Delivering innovative and customer-centric solutions for the payments sector

The CEO of Wallester and our CEO of the Year in the Fintech Industry, lives for the fast-paced dynamism of the fintech sector and the ability to transform for the better how people and businesses experience financial services

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Sergei Astafjev, CEO of Wallester

Sergei Astafjev founded Wallester in 2016 together with Dmitri Logvinenko, the company’s COO. Headquartered in Tallinn, Estonia, Wallester offers customised card payment solutions and state-of-the-art card payment infrastructure. The company’s two flagship products are Wallester White-Label, a card payment solution for businesses looking to launch their own branded Visa payment card programmes, and Wallester Business, a card payment infrastructure for the management of corporate expenses. Providing services across the European Economic Area and UK, Wallester became a licensed Visa partner in 2018.

Filling a gap in the market
Wallester came into being because its founders saw a need in the market for more flexible, customisable payment solutions, especially for businesses wanting to integrate payments without having to build everything from scratch. “There were gaps that existing providers weren’t filling very well,” Astafjev explains, “so we decided to launch Wallester to directly address these shortcomings.” The company’s vision was to provide a platform that offered more flexibility and which allowed businesses to launch their own branded payment cards quickly and efficiently. By focusing on ease of integration and customisable features, Wallester filled the niche that many businesses needed. This approach catered to the demand for more tailored payment options and reduced the barrier to entry for businesses looking to modernise their payment systems.

Astafjev had done his research. Prior to establishing Wallester, he had roles in programming, fintech, and managing businesses. “Those gigs gave me a real inside look at the payments industry – how it worked, what customers needed, and the essentials of operations,” he says. “Through that experience, one thing became crystal clear – financial products have to be genuinely innovative but also focused on what users actually want and need. That realisation was hugely influential when I started my entrepreneurial journey.” From day one, Wallester’s mission has been to put customers first, giving them payment tools tuned to their unique needs. Moreover, these tools can then be adapted and developed as those needs change over time. That customer-centric mindset stemmed directly from Astafjev’s earlier career experiences, and it continues to guide strategy and innovations at Wallester today.

Flexible and customisable card programmes
When asked to describe his company in a few words, Astafjev says that it “is all about innovating the fintech game with our white-label payment solutions and rock-solid infrastructure. As an official Visa partner, we’re developing tailor-made card issuing programmes – both physical and virtual – precisely crafted to satisfy businesses across all kinds of industries.”

Having a crystal-clear vision and putting customers first have to be the base ingredients

Wallester’s CEO is particularly proud of the way in which the company has made its card programmes extremely flexible and customisable, enhancing the whole payment experience for business customers. He notes the ability to “integrate slick technologies like tokenisation and 3D Secure in a seamless way for bulletproof security and smooth sailing for the user”. The Wallester White-Label programme provides highly customisable and responsive solutions, which are the result of in-house developed infrastructure. “Designed with minimal dependency on third-party integrations, our system allows for the tailored implementation of features that meet individual client needs, thus enhancing the platform’s functionality and value to all users,” Astafjev explains.

One of the key factors that gives Wallester an edge over the competition is its ability to provide totally customised programmes, enabling clients to launch branded card programmes with ease. “Our platform supports deep, extensive personalisations for every detail, from card design to feature sets,” says Astafjev. “And it’s locked down tight with reliable security including advanced fraud detection and compliance, with strict regulations like AML and KYC.”

Efficient corporate expense management
Another of the company’s achievements that Astafjev is keen to highlight is the introduction of Wallester Business. This product specifically supports businesses by streamlining their financial operations with tools for real-time expense tracking and management, enabling users to maintain control over their spending with unprecedented ease and efficiency. What is most important, the CEO says, is that the product is offered absolutely free to users. As with the company’s white-label offerings, customisation also extends deeply into the Wallester Business programme, providing enhanced tools for managing corporate expenses effectively and securely.

Wallester works with a diverse range of customers, “from lean small businesses right through to heavyweight corporations and financial giants in need of sophisticated, custom-tailored payment solutions,” states Astafjev. And this target market is only expanding over time as Wallester keeps introducing fresh innovations and pivoting its offerings to stay ahead of the curve. The Wallester Business programme, for example, has expanded the company’s reach by addressing the specific needs of enterprises looking for strong yet flexible financial management tools, making it highly attractive for businesses focused on scalability and security.

Awarding hard work
Astafjev says that he was “very thankful” on hearing that he had been made this year’s CEO of the Year in the Fintech Industry by European CEO. “It recognised the hard work that has made Wallester successful,” he adds. When asked what he considers to be the most important qualities needed to be a successful fintech CEO, he gives the following assessment: “Having a crystal-clear vision and putting customers first have to be the base ingredients. But you also need a large dose of adaptability to stay ahead of technologies. Perhaps most importantly though, you’ve got to infuse innovation and integrity into your company’s culture and values – that’s what breeds long-term success. Making the Wallester product maximum accessible to everyone is what we are focused on.” Astafjev clearly relishes being part of a dynamic and focused team. The best part of his job, he says, is “leading a passionate crew of sharp minds creating boundary-pushing solutions – that’s the good stuff that gets me fired up every single day.”

Astafjev’s role of course comes with many challenges. “Being at the top of the fintech industry isn’t always easy,” the CEO acknowledges. “One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with rapid changes in technology and rules. At Wallester, we need to stay creative and make sure that we follow all the rules. This requires good management and always being alert.”

A new UK office
Looking to the future, Wallester’s plans include further global expansion and continuous innovation to push the boundaries of payment technologies. A key priority is broadening the company’s geographic reach and footprint across new international markets, leveraging its solutions and infrastructures. As part of this strategy, Wallester is establishing a permanent presence in the United Kingdom. It recently acquired a cross-border activity licence from the Estonian Financial Supervisory Authority, which allows it to offer its innovative financial services in the UK. This move marks a significant milestone for the company, enabling Wallester to cater to one of the world’s leading financial hubs post-Brexit.

You’ve got to infuse innovation and integrity into your company’s culture and values

“We have opened an office in London and are in the process of obtaining a Financial Conduct Authority licence to further solidify our operations and ensure compliance with local regulations,” says Astafjev. “This expansion will provide British businesses and consumers with access to our cutting-edge, customer-focused solutions, providing convenience and security in financial transactions.”

Setting the pace in fintech
Wallester’s strategy for staying ahead in the fintech sector is comprehensive and forward-thinking. “We’re re-engineering our technology and product designs to be cloud-native and API-driven,” Astafjev explains, “optimising for a mobile-first approach from the ground up.” Through these combined efforts, Wallester aims to set the pace in the fintech industry, ensuring its continued position as a global leader in financial technology innovation.