A visionary fintech thought leader, who is fearless in her pursuit of client-focused excellence, Monika Liikamaa is the Co-CEO and Co-Founder of European fintech Enfuce.
With close to 25 years of experience in banking and payments, Monika’s dynamic leadership, “can-do” attitude, and innate understanding of the payment ecosystem have enabled Enfuce to become the go-to partner in fintech, and a force for good in the world, setting the trend for others to follow.
Since establishing Enfuce in 2016, Monika’s compelling strategic foresight has taken Enfuce through successful funding raises and service expansion to become one of Europe’s leading cloud-powered fintech, securing key cross-vertical partnerships to expand the opportunities for embedded payments, digital finance, and scalable SaaS solutions.
With her unwavering commitment to ethical values, Monika is driving the narrative for more corporate and social responsibility throughout the fintech industry, infusing environmental awareness and sustainability in Enfuce’s products, partnerships, and presence.
She strongly advocates for gender equality and diversity, especially within the fintech sector, and is a sought-after public speaker on subjects around payments, sustainability and entrepreneurship at international events.
Can you tell us about your background and how you became interested in STEM fields?
From a young age, I have been fascinated by the possibilities of technology. This passion led me to pursue a career in building financial technology, which started in 1998 when I began working as a consultant/developer for Capgemini. From then, my career progressed to building and maintaining critical systems, including a billing system for Telia, one of the biggest telecoms in the Nordics.
I’ve also launched several companies and specific functions, including my first company Proactum in 2006, being part of building S-Bank, which became the major Finnish retail bank, and launching and scaling the Card and mobile payments business unit for Crosskey Banking Solutions.
Soon after, the idea of creating Enfuce was born to solve the payments challenges holding back banks and fintech from growth.
What do you enjoy most about your work in fintech, and what are some of the biggest accomplishments you are proud of?
Fintech as an industry is continually pushing the frontiers of what’s possible and changing the payments industry for the better – and that’s a very exciting thing to be a part of.
One example of this from Enfuce is when we recently launched our “First Aid” card: a card designed to help aid organisations distribute money to the people who need it immediately, securely, and in full compliance with regulatory demands.
This was a hugely proud moment for me as, with millions of people depending on humanitarian assistance during times of conflict or climate emergencies and aid recipients feeling shame around waiting in line for cash hand-outs, we have been able to give people their dignity and privacy in tough moments. This project exemplifies how modern, integrated payment solutions can transform humanitarian aid delivery, improve operational speed and security, and promote financial inclusion.
Can you share a particularly challenging project or situation you’ve faced in your career and how you worked through it?
I believe that everything has happened at the perfect time in Enfuce’s history, and overcoming our challenges has given us the insight and courage to continue growing. Now, our drive comes from the knowledge that all the obstacles we have faced have ultimately been learnings that have helped to make Enfuce such a success.
One particular situation that comes to mind that was difficult for us at the time was when the Covid-19 pandemic caused a big delay with our Series B funding round. Despite believing that this delay would stall our growth and cause big problems for our company, we took the time to slow down and change our pace of growth to something that was much more beneficial for us. We realised that we actually needed that time to show what we are capable of and to allow us to get a good valuation – rather than us growing too quickly and that growth costing us a lot of money.
What advice would you give other women interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields, particularly in fintech or related industries?
Have the courage to speak up and do whatever you are passionate about. If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, or there is a type of fintech you would like to work at, contact them and tell them why you believe you would be a great fit for them. While the skills and background relevant to a specific STEM role can be taught, it is your mindset and attitude that will set you apart and get you noticed.
I also believe that women, in general, should support each other more. Supporting each other means that bigger problems like tackling the climate crisis, ending war or starvation and supporting diversity and inclusion can all be addressed more easily and with concrete steps. I try to emulate this at Enfuce, starting with our leadership style. Being a co-CEO, alongside co-founder Denise Johansson, has helped me succeed as it has ensured I have a partner to make difficult decisions with and someone to support me in leading our company.
Lastly, I would advise women early on in their careers to build their network from day one. Make sure you take the time to connect with people and surround yourself with people that you can trust, learn from and rely on to root for your success. You never know when this network will provide you with the help you need or provide you with the opportunity to help others.
What are the main reasons women are currently underrepresented in STEM industries, and what can be done to address these issues?
We need more female role models so that young women growing up today can see other women in positions of power in the STEM industry, whether as a bank CEO, head of a financial start-up, or just as a passionate working mother.
I am a mother to four children, including two girls I have always encouraged them to study and be interested in STEM subjects. My eldest daughter is studying to be a construction engineer, and my youngest excels in science and maths. It is important that all mothers take responsibility for shaping their children’s futures and really understand what is required to inspire them.
At Enfuce, we are dedicated to delivering a diversity of all kinds and want to inspire everyone in our team to become anything they want to be. As co-CEOs and female founders, Denise and I want to support and encourage women everywhere and show them there are no limitations. By encouraging and ensuring diversity among fintech leaders from all different backgrounds and different parts of the world, you gain diversity of thinking to create new services that solve new problems across the industry.
How do you prioritise work-life balance, and what strategies have you found effective in managing your time and energy?
I am lucky to have people around me who understand what I have experienced and can talk them through with me. If you bottle things up inside when things are difficult, they will eventually explode and have a large impact on your work-life balance.
At work, I have my co-CEO, Denise, to who I can speak when problems arise. This allows me to remain forward-focused and deal with things rationally. At home, I have my partner of 29 years, who is a great sounding board for me. He has the same values and ambitions as me, and so together, we are able to build the future that we want.
It is also important to have the courage to ask for help or change when needed. It has always amazed me how afraid people are of hearing no or asking for help, which often leads them to take on more work than their time and energy really allow. Instead, I always ask for what I want – I always ask myself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Usually, it is just that someone will tell you no.
What values and principles guide you as a leader, and how have you built and nurtured a strong team at Enfuce?
Enfuce is built by people, and I believe that the people we have working for us make the company what it is and ensure it remains value driven.
I am also passionate about driving diversity and inclusion by helping other women founders and women in the fintech industry. Enfuce has over 20 nationalities working for us and continues to help people from all backgrounds and locations around the world. We’re also involved in several programmes which help young children, both boys and girls, from kindergarten age onwards to learn and become interested in technology and mathematics to encourage more people into STEM-focused careers later in life.
Finally, can you share with us any upcoming projects or initiatives you are particularly excited about at Enfuce and how they align with the company’s mission and vision?
We have several exciting projects, including the “First Aid” card I have already spoken about and an exciting initiative we have just signed with the State Treasury of Finland and Kela (the Social Insurance Institution of Finland) to deliver modern prepaid disbursement cards.
What all our projects and partnerships have in common is that they are aligned with Enfuce’s vision – to educate every fintech, bank or brand, from challenger to goliath, to move to cloud-based embedded finance platforms by 2025 and drive digital transformation for the benefit of society, businesses and consumers. I strongly believe that our Card as a Service (CaaS) offering is incredibly flexible and will continue to provide solutions that have a positive impact on our world.