Klarna’s Sebastian Siemiatkowski talks about the future of fintech and retail and why he has no intention of retiring

Klarna's Sebastian Siemiatkowski
Klarna's Sebastian Siemiatkowski

Klarna co-founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski was in London last week to launch the disruptive payments provider’s game-changing new shopping feature – which allows customers to shop across all retailers via the Klarna app, whether they are Klarna merchants or not – and to visit the company’s brand new London HQ.

Talking to TheIndustry.fashion’s IN DETAIL podcast, Siemiatkowski, explained that the new feature was part of the brand’s “ubiquity” strategy as it ups the ante against rivals, such as Paypal.

“When we think about how we offer Klarna more broadly, we have three pillars. One is the brand and how we speak about ourselves and tell people the story of what we’re trying to do. The second is the product, the features. And the third one is ubiquity. We realise that as we are competing with a Paypal… it’s everywhere, right? And we’re not yet.

“So we realised from a competitor perspective if we want to offer the best payment product in the world, which we think we are, if it’s only available in a limited amount of places, that in itself is a limitation. What we then started exploring is are there other ways, other than integrating with merchants – and that takes some time – [that we could offer our service]?

“So the idea was to create this browser where you could go to any site be it an Amazon, be it an eBay, and allow you to use Klarna. Effectively what happens in the background, for every time you make a payment we create a digital card, a one time card, that runs on the rails of Visa,” he explained.

Siemiatkowski co-founded Klarna in 2005 and now its flexible – or “smoooth” as the brand prefers – payment solutions are available across more than 250,000 merchants worldwide. It has become the preferred payment option for millions of millennials, who are shunning traditional credit cards in favour of its buy now, pay later options.

But, given that it has shaken up the staid world of banking, not least with its out-there pink branding and high energy advertising campaigns, Klarna has come under a lot of scrutiny from the media. And while he accepts this scrutiny is inevitable, not all of it has been fair, according to Siemiatkowski.

“Obviously [an independent media] plays a massively important role in democracy but most people have not had an article written about them or their business and are not aware of some of the bias that comes into the reporting. And not even the editors are aware sometimes,” he said.

According to multiple media reports in recent days, Klarna, which is now valued at $45.6bn, is planning an “imminent” IPO, but this is not true according to the CEO.

“Up until two years ago when people were asking me these questions [about the IPO] I would always say ‘not going to happen any time soon’. Two years ago I said ‘we have enough stability as an organistation, we’re big enough, we have enough shareholders now, it’s starting to make sense. We have also started given stock to all our employees and we have over 4,000 shareholders as a consequence, so we feel like it’s getting closer’. But then that turns into ‘imminent’,” he said. “We are not working on it right now.”

So a float is not happening soon and nor is Siemiatkowski considering cashing out for good and retiring any time soon either. Looking to media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who is still working at the age of 90, the 39-year-old said he believed he had 51 more years of work left in him. “I’m such a curious person, I just want to learn more,” he said.

Listen to the podcast in full here.