Often the “Fin” in Fintech would denote a heavy hitter from a bank being a winning hire, right?
In the fast paced environment of Fintech, we have noticed caution on the part of our clients in making such a decision.
The hesitation is bound in stereotypes. Banking is often viewed as a mired in red-tape, compliance (or lack of, in Australia), too many chiefs, too many meetings and nothing getting done. Huge amounts of resources and dollars are thrown at projects that never come to fruition. Whilst their Fintech competitors move with stealth and agility, innovating at much greater speed with minimal resources.
The role of an Executive Search Consultant is to challenge stereotypes and get clients to view each candidate on their merits. The view of not being a team player and rolling up your sleeves is often a misconception in banking, but there are plenty who refuse to conform to the stereotype of a banker.
Tier One People is bolstering our position as the leading Australian Fintech Executive Search firm. Australia’s growing FinTech sector has seen a rise in the search for C-suite and leadership talent. Counting Revolut, TrueLayer, 10x, Klarna and Transferwise as some of the many companies seeking our assistance.
How bankers can take control of their job search.
A more proactive approach job seekers can take is to look at where your big banking skills can have an impact. Assessing whether a company is at start-up or scale up stage will also aid you in making a successful move to Fintech. Read this article on Fintech Career Advice to gain a better understanding at which stage of growth you are best suited to.
Before embarking on the search it is crucial to take a step back and ask yourself;
“How would I cope moving from a structured and heavily supported environment to a one of a specialist generalist”
The best advice we can give candidates looking to join a Fintech.
Showcasing your skills in 2020 also requires more savvy than ever before. Looking good on paper doesn’t get cut through anymore. If you are in the market looking to join a Fintech you need to have a plan in place and a goal in sight. You need to utilise all of the tools available, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Podcasts. These are all channels where you get direct access to decision makers, people who can hire you.
You can showcase your skills and achievements, bringing them to life and not being blocked by gatekeepers and recruiters.
Do FinTech Need Banking Experience?
Dexter Cousins, the CEO and Founder of Tier One People, has interviewed more than 300 FinTech leaders on the subject of hiring. He firmly believes hirers should consider the lifecycle of a Fintech to assess where the best candidate fit is.
It’s very difficult for anyone to move from a corporate job to an early stage startup. But with the rapid growth of tech companies, a startup can become an enterprise in 5 years. Examples include Stripe, Revolut and Australia’s Afterpay.
It’s a difficult process identifying the right time for a banker to join a Fintech. The right person can definitely make a significant contribution as the company scales. Often times the right hire is made but at the wrong time, which ultimately means the hire is wrong.
Find out just what skills you need in this exclusive interview with Eric Wilson, CEO of neo Bank Xinja.
We get inundated with calls on a daily basis from candidates seeking a move to the shiny new world of ‘FinTech’. However, opening your pitch with “hey, I’ve got 20 years experience in banking, I want to work in FinTech” might not be the best way to impress people.
It’s also important to make the distinction between a Finance business and a Software business. Are bankers better suited to a NeoBank or a platform provider. Fintech covers a wide range of businesses and making this distinction can really increase your chances of securing a move.
Judo Bank, Xinja, 86 400 and Revolut in Australia have all hired highly experienced bankers early in their growth. Judo and Xinja are both founded by highly experienced bankers who were driven to change the industry.
FinTech’s are at the cutting edge of innovation with far fewer resources than any bank. The reality is no founder or investor gets excited by somebody with twenty years experience in banking, unless they can demonstrate previous success in a startup and they have skills currently not in the business which are mission critical to success.
When Founders need help with hiring.
The recruitment process to join a Fintech can be almost as intense as the job itself. If you can’t handle the intensity of the interview process, it’s highly unlikely you will succeed in the job.
The thing to remember is that FinTech founders themselves may not have the breadth of experience in HR or Talent to make critical hiring decisions. Hiring for a startup is often a make or break decision. We’ve watched some companies flourish and others flounder because of it.
