Published on February 12th, 2020

Decoding the start-up myth – What is it really like to work for a fintech?

This content was originally published on 07.02.2020 in

On Saturday, February 8th, ZDF aired the first two episodes of the second season of its cult-favorite series, “Bad Banks”. Part of this season takes place in a fintech incubator in Berlin. Sound familiar? It should! “Bad Banks” screenwriter, Oliver Kienle, visited one of finleap’s portfolio companies for his research for this season. Of course, “Bad Banks” is a fictional series and finleap is not an incubator, but there are definitely some similarities and elements of truth to it. So, what’s it really like to work for a fintech start-up like finleap? 

International Teams
Just like the Green Wallet team in “Bad Banks”, Berlin start-up culture is very international, and the lingua franca is English. No wonder, expats make up about 20% of Berlin’s total population of over 3.7 million people. But why do expats come to Berlin instead of other capital cities, like New York City, London & Paris? Compared internationally, the prices for rent, food, and other commodities are fairly low in Berlin, and the public transportation system is ranked pretty high on a global scale. Here at finleap, our employees come from over 80 countries around the world, and the day-to-day language within the company is English. 

Our People & Operations Department is responsible for onboarding all of our new employees, starting from the moment they accept their official offer from finleap. They make sure all legal documents are in order, that all tech equipment necessary is ready to go, and that each and every new starter can get off on the right foot at finleap. They also manage many of our employee benefit programs, such as the employee pension program, German language courses, and the company discounts programs. 

Bad Banks promotional image

Photo courtesy of & [F] Fabrizio Maltese / [M] KNSK.

Parties, Sports, Foosball & Cereal
Throughout “Bad Banks”, you often see how the fintech teams play sports, help themselves to the in-house cereal, and party at the office. 

Although it may seem completely cliché, these things are also pretty standard at start-ups and fintechs. At our fintech hub, H:32, we also have a regular gym in the basement, regular yoga and body weight classes, fruit and cereal in the kitchen, and both a foosball and table tennis table – yet unlike the incubator in “Bad Banks”, we have daylight and a view of Berlin’s iconic skyline. We also have a big Christmas party once a year, family meet ups every quarter and a group breakfast once a month. Beyond that, however, there are other things that are rather important from my point of view to find and keep good talent: employee participation within the company, an open feedback and error culture, and the opportunity to take responsibility for projects at an early stage and to play an active role in shaping them. 

the finleap team on the H:32 rooftop terrace

Photo courtesy of Boris Breuer.

Women in fintech
Women play a large role in “Bad Banks”: With Jana, the fintech Robo Advisor gets a female Co-CEO, and the lead engineer is also a woman in a position of leadership at the company. 

In reality, the fintech sector is still lacking a bit behind when it comes to women in leadership positions, as many fintech companies are still founded and managed by men. This may be due to the combination of the financial services and tech sectors, two areas that have a lower proportion of female employees than in other industries. In our finleap ecosystem, we have strong women in leadership positions, both at C-Level, for example as founders, COOs, CROs, or CTOs, and also at the mid-management level. At finleap itself, across all levels, about 52% of our employees are women – something we are extremely proud of. Both externally and internally, we are committed to increasing diversity in the industry through communities  founded by women at finleap, such as our finleap internal Women’s Network and our initiative fintexx – women in finance.  

“Bad Banks” – Fact or Fiction?
In the end, “Bad Banks” is an extremely exciting series that allows the topic of fintech to take the spotlight outside of the world of financial services. 

Some aspects of the series are exaggerated for dramatic effect, however the series does get many things right. Fintech start-ups in Berlin are dynamic, international, and on the forefront of driving change within the financial services sector. Here at finleap, we’re only at the very beginning. Our goal? To reshape the future of finance – together. 

Does finleap sound like the place for you? Then be sure to check out our positions under today!

Curious about how finleap inspired parts of “Bad Banks”? Check out “Bad Banks – Die Dokumentation” (in German) on ZDF!