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Members' Spotlight with Thomas Tjøstheim from Zdata

Meet Thomas Tjøstheim from Zdata, Sebastian Cypeks nominee for this Members' Spotlight edition!

As a student in 2003, Thomas discovered a potentially critical security breach in a Norwegian bank, which in turn offered him a job to fix it and improve their safety measures. We talk to Thomas about the current state of Norwegian banks' security standards, how Zdata can succeed internationally, their participation in the Mastercard Lighthouse Program, and much more.

Thomas is currently Chief Product Officer at the fintech company, Zdata, and is happy to grab a virtual coffee if you want to learn more about the company.

Let´s get to know Thomas a bit better!

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Unstructured and unproductive meetings and fintech buzzword bonanza without any real content.

Any book or author that has inspired you?
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl made a big impact on me as a kid and triggered my interests in expeditions and stories of survival. I am fascinated by people who are ambitious and work hard to achieve a goal and how they adapt to meet new challenges. Not that different from being part of a startup, I guess.

What could you talk about all day?
I am probably a better listener than an active talker. If you absolutely insisted, I could probably do a pretty good lecture about my love for climbing and some of my dream climbing adventures. My wife is especially proud and happy that I turned the garage into one of the better home climbing gyms in the area.

Name one thing about yourself that your Linkedin profile doesn’t tell us
I am really into gardening and growing things (legal stuff), such as flowers, fruits, and veggies. My grandfather was a gardener, and I get this inherent unexplainable satisfaction of watching a thing grow from seed and develop into a finished plant. I love Spring!

Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I am a sucker for any kind of pastry and I am failing hard to quit my Pepsi Max addiction.

Your favorite Twist is? And why?

Easy, it’s Coconunt, Banana and Marzipan. Honestly, I am not using any reverse psychology to fake what my real favorite is 😉

Who do you want to nominate next?
Daniel Næsse at PwC

Questions from Sebastian:

What is the most exciting part of working at Zdata and what do you do?
ZData offers a financial platform for the corporate market that is a one-stop shop for accessing all banks in the Nordics. What I love about working at ZData is the fact that we are an organization in growth with big potential and high ambitions. There is very little bureaucracy, each employee can make a big impact and I get to learn new things almost every day.

As a student in the early 2000s, you discovered huge security breaches in Norwegian banks. Now, 20 years later - how do you evaluate the data security in banks and fintechs?

Thomas Tjøstheim and professor Kjell Jørgen Hole in 2006. Photo: Lars Holger Ursin

Security and privacy have a lot more attention in the Board room today, and the level of security has definitely improved. In the last 5 years, I am glad to see more secure solutions and solutions that focus on improving user experience, such as mobile authentication solutions using fingerprint technology. I also believe in stealthy countermeasures such as risk scoring, which the end-user doesn't necessarily have to relate to or be aware of. A challenge going forward is that the pace of technology adoption increases and that together with increased openness and connectivity (cloud services and APIs) may introduce more security holes.

Read more about this at and at

In recent years Zdata has experienced exponential growth and has tripled the staff. What has happened since 1990?
The company was founded in 1990 and has been a niche player within payments and account reconciliation ever since. In 2017 the company shifted its strategic focus from being a software provider to a platform player. We see big opportunities in scaling our platform for the corporate market going forward and bundling it with value-added services for reconciliation and payments. We have a leading position in the Nordics with more than 60.000 companies but see big untapped market potential. The level of automation for businesses is currently underdeveloped, and businesses can save time and increase control by automating more of their accounting.

You were newly accepted to the Mastercard Lighthouse program - what is this and why do you think Zdata was selected?
The Lighthouse program focuses on partnerships between startups and large corporates with the intent of strengthening the financial ecosystem. ZData is an established startup that offers a platform that is both interesting for financial actors consuming bank data but also for the banks themselves that can develop new services based on access to for instance ERP data.

What is needed for Zdata to expand to the Nordics and Europe?
I believe hard work, dedication, and focus are what it takes to become an international success story. In addition, I think it is important with a competent and resourceful Board with experienced people that can help guide us along the way, as well as focusing on building company culture and scaling at the right pace.

Zdata has been a member of the cluster since the beginning (2018), what has it been like?
NCE Finance Innovation does a great job of tailoring content and facilitating projects for a diverse customer group and helps the ecosystem grow by facilitating dialogue between members. During my time in Sbanken, I participated in the pre-PSD2 project - the cluster's first collaborative project, which was a valuable experience.

Zdata is active in the Cluster Open Banking Resource Group and also attends seminars and other forums to discuss mutual possibilities with other members - and I am sure we will be contributing to projects and more further on.