For a founder looking to hire, specialist FinTech recruiters are more easily able to identify those candidates who are the ”right cultural fit.” Assessing if someone will relish the challenge of working in a FinTech environment is very difficult using traditional interview techniques. And a specialist recruiter can provide far greater access to Talent than an ad campaign and direct networks, especially in talent short markets.
But to achieve these results a client needs to invite us ‘into the tent’.
The key to success is communication
Being attuned to the changing demands of the business is vital to ensure success when hiring.
“The Revolut Country CEO search took six months. The brief changed 4 times as the company grew from 700 staff to almost 2000 during this time. Customer numbers went from 4m to almost 10m. When a company is growing that fast in a highly regulated sector like Fintech, it creates a lot of complexity. Hiring becomes even more complex.” commented Dexter Cousins.
There is a need for the modern executive search consultant to set realistic expectations with their clients. Being transparent and honest (even though clients may not want to hear what you have to say) is the only way to achieve lasting success. This approach is core to the values at Tier One People. The search for the “blue eyed unicorn” is never a realistic one and usually wastes significant time and business opportunities.
Jonny Wilkinson is co-founder of Equitise. Equitise is a crowdfunding platform which simplifies the investment marketplace. It removes traditional barriers to investing in sourcing capital by making the process quick, easy and safe. Enabling your average Aussie to invest in early stage startups like Xinja. Jonny shares his personal journey of launching the business and gives his views on the investment market.
We are an investment platform for unlisted companies to raise funds via crowdfunding. Essentially we make it possible for everyday investors to put a relatively small amount of money into supporting startup businesses. The idea for Equitise began in 2014 in a pub at a mates birthday. My co-founder Chris (Gilbert) were both chatting about wanting to get out of our corporate gig. We both had some knowledge of the potential changes taking place in crowd funding both regionally and globally and figured we’d go for it. The next morning we weren’t sure what was going to happen. Nursing a sore head, scrolling through my newsfeed I was drawn to something which was to become the precursor to the H2 accelerator.
Equitise helped Xinja equity fund raise. What was the experience like?
Xinja was the very first retail, equity crowdfunding deal done after the laws changed and the exact same day our licence was granted. The 11th January 2018 was the day we launched with Xinja. It went gangbusters, beyond our wildest expectations. I didn’t leave my desk other than go to the bathroom a couple times on that day. We ended up raising about $2.5 – $3 million for them.
Could you tell us a little bit more about some of the other businesses you work with?
We’ve been extremely lucky to work with some great businesses including Car Next Door, GoCatch and Endeavour Brewing, a boutique beer label. We’ve helped lots of companies raise money, not just once, but a second or third time. To date we’ve carried out 74 raises for 65 companies over the past few years. In total that equates to approximately $45 million.
What kind of response have you had from investors?
It’s been nothing short of amazing. When we set out on this mission we needed companies and investors to enable us to fulfill our wish to make investing more open and transparent to every investor. Buying into a VC fund costs on average $250,000, which puts it beyond reach for the average investor. With Equitise, investors require, on average just $250, which provides opportunity for most people to build a portfolio. They can back some amazing, exciting businesses with the potential to grow tremendously and potentially provide great returns.
The ability to invest is also great for the economy. Crowdfunding allows companies who are innovative and small the ability to grow and create future employment. Equity crowdfunding helps underpin the early stage capital markets. We’re very passionate about being able to offer investing opportunities to everyone.
Have you got any theories as to why we’re seeing this huge rise in stock markets?
A number of factors are in play. Stock markets are trying to predict the future, and COVID-19 has thrown things into disarray lately. Previous downturns like the GFC were a top down structural issue, which slowly unwound and devalued a whole lot of assets.
What we are seeing now is a supply/demand, bottom up driven outcome. The opportunity for the economy and indeed the world to switch back on and return to normal is much greater.
There is more money in the world today than ever before. In recent years people are most likely reassessing their situation.
We’re very lucky to have extremely mature superannuation industry in Australia, with a figure in the region of $2.6 trillion AUD. This is a huge amount of money to underpin the economy with. Nine and a half percent of the gross national income in Australia is deposited into superannuation funds each month.
