Fintech Founder

David M Brear 11FS
David M Brear 11:FS

“Good leaders really understand that it’s not about them. It’s about what they can do to get the best out of everybody else around them. “


David M Brear 11:FS

Exclusive Interview. Dexter Cousins chats to David M Brear CEO of 11:FS, the globally renowned Fintech and digital banking consultancy. Find out David’s secrets on leadership, attracting the very best talent and how to bootstrap a global business.

11:FS is much more than a Podcast. Can you explain the business model?

David: We’ve been up to a few things other than just hanging out with microphones and doing podcasts.

Over the last three and a bit years, we’ve built Mettle, a SME challenger bank with NatWest in the UK. In Hong Kong we’ve worked with WeLab and Standard Chartered and in Singapore we’ve worked with our good friends Grab. We’ve also worked with a number of different companies in South Africa and we are midway through building out a consumer bank in the US.

From an 11:FS perspective, we live by the mantra that digital financial services are only 1% finished. Our mission is to change the fabric of financial services. And we do that in many different ways.

On one side we have a consulting services business working with people around the planet, whether it’s regulators or banks or tech players or whoever wants to build out new green field propositions. We help to define strategy and move the ideas forward. 

On the other side, it’s about building products that actually solve problems we’ve had ourselves, whether it’s things like Pulse, a global benchmarking tool, or the blockers we’ve come up against for delivering truly digital services at speed and scale.

That directly led us to establish 11:FS Foundry, which is a digitally native approach to core banking with a full stack architecture.

What prompted you to start 11:FS?

David: Four years back we struck on a thesis that we are so early in the cycle of change. The promise of everything the Internet brings to an industry that fundamentally hasn’t changed for 300 years was nowhere near being realised.

Digital is really about using the power of data to create an ultra personalised experience with much better services and products. 

Unfortunately the way in which big banking organisations have implemented digital is more about taking people and paper out of the process. That’s digitisation, not digital.

The justification of every bank’s digital transformation had been cost driven. It has only been in the last few years where banks have realised they need to revolutionise their approach and provide better services and products. 

The change has predominantly been led through major changes globally, in the regulatory space and through competition. New players have come into the space, whether that be Fintech startups or Big Tech companies like Apple, and they are showing the banks that people just want better services.

We are just at the beginning of fundamental shifts in banking and financial services. 

How Did You Get the Business off the ground?

David: We’ve taken no money. From month three of founding the organisation we were profitable. This pre revenue nonsense is definitely not for me. I don’t think you can call it a business unless it makes profit and makes revenue. Call me old fashioned on that one. But for me, it’s all about creating something of value for people. And if you do that then you should be able to monetise it.  

There have been key moments where we have been very lucky and times when we have been ballsy. Episode One of Fintech Insider is an example. We had no listeners and no idea how we were editing the show, but managed to get a sponsor because they believed in what we were doing.

The first client of 11:FS Pulse was brought in as a partner before the product even existed. DNB invested in Foundry when it was no more than 11 slides.

We’ve been lucky to find people who believe in what we are doing, are probably as crazy as us and share the same vision, which is awesome. But ultimately our success comes down to creating things that are of great value to our clients.

You have an incredible line up of talent in the business, how have you attracted them to 11:FS? 

David: I’m 39 years old now. Entrepreneurs my age can attract the right talent more effectively than people who are starting out a lot younger.  You build up a network of people over your career where you think I don’t know when, but we’re gonna work together again.

I met Jason Bates (11:FS cofounder) back when he was at Starling, I was still at Gartner. I knew with Jason we’d work together at some point. Similar to Ryan Wareham, our COO. We worked really well together when I was at Lloyds Banking. 

You get a feel for people in terms of their unique strengths. If there is a pre existing relationship you already have an understanding of each other. From there you build a founding team.

Beyond that, I honestly think success is fundamentally about momentum. One success leads to another success, which over time creates a magnetic pull where you attract the right people. 


Have you found the Fintech Insider podcast is a good tool for talent attraction and bringing in new business?

David: Yeah, 100%. It’s crazy, we get hundreds of emails from people interested in working with us either as employees, partners or clients. At the beginning of the company you’re five people sitting around a table trying to figure out how you can compete with Accenture and McKinsey.

