability to access borrower ERP data and make data-driven decisions – faster and better. We look forward to having the leading credit intelligence tool on the market.
We work with both banks and fintechs, and for the coming years I expect the biggest growth to come from the fintech lending segment. We are seeing huge demand for real-time financial information among our leads and customers, especially the more tech-savvy customers who have the ability to get started in a matter of days. Once we deliver the up-to-date data, they know exactly how they can put that data to work to achieve major improvements.
How are you going to be benefiting Fortnox, your new owner?
That’s a super exciting chapter. We both share the vision of providing seamless business services to SMEs – and by combining our resources we make a huge impact, starting in Sweden. Monto’s technology will underpin many of the new exciting financing services that Fortnox is launching. Essentially, Fortnox 430,000+ business customers will soon have unique access to invoice-based financing at the click of a button, based on fresh accounting data.
In the first few months, I’ve been impressed by how well our respective cultures and ambitions fit together. This deal also means that we have a treasure trove of data to make sure that Monto has the most efficient SME credit models on the market. Having the backing of Fortnox is equally a great launching pad for Monto’s standalone growth operations, giving us loads of credibility on the market.
You are now busy building and scaling an organisation that shoots for fast, international growth. What are your priorities as a leader?
Number one, getting people fired up on the vision. With Monto, we want to unleash the promise of real-time data for the lenders and b2b platforms of the world. Keep it simple.
Second, getting the right people in the right positions. So what I focus on is making sure I’m surrounded by pros smarter than myself, and giving them responsibilities that align with their skills and motivation. Then it’s about ensuring they feel full trust and freedom to prioritise and execute.
Thirdly, I’m responsible for setting and communicating the strategic direction. This is what helps Monto leaders and teams prioritise on a rolling basis. In order to balance autonomous teams with company objectives I am a believer in having crystal clear goals – both on the company and team levels. Our culture of ownership and accountability is crucial to this.
To summarise: when great people are fired up about a common vision, feel empowered to make it happen, have the resources to do it, along with processes to course-correct, I have a hunch that great things can be achieved.
What are your views on technology, in general?
I’m a technology optimist. David Deutch’s idea that nothing is impossible except for that which is prohibited by the laws of physics is something I find truly epic. All that we need to do is create good explanations. This makes the universe an even more exciting place to be a part of.
How do you switch off?
In my spare time, I enjoy being outside, away from all technology! I’ve always loved skiing, and make time every winter to hit the mountains.. I’m also keen about F18 catamaran sailing, climbing and music. Drums are my main instrument and I love playing everything from jazz to death metal – with our in-house Monto band!
Lastly, since you are a bookworm – what are your favourite books?
* The beginning of Infinity by David Deutch * The Dream of Reason by Anthony Gottlieb * High output management by Andy Grove