Interview by Arnas Lasys

The team at FINE caught up with Viktoria Soltesz, CEO of PSP Angels, a banking and payments consulting firm. Viktoria is an accomplished professional in finance, with a strong background in consultancy, education, financial strategies, and risk management. She recently published a book, “Moving Money: How Banks Think,” which demystifies the complexities of the financial world. 

Arnas- AcrossLimits: When did you start writing this book, and what led you to begin? 

Viktoria Soltesz: I started summarizing my thoughts and research when I needed to train my own staff. Initially, I explained matters to clients over email, which provided me with a lot of written material. As my team grew, I wanted to transfer knowledge to them, so I used snippets from those emails as training material. This became the foundation of the book, which initially was a mix of everything.  

One of my colleagues suggested organizing this knowledge into an internal textbook for new staff. This material started to look like a book. Since I repeatedly explained the same concepts to clients, I realized this textbook could be more broadly accessible. Clients usually face similar challenges, so they have the same questions, problems, and need to adhere to the same regulations. I realized if I made this publicly available, I could save a lot of time. 

I now use the book to extract chapters related to specific problems. If a client has further questions, we can have a call and discuss. 

When I started the book, I realized there wasn’t one that summarized all the various aspects of banking and payments. Some books focus on banking and the economy, others on compliance, or how card payments work, but none covered everything from the history of banking to why things are done the way they are. I was very happy when I launched the book. There was significant interest because you can finally find all your answers related to banking and payments in one place and understand how different parts interact. 

The book is available in both physical and eBook formats. We are also working on an audiobook version and translations into Spanish and potentially other languages. 

Arnas- AcrossLimits: What markets are the targets of this book? 

Viktoria Soltesz: This book looks at all the hidden information around international money movements. If you are familiar with your own country’s payment system and trade locally, you don’t face issues like currency exchange and hedging. When you go international, you encounter different cultures and banking regulations. What’s good enough for your bank may not be for a foreign bank. In Latin America, they may not want to use credit cards, while in Asia they prefer direct bank payments (open banking), and in Africa, mobile payments are common. When you go international, you need an expert on board because the risks get high. The target audience is anyone trading internationally, using various banks and payment service providers, multiple currencies, or wanting to keep up with technological innovations and offer various payment methods. 

Arnas- AcrossLimits: In the book, trust is a recurring theme. Why would you say it feels as though over time there is less trust from banks toward clients? Is that related to their capabilities? 

Viktoria Soltesz: Yes. Until recently, the main form of payment was cash, which is not traceable and difficult to enforce monetary policy upon. Now, with modern technology, we can understand how money is moving, who the players are, and the different nodes payments go through. Governments can now double-check payment routes, not to give you a headache or act as Big Brother, but to ensure society works in a healthy way. Governments need to make sure that no one is committing crimes and that everyone is paying their fair share of taxes. 

Usually, when money moves from one pocket to another, a tax point is triggered. With cash, it was hard to determine if taxes were declared and paid. Banks also need to ensure nothing illegal is happening. With online and electronic payments, it’s easier to understand what a payment was made for. If there’s questionable activity, banks can stop transactions to defend society and enforce laws, preventing scams or illegal sales. 

If someone runs an illegal business, they likely collect cash, and thus can’t put it back into the banking system. With AI, despite many ways for criminals to conduct scams, AI can filter out these gaps by accessing different databases and handling large amounts of data. 

Arnas- AcrossLimits: How has the definition of FinTech changed in recent years? 

Viktoria Soltesz: FinTech combines finance and technology, and both are changing, though not always in the same direction. Finance evolves with new rules, regulations, and licenses, independent of technology. Traditional banks want to go online and develop apps, but this doesn’t affect the licenses controlling their activities. In Europe, for example, we have new e-money institution licenses, payment institution licenses, and small EMI or authorized EMI licenses. These changes evolve independently of technological advancements. 

The tech part includes bank applications, open banking, new wallets, new payment methods, speed, security standards, etc. Merging finance with technology (FinTech) creates complexity where regulatory perspectives and technology advancements must align. Everything is developing, making it exciting but challenging for those not proficient in both aspects. 

Take Revolut, for example. It started as an app with minimal financial licensing and achieved mass adoption because traditional institutions lacked needed tech features. They focused on technology, later obtaining full banking licenses to offer complete services. Today, they have the same responsibilities as any High Street bank. Despite the perception that talking to someone in person at a bank is safer, both traditional banks and neobanks have the same regulatory responsibilities. 

Arnas- AcrossLimits: In your book, you have a chapter on setting up a payment plan. You mention that today’s plan might not be the best for tomorrow. What are some signs that indicate the payment plan needs to change? 

Viktoria Soltesz: Imagine your company is constantly changing, increasing volume, evolving, changing products or services, targeting new markets, and developing technology. If you had only a website before and now have an online store, many things are changing. Your financial suppliers, banks, and payment providers are also changing their risk appetites, offerings, and products, possibly due to innovation. You need to stay on top of everything, balancing your changing demands with changes on the supply side. Whoever handles payments and banking decisions in your company needs to ask the right questions from suppliers: “Can I have better fees? Better terms and conditions?” 

Ask about the latest innovations and new APIs. Knowing what to ask can bring many benefits from working together with suppliers, staying ahead of the competition. It’s not only about costs but also the ease for customers, payment speed, and how financial institutions handle your money. The latest innovation might be cheaper than your current system, so having someone knowledgeable about these questions ensures your payment plan is up to date. 

Arnas-AcrossLimits: So, what’s next? Another way to transfer knowledge? 

Viktoria Soltesz: That’s right. Through this book, I realized there is a huge market need for specialized banking and payment knowledge. Payment departments typically fulfill three functions: accounting and finance, compliance and legal, and development and technology. Larger companies have separate teams for each function, but small to medium-sized companies may not realize the importance of this knowledge for healthy payment and banking arrangements. 

Payment and banking consultancy provides valuable insights and a holistic approach to banking and payment flows, the lifeline of your business. 

This led me to think that my book could raise awareness of these issues and create a certification system focusing on payment and banking aspects. As more businesses go online, understanding banking and payment risks and costs becomes vital. There are opportunities to choose from, and many businesses may not be aware of these options. 

I am now setting up an institute to provide relevant education and knowledge for those handling payment and banking decisions. The certification will offer independent, summarized knowledge globally accepted, ensuring the bearer can handle third-party funds and evaluate associated risks. Hiring someone with this certification proves they have the relevant knowledge for finance, payments, accounting, and banking roles. 

As an accountant who also taught at a university, I was never trained on Visa, Mastercard, correspondent accounts, open banking, or related risks. If your accounting team handles payment functions without this knowledge, you might face unknown risks and unnecessary costs.  

So, that’s the whole idea. I developed a detailed payment and banking framework, summarized in Chapter 7 of my book, on how to build a payment plan. This can be applied to different companies, regardless of activity and volume, enabling them to double-check the health of their banking system, maintain it regularly, and identify major red flags and cost-cutting opportunities. 

Viktoria Soltesz’s book, “Moving Money: How Banks Think,” can be purchased on Amazon.