A brave business idea and a name, which is difficult to ignore - that is how the history of the Cinkciarz.pl begins. The company belonging to Conotoxia Holding celebrated its 10th birthday in 2020.
Cinkciarz.pl entered the market in 2010. However, we should go back a few more years. IT specialist Marcin Pioro runs a network of stationary exchange offices. He also pays off the mortgage in the Swiss francs. He knows that thousands of Poles exchange their Polish zlotys for francs at inflated bank rates to pay off further loan instalments. That is why the founder of Cinkciarz.pl decides to move his business to the Internet. It attracts those paying off mortgages in the francs, but also many private and business customers who simply need currencies. He offers them much lower spreads than banks and captures their attention with a rather bold name.
"From the very beginning, the service's rebellious and brave character of the name has generated an emotional context. It was easy to remember and evoke associations with currency exchange," commented Piotr Kicinski, Vice-president of the company.
What emotions are we talking about? Here again, we need to go back in time, but this time by a few decades, directly to the Polish People's Republic, a system in which things and actions that were officially forbidden were happening on a daily basis.
Want foreign currency? Go to cinkciarz
Necessity is the mother of inventions. What does a Pole do when he wants to get dollars, but lives in reality without any exchange offices? He will find someone who has these dollars and resell them. In the '70s and '80s and still, in the early '90s of the last century, people called the cinkciarz (a name derived from deforming the English words "change money", pronounced "cinch many") took care of it. "Businessmen of that time. Kings of life. They were the ones who held all the cards on the streets of big cities", as Polskatimes.pl described the past.
In order to find a cinkciarz, all it took was to go to Pewex, a store where goods were sold for dollars. They also wandered around the luxurious hotels, and there were not many of them decades ago.
Dressed... it's hard to say stylish, but certainly more colourful than most of the so-called grey citizens. They encouraged passers-by to use their services by asking them in English: "Change money!" or "Change cash!" Due to the faulty pronunciation of the second phrase, they started to be called "cinkciarz".
At that time, they probably did not even dream about their own currency exchange offices. They simply exchanged currencies on the sidewalk or in the gate, yet they were financially very successful. Dollars, marks, pounds or francs were bought from foreigners or from returning home working emigrants, for whom a street transaction was much more lucrative than an exchange at an official bank rate.
This kind of currency trade ended at the beginning of the '90s. There was a law in force at that time which allowed private entities to buy and sell foreign currencies. What's more, "cinkciarze" opened their own exchange offices. Others were still trying to run their business on the street. And although they still offered attractive exchange rates, they were slowly falling into oblivion. However, as it turns out today, this is not exactly the case...
Currency needed? Go to Cinkciarz.pl
The time that passes often frees memories from negative emotions and makes us look at past events with some sentiment. That was the path followed by founder Marcin Pioro, who bought the Cinkciarz.pl domain already in 2007.
Three years later, people could again go to the cinkciarz.pl to exchange the currency, but already in version 2.0. In Cinkciarz.pl, as it was years ago, the client could get much better rates than in banks, and also a guarantee of speed, transparency and security of transactions. At the same time, they did not have to leave their house at all to gain the desired currency in their account.
Competition envied the name
In 2010, the online financial services market in Poland had only just begun. Nevertheless, Cinkciarz.pl stood out from other services offering currency exchange. "It turned out that the name is our great advantage, a bull's-eye. The controversies surrounding this signboard only helped us," commented Piotr Kicinski years later.
It also happened that the market competitors envied Cinkciarz.pl its name and popularity. There was a dispute about using the words "cinkciarz" and "Cinkciarz.pl" in website positioning. The case reached as far as the European General Court in Luxembourg, and in 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union approved Cinkciarz.pl, whose trademark "cinkciarz" was attacked by a competitor - Currency One.
The EU court ruled that the word "cinkciarz" can be a protected trademark. Thus, Cinkciarz.pl maintained its monopoly in the European Union on the use of the word "cinkciarz" in the financial sector and for currency exchange services.
International brand - Conotoxia
However, when the company, gaining a strong position in Poland, decided to conquer the world, there was a need to create a new brand.
What contributed to the success on the domestic market could have been a handicap abroad. For foreigners, the word "cinkciarz" means nothing and is also difficult to pronounce.
In order to ensure that foreign customers do not twist their tongues, the global brand Conotoxia was created in 2015. The name did not happen by chance. Conotoxia Holding is a group of companies offering financial services, which are made available by the Cinkciarz.pl and Conotoxia.com web portals.
Customers in the United States and European Economic Area countries are already familiar with Conotoxia. If they wish to find out the origins of the brand, they will probably read about the lethal effectiveness of conotoxins isolated from the venom of the marine cone snail, but they can stop at the fact that this name simply sounds good and easily falls into the memory.