Tomáš Brzobohatý graduated from the IES in 2008 with a Bachelor's degree. His Bachelor Thesis Impact of CO2 Emissions Reductions on Firms’ Finance in an Emerging Economy: The Case of Czech Republic"even won the Josef Vavroušek Prize and the Dean's praise for an excellent Bachelor thesis. He then moved to Germany to Goethe University Frankfurt, where he successfully completed his Master's degree in 2010. During his studies he worked as a research assistant in the field of money and macroeconomics. Tomas also worked briefly in BCG as a visiting associate or as an intern at Allianz SE in Munich. After completing his studies, he started to work in Germany at NERA Economic Consulting (Oliver Wyman Group). He spent almost two years here. In 2012, Tomáš started to work at Millicom, a telecommunication company that first introduced him to Africa and then to South America, concretely to Paraguay, where he then worked for almost six years in the field of insurance as head of the Milvik branch. Currently Tomáš returned to the Czech Republic and works at Creative Dock as product manager in the "Filip a Sofie" project.
You studied your master studies in Frankfurt at Goethe University. Why did you choose particularly this university?
I chose Goethe University in Frankfurt, as I was interested in Macroeconomics and Monetary Policy when studying at the IES. Goethe University is situated in the same city as the European Central Bank, and extensive academic cooperation is taking place between both institutions. At the same time, I was always tempted by the application of theoretical knowledge in practice (policy making), so Frankfurt seemed like a perfect destination.
You worked more than 5 years in Paraguay. How did you get into this unusual location and what made you leave this country eventually?
There are unusual paths usually leading to unusual locations. After my graduation from Master's degree I worked as an economic consultant, but I still felt that my work was too theoretical. I wanted to see the real impact of my work. I was following rapid economic and social developments in developing countries, and I observed that introducing a relatively simple innovation can significantly improve quality of life of local people. At the same time, I realized I would like to live outside of the Europe for a while and learn about some other cultures. I came across a company called Millicom, leading mobile operator in over 10 countries in Africa and Latin America. In Africa, almost every citizen had mobile phone at that time, while the number of banking branches was relatively small outside of the big cities. In the given situation, the mobile phone had become a payment tool for the large part of the population, and gradually also to an adaptation of other financial products such as loans or different forms of savings. As an Innovations Fellow, I have been working on customer segmentation and the introduction of new products in Ghana, Guatemala and Paraguay.
Was working in Paraguay somehow specific? How was your life in Paraguay, what surprised you the most?
Work in a telecom business was not so different from work at corporations in Europe, the cultural differences are smaller than in African or Asian countries. However, establishing a startup was another cup of tea. With a very limited budget, I built call centers, negotiated with furniture suppliers who did not have a bank account or an invoice and worked very informally. I was surprised that when it was raining, half of our staff did not come to work, but when I tried to take a bus from their home to work in a heavy storm, I was not so surprised.
Paraguay is one of the least touristic countries in Latin America, however it is quite safe. Thanks to that, I felt very good in there, as the locals are very friendly to foreigners. In particular, I enjoyed weekend cycling trips to the nature and in the country, where the citizens are not used to visitors from the capital city, or even tourists and therefore they like to share their mate. When I explored the country I come into the adventure racing, which is a long weekend orienteering with various disciplines. A team of 2-4 competitors receive on Saturday morning a map of the checkpoints, which must be passed through until the Sunday afternoon. The whole distance is about 150 km. Individual traces can be gone by bike, on foot, kayaking on Parana River or by roping down. Only map and compass can be used for orientation. Over the past two years, I have even organized several races with my friends and managed to get more than 400 employees of a big corporation into the jungle teambuilding.
Filip & Sofie is an ambitious fintech project that aims to change the relatively conservative financial sector. We believe that genuinely innovative and needed financial products can not arise in the heads of several product managers in banks, but they will be demanded by the real customers. We are engaging in the development of a wide community (for example, in the Facebook community – Já, Filip a Sofie), and creating products based on their comments.
We believe that we have to do the finance for each person differently. Everyone has different financial needs at different stages of his life, and Filip & Sofie could recommend products tailored to each situation. Someone would like to pay a part of the evening's spending in a bar via a couple of clicks on a mobile, another is collecting with some friends a sum of money to buy a present to another friend, or another is considering an investment that would make a decent profit. This distinction will be reflected in “Filip and Sofie”, and it can offer everyone the services that are really needed. If we get a million customers, our application can also have a million versions.
As I have contributed to the change of insurance in Paraguay, I believe we can change the Czech financial sector with the Filip & Sofie team. Creative Dock has the best prerequisites for it, such as a successful Zonky project, and the team has a huge enthusiasm and will try to do things even better. As this is a huge project, we are still looking for colleagues to help us rebuild clients' wishes in real products
You often focus on the innovations and technologies at your work. Which was the most interesting project you have solved and vice versa was there any which you would rather omit?
Certainly introducing reachable health insurance in Paraguay. We initially introduced only risky life insurance, which is relatively simple to explain and works well in other markets where the company was operating. Nevertheless, Paraguayans, perhaps because of relatively lower levels of crime, think they are immortal and so we were looking for another, more suitable product for the market. We have met with a high demand for affordable but quality private health insurance. The public health network is overcrowded and, particularly in poor rural areas of a doubtful quality. On the other hand private health insurance is very expensive.
We taught our clients to first use the medical service on the (video) phone at the earliest stages of health problems. The patients saved time, did not wait in the waiting room, and at the same time reduced the total cost of payments to medical facilities. Patients with more serious symptoms were then ordered to a specialist.
How do you relax?
As I said before, in Paraguay I relaxed when doing adventure racing. Even in the Czech Republic, I will focus myself on the disciplineof outdoor sports, but yet with my wife we (again) discover the beauty of Prague.