We couldn’t outspend them from a marketing perspective. So, we decided to out play them with brutal authenticity and a level of distribution that would create a fundamentally different way of engaging with our customer base. 

We set out asking;

‘How can we be authentic? How can we be provocative? How can we really establish human connections with the brand? ‘

David M. Brear 11:FS

Even now we could not reach the amount of people that we do with the level of content marketing that we put out using our competitors marketing approach. We have focused so much on brand narrative, it’s not about the products or services we offer. Our brand narrative is fundamentally about what we believe in and our values. 

When you align with people on your belief system or your aspiration about what the industry could be, then you find a higher level of connectivity that you can never achieve by sending out a bullshit brochure. 


What kind of team and culture are you building?

David: 11:FS is my first CEO role. I have worked for some really good CEOs and one or two really bad ones in the past. But I’ve probably learned more from the really bad CEOs, especially on what not to do when it comes building a winning culture!

The 11:FS culture is based on servant leadership. We are not a hierarchical company and believe bad and good ideas can come from anywhere. Whether it’s bad ideas coming from the very top or good ideas coming from anybody across the organisation.

Trust is a huge thing from my perspective as a leader. If you have 360 degree trust of your people in the business then there is a positive intent running through the whole company. 

When it comes to leadership I don’t consider myself a businessman. I’m more of a sports guy. So, I always look to bring the same mentality of a very successful sports team into the 11:FS team culture.

I think there’s an honesty to sports that is often very much missing within the business world. Transparency and accountability are key to a sports team.

If somebody’s playing badly on the team, they know and you know really quickly. There is nowhere to hide, but as a sports team you’ll do everything you can to increase the productivity of the team and increase the impact you can make from an individual perspective.

With sports teams it is as much about psychology as it is physiology. And I think that is missing in the business world. 

How do you motivate the team?

Good leaders really understand that it’s not really about them. It’s about what they can do to get the best out of everybody else around them.

Whether it’s creating a sense of urgency, whether it’s creating a vision and reinforcing it until the goal is reached, whether it’s giving people a level of motivation to run through walls they wouldn’t have tried to do before. 

In big organisations leadership stops being about getting the best out of the people and focuses on managing the board or managing a group of shareholders.

And that’s where I think you start to see a significant drop in the productivity of people within an organisation. And unfortunately, it’s where you start to see an almost unrecoverable position from a cultural perspective.



Katherine McConnell – Brighte

From corporate career to FinTech leader of the year.
The amazing story of Katherine McConnell.

Katherine McConnell is CEO and Founder of Brighte. In 2015, Katherine was in a comfortable corporate job. Today she is Fintech Leader of the year, running a successful, rapidly scaling business and has the backing of Mike Cannon-Brookes.

I have been recruiting leadership talent for 20 years and no one has impressed me as much as Katherine. She is rightly hailed as an inspiration to female entrepreneurs. But her courage, commitment, vision and focus serves as an inspiration to everyone.

Interview with Dexter Cousins of Tier One People


What motivated you to start Brighte?

Katherine: The idea for Brighte came in 2015, it was a combination of two things; deep industry experience (Katherine spent 14 years at Macquarie Bank in asset and energy finance.) And identifying an opportunity in the market to provide a faster, easier way to finance solar panels and batteries, especially for families around Australia.

My family had installed solar and it was an exciting time. There were days where we lived totally off the grid. Some days we were putting energy back into the grid, even making money from our solar set up. Our two kids were fascinated.

However, having solar installed was expensive. I knew that as the cost of batteries came down, solar would become more accessible for Australian families. Even today, solar is still expensive to install so finance is often needed. You pay for solar panels, batteries and the installation upfront, but over time you generate savings on your energy bill.

A payment plan product where you can pay over time wasn’t on the market when I installed solar. And that is how Brighte was born. It was a mixture of personal excitement, and the realisation of a potentially huge market opportunity.

How did you get started on Brighte?

Katherine: I began working on Brighte over a period of a few months. Resigning felt like a much bigger deal than starting the business. Now I have had success, a lot of people come to me with great ideas, but they can’t bring themselves to quit their regular job.

