Did you know that Zopa, one of the first fintech businesses in the world, has opened a development center in Barcelona?
The UK-based company, known for its unsecured personal loans and peer-to-peer investment products, has recently landed in our city, and they’re building something fascinating. A team of some of the world’s best developers will build the technology to support the launch of Zopa’s next generation bank. Amongst many different tasks, the teams will work on developing Zopa’s deposit systems, credit card systems processes and its payment gateways, overall contributing to Zopa’s mission to “make money simple and fair”.
But why Barcelona? Out of all the startup hubs in Europe, why did Zopa choose our city for its new site? Are they happy with their choice? We asked Merve Ferrero, Head of Strategy & Chief of Staff and Julian Wadley, PR Manager at Zopa to let us in on the reasoning behind the decision, and what they’re expecting from Zopa’s new tech hub in Barcelona.
Why did you start thinking about opening a tech center outside of the UK, and how did Barcelona enter the picture?
Merve: The idea first came up when we decided to launch a digital bank a year ago. I’m personally managing the bank launch project and we are working with full force towards building the bank. It is a big technical undertaking, and we need some of the best developers that we can get. The UK has a lot of advantages and a great talent pool, but we wanted to diversify. Barcelona offers a great alternative to London.
Did you consider any other European cities as potential new locations?
Merve: We had a long list, but the two cities that it came down to were Barcelona and Warsaw.
What tipped the scale in favor of Barcelona?
Merve: The weather is definitely one of the reasons! On a more serious note, the culture and lifestyle in Barcelona makes it a very appealing place. It has an exciting and fast-growing tech scene and is already home to some of the world’s best tech talent. It also draws the best talent from all over the world, attracted by its vibrant culture.
Julian: Barcelona is very international and it draws in a lot of people from other places in Europe and globally. The core reason behind opening an office there was to be able to take advantage of the highly skilled tech talent pool. Plus, we wanted our London and Barcelona operations to be well integrated. We wanted a place where the people based in our London office could – and would gladly – travel to, and vica versa.
Did you have to make any compromise when you picked Barcelona? Even if the pros outweigh the cons, are there any disadvantages to setting up an office in this city?
Merve: We haven’t had to make any compromises, but there were some challenges. For example, some things like opening bank accounts or sorting out the Visa requirements took much longer than we had anticipated.
Have there been any surprises?
Julian: It has been a quite straightforward journey for us. We used the same law firm that we use in the UK. They have excellent international reach and have helped us set things up and get fully integrated.
Are you focusing on employer branding, getting your name out there in the talent market in Barcelona?
Julian: Definitely! In the next few weeks and months we’ll be more actively pushing the Zopa brand in Barcelona. We’ll also be looking to organize tech meetups, so we can become a bigger part of the tech community and potentially attract more tech talent, just as we have done in the UK.
How has your experience been so far? Has Barcelona lived up to your expectations?
Julian: It’s exceeded our expectations, actually. We’ve already built a 15-person team from scratch, and our plan is to get to around 35 people by the end of next year. We’ve been really impressed with the caliber of the talent that we’ve been able to recruit there. And we’re happy with the integration between the Barcelona and London teams – it really is one team across two different geographies. There is a strong cohesion between the two.
Have you noticed any differences between the cultures of the two offices?
Merve: We embrace diversity at Zopa and we have a very diverse team here in our London office, so working with different cultures and lots of different backgrounds isn’t new to us.
The key is maintaining the same company culture in both offices. So, going back to your first question, that’s why the ease and willingness to commute was a key criteria for us in picking the location for the development centre. We take great pride in the culture we’ve built at Zopa and want people who have been with us, who live and breathe our values, to carry it to the Barcelona office.
Barcelona so far has exceeded our expectations and we look forward to continue growing the team and building our brand in Barcelona.
If you’d like to read more about foreign companies who have decided to open offices in Barcelona, check out this Swiss company’s story!