If there aren’t any new issuances on the ASX, most of the focus and allocation of a lot of these assets is towards Australian stocks. The asset prices will just get pushed up. Which means the ASX keeps on growing even if there isn’t commensurate, actual growth in the underlying companies on the ASX.
Do you think that the ease of investing and access to all of these opportunities is creating a paradigm shift?
Without a doubt it’s quicker and easier for people to take these opportunities now. Opening an account can all be achieved in a few minutes. The speed in which it can be achieved allows people to seize on opportunities. If you’re sitting on cash or you’re looking to rotate your asset allocation it’s a tremendous time to be alive.
I recall a time back at Citibank, when we were trying to set up some Australian institutional clients it was an arduous process. The steps and the forms needed to set up trading in the US was quite involved. Whereas these days individuals can do it in a matter of minutes and lots of the processes are automated.
Can you tell us more about the Equitise journey?
In 2014, H2 accelerator accepted Equitise into their accelator programme. Legislation was expected to change in a relatively short period of time, 6 to 12 months at most. Then we had a change of government and the time frame changed overnight, we had no end date in sight.
Having quit our jobs, borrowed money and building the investment platform, we didn’t know what to do.
We had always planned that Equitise would be an Asia Pacific company eventually, starting in Australia, New Zealand then Asia. The order changed. We jumped on a plane to New Zealand and started cold calling people, sending emails and LinkedIn connections.
Chris and I quickly followed up with meetings. Venture capitalists, angel investors, lawyers, accountants, basically anyone who we thought might be interested in investing. When we met with the regulator they were very encouraging. And after a brief board meeting (Chris and I were the only two board members at that time) we decided to launch in New Zealand first.
I got on a plane the next day and moved to New Zealand for 18 months. We got the business quickly set up and licenced.
In Australia the process to get the legislation changed to allow for equity crowdfunding, was pretty arduous. We had to lobby the government and the opposition and took trips to Canberra a few times. It took a lot of time and pushing from different angles.
FinTech Australia has been an amazing platform for us to help get access and lobby the government. I was lucky enough to be put on a FinTech advisory panel to the government, which opened up another avenue for us. We had to work with ASIC making sure we put regulations in place to get licensed in Australia before we finally got the go ahead. I’m never going to try and start another business where I need to get laws changed!
How many people do you have in the business?
We now have ten people in the business split fairly equally across technology, marketing, deals and management working collaboratively within the business. Our marketing team also works with each of the companies we are raising money for, as well as doing the broader Equitise marketing.
How does it feel making such a significant impact on the startup community?
It’s amazing and we’re very proud of what we have achieved. It gets us out of bed every day. We get to speak to amazing people doing tremendous things. When we see the companies we help continue to grow, it’s very rewarding.
Private companies are the lifeblood of the economy, they drive growth and employment.
The second company we ever raised money for in New Zealand works in a pretty niche space providing financial products to retirees. They don’t think they would have been able to go on had we not helped them with their first raise. They now have more than $250 million funds under management and we’ve raised for them four or five times.
Have you got any exciting deals in the pipeline you can mention at the stage?
We’ve got lots of exciting things coming up, which we’ve been holding off on due to COVID-19. This has allowed us to build an exciting new platform where we’ve built the technology from scratch. We have launched Bricklet, which is a fractionalized property play. We’ve got a bakery business producing authentic, certified organic, whole food.
Humaniti is a personal finance offering where you can actually earn money. There’s a lot of exciting things coming through in the short term and we’re busy stacking the pipe with some exciting stuff coming for the second half of the year.
Tim Cameron is Australia New Zealand Country Manager for Transferwise. Transferwise launched in 2011 with the vision of making international money transfers cheap, fair and simple. They now have over 7 million customers and process over US $5 billion per month in international transactions. With investors including Sir Richard Branson, and PayPal founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, Transferwise is one of the world’s most successful and profitable FinTech.
You have quite a few years of history with the Transferwise business. Could you share a little bit more about what Transferwise does?