I understand why they find it so difficult. Macquarie was a big part of my life, for 14 years. How do you give it all up for what feels like a crazy dream? The only person who can get you to make the leap is you, but for someone in a corporate role, who’s rational, that’s a really, irrational step to make.

What is it like to go from having a stable job to becoming a business leader and CEO of one of Australia’s fastest growing FinTech’s?

Katherine: Every day has offered a different experience. A lot of what I am doing hasn’t been done before. A sole female founder, in the finance industry, starting a lending business, mum to two kids. At Macquarie I never had a team. Until Brighte I had never managed anyone in a business, no leadership training.

Everything I have accomplished with Brighte, I had never done before, and there’s no guidebook. Of course, other people have launched successful start-ups in their own way, with their company and industry. You can read their experiences and stories, but your own journey is totally different to theirs.

It can be lonely being the CEO. Sure, you have your leadership team, and you can share things with them, but ultimately, you’re the only one who’s across everything in the business.

With so much skin in the game, managing the board, managing investors, it’s a unique position to be in. But the way I think about is this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s like I have won the lotto, it’s scary, but it’s amazing. And it is a real privilege to be backed by investors.

What are your top tips for securing investment?

Katherine: My advice for seed round is this; work really, really hard. Don’t give up, have a plan, and work to that plan. Don’t go in with an open-ended presentation. Be clear and articulate the commitment you are looking for from potential investors.

I learnt early on that you must have a data room. If you want to win investors over, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. We set up the data room with all the policies, processes, everything in there. We had a very slick and professional presentation in place. There were very clear next steps and everything was ready to go, it just moved so quickly from there on.

Did people doubt your vision for Brighte?

Katherine: Some people did look at me funny, as if to say,

“It is a huge vision, what makes you think you can pull it off?”

And that is okay, they have their own logic and rationale and it doesn’t align with your business plan. There were potential investors who didn’t buy into me, they would look at me and say,

“You need a co-founder, you need a tech, you need to have been an entrepreneur before.”

I satisfied none of their checklists on what makes a successful entrepreneur. The only thing they could see was my deep industry experience.

What spurred you on?

Katherine: I don’t believe the stereotypical indicators of a start-up entrepreneur are required for success. I truly believe you don’t need a co-founder. It would make my life easier if I had one, but I knew I had the resilience and the strength to do it myself.

I don’t agree that you need a tech background or a tech co-founder. I also don’t believe that you need previous experience in a start-up. Understanding the pitfalls may accelerate the journey, but my deep industry experience, understanding financials, understanding commercial agreements, perhaps that is more important than start-up experience?

At no point did I think “I can’t do this”. I was focussed and had total belief I would make it work. I had so much belief that we re-mortgaged the house. Eventually I met my seed investors, fantastic people who I have great respect for.

They saw in me someone who had put her life and her family’s life on the line. They could see I came with deep industry experience, a detailed business plan and could answer any question they threw at me. I had identified a clear problem, identified a clear market opportunity and developed a viable solution. It made a big difference.

At what point did Brighte become successful?

Katherine: The day after I left Macquarie I bought a MacBook, sat at my desk in Stone and Chalk with a computer and a blank pad of paper. A year later, we had built a full tech platform, vendor portal, vendor app, consumer web platform, consumer app. We had built a platform with instant credit decisioning, policies. processes and legally compliant.

Within a year we were accepting loan applications on our mobile app. What we achieved in that first 12 months with just three full time people and contractors was huge. The first year was tough.

We have been writing loans for two years now. The business is 60 people and growing fast. The structure is one third sales and marketing, one third tech and one third operations – credit, risk, finance etc. Initially I hired people I knew, approaching them directly. At the start of 2017 I had to go outside my network as the next phase of growth required very specific skillsets.

How do you find the right talent?

Katherine: 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 consider myself genuine and transparent, I work hard, but I am a parent and need flexibility, and that means you must trust people to get things done. I didn’t set out to create a culture, I had to hire like-minded people.

I am a huge believer in diversity and inclusion. I am very passionate about helping and encouraging fellow females. I want Brighte to be a diverse organization, it is easy to say, you must be pragmatic. As an example, it is tough to find female developers. There are three female developers in our team, which is fantastic, but they are very hard to find.

