Podcast February 1, 2022

The Retail Investing Boom in the Aftermath of the Pandemic

Retail investing has been on the rise in the wake of the pandemic, but that rise has gone smoother in some markets than others.

The European market, in particular, poses many challenges for retail investors — and even more for the Fintechs looking to break into the market.

In this episode, Martin Sokk, Co-Founder and CEO at Lightyear, explains how Lightyear is overcoming European retail investing challenges to offer a simpler path for everyday people to grow their wealth.

Join us as we discuss:

  • What needs to be fixed in the European retail investing sphere
  • The importance of a simple solution to operate across Europe’s many currencies
  • Why Fintech’s will eventually stop being seen as challengers and integrate into the existing financial landscape

Ready to learn more about the state of investing in the multilayered cultural melting pot of Europe? Let’s dive in!

“We are taking the European investment struggles and translating them into modern-age solutions.” — Martin Sokk

Born to build

A native of beautiful Estonia, Martin has been a lifelong product builder. With a degree in information systems analysis, he’s had an absolutely stellar career in IT and Fintech, including an almost 5-year stint as Head of Product at TransferWise.

Martin and his partner wanted to create something entirely new — a platform that enables pan-European investing that’s free of commissions and foreign exchange fees.

Investing in the Continent has always been tricky, and moving money from one country to another was slow, inconvenient, and expensive.

“I feel that technology should solve that,” Martin observes, “we’re moving bits around the world, how hard can it be?”

Unique challenges

They started with a whiteboard and some simple innovations — one thing led to another and then to a $1.5m pre-seed round.

Martin wanted to scale as quickly as possible. Even though many EU countries use the Euro, not all do, and every country has their own exchange. Lightyear offers every user a multi-currency account and a trusted investment partner.

He feels it’s important to encourage regular people who might be missing out on economic growth. With the current inflation and pandemic and everything changing constantly, many folks are just not thinking of investment at this time.

Martin knew it was crucial to get his product into the mainstream and in the hands of normal humans.

“In the investment world in Europe, people forget that we have multiple currencies. And if you want to operate in various different countries, you need to have a local solution.” — Martin Sokk

Building the framework for GTM

One of the persistent difficulties in bringing Fintech products to marketing in Europe is ensuring regulatory compliance across multiple countries. Unfortunately, sometimes the critical infrastructure is lacking — and in that case, “you need to build them yourself.”

Working with the right partners is vital. When innovation outpaces regulatory watchdogs, customers can get hurt.

Martin stresses the importance of investing in the groundwork needed to make the world of investing more accessible to all.


Everyone should have the opportunity to invest in their future. Martin hopes that his platform can open up opportunities for financial education for those who need it most.

The European investment market is vast, and the future is wide open. It’s entirely probable that the traditional banker will go the way of the dinosaur and online financial transactions will become effortless.

One of Lightyear’s most unusual features is its ability to offer customers both a virtual, multi-currency account and the conventional UK account with IBAN source code. Martin’s company has also hand-selected 1,500 feisty US stocks for members who want to invest in dollars.

The proliferation of new wealthtech is creating smarter, more educated investors.

“We try to be in a position where we enable more discussion and thinking, and less copying each other’s trades.” — Martin Sokk

Establishing trust

In the old days, you took your money to a nice man in a suit, who said “trust me,” and hoped he was making the right investment decisions for your specific needs.

Now the average person is empowered to demystify the world of investing and seize the chance to become the master of their own fortune.

One of the pandemic’s still-rippling effects is society’s reliance on social networks. People are working together, pooling their assets, and getting investment advice from the unlikeliest of sources.

Looking to the future

What’s ahead for Martin and his team at Lightyear? He’s looking forward to bringing on exciting ETFs and new features for his members. Adding enhanced reporting options and a steady expansion into Europe is also on his plate.

Fintech is no longer a niche in the startup world, it’s becoming a common tool that people use every day. Martin believes that the “money management world has to get ridiculously simpler.”

Consumers crave convenience. Lightyear will encourage budding global investors with push-button simplicity and oceans of data at their fingertips.

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Until next time!  

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