Transferwise is a global technology company. We’re building the best way to move money around the world. We make it possible for our customers to send, spend and receive money internationally at the real exchange rate.
The business started about 10 years ago. Our founders Taavet (Hinrikus) and Kristo (Käärmann) are two friends from Estonia. Working in London, being paid in one currency but having expenses in another whilst honouring commitments back home made them realise how much money they were being charged each month. They quickly worked out a reciprocal agreement to help make money transfers amongst themself in the currencies they needed, using Reuters exchange rate online to figure out the fairest exchange rates.
When their friends heard about it, the idea snowballed. It was a lightbulb moment as they realised this was a problem for millions of people globally. A discovery more than a decade ago led to Transferwise’s existence.
How did an Aussie living in Melbourne end up joining Transferwise in the UK?
While I was living in Melbourne I saw an ad for the role in the UK. I took advantage of the great visa arrangements between Australia and the UK, applied and the rest is history.
During my first years with the business I worked on the unit economics model, built with the express purpose of helping us to understand how to price and how to invest in marketing. My role then naturally started to gravitate more to the data. This was key in helping to understand, fix or build new parts of the business.
In a software company, this means working with engineers, without them nothing gets changed or fixed. Understanding problems, coming up with new product ideas, and then implementing them for the benefit of our customers is what led to my role as a product manager. At Transferwise our teams are structured around the Product Manager as the central node. I operated a full stack team tasked with launching Transferwise in new markets and optimising existing markets.
I was lucky enough to launch Transferwise in 10 countries in my role as a product manager, before I returned to Australia as the Country Manager.
What were the challenges you faced launching the Transferwise product in all of these locations?
We’re often the first to do something in a market or country. For example, the first online money transfer, making transfers instant, or introducing electronic verification. These challenges might be technical, regulatory or commercial and when you’re the first company to do it, it can be very resource intensive.
We’ve set the global standard of what a good customer experience looks like in the UK and Europe. We know what we need, what the end product looks like. Singapore is a great example of bringing a global standard to a new market. Four years ago customers in Singapore had to be verified in person, there was no way to verify them online.
We set up a tiny office in the centre of Singapore with one employee just to carry out ID verification to people to use Transferwise. Fast forward to today and we fully integrate with Singapore’s national identity database to make it seamless for Singaporean customers to get onboarded.
We’re really proud we’ve now made it possible for any new business in Singapore, to utilise this new global standard.
The values and philosophy of the business have been echoed in your hiring process. Could you tell us more about how Transferwise have managed to find talent?
We hire people who have shown a true affinity for their customers in previous roles. Talking about the profit you’ve delivered without sharing the customer problems you’ve solved is not really the way to get your foot in the door.
We want people who can identify the opportunities within the business as it grows. For them to discover what they are good at and really focus on fixing problems.
Kristo, our co-founder and CEO cares a lot about the mission. He wants to be able to say Transferwise is setting the new global standard in bringing transparency to international money transfer.
What have you learned on your journey of Product Manager to Country Manager.
The role of a Product Manager role is an integral one to any software business. I’m not a huge fan of the saying a Product Manager is the mini CEO. What’s great about the role is being the lead, being on the front line and at the centre of the battle of ideas. It’s all about making sure you’re building towards the company’s goals. Transferwise has a very clear company mission and a platform for product managers to really shine.
Moving back to Australia and taking up the role of Country Manager was a huge decision. I’ve moved from HQ of a large growing company to the most remote outpost. The Product Manager is much more of an internal role working across teams. My role now requires lots more external facing.
This includes working with banking partners, negotiating and being the point of escalation for improvements. I am now the face to Transferwise in Australia for regulators and at public events. Whilst I didn’t have the most experience in these areas, I felt confident taking the role knowing Transferwise had the resources to support me on the journey.
How have you managed to take the essence of the culture of the business and move it to Australia with you?
We’ve done a great job embedding the Transferwise culture of autonomous teams and putting customers first, here in Australia. I have been lucky enough to enlist some old timers to move from London to Australia to help seed culture.