The way we have attracted a diverse work force is by accommodating flexible working arrangements, allowing people to work from home, work flexible hours or by giving extra time off over school holidays.

When you give your people clear outcomes, define what success looks like and outline what contribution you expect from them, flexible arrangements work well.

So, the culture at Brighte is based on finding like-minded people who share the same ethos on working together. We have a team of high-performing people, with a clear focus, clear direction, clear strategies. Everyone is prepared to do what it takes to achieve their goals. The team is so aligned that I rarely get involved in hiring now.

And what does the future hold for Brighte?

Katherine: We are going to keep our head down and keep working. There are new products in development we will be launching soon.  And we continue to improve the Brighte solution, whether that be for businesses or consumers.

We are working on solutions for our partners at the point of sale, making it easier for our businesses to process sales and grow their business. And on the consumer side we continue to develop ways for every Australian to enjoy the benefits of solar.

Read our Fintech NewGen Leadership Series

Female Entrepreneur Week

Tank Stream Labs recently held a national week-long series of events dedicated to female entrepreneurs.

Over 50 thought leaders shared their expertise and sparked great debate. 20 plus events across Sydney, Melbourne and Perth brought together people from across the startup ecosystem. “It was great to see so many amazing women coming together to support each other and learn from one another. All of the speakers – female and male – were very generous with their time and shared great insights.” said Julie Demsey, former General Manager of SBE Australia

Fintech in particular is dominated by males. Only 3% of tech firms are founded by women. Yet, when funded, female founded tech startups deliver 35% higher ROI than male led firms. Start Up Muster’s 2017 Report revealed the number of female founders is continuing to trend upwards, sitting at 25.4% up from 23.5% the previous year.

Tank Stream Labs have set out to tackle the burning question – How can we grow this number and what do we need to do to increase female involvement in what has been a male dominant space.

“Female Entrepreneur Week is such an incredible initiative by Tank Stream Labs, it helps to start great conversations amongst the startup community and empower our current and future female entrepreneurs”. Christie Whitehill, Founder of Tech Ready Women and one of the many amazing panelists of Female Entrepreneur Week.

A highlight of the week long event was a fireside chat with Katherine McConnell, CEO and Founder of Brighte. Katherine’s story is one that left everyone in the room inspired. In less than three years Katherine has gone from quitting her corporate job at an investment bank to becoming FinTech Leader of the Year. She has won investment from Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, Airtree Ventures and recently closed an $18m series B investment round. Clearly, Katherine is forging the way for females (and males) and rewriting the rule book when it comes to becoming a successful Fintech entrepreneur.

Read an in-depth interview with Katherine McConnell.

Chris Bayley – Cover Genius

We were extremely focused and spotted an opportunity in a sizeable niche that was being overlooked by the large insurers. The niche we identified was car rental insurance. It’s worth US$7 billion globally, US$6 billion of which is profit.

Chris Bayley – Cover Genius.

Cover Genius is an Aussie success story and is on course to becoming Fintechs next Unicorn. They are the Keith Urban of Australia’s FinTech scene, much bigger in the US than they will ever be at home.

Over the past twelve months, Cover Genius has been gaining recognition. With accolades including ANZIIF Insurtech of the Year 2018, Smart Companies fastest growing company, KPMG’s FinTech global top 100 and Insurance Innovator of the Year at Australia’s Fintech Business Awards.

What is truly outstanding is the commercial success of Cover Genius. I caught up with Co-Founder, Chris Bayley to find out the secret to bootstrapping a global business from zero to US100m GWP in less than four years.

How did the Cover Genius story begin?

Cover Genius began four years ago with Angus McDonald (CEO and Co-Founder) and myself having this vision of empowering the world’s largest e-commerce companies to sell insurance products.

As we see it, the market is at about 1 percent penetration. Cover Genius has developed two critical technology platforms that bring connectivity to big eCommerce companies wishing to sell or optimise their insurance products. We are the pipes, not the plumber!

We see it as our job, mainly because large insurers are not that good at providing the technology to enable eCommerce partners to sell insurance. It’s difficult for them: technology platform development requires a lot of work and a skill set you will not find in a large insurer beset with legacy systems.

