If you are a Fintech leader, you will probably agree that hiring great people can sometimes feel like an impossible task.
Since launching in 2016, Tier One People has interviewed hundreds of Fintech leaders. These frank discussions on the challenges of growing and scaling a startup sometimes can contradict the popular advice from Silicon Valley. We have researched and analysed the hiring strategies of Google, Facebook, Netflix and other tech firms and see some major flaws in following the strategies for a startup in Australia.
Let's bust some hiring myths.
Hire for culture fit.
Katherine McConnell is Founder and CEO of Brighte. She is recognised as the Outstanding FinTech leader in Australia and was named in the Top 10 most influential women in Fintech globally. Katherine had this to say about hiring on culture fit.
Today we’re able to attract great people because of the brand, our investors and the fact we are a solid business. But a year ago, no one had heard of Brighte.
Attracting great people to a start-up is very difficult. You don’t have much leverage. Hiring based on values is nice but not always possible. Now Brighte is established we absolutely recruit on values and cultural alignment.
Initially I hired people based on technical expertise. I had to take a gamble on whether the person would work out or not. We just had to build the platform and get it done. The advice I was given was ‘hire slow, fire fast’ but in a startup sometimes you have to hire fast and fire slow. As a leader you have to make tough decisions.
Hire based on proven experience.
Martin McCann is CEO and Cofounder of Trade Ledger, winner of FinTech Startup of the year 2019. Trade Ledger is rapidly scaling with offices in Sydney and London.
We don’t focus on people’s experience or their background, we focus on whether or not they would fit well with the team or will they be disruptive in the team. We prefer to hire people with high potential or high propensity for success.
What we’ve found is interesting. People who are under-experienced, properly motivated and show high potential are a much better fit for this organisation than people who’ve got proven experience.
People with high potential fit the way we work. They want to get ahead quickly, they appreciate the opportunity to be able to contribute and to learn. And they understand the value it creates for them as an asset that differentiates them in the market.
Create a culture where there is no fear of failure.
Vincent Turner is Founder of Uno Home Loans. He is a Fintech veteran now on his third startup. Vincent spent five years in Silicon Valley, setting up the Valleys first ever Fintech Meetup. Vincent had this to say about failure.
We are a consumer focused fintech, so our culture is driven by discovery and big ideas. You can conduct focus groups, give customers a prototype, let them observe it, but that customer will act differently when you ship the product. To get to something that works is an act of discovery
The team is encouraged to come up with extraordinary ideas and to test them out. Then we make a frank evaluation of what worked and what didn’t. We don’t talk about failure at uno. Failure is when you are reckless in the way you try things. But an experimentation-led culture, where you can call out what works and what doesn’t, is the absolute mainstay for any customer centric business.
Millennials are hard to motivate.
George Lucas is CEO of Raiz Invest and ASX listed investment platform that helps people save and invest automatically. The app has been a big hit with millenials and George applies the same approach to customers as he does managing his team.
Raiz has gained a lot of traction with Millennials, more than 900,000 people have downloaded the app and we are managing more than $250 million in funds.
We have developed a lot of loyalty within our customer base. Engagement is key and we are always listening to our customers. If you look at our product development releases to date, some examples being Raiz Kids, Raiz Rewards, My Finance and most recently Raiz Super, it has all been driven by our customers.
Maybe the difficulties other finance companies experience tapping into the Millennial market are self-inflicted? Let’s face it, Financial Services in Australia is heavily dominated by middle-aged men. We have seen several instances in the last twelve months where young people feel the people in power are out of touch with the modern world.
Rather than lecturing our customers on whether they should spend their money on Avo and Toast, we are providing them with the tools to save for a home deposit, or a holiday, or their kids school fees. Millennials are no different to any other customer. Just listen, give them what they need and treat them with respect.
We have adopted the same approach with our people who seem to enjoy the challenges of a FinTech startup. I listen and provide my team with the tools to do their job. Then I let them get on with it. Its a very laid back environment, we don’t manage people, no one comes in to work in a suit and tie, we’re not that type of financial services organisation. We have a mutual respect for each other. And I am learning so much from our people. It’s a very young business, most of our people are under the age of 30. And they seem to be laughing a lot, so they can’t be that unhappy!
Startups can’t compete for exceptional talent.
Alex Badran is Co-Founder of Spriggy, Fintech Startup of the year. By adopting a Lean Startup approach to hiring, Spriggy has managed to assemble a diverse group of highly talented people, while bootstrapping the business.
We have brilliant people in the team and a very eclectic mix of backgrounds. My co-founder is a physicist and an electrical engineer. Our CTO has been building apps ever since apps were around. Our CMO is a software engineer, one of our software engineers has a medical degree and our customer success lead used to be a geneticist.
We have managed to hire remarkably talented people who are great people, not just intelligent. They work hard, they care about what they do, they care about the people around them and they care about our customers.
This might sound simple, but talented people want to work with talented people who share the same values and ethics. That’s it. Sure, our people have flexibility, equity and all the advantages of working in a startup, but they are not the key motivators for joining.
Our people really buy into the Spriggy mission too. I love coming to work, and I learn so much from our team, every day. They are just amazing to be around. I am sure it will become harder to hire exceptional people as we scale, but right now, hiring talent isn’t a challenge for us.
So, what is the best approach to hiring for a startup?
We wish there were a rule-book for hiring, but every business is different. The one thing all of our interviews have in common? Each leader took their own course and made their own decisions. None followed ‘the Google way’ or ‘the Amazon way’.
Our advice is to go with your gut feel. Instead of focusing on finding the perfect match, focus on the business problem you are trying to solve. You may find there are alternative solutions to hiring. Or as we find in most instances with clients, the person you think you want is not the person you need to hire.
If you are in the process of hiring and want to get some advice contact Dexter or Joanne, firstname.lastname@example.org