Moving from a large multinational corporate organisation to a FinTech comes with a unique set of challenges. With more and more people looking to FinTech's as the next step in their career, I’m interested, as I’m sure other people will be, to hear the stories from those who have made the move.
In this edition of FinTech focus, I sat down with Mark Jones, CEO of SocietyOne. In this interview, he shares what he has enjoyed, the challenges encountered along the way, and shares some advice for someone looking at a similar move.
Profile: Mark has over 30 years' experience and a proven track record of building and transforming finance-related businesses as CEO, COO and CFO. He has held senior finance, product, strategy, country head and operations roles in Australia, Asia and the Middle East with Westpac, Barclays, Citibank, BOC Gases and Permanent Trustee.
1. What attracted you to working in a FinTech having spent your career with large corporates?
In my career, I’ve always enjoyed making a difference and achieving high-performance customer and business outcomes. FinTech provides an opportunity for both. While my career has been characterised by large companies, I’ve typically been involved in growth, change or restructuring. I’ve never enjoyed “doing the same thing day after day”.
2. What has been the notable differences between the larger banks you’ve previously worked for and SocietyOne?
SocietyOne can move quickly. It is easy to get the right people together, make a decision, and make change happen. As an example, during 2018, we changed our customer origination system and the customer experience in only ten weeks!
FinTech's exist to solve a customer problem and deliver a better customer experience. At SocietyOne, it is to give borrowers and investors and better deal through technology. As a result, the customer is central to everything we do, and there is continual pressure to deliver the best product and service.
3. What have been the top three challenges you’ve faced moving from large corporates into a FinTech, and how have you overcome these challenges?
- Resilience and time management: There is much to do and few people. There are always opportunities and issues to address. Purpose and shared priorities are critical to help keep everyone focused, aligned and moving forward in a fast-moving environment.
- Customer focus: work out what is important to customers and be world-class at those items. In the past year, SocietyOne has enhanced our performance marketing and partnerships to find customers economically at scale; our ability to assess consumers’ credit risk; and implemented new front end origination systems and processes to improve the customer experience.
- The pressure to perform: Our targets are to double, and then double again. Incremental thinking, or achieving last year plus 5%, that is often found in large corporate target setting won’t make a meaningful difference.
4. What's the most valuable piece of advice you have received regarding SocietyOne and how did it help you?
The best piece of advice I’ve received in business, that applies to SocietyOne is “good enough never is”. Never settle for ok, a startup has to be great at what it does.
5. What qualities do you look for when hiring for SocietyOne?
- Alignment with our purpose: we look for people who want to transform financial services, to provide customers with a better deal.
- History of achievement: past success is a good indicator of future success.
- Willingness to get on the tools: we also look at their personal role in achieving success, ie we look for people who find a way to get things done. They roll up their sleeves when required, and can jump hurdles along the way.
- Judgement and decision making: individuals need to be collaborative in getting the right people involved, willing to challenge others to make things better, and at the same time able to make decisions confidently with just a few key data points.
6. What advice would you give to other experienced professionals making to a FinTech?
FinTech isn’t for everyone. If you take on a role with a FinTech, you will be stretched in many ways, the workload can be relentless, and the base pay is usually less than at a large corporate. On the other hand, you can be part of an amazing team, transforming a business or industry, and will get to wear a lot of hats which will expand your knowledge and skill set.