The best bank in the world – Interview with founders of Polish-British startup Symmetrical.ai

Zarząd Symmetrical
Daniel Wartołowski, Piotr Smoleń, Symmetrical Labs

How does Symmetrical work?

Daniel Wartołowski: Symmetrical provides technology that allows employers to act as a bank for their employees. On the one hand, take care of their sense of security and financial health, and on the other hand, protect them from expensive financial products and ensure financial liquidity. And it is the best bank in the world, because its goal is to provide broadly understood financial care, not to maximize profit.

Piotr Smoleń: The first functionality that we have implemented is “payout on request”, which allows employees to decide when and with what frequency they reach for their already earned salary. It is a paradox that employees working every day – and providing value to their employers also on a daily basis – have to wait for money due to them until the agreed payment date. We release employees’ money so that they can use it when they need it. Especially now, when the downturn and the crisis are knocking on our door.

Daniel Wartołowski: Exactly. This is confirmed by the latest data. According to BigInfoMonitor, in just two months of the pandemic, the debts of Poles due to unpaid bills and loan installments increased by over PLN 1.2 billion (to PLN 81 billion). The data presented in InfoDług include payments of a minimum of PLN 200 delayed by at least 30 days, the main question is: how much better would the debtors’ financial situation be if, instead of using expensive loans or credits, they could use their own remuneration even before payment? This is what we enable employees and employers at Symmetrical to take advantage of already earned money without having to buy expensive (and not always available) financial products.

What is your MVP based on? 

Piotr Smolen: Our MVP was a simple mobile app enabling workers to track their earned salary and pay out when they need money. Obviously this app changed since the beginning but the additional functionality is complementary to the previous idea and they also can be adjusted to the individual needs of employers. It means that the employer defines how many times salary on demand can be used or what part of the salary can be paid out earlier. Together with the educational module which we are still developing, it is a perfect tool for responsible employers which understand the real needs of their workers and take care of their wellness not only during prosperity.

Daniel Wartołowski: Coming back to MVP, from the beginning we assumed that our app would be automatically integrated with the most popular payroll systems or more broadly ERP programs in companies so that the implementation of our app would be smooth, simple and completely neutral to payroll systems of the company. 

In what ways does your idea change from the beginning till now?

Piotr: Our initial vision was to enable simple, ethical and cheap access to financial services. We wanted to make equal access for all people in the financial market. And that is why we called our company Symmetrical because we think that today not everyone has equal chances and equal access to money which additionally increases the existing disparities to the disadvantage of people with fewer resources. 

Daniel Wartołowski: We started implementing our vision by creating the technology that made it possible. We currently use these technologies in a cooperation model with employers. The innovation of our solution is based on the fact that the employer does not have to settle previously paid wages in their own system on an ongoing basis, or pay them out of their own funds. They are paid by Symmetrical and at the end of the billing period, the employer only receives the total journal note with the sum of the advances paid and the summary service invoice.

Which sectors is your app targeted to? In which industries does it work the best? 

Piotr Smolen: Our solution works best in BPO/outsourcing, production, retail, logistics but also in HoReCa or B2C services in which the workers work flexible hours.

Is the market, especially Polish prepared for this solution?

Daniel Wartołowski: We are deeply convinced that waiting 30 days for the payment of the money earned every day is not fair and will soon be a thing of the past. Poles are a nation that easily adapts to technological innovations, values independence and the ability to independently decide about their financial situation. Especially today, when we live in the gig economy era and everyone is looking for flexible solutions tailored to their individual needs, and at the same time we are more aware and we are better aware of what is the most profitable. We can see it already after dozens of implementations and pilots in various industries, that our solution is well received on the domestic market.

In which countries is your application available and where does this benefit for difficult times work best?  

Piotr Smoleń: We started our operations in Poland, we are currently opening several new markets both in Central and Eastern Europe and in Western Europe. The unprecedented crisis situation affected all countries in the world to a greater or lesser extent. We have started preliminary market surveys across Europe. We talked with employees and employers, incl. from Germany, where the culture of saving money and financial awareness are really high. Even people with modest incomes have some savings and, interestingly enough, although they have a “financial backup”, they do not want to use it even in case of unexpected spending. They prefer to leave their savings intact and use the early withdrawal option on request. We can already see the field for Symmetrical.

Lately You received 25 million PLN in funding, what do you plan to spend these funds on?

Piotr Smolen: We will use the funds from the financing round to expand our product with artificial intelligence and mechanisms supporting users in making better financial decisions. We will also use them for further expansion in Europe.

Piotr Smolen – co-founder and CEO of the Polish-British startup in the fintech sector – Symmetrical.ai. Former CEO and co-founder of Turbine Analytics, the company was sold to a strategic investor in a transaction financed by a global private equity fund. CFA title holder. A graduate of the Warsaw School of Economics and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Daniel Wartolowski – co-founder and CEO of the Polish-British startup in the fintech sector – Symmetrical.ai. Former CTO in a global sales platform specializing in G2A PC gaming, where he cooperated with a team of 230 engineers. For 5 years he was associated with BCG, where he was responsible for implementing projects in the banking industry. CFA holder. Graduate of Warsaw School of Economics.