As Great Britain is beginning to look like less of an investment hot spot because of Brexit, companies are venturing into other parts of the globe. Finance Director Europe speaks with Antanas Guoga, Pro-European Union MEP from Lithuania and public CIO to the mayor of Vilnius, on why he sees Lithuania as the new hub for foreign investment.
How did you get interested in politics and what is your current role in the Lithuanian parliament?
Antanas Guoga: I wanted to change something. I did not want to complain anymore about decisions that politicians make on national and European level. Instead, I decided to become a strong voice in politics and be able to make changes. I strongly believe that individuals rather than political parties can make a real difference.
I was a successful entrepreneur; I shared my experiences and stories with people so that they would believe that they are able to change the way they live and together we would change. I give my whole energy to do the work in the European Parliament and this is my focus at the moment.
Of course, Lithuanian politics will be always important to me. I share my observations on some decisions taken in the Lithuanian Parliament. Especially when it comes to business conditions for SMEs and start-ups in Lithuania, internal market and digital skills. I strongly desire that Lithuania would become a prosperous country and I hope that the new Lithuanian parliament has this goal as well and will prove that with their work.
On our recent trip to Vilnius, we met with Remigijus Šimašius, mayor of Vilnius, who discussed plans for the future and growth of the city. Can you detail some of the priorities you're currently working on with him as chief information officer (CIO)?
Together with Vilnius mayor, Remigijus Šimašius, we are trying to get fintech start-ups to Vilnius. Short-term teams under 20 people can start in under a week. Fast track permits make Vilnius a desirable place.
Therefore, right after the Brexit, I have started writing to various UK banks, hedge funds and other financial services companies about the investment opportunities in Vilnius. I wanted to show which benefits the city of Vilnius could offer to potential investors.
In recent years, global tech and financial companies discovered Vilnius and once they are here – they expand very rapidly. These companies are moving their shared services to value based functions like data mining, mobile technology development and IT architecture.
Lithuania and its capital Vilnius offers all necessary working conditions for such companies: one of the fastest internet speeds in Europe, flexible conditions to establish business in a short term. There live thousands of multilingual talents for an affordable cost for a company. Just recently, we adopted structural changes and liberalised our Labour law and immigration policy. It is important for me as a CIO to spread the word and promote the advantages of doing business in Vilnius globally.
With Barclays, Uber and NASDAQ having a strong presence in the Lithuanian capital – Vilnius, is the attraction of having business interests there increasing? What are the incentives to set up operations there?
Lithuania is attractive by being in the Eurozone and it has recently adopted the Euro. Investors can get a banking licence fairly quickly and overall businesses can be setup very quickly. That is why NASDAQ has the biggest company’s technology and business support competence centre in Vilnius. It took only four weeks for Uber to establish its business in Vilnius, which was faster than any other city globally.
There are numerous advantages for the employees to settle in Vilnius: cleaner air, affordable bigger houses, and cheaper lifestyle. Foreigners have many opportunities here. We are the best in the world for companies with 20 or less employees. Talents here are focusing on improving in fintech and IT.
People in Lithuania speak many different languages, including Russian, which is important for the development of the regional operations especially towards Russia, Belorussia or Ukraine. Vilnius is a great multilingual talent hub of hard-working, tech minded and creative high-achievers.
What were the results of the Parliamentary elections a couple of weeks ago, and how will they help, or hinder, increased foreign investment, and the future growth of Lithuania?
Lithuanian people showed that they want a change in Lithuanian politics, so they gave the majority of their votes to the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union party. Now this party is under negotiations to form the government.
Lithuanian Peasants and Greens party would become the ruling party for the first time in modern Lithuanian history and therefore I hope the new government will be responsible and will take their new role seriously.
Before the elections, we adopted structural changes and liberalised our labour law. Of course, we need to do even more work, however I see positive changes, which are a good signal for investors.
I hope that the programme and the strategy of the future Government will be embracing economy growth in Lithuania.