Unutilised Youth in Emerging Markets

I consider myself quite lucky that I can travel to many countries throughout the year for business and pleasure.

I had the chance to visit Athens after almost four years for a weekend and lately I was in Istanbul for a week. One of my latest observations is  that emerging countries, such as Greece and Turkey, are unable to utilise their very well educated youth not only in the labour force, but also in the social arena.

Consider Greece… Youth unemployment is close to 45 per cent and overall unemployment is around 25 per cent.

Consider Spain… Youth unemployment is close to 50 per cent and overall unemployment is around 22 per cent.

And finally Turkey… Youth unemployment is around 20 per cent and overall unemployment is around 10 percent.

A common point among all these countries—besides the fact that they are all Mediterranean—is that they have a highly educated minority youth population, whether they be not fully utilised in the labour force and inactive in the country’s social arena, or fully utilised in the labour force (very few of them), but again inactive in the social arena.

To be sure, a minority of the minority is active in the both arena and this is huge loss for these countries in closing the gap between them and highly developed nations.

Another common point among these countries is that there have been coup attempts and coups in their recent histories: a coup attempt in Spain in 1982, a coup in Greece in 1967–1974, and most recently, a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016.

Whether we like it or not, the common history of violence and coups has pushed the youth of these countries away from voluntary social  work and has made them completely apolitical, as well as more individualistic and disinterested in local/global issues.

Given that they are living in much better conditions than their peers, these groups of people live completely for themselves, make fun of everything and, more significantly, do not produce much.

It is no secret that all societies are becoming more individualistic, irrespective of the culture and countries that we live in, but it is always important to feed the soul as well as the stomach.

We should reincorporate these youths back into society and grow together! Unfortunately, I do not have a concrete plan to act upon, but I have the ambition to start somewhere!

All the best from a beautiful Mediterrean country.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Fintech Jurisdiction Shopping

Hardware, software, capital and regulations are the key challenges for most of the fintech startups and regulation remains the most important external factor that could potentially lead the whole idea to be stillborn if not correctly assessed and addressed.

When the regulators are not very cooperative and do not want to take any risk, then it is almost impossible for the fintech startups such as SmartDeposit to operate and acquire clients.

The selection of the right jurisdiction for your startup will affect the performance of your company tremendously, especially at the beginning.

Imagine a regulatory environment that bans you from operating without a licence and treats you as a proper financial institution. As soon as you are treated as a financial institution rather than a fintech company, capital requirements and red tape will kick in, which will not only increase the cost of your doing business tremendously, but also disadvantage you in the competition from the very start since you must now act like a proper bank whilst you do not have millions of customers and you don’t have any capital nowhere near as any bank.

In this respect, Singapore is a great place to set up the venture since the regulator is willing to help innovative companies and they are willing to regulate only when they reach a critical mass for the industry. In addition, regulators in Singapore are communicative and have specific employees assigned to the fintech industry. I would think the only and very important disadvantage is the size of the market since it is a small city state country. Regardless, it is a great and the best option for SmartDeposit to take off due to its regulatory environment.

Since Singapore is a gateway to South-East and South Asia, a good reputable take-off could enable the company to benefit from accessing other mass markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand from Singapore. Moreover, access to capital and VCs in Singapore is relatively easy and the region is booming not only economically, but also in many other aspects.

London is a good alternative with an established ecosystem. In contrast, New York would be difficult in terms of licensing issues and other regulatory hurdles.

The regulator in the UK, FCA, is also supportive of the fintech industry and the establishment of Level 39 in the financial hub of London, Canary Wharf, is an advantage.

When you acquire the critical mass in terms of clients and deposits, you will need to leave your home country (e.g. Singapore) to find new customers to exponentially grow and this will ensure you cooperate with more than one regulator. But since you now have a critical mass from your home country, it would be much easier to go out and try to look for new markets, and most importantly, you have more negotiation power now than at the start.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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