At the Forefront of the Online Banking Revolution: Michael Zetser's Leadership Insights and Recommendations

Michael Zetser
Credit: Michael Zetser

Online banking is changing the way we do business and have fun. It's not just coming, it's here, and it's everywhere.

This huge change in the financial world, banking services, and what people expect from banks didn't happen overnight. Its roots go back to the 1980s when traditional banks started offering e-banking or digital services that customers could use from home.

Users only needed to get a username and a password. It was a new world and a weak spot for bank security, which up until then had only allowed unmanned services like ATMs. Password theft became a big part of the criminal underworld, which led to many steps to protect online banking security, which is still going on.

Since then, there have been major advances in technology, security, and accessibility as banks moved from brick and mortar to smartphones. The future isn't coming to us anymore; it's already here and here to stay. But that doesn't mean that there aren't any exciting new things that smart investors can jump on.

But for every great idea that will change the world, there are two that are worthless and will take investors' money. For people who aren't familiar with this brave new world, figuring out how to navigate the currents of online banking investment opportunities may seem dangerous and uncertain.

Who would be a better guide in these uncharted waters than a business owner who has seen and done everything? At just 25 years old, Michael Zetser has emerged as a leader and expert in the online banking revolution and the dynamic Fintech industry. He founded Flyfish in 2022, a company that blends technology and finance to craft unique solutions for digital banking services.

Q: Michael, tell us a little about yourself—how did you get into Fintech? What was your background before you became involved in this field?

Michael: Since my early years, I displayed an entrepreneurial spirit and took on various business ventures. I started my own marketing company when I was in high school. I focused on getting leads for the fintech industry. A few years later, as the business grew, I incorporated it and hired 20 people.

This business was my way into the field of fintech because it helped me make connections with fintech companies all over the world. After long discussions about these companies' businesses in a number of meetings, I had an "aha!" moment and realized that the future was in facilitating card transactions since every online business needed this service, and the facilitator could get a (small) commission on each transaction. Since there are so many online transactions every day, I thought it would be a good idea to get a small cut of every online card transaction. I wanted to be a part of this big change and was ready to do anything to make it happen.

I knew I would need some hands-on experience to learn more about that particular area of fintech, so I got a job at a top card processing company. There, I led the process of expanding into new markets and growing the business. In the process, I gained real-world business experience that helped me feel confident enough to start my own card processing company.

I did just that in 2019 when I was 22 years old. I opened my own card payment gateway company that met the PCI DSS Level 1 market standard.

Starting with just me and two employees, the company quickly grew to 50, and two years later, we had nearly 400 employees all over the world.

Q: What step did you find the most challenging when establishing and expanding your company?

Michael: “Time. You can ask me for anything you like, except time,” as Napoleon said. I realized that each day went by too quickly for me to do everything I wanted to do alone. So, I'm always looking for good, qualified people who share my vision but are also able to take charge and get things done on their own. At the end of the day, one man can only do so much on his own.

I am sure that any business, no matter what it does, needs a strong center to be successful. If the business's foundation isn't strong, it won't be able to grow. A business, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest link. One bad hire in a key position can bring a business to a halt, and it can take a lot of time, money, and effort to find and replace that person, so finding the right person for the job is always my top priority.

Q: What other advice can you offer first-time entrepreneurs?

Michael: Dream big and don't let all the failures and hard times you face early on slow you down. Think of them as lessons and try to do better next time. My advice is to embrace your big dreams and remain resilient in the face of failures and challenges. It's important to believe in yourself and your business. Self-doubt and lack of confidence are the only things that spread faster than confidence. If you believe in your business, other people will too. Always remember that every big company started as a dream in someone's head, waiting for them to be brave enough to make it happen. For a business to do well, everyone who works on it must care about its success and be rewarded. Customers are not the most important part of a business.

Q: You have played many parts in the Fintech industry since you first entered the field. Could you share the role you found most exciting and your greatest obstacle or disappointment?

Michael: When building a business, I found it very helpful to have hands-on experience in every position. This gives you a sense of what the job is like and helps you define it better in the future. But even though I enjoyed all of my junior positions a lot, being CEO gives me a different kind of personal satisfaction. The challenges are on a whole new level; overcoming them is a great way to learn more about myself.

A business owner's true strength comes from knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and choosing partners and employees whose strengths complement those of the owner. Choosing partners who aren't as good as you are because you don't want to be challenged is a very limiting thing to do, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Still, I found that many people are afraid of something, whether it's being challenged or something else. This makes it hard for them to see the future and all its possibilities, which means they miss out on many chances.

Money and success can change people in ways that aren't always good. Even people close to you can act differently and sell you out for nothing. I don't think it should be this way, and I don't think money should change people. That's why I try to find people who will stay loyal to the business even when things change and won't give up their core values when they're tempted.

Q: Fintech is a very tumultuous and ever-changing field. Even in the past few years, the field has grown by leaps and bounds—what do you think was the most revolutionary development in the field during this time? 

Michael: In a word, online banking. No one can say enough about how important it is that regular people can open an account, get a credit/debit card, and even get a loan without having to go to a bank branch in person. In hard times, when brick-and-mortar fintech businesses failed while online fintech businesses did well, the importance of this shift became clear.

People feel less and less like they need a bank or a physical bank location to handle their money. In the rapidly evolving Fintech industry, the transformative potential of online banking and its impact on traditional institutions has to be recognized.

I'm glad financial regulators have changed their rules from brick-and-mortar stores to high-tech financial institutions. This change can only help the growing trend of e-commerce and is a big step towards a world where only e-commerce is done. To support this positive trend, we need to develop safe, fast, and efficient ways to pay that can keep up with the growth of e-commerce.

Q: How can investors best appraise themselves of new trends in the industry?

Michael: If you want to invest in new technologies that help with e-commerce, you should know that you will get a full return on your money in 5 to 10 years as the world moves closer to a pure e-commerce economy. Compare how you shopped 5–10 years ago to how you shop now. Think about how you don't go to the mall as often as you used to, how we watch movies online instead of at the theatre, and how social gatherings and even studying are done online more and more. Changes in social norms and how people spend their money also affect how we do business and move money. Cash is on its way out, and you should try to find businesses that will benefit from this.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.