We are all about empowering employees to do what’s best for our customers. It was a wise decision by Transferwise founders Kristo and Taavet to allow our employees to figure out what’s best for our customers.
We’re doing this across time zones and managing different communication styles. At the same time Transferwise does have full stack support and operational support coming from Singapore which is not too different time wise. This has resulted in us thriving.
How long has Transferwise been operational in Australia?
We launched our “send money” product in Australia in 2015. We now have offices Melbourne and Sydney with risk/compliance, marketing and comms teams here and support coming from Singapore.
Globally we’re processing over 7 billion Australian dollars for customers every month. I think the number we’re most proud of is we’re saving our customers, over $1.5 billion Australian dollars a year or $5 million AUD a day compared to using their bank. Globally, a quarter of our international money transfers are delivered instantly. The transaction happens in less than 20 seconds while the customer is still on the Transferwise app.
You’ve got some really interesting partnerships. Have you got any other exciting partnerships lined up?
We’re about to roll out Transferwise for banks product and we have partnered with Up Bank here in Australia. This allows banks who want to integrate with Transferwise to power international money transfers for their customers. We’re also exploring a lot of partnerships around our business product. Globally, we onboard about 10,000 new businesses every month.
Some of the partnerships we’ve built are, GoCardless, so people can settle the direct debits they’ve received internationally. We have integration feeds with Xero and QuickBooks. Anyone using the accounting software can avoid doing any manual entry. We also have a project with Xero going on in the UK which allows Xero customers to use Transferwise to pay their bills.
What does the future hold for Transferwise?
2020 Has been a big half year for us. We’ve announced an integration with Alipay for customer sending money to China. We launched the UAE’s first fully online money transfer service. Our customers are currently holding £2 billion in Transferwise’s multi currency accounts. We’ve just released a feature allows our customers to send money to each other across borders instantly using just the mobile number.
We’re hoping to continue this same momentum in the second half of the year. Our real push here in Australia is to make money transfer as cheap as possible for customers especially as we actually pay the highest prices for money transfers of any developed country in the world. Australian banks can get away with charging big markups and hidden markups, we want to change that.
Many people don’t realise they’re not getting the rate they see on Google. The result is the majority of people paying far above the odds to send money overseas. We’re working with the ACCC and other regulators to show solutions we use in Europe and how they could be applied in Australia. We know how big a problem it is and Transferwise has the ability to solve it.
Bianca Bates is Chief Client Officer at Cuscal, Australia’s largest independent provider of payment solutions. Cuscal has a rich history of technology innovation in Australia and is the main investor behind Neo bank 86 400. They were the first provider to go live on the new payments platform, switching on 30 clients simultaneously on one day.
Cuscal is Australia’s leading provider of payment solutions. We are an ADI (Authorised Deposit taking Institution) and have all the same licencing and payment capabilities as the major banks in Australia. However, we provide our services on a wholesale basis operating in the business to business space. What it means in essence is, we provide the back office functions for mutuals, credit unions and Fintech’s.
Cuscal have been operating in Australia since the 1960’s, formed by the mutual sector as an industry body. Our origins in the mutual sector mean culturally we have always had our members best interests at heart. Cuscal’s strong focus on the customer experience and passion to “do the right thing” is at the core of our values.
Could you share with us some of the work Cuscal has completed, in particular your involvement in the new payments platform?
We have been heavily involved in financial technology innovation from our inception. Back in 1977 we launched Australia’s first ATM in collaboration with Queensland Teachers Credit Union. In 1982 we were the first to issue a scheme debit card in Australia. Fast forward to 2018, which was a huge year for Cuscal, we had the NPP launch.
Cuscal enabled 50% of those financial institutions to go live. Later that same year we simultaneously launched over 30 clients going live with the three global digital wallets, Apple, Google and Samsung. It was an immensely proud year for us.
We built on our success the following year when we launched the first digitally issued card for one of our clients in Western Australia.
You’re the main investors in 86 400, the digital bank, could you provide us some insight into how you became involved.
