Fintech Sector Revolutionising Financial Services

The most crucial component that will separate the wheat from the chaff is talent


Around the world, the fintech sector is revolutionizing financial services and democratizing industries that have remained unchanged and unchallenged for decades. Fintech businesses are leveraging new technologies such as machine learning and the cloud to create products and services that have the potential to transform the lives of billions of people globally.

In turn, this has created more competition forcing established institutions and traditional incumbents to examine their business models and technology stacks. Some have chosen to partner with big tech companies – e.g. Apple and Goldman Sachs, Amazon and JP Morgan, etc. – whilst others have opted for smaller, nimbler players. However, all recognize that as the competitive dynamics within the industry shift, so do the dynamics between cities, regions, and nations, and the most crucial component that will separate the wheat from the chaff is talent.  

In our view, attracting and retaining the best talent doesn’t come down to offering more benefits than the competition. This puts you in a vulnerable position as the moment someone else comes to market offering better benefits than you, your entire talent pipeline could disappear overnight. Instead, companies should aim to create an environment where employees feel valued and are working towards a shared vision. It’s not about bean bags, foosball tables, free food or unlimited holiday. It’s about ensuring that you hire people who share your values and are excited by the positive impact they can have on society. It’s about creating a workplace that people look forward to coming to and where they enjoy being. Of course, benefits matter but this shouldn’t be your key differentiator or your USP, it should be the cherry on the cake. 

At OakNorth, we have six core values that are central to building our team:

  • 10X: aiming to offer our customers products and services that are 10 times better than the competition. We’re not looking to take small, incremental steps, we’re looking to do something that is dramatically different.
  • One team: working collaboratively across all offices and geographies to achieve the best results for our customers. OakNorth now has a presence in several countries so this is key.
  • Momentum: ensuring that we put energy and drive into everything we do. We don’t rest on our laurels or assume that what gave us a competitive advantage when we first launched in 2015, will be the same today. 
  • Saying it as it is: being open and transparent with all our stakeholders.
  • Right ambition: understanding our purpose within the organization and conducting our business in an ethical way. 
  • Zero basing: questioning the status quo and striving for efficiency in every facet of our business. 

We’ve also captured some of our key learnings which may be useful to other business founders and leaders who are looking to scale their teams: 

Don’t sell too soon. As our founders’ previous business (Copal) grew, they began to get noticed. They had various offers to sell for millions of dollars that they considered. However, by the time they did sell in 2014, they had a deal that would return over 175X capital to original investors.  So, their advice is to think about ways of taking cash out of the business without having to sell it. 

Too much money in the bank when starting out is a bad thing. When a company has too much capital available upfront, it tends to be built on fundamentally bloated cost structures.  Spending more money than is necessary becomes a part of the company’s DNA and changing this is hard. Having little to no money forces businesses to operate from a mentality of scarcity, and these businesses end up operating much more efficiently. 

Make your employees investors. We have built a place where people love to work. As a founder-led organization, giving our team the opportunity to become owners in the business is incredibly important to us. Half of our employees have taken the opportunity to become shareholders, investing their own money in the business, and in doing so, helping to build for the long term. This long-term thinking is vital to our mission – our founders have given themselves 20 years to build this business. It’s having this right ambition, where decisions are made for the long term that has been key to OakNorth’s success so far. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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