Explore the Significance of Understanding Capital Markets vs. Private Capital in this Interview
In the constantly-evolving world of finance, adapting to industry changes is the name of the game. Ian Henderson, CEO of Kyckr, is a banking veteran with decades of experience at companies including Metro Bank, Barclays Wealth and RBS International.
Ian knows what it takes to become a successful Fintech CEO. Read below for Ian’s advice on some of the ideal attributes required.
What attributes do you value in a Fintech CEO?
“I think the characteristics that make a great FinTech CEO are broadly not that different from that of other industries – you’re expected to be the master of many trades. But while the importance of having the right knowledge and competencies for the job will apply to many different businesses, in FinTech, you will be operating in the world of highly-regulated financial services.
If a CEO comes from somewhere outside of the banking and financial services – but has a new FinTech solution and big ideas on how to disrupt the world of finance – they must therefore also have a firm grasp on the regulatory landscape from the very beginning. I’ve seen many stumble who had a great tech solution but no understanding of the industry they were proposing to shake up.”
Any advice for new or budding fintech CEOs?
“I would say that it’s essential to understand how capital markets work versus how private capital operates. You will need funding at some stage, and at that point you need to know whose doors to knock on. You also need to be prepared that the odds are against you – perseverance has to be a core personal attribute for any first-time FinTech CEO.
Another piece of the puzzle is a solid proposition. Align your strategic thinking and your operational capability – how you need to sell yourself and sell the business to those potential investors. This is particularly important for FinTech, where you’re up against so many big stakeholders and invested interests.
You will need to be patient, sometimes things take longer than you would like, but at the same time you will need to know when to take action and make things happen for your company. In a small FinTech startup, as CEO, you need to be prepared to do a bit of everything. If you are coming at it thinking “I’m the CEO; that job’s beneath me”, that’s a clear recipe for disaster.”
What career challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
“One of my biggest learnings over the years has been how to deal directly with investors. While there are some who take a long-term view, the majority take a very short-term view – because of the nature of what they are. That’s where the patience you need to get things done properly and your investors’ impatience can collide. And most FinTech startups will not be on the public markets, so you’ll have a smaller subset of investors to work with.
An old boss of mine used to say, “Always surround yourself with people that are better than you.” I’ve seen a lot of business leaders who haven’t done that because they’ve been fearful of being shown up. I’m a great believer that if you can hire people who are better than you, it will make you look good and ultimately help you overcome every challenge.”
Are there any personal frustrations of yours in this industry?
“I’ve worked for a couple of the biggest banks in the world. But I got progressively frustrated with the big organizations and went into Challenger banking, and then Kyckr, which at that point was a small FinTech startup.
As CEO of a growing FinTech company, you tend to avoid the issues that come with massive scale. Larger companies have bigger headcounts, which means more people issues, lots of individual ambition and office politics. You tend to hammer through that in smaller organisations, which is satisfying.”
A Fintech leader requires industry knowledge, humility, patience and the ability to adapt to change. As Ian discussed, the attributes are not so different from CEOs in other industries. To succeed in any leadership position, you must be adaptable, knowledgeable and determined to roll up your sleeves and get involved with all roles within a company whenever necessary.
Ian’s drive, humility and work ethic, along with his understanding of industry nuances, are all key ingredients to being a successful Fintech CEO.
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