Our journey towards a digital bank started many years ago. We saw digital banking as the future of banking. The real opportunity for us lay in our end to end payment expertise and a long history of working with banking clients.
In August 2017 business case approval was granted and we started work. From the beginning we made a conscious choice to establish an independent organisation with its own leadership team, premises and board to allow the organisation its independence and autonomy.
This ensured the right focus to achieve the vision, and last September 86 400 was born. We’re so proud of the innovative, mobile only banking experience now being offered to Australians through 86400.
As the founding shareholder, our licence agreement with 86 400 effectively enables Cuscal to be the sole distribution partner for all of the digital capabilities we have built. Our goal was to allow Cuscal the ability to launch those capabilities to other clients, which is our plan in the coming year.
What are some of the opportunities you’re seeing for Cuscal?
We have a very broad base of clients who are predominantly based in Australia, with a couple of US clients. These include large and small financial institutions, Acquiring Clients, Fintechs, Corporates and Payment facilitators. We’re focusing on how we can deliver the solutions our current clients need in the most optimised manner.
We are also doing what we do best, being the source of thought leadership to our clients. Being a scout for what is coming down the pipeline in terms of investing their money, as well as providing some perspective and prioritisation.
Open banking is a big area for us. The 86 400 white label licence services also provide us the opportunity to utilise some of the digital capabilities for our clients that we built for 86 400. COVID-19 has highlighted the need to have a really clear digital strategy and a digital engagement programme. We are planning a roll out of some of these services for our existing clients in the year ahead.
How have you been able to change the mindset of the business to go on this tech journey with you?
It’s certainly been a journey. The positive decision to change and diversify was made approximately 10 years ago. New products require capability from technology. It required a rethink in the way we delivered programmes of work. From this came the need to bring in people who have successfully managed similar programmes to drive change.
The NPP programme was probably our biggest learning platform. When we started the build of NPP, waterfall practices were our go to method. We quickly moved to an agile way of delivery which again meant new people to drive the upskilling we needed. Many FinTech startups go through a growing pain process and the NPP was our experience with those pains.
Pushing to have 30 clients go live in one day also gave us the confidence to recognise we are a nimble organisation with less complexity than the major banks.
What is the culture you’re trying to create within Cuscal?
Cuscal have always been; a) client focused, with an emphasis on doing the right thing and b) providing a great employee experience. This has become even more focussed in recent years.
There’s four main areas we look for in our people. Top of this list is energy. We want people who are looking to make a difference and getting stuff done.
The second is people who will work as one team, people who think only of their own success and reward tend not to work for us.
Thirdly we want people who are accountable in all aspects of their work, process, product, service whatever it may be.
Finally being outcome focused. Having a really clear strategy to make sure everything they’re doing is driving towards executing their strategy.
How have you gone about attracting the calibre of individuals to allow you to go on this big transformation?
We’ve had a few challenges, one of these is competing with the Neo banks. People are naturally attracted to the hottest startups who get a lot of press. Our strength is Cuscal being a bank. It comes with financial security, regulation, certainty. Startups can be exciting but they also come with a lot of risk.
We are well networked from an industry perspective. Our people sit on most of the working groups, boards, committees and forums in Australia from a payments perspective. All of the benefits that come with working for a bank. Our dual pronged approach is that we are also a FinTech. We work on innovative and transformative products and services. But we offer an environment where our people have the resources to deliver. We’re essentially the best of both worlds.
We’re also a small organisation who encourage our people to sit in on forums with leadership, board members and their direct reports . Our people have a voice and provide invaluable feedback.
Do you find that the relentless focus Cuscal places on its customers has helped you in attracting the right people?
Our heritage in the mutual space has seeped through to our organisation. Cuscal has an ethos of doing the right thing for our customers. Our way of operating is in complete contrast to other organisations where they are KPI driven. The benefit for our people is the opportunity for them to stand up and really differentiate themselves in the market to their end customers.
Cuscal is really enabling competition in the Australian market and we’re really proud to be able to support this thinking.
What is the big vision for Cuscal?
