Article written by Dexter Cousins

Carolyn Breeze - GoCardless

Carolyn Breeze is General Manager for the ANZ region of GoCardless

a global payments platform designed for recurring payments.

They process more than $13 billion in transactions each year. Gocardless is backed by some major players in the VC world, including Accel partners, Salesforce Ventures, and Google Ventures. 

Carolyn is a payments veteran holding senior positions at eBay, PayPal, and winner of the 'Women in Payments Award' in 2019. 

Carolyn talks with Tier One People‘s Dexter Cousins about her journey and shares her tips on how to make the Country Manager role a success.

How did you get started down the path of FinTech and payments?

My journey into Fintech started with Braintree, which was part of the PayPal business. To provide some background, Braintree is the technology stack behind the acceptance of credit cards. They helped build some of the world's most amazing payment experiences for companies like Uber and Airbnb. 

It was an exciting time as the technology and company kept evolving. But in order to continue my career in this field, I acknowledged I needed to adopt an attitude of continuous learning especially around payments. And if I wanted to become a leader then I needed to develop skills in other areas too.

What were the origins of the GoCardless business and how did it get started?

GoCardless launched 6 years ago in the UK by three co-founders, Hiroki Takeuchi, our CEO, Tom (Blomfield) and Matt (Robinson). Together they developed a simple online tool that would allow SMEs to collect direct debit monies via bank debit. Both Tom and Matt have moved on to found other major Fintech companies, Monzo and Nested.

In the past banks made it incredibly difficult for SMB/SME’s to access these facilities because they needed to underwrite the risk associated with bank debits. A small business who wants to get bank debit facilities needs to put down a big reserve as security to mitigate the risk, often totalling hundreds of thousand of dollars. It was from this idea that GoCardless was born.

GoCardless is going from strength to strength in 2020. We are currently connected in 30 countries. With boots on the ground in London, Paris, Munich, Melbourne and San Francisco. Over 450,000 merchants use us as their platform every day. 

What about the culture and the people at GoCardless?

There were a couple of things that really jumped out to me when I was interviewing for the role. The business had an instant entrepreneurial feel. Everybody I met was very clear about the goals and outcomes of GoCardless. They were aligned to solve real problems on a global scale. Everyone I met was focused on how their role impacted the success of the business. I found this really inspiring.

Employees recognise what a great business GoCardless is and are fully invested in how they can play a part in the continued success. There is a collective passion. 

What are some of the challenges you faced in your position as country manager? Do you have any tips you can share?

The distance and the practicality around our different time zone is the greatest challenge.  To combat this we have to make sure there's an extension of the culture between UK and all our global offices. Everyone adds to a companies culture as the organisation evolves.

Whilst our roots are in the UK and we have a lot of similarities between us, there were still things needing adjustments. We had to tweak our onboarding processes to suit as an example.  

It was very important and critical to our growth that we tweaked early and started to pivot certain elements. We brought our UK product to Australia, keeping everything that's great about it, whilst carrying out tweaks for Australia to increase appeal to the local market.

Would you like to share some of your success stories?

We currently have 2100 active merchants using on a regular basis, which is incredible for how long we've been in the Australian market. 

In addition we have got great brands to join us including, Deputy, DocuSign, Siteminder, Vitality, Butn, Archa, Indebted, Glow Power, Pulse, Movember and most of these have been global deals, where GoCardless is used in multiple markets. 

Globally, we have about 230 different platforms. Xero, which is our key partner for us globally, has Gocardless as the only bank debit solution on their platform. 

Salesforce billing is one of our most recent global partnerships. Gocardless works with some fantastic billing platforms like Zora, Charge B, Charger Fire, Recurly, who have been instrumental in getting us to this point.

How have you tackled identifying and attracting talent at GoCardless?

Early on I convinced two people on secondment from the UK office to stay here with me and continue the journey. They had both worked with the UK office for 3 to 4 years and brought an instant extension of the culture to Australia. It is a winning strategy, that I would highly recommend for other fintech launching in Australia.

In addition I've worked with some amazingly talented payment nerds over the last few years who reached out to me when I moved into this role. But as we grow it will become more challenging as we go outside of natural networks.

How do you assess culture fit in an interview? 

I hire passionate, dedicated people who have well researched ideas and buy into what we're doing. Culture fit is the main part of our interview process. Which is why we have multi-level interviews including those carried out by peers. Some people make it easy for us to decide whether they will work out by their behaviour outside of the interview process. I always ask reception for their thoughts as an example. I am amazed how people are delightful to me in an interview yet awful to our people in reception.

We talk a lot about our values, why we do what we do and the problems we are trying to solve. We want to work with people who have pride in their job and bring craftsmanship to their role.

You can also learn a lot about a person in the language they use. “I” instead of “We” can often be a sign that someone takes credit for or doesn't recognise the contribution of their colleagues. This attitude is a big problem in a startup.

What does the future hold for Gocardless?

It is so exciting to be part of this industry. We’ve recently stitched together our global network of bank debit schemes. We can now collect for you in 30 countries and settle back to your home account.

Our recent partnership with Transferwise has been a huge boost for our business, and it is a global first. We can also settle with your local entity of choice. For the first time we can now truly rival schemes like Visa, MasterCard and Amex which is really exciting.

We’ve used all the transactional data across the 30 billion dollars of payments that we process to build a payments intelligence platform. And we've developed a new product called Success Plus that uses AI. 

This has enabled us to use those analytics to drive further efficiency. Which allows us to understand our customers more. But we keep innovating, as I see so many fintechs pop up that are solving something for a consumer, educating them around how to manage their money better. It's such an exciting industry to be part of.

Founder of Tier One People and host of the Fintech Chatter Podcast.

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