A sweet spot for us is global insurance wherein we combine our platform capability with extensive global underwriting capabilities (we are an authorised representative in over 60 countries). e-Commerce sites can very quickly sell insurance all around the globe from a single API call.

How many people told you that the Cover Genius vision was not possible?

Heaps. They were short conversations, but we’ve done it!

We are regulated in more countries than the largest insurers globally who all require dozens of country managers to sign off on every multi-jurisdictional deal.

Neither myself or Angus come with a traditional Insurance background, which has probably helped us in achieving what we have. Looking at Cover Genius from a traditional Insurers angle and seeing the scope of the challenge, I can understand to some extent why global insurers would think building a global platform is not possible. But we have done it in four years.

How did the idea for Cover Genius come about.

I previously ran the insurance team at Google. So, coming out of the Google business I could see the commercial opportunities for selling insurance online. It was just a matter of finding the right model.

The ancillary revenue for eCommerce sites is significant. However, it needs to be done at scale and to do it at scale you tend to need partnerships with the big e-commerce players. Initially Angus and I took a reasonably cautious approach because we were largely bootstrapped (Cover Genius is not VC funded and the small rounds to date have been funded by London-based insurance executives including Jim Sutcliffe, former Chair of Sun Life Canada and Julian Roberts, former CEO of Old Mutual).

We were extremely focused and spotted an opportunity in a sizeable niche that was being overlooked by the large insurers. The niche we identified was car rental insurance. It’s worth US$7 billion globally, US$6 billion of which is profit.

Compare that to travel insurance, US$21 billion gross globally and about US$12 billion profit. So, the car rental market is 50 percent the size of the travel insurance market. And there was no one doing it. None of the big Global Insurers had customized car rental access products. None of them were able to sign deals with the largest distributors. It was totally overlooked. And when we engaged global insurers to provide policies for our early clients, their inability to provide capacity in short time frames and other archaic processes all got in the way.

So, we took it upon ourselves to go and find smaller agile underwriters and shortly thereafter we signed a cornerstone partnership with Booking Group (the owner of

How did you win the largest travel site company in the world as one of your first clients?

The nature of partnerships has changed over the last five years. Startups like Cover Genius exist to resolve pain-points that are inherent for companies who would otherwise need to partner with incumbents.

If your business model is to power insurance offerings on the world’s largest e-commerce sites and you’re the world’s largest e-commerce site, who are you more likely to partner with? If you have grown an internet business to that sort of size and scale you’re looking for like-minded businesses. eCommerce businesses know inherently from their own experience and by the nature of the industry that they’re in, that it’s going to be the little guys who can make it work.

When you’re pitching your service to someone who understands you can do it – and you come with an attitude of wanting to make it happen – that’s how eCommerce companies partner.

The alternative is big corporates who put everything through an RFE process.

That doesn’t get you into the position of co-creating a solution.

It doesn’t get you into the position of aligning mutual interests.

What tends to happen is the incumbents reply, because you have not engaged the tech startups, ending with a substandard outcome. And it is a real shame, because there’s always a tech startup who wants to do it, who can do it and who won’t fail the partner.

The advantages of hiring a great team

We also have a great Tech team, many of whom were in the founding team of Viator (which sold to Tripadvisor for US$200m. )They had an excellent vision for a micro-service architecture, well before the word was coined.

The early versions of the API were very well received. The early release of our XCover platform was one of the world’s first APIs for insurance distribution. So, we were able to go from a couple of small clients in Australia to having the largest global travel sites within 6 months. We’ve increased gross premiums from a tiny amount in August 2015 to an expected monthly GWP of $30m by 2018 year end.

Cover Genius interview Tier One People

Cover Genius Co-Founders Angus McDonald (left) and Chris Bayley.

With the distribution problem solved early in the journey, what have been the challenges for the business since?

There’s all sorts of stuff. The technical challenges are interesting but they’re solvable. Scaling products, scaling technology, scaling the team etc. they are all interesting challenges.

We’ve deliberately not sought outside funding. So, we have the freedom to run an efficient, focused business and not worry about external investors. The lesson we’ve learned is it is better to have the founders running the business, not out raising money. It makes a huge difference.

