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What is key when hiring a great CIO or CTO for a FinTech?

CIO in FinTech

Written by Jonty Plewes
Oct 29, 2019
Submitted by Jonty Plewes on Tue, 10/29/2019 - 04:01

May Lam - Chief Information Officer at Assembly Payments shares her insights  and advice with us:

About May Lam:

CIO in FinTech


May has 20 years of combined experience in banking and financial services, public sectors, management consulting and technology services industries in Australia, Greater China and Asia Pacific regions and is responsible for leading the end to end Technology function. She has been accountable for a spectrum of multi-disciplinary functions in technology, managed services, finance, risk and sales for organisations including Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, Citigroup, HSBC, Bank of China, Bank of East Asia, Unisys, Fuji Xerox, Fujitsu and NSW Roads and Maritime Services.

May holds a Bachelor of Science (Information Systems) and Master of Commerce degree from the University of New South Wales. May's personal mantra is "Have a grateful heart; dare to compete and pay if forward - there's more to life than just thriving for your own success - Be a Service to others!

What experiences do you feel have best prepared you for your current role?

The key qualities and experiences for the role to be successful are: 

  1. Being unable to understand the subject matter
  2. Strategic and commercial acumen
  3. Entrepreneurial mindset. 

I started my career as a developer with open-minded and I held roles in QA, sysadmin, business analyst, project management, solution architect, enterprise architect and also be involved in the presales and post-sales cycles. This really provided me not only the understanding of being a software engineer, but being able to be empathetic on the challenges that our technology people facing everyday.

I also worked in project finance roles, which gave me the skills and insight to be strategic and commercial, which is critical in a fintech industry. We don't only build beautiful products for our customers, but we ensure that the solution is commercially viable, scalable and there's a strategic growth opportunities for our business. I'm fortunate to grow up in an entrepreneurial family which taught me being resilient and be innovative - challenge everything and assume nothing attitude.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

  1. Global ambition with limited resources. We are start up going through scale up. We constantly make fast and pragmatic decisions on the competing priorities.
  2. We provide white label solution - although our clients are a household name, not many people know who we are. Hence, it's challenging for us to attract talents. No matter what businesses we are in, we are always in People business. People is our asset and we are constantly competing for talents in the industry 

What experience do you feel is necessary to move from corporate into a FinTech?

FinTech are born digital, cloud first and agile; hence it's not the same technology challenges that corporates have on the digital transformation journey. Moving from corporate into Fintech requires more of a mindset shift than the hard skill sets.

You will need to be adaptive, comfortable working with ambiguity in a fast pace environment. Having the courage to make decisions at the same time generate capacity to fail fast is important.

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What personal qualities do you feel make you successful as a leader within your business?

I believe we are in the people business, people are our asset. My core values are integrity, courage, resilient and curiosity. Understanding the purpose of everything the business do is critical.

This is not a job to me, it's the career I chose and the purpose of the business needs to align with my values. I need to first believe in the business and the direction, then everything happens naturally.

What advice would you give to a FinTech business when hiring a CTO or CIO?

Don't just focus on the technical skills and background, but the mindset, values and attitudes are more important when it comes to hiring a CTO or CIO.

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