Data is at the heart of driving a tailored customer experience. Mobile being the first way in which consumers are looking to engage. Our beliefs form our strategy which I summarise as four pillars.
Firstly, Our clients need to get to market as quickly and cheaply as possible. We’re making everything really modular, plug and play to enable this.
The second pillar is around expanding our client reach to ensure we can scale to deliver much more competitive pricing for our customers. We’ve made significant investments in NPP, as well as digital capabilities and our fraud solutions. We’re really looking to scale those solutions and reach as many customers as possible.
The third area is increasing the relevance of our payment solutions. Many products we have been delivering since inception. We need to continually focus on using the right systems and tech stack to deliver those products. An example of our focus here is with our fraud platform which we replaced when we introduced NPP’s new payments stream. We now have a new platform using machine learning and artificial intelligence for fraud monitoring services to customers.
The fourth area is making strategic investments in innovation. We really see this as essential in maintaining our position of leadership and relevance whilst capturing emerging markets.
Our big focus here is really on open banking, hence our investment in bringing 86 400 to life. We’re really clear on our strategy. We’re into the second year of our five year plan.
Forbes recently launched their list of the world’s top banks based on factors including ethics and customer centricity. Of the twenty Australian banks that featured, I’m proud to say seven are clients of Cuscal.
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.
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.
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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.
Francine Ereira is Country Head of Klarna, a Fintech founded in 2005 in Sweden, with the aim of making it easier for people to shop online. Klarna is now one of Europe’s largest banks, providing payment solutions for 85 million consumers across 205,000 merchants in 17 countries.
Klarna offers a smooth, one click purchase experience that lets consumers pay when and how they prefer. Launching in Australia in February 2020 it counts Commonwealth Bank, Sequoia Capital, Visa and even Snoop Dogg as investors.
Klarna established in Stockholm 15 years ago by three young Swedish gentlemen, with a simple vision to make online payments easier for consumers and retailers. We completed our first transaction back in April 2005 in partnership with a Swedish bookshop. Since then, we’ve expanded into 19 markets, serve over 85 million consumers and work with in excess of 205,000 retailers across the globe.
Klarna recently decided to launch in Australia. Why did they choose Australia?
Australia is a relatively mature market. It’s sophisticated with an engaged consumer base who are willing to try new payment products. Based on our adoption of Klarna, Australia as a country is always looking for something bigger, better and bolder, especially in the millennial market.
What Australia brings for Klarna is the ability for us to position ourselves as a responsible lender. We are helping consumers to budget and we are partnering with retailers to help them grow their businesses. The reason Klarna came to Australia is our competitors in this market have a very transactional relationship. What Klarna does well globally is develop relationships by engaging customers through curated personal content, rather than just a transaction.
What was it about Klarna other than the product that attracted you to the business?
During my first week at Zip Co I was present at a partnership meeting with Klarna. What I remember about that meeting was the level of professionalism and the pace at which Klarna worked. They had dedication to working towards a great opportunity. Whilst the opportunity to partner with Klarna didn’t work out with Zip, it stayed in my mind the ease of which they wanted to partner and how they went about doing that. I witnessed first hand their passion and devotion to solving problem spaces. When Klarna announced their partnership with CBA in Australia, I knew this was my chance to be part of it.
How has the relationship with CBA been working so far? Is it a hands on relationship or are they very hands off?
We’ve got a really close working relationship. There is a strong alignment between Klarna and CBA. We both have a commitment towards customer obsession and protecting consumers, for example our drive towards responsible lending.
We have regular meetings to discuss growth and what we both want to achieve in this market. It’s not like it’s big brother watching over us. It truly is a partnership, exploring a range of opportunities to grow together, including co-marketing opportunities and developing opportunities as we go.
How would you describe the culture of the business having been in the seat for a few months now?
The culture is honestly something that I’ve not experienced before. I’ve worked with very large global corporations and some great startups. Klarna’s cultural perspective encourages people to speak up and take accountability. Empowerment is something in our organisation I find incredible. We empower everyone to deliver in a fast paced environment.