Angus and I know all the internal workings of the product and operations. We know the internal workings of how we get new partners in place. The execution risk is reduced immensely.

It’s very difficult to have your executive or senior management level performing the roles which would naturally fall to founders. I think that’s probably been a cornerstone of our success, having the founders around.

What would you say is so special about the relationship between you and Angus?

Complementary skillsets. I used to think meant having someone technical and someone commercial, but we’re both commercial. I am more product focused and Angus is more partnership focused. Both of us being commercial helps in the way we communicate and how we manage our expectations.

Ultimately it is like a successful marriage. Which means making it through difficult patches and remaining close. You must keep celebrating all the little victories.

How is Cover Genius using AI and Machine Learning to grow the business at scale?

We primarily apply machine learning and data science through a part of the Cover Genius platform, BrightWrite. While our XCover platform does the connectivity, BrightWrite introduce dynamic pricing and product recommendations. These optimize a partner’s profit margin, both on premium and on the risk side. BrightWrite primarily concentrates on non-traditional ratings factors and pricing factors.  It enables partners to sell product packages where the mix of individual products is bespoke to a single user.

Brightwrite is part of XCover, our distribution platform, but the microservice approach means we also sell Brightwrite to insurers.

What does the future hold for Cover Genius?

Simple – continue to work on the original vision and expand the reach of the XCover distribution platform. We’ve set up our US office, ably led by Mitch Doust who has years of US insurtech experience. Big e-commerce partners want to sell insurance and its Mitch’s job to get those to commercial and product outcomes.

What piece of advice do you have for InsurTechs just getting started?

Follow the money. Figure out who can be a big distribution partner for your business and talk to them. Then invest in the operational and technical scale.

Want to work at Cover Genius?

Tier One People connects Cover Genius with the very best talent. We are helping with key hires across marketing, data, people and risk in Sydney, London and North America. Click here to register your interest.

Check out Our latest Fintech jobs

How to attract the best talent to FinTech.

The Fintech Founders Guide to Hiring: 001 How to attract the best talent to FinTech.


Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of being a recruiter is working with the best talent. Seeing the positive impact a great hire can have in a business is a privilege. And I have been fortunate to play a small part in the success of some amazing companies (some of whom are now multi-billion-dollar businesses).

Founders of FinTechs will know more than most, the damage caused by making the wrong hire. Especially when a business is in the earlier stages of growth.


Finding great people can be easy – hiring them is not.


If you are a growing FinTech, finding the time to recruit yourself is tough and throwing your capital at recruitment companies should be a last resort.  Technology, social platforms and a 24/7 connected society has made finding candidates a lot easier. The challenge lies in engaging, assessing and finally hiring the right people.

In this three-part series, I will share two decades of global head-hunting experience. Revealing the strategies Tier One People use to attract, find and hire the best talent for FinTechs.

Part 001 Attracting the best talent to your Fintech.


What is the biggest obstacle preventing you from hiring the right people?

Recruiters, job boards, a lack of talent?

All of the above can be contributing factors. But the number one issue leading to a failed hire is this.

The hiring strategy, or lack thereof.

Hiring becomes much simpler and faster when you have a clearly defined hiring strategy.

In most instances, FinTech founders engage Tier One People after a failed attempt hiring themselves. When we take a brief, the client’s job description reads more like a wish list. The client has spent six months looking for a Unicorn with blue eyes. The longer the search goes on, the more pressure the client feels, leading to poor hiring decisions.

Developing a hiring strategy may sound too ‘hard basket’ but it is a lot simpler than you may think. You can even apply design thinking principles to your hiring strategy by asking a few very simple questions.

What business problem does this hire solve?

What does the right person look like?

Where can I find them?

What compelling reason can I give the right person to join our business?

None of these questions are answered by a conventional job description.


Think of potential hires as customers.


It is very likely you have spent a lot of time, energy and money creating a company brand and customer experience to attract the right customers. How much time and energy does your business spend creating a brand and candidate experience that attracts and retains the right employees?

Why would a top performer be interested in working with your FinTech?

What is unique about you and the business you are creating?

Why choose you over another business.

What is your unique value proposition?

What does it mean to be a part of your organisation?

