The role of a CEO is challenging at the best of times, but FinTechs are often unique in what they need from a strategic leader. The role requires both an understanding of the highly regulated financial services climate as well as the ability to move quickly and be agile.
We asked three FinTech leaders what they think the ideal FinTech CEO looks like.
Steve Lemon, Co-Founder of CurrencyCloud, says the CEO should be “the personification of the company vision”.
“They need to lead from the front, pulling the team in the right direction, motivating and inspiring them,” says Lemon. “It’s also important to recruit wisely, to support and guide the team and have the courage to allow them to make mistakes, without micromanaging.”
As well as leadership skills, a FinTech CEO must have flexibility and be able to successfully navigate change. “The CEO has to be agile, creative, care about people and have all the mindsets and temperaments that are vital to scaling a team and a product offering rapidly.
“As they also deal in the world of finance, they must have oversight and great attention to detail to the changing regulatory landscape, which is particularly vital when it comes to expanding in new markets with their own set of standards.”
For Vilve Vene, CEO and Co-Founder at Modularbank, it can be boiled down to three key characteristics. The first is comprehension. “All CEOs should have a good grasp of the business they run. Understanding the company’s technology capabilities is vital to respond to customer needs and wishes After all, FinTechs exist to solve problems, and a CEO in this space should keep this in mind to ensure the solution remains relevant.”
Next up is empathy. “Being empathetic is also important, as running a business means managing a group of individuals. To empower the people I work with, I do my best to understand them to ensure that as a team we keep excelling. The same goes for customers. To understand the types of problems they are trying to solve and their challenges, it is important to relate to them.
“Finally, a FinTech CEO should be visionary. They need to foresee how the industry is evolving, as well as how current affairs may impact day to day business activities to allow for quick adaptation to new challenges.”
David John, Founder and CEO of Loyalize, agrees that FinTechs should focus on providing a solution and that the leader should embody this. “CEOs need to create businesses that solve real industry problems or address acute user needs. It’s not just about having an idea that makes money,” he comments. They also need to listen to and accept feedback. That’s not always easy if the CEO is also a founder – someone who tends to be emotionally attached to their ideas.”
John also emphasises the shifting nature of the role as a FinTech develops. “Importantly, CEOs need to be able to switch roles quickly. One moment you’re on the phone to a prospective customer, the next you’re speaking to an investor or running a workshop. They need to be able to transition from one thing to another seamlessly.
“As we’ve seen recently with Monzo, a good CEO also needs to know when to step aside. The fact is, founders don’t always make the best business leaders. Switching to another position within the organisation can be difficult, but it’s often necessary – and it shows maturity,” he adds.