To provide some insight of how empowering it is I’ll share a conversation Sebastian and I had. He told me “Fran, Australia is yours to make successful” and I said “What does successful look like?” He said “No, you tell me what successful looks like to you and then go and deliver on it, because I know that’s what you’re capable of doing”.
“That’s the essence of the culture, it is truly incredible“
If I can paint more literal picture, we work in small teams of eight people. Each team focuses on an individual problem space, looking to foster a startup mentality. If you think about our product space, we are quickly able to iterate and enhance our products based on customer feedback.
That’s something that you don’t see a lot of in big tech teams that have longer roadmaps, you can’t have that agility, which is the complete opposite of our small teams.
Klarna still identifies people by core competencies, data and analytics, finance, marketing, tech product, etc. But every team, irrespective of competence is only eight people. And some of those teams will be cross functional. Our product team, for example, has lawyers, analysts and developers.
Basically a group of people who can run a small business sufficiently on their own within the organisation. It’s a really clever concept because it means that you’re able to self service, right? You’re not relying on all these other pieces, you’re actually self sufficient to run and that means you can run faster, quicker and achieve desired outcomes.
What are the plans for the business here in Aus?
We’ve got some very big plans for Aus. Today we are 27 people and we’re growing quickly in the market, which is really exciting. We’ve had a very warm reception and that’s mainly because consumers are truly at the heart of everything we do.
I could have utilised support and services from our central services team in Sweden. The reality of the time differences between us brought about a realisation that this didn’t quite work, we really needed to create those roles within Australia. The team is a lot bigger than initially forecasted year one because we don’t want to compromise on the level of service and delivery to our customers.
The reality is that Australia is a competitive landscape. Only 10% of Australians have actually conducted a buy now pay later transaction. We’re seeing numbers grow on a daily basis with new audiences, particularly with the pandemic. There’s a whole new audience now shopping online that haven’t before.
What we want to do is disrupt and show consumers what an amazing shopping experience looks like and to show Australians that we can deliver what they want. We do listen and put customers at the centre of everything that we’re doing. Our ambitions are very bold, and I’m very confident that we can deliver on them. I can’t wait to show the results of that in a couple of years time.
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I’d like to go back a little bit further in your career to really understand how you got started in FinTech?
My foray into FinTech was quite an interesting one. I was actually working at Tomando, which you may recall was an incredible fulfilment platform. During my time at Zip I had established really strong relationships within the payment ecosystem including platform providers, solution providers and retail. It was at a time when Larry was in the early stages at Zip Co, I think three years in at that stage, and looking at how to partner and breakthrough. We started talking and did a dance around for quite a number of months until I was I love the sound of this. This is really exciting, I think I need to get on board. Which was how I got into the FinTech space.
Fran, you are one of a group of highly talented female leaders in Fintech. What is your advice to others wanting to follow in your shoes?
The reality is all jobs out there are there for the taking by anybody, irrespective of race or gender. It think it boils down to females being less likely to consider ourselves worthy of running the race. If we only tick 9 of the 10 boxes then we wont apply. The mindset of guys is different. They think I’ve got three of those things, let’s have a go.
It’s about helping women take those risks because they are so capable. We are so judgmental of ourselves, we really are our own worst enemies to be quite honest, to a large degree we are perfectionists, when we don’t tick all the boxes, so we just don’t go for it.
Personally, I think that’s a big contributing factor. Which is a shame because what you need around any boardroom table is a really diverse bunch of people. Different people think and act in different ways, and ultimately you need that level of diversity to win and have robust challenges or conversations. And constructive conversations help you get to where you want to go.
As a leader how do you get that across to the people in your team and your network?
One of the things that Klarna are quite good at doing particularly in trying to keep diversity and balance happening is seeking out people, giving them the confidence to give it a go. What I say to my team all the time, is if you’ve got what you think it takes to get this done, look at what you’ve got, not what you don’t have, to deliver and go for it
It doesn’t matter whether there are guys or girls in my team or not at the end of the day, I want everyone to strive and push themselves further than they’ve ever pushed themselves because we all benefit collectively from that.