A candidate experience strategy is best developed at the very early stages of growing the business. Unfortunately, most founders leave any form of recruitment process until the business hits the high-growth stage. Hiring becomes problematic, multiple recruiters are engaged, cost per acquisition goes sky high and cultural issues start to appear.


Do not hire on culture fit.


This advice goes against everything we are taught, even by the legend Peter Thiel himself. But here is my question ‘What is culture?’

The culture of an organisation is not static, it evolves and changes with the business. Culture is a living, breathing, growing animal. At the early stage of business, culture is like a baby, yet to develop an identity. It is almost impossible to identify culture fit; however, it is possible to determine if a new hire will add to or enhance your culture.


If you can’t hire on culture fit, what should you hire on?


‘The culture of any organisation is determined by the worst behaviour the CEO is prepared to tolerate, in themselves and others.’

If you are the CEO/founder, then the culture will ultimately be determined by your values and behaviours.

Of equal importance are the behaviours you will NOT tolerate. Establishing clear boundaries and guidelines will help when it comes to making tough decisions and assessing cultural fit.

Listing your values is much easier than coming up with a corporate bullsh#t culture statement. My kid’s school has cleverly distilled their values and expected behaviours into the moto ‘wisdom and courage’.

You need plenty of both working in a startup!


Get absolute clarity on the type of person you need to hire.


Most hiring tends to be a knee-jerk reaction to an event or workload. With tight deadlines and a business to run, FinTech leaders have little time to think about the type of person you need to hire.

Tier One People apply a design thinking approach to hiring. That is, we look for the business problem behind the hire. Once we are clear on the EXACT problem we are trying to solve, we can then find the right person. This approach has reduced our average time to hire for leadership positions to four weeks NOT four months.

Once you have identified the business problem a new hire needs to solve, start building a profile of the ideal fit for the role.


What qualities, behaviours and values will they demonstrate on a consistent basis?

What characteristics are required to be a success in the business?

What kind of achievements and results can they point to?

How does this profile compliment the dynamic of the current team?

How long will the person need to perform the role for?


Contemplate where your new hire will fit in the business 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years from now. It may be that the profile you have identified will only fit your business for 6 or 12 months. That is perfectly reasonable, especially as your business goes through rapid growth.



Create opportunity descriptions – Not job descriptions.


Job descriptions list daily tasks and responsibilities. They were perfect in the last century when people worked static jobs in static environments. Today people live and work in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. Jobs and businesses are anything but static. No two days are the same in a startup and employees job description change on an almost daily basis.

The person you need to hire is likely to be in a great role already and not thinking about a move. For them, the prospect of moving to a startup just to do the same job is not a compelling proposition. And the right person will not ask for a Job Description. They will do whatever it takes to get the job done (as long as it is legal and ethical.)

Throwing equity at someone is rarely the solution.

Put your marketing hat on and create avatars of the people you want to hire. Outstanding people aren’t looking for another Job, they are looking for a compelling opportunity.

What stage of life are they at? Who are their friends? What is frustrating about their current job? What inspires them? Who do they aspire to be? What is important to them? Friends? Family? Adventure? Travel? Prestige? Alcohol? Table Tennis? What is their work ethic?

Having a detailed picture of your ideal hire will help you create an opportunity description that is compelling to the right person.


What does an opportunity description look like?


It is actually much simpler to create an opportunity description than it is to create a job description. Start off with a set of goals, targets and milestones to be achieved within the first 18 months. For example:


– Within the first six months implement a new billing system with full integration of sales systems and no bugs or errors.

– Within the first 12 months have hired and groomed a potential successor into your role, enabling your advancement into a managerial position.

– Within 18 months have contributed cost savings in the business of $100,000 by identifying outsourcing and automation opportunities.


Incentivise each milestone with bonus, equity or promotion to make the opportunity even more compelling. Every new hire will have absolute clarity on what is expected of them and you have a congruent performance management framework in place before the person has even started the job.

In part 002 we will cover headhunting and candidate attraction strategies.


Matt Baxby Revolut CEO

Join The Fastest Growing Community In Fintech

Get exclusive opportunities, invites to events, podcast interviews and news sent to your inbox.

You're in. Welcome to the community!