LOANDO PODCAST #5 – The role of a financial technology CEO
In the 5th episode of Loando Podcast, Kamil Dębski hosted Krzysztof Przybysz, the new LOANDO Group Chief Executive Officer. Krzysztof talked about the role of a CEO in the financial technology sector, the goals he is going to pursue in the coming months and the third edition of Fintech Day in Wrocław.
First, I would like to ask you about the Ferratum capital group where you have been working for 11 years. It’s quite a long time and you probably have a lot of different experiences, projects, challenges behind you. Can you tell us something about them?
Over the years I have been developing Ferratum in Poland. Together with this company we were one of the first to launch the so called “payday loans” on the Polish market. When I started working for Ferratum in Poland, there were no products such as short-term loans, internet loans or even SMS loans.
At that time, the introduction of such financial services both in our country and in Europe was an immense challenge for a small start-up. I gained a lot of experience thanks to the development of loan products, which were not specified in an act of law, and the implementation of business models unknown on the Polish market at the time.
Ferratum grew after several years of intensive activities and I had to face new challenges. One of the biggest challenges was the introduction of a cross-border bank operating on a European passport principles in Poland. I must admit that it was a difficult task, especially in terms of technology, procedures and mentality related to the functioning of a financial institution operating under the rules stipulated by banking directives.
Could you tell us what gave you the greatest pleasure at Ferratum? What are you most satisfied with?
Here I could mention two areas I am most satisfied with – people and financial results.
At the beginning there were only three people in the company. When I was leaving Ferratum, there were 120 people responsible for the Polish market. I am very proud of the people I worked with all these years at Ferratum. I think I had great staff who could find their way in such a dynamically changing market and develop this business together with me.
I was also very pleased with our financial results. We never boasted about them, because as a capital group we would only be allowed to show consolidated results. This was mainly due to having the bank license and going public in 2014. Now I can say that we were among the five largest loan companies in Poland.
You have recently accepted the position of LOANDO Group CEO. Tell us what your first impressions are, both when it comes to the functioning of the company and the projects realised by our teams?
When I started working at LOANDO, I immediately noticed that the company is very similar to Ferratum, especially in terms of people and projects.
When LOANDO appeared on the Polish market, it was a kind of a phenomenon, because when observing the affiliate or loan market on the Internet I usually encountered international companies, which had large foreign capital and technical support from the headquarters. LOANDO was a start-up that at one point took over the affiliate market in Poland, especially the sector supporting the development of credits or non-banking loans.
I have to admit that I think that majority of the projects I got to know so far are forward-looking and I hope that together we will be able to develop them and lead them in the right direction.
LOANDO Group currently concentrates on developing start-ups, projects not related to the loan industry and fintech. What will be responsible for?
First of all, I take over the duties related to LOANDO’s development in finance and support of loan companies. I will also focus on dynamizing cooperation with banks and promoting loans and other banking services.
One of my main goals is also to develop LOANDO in Europe and South America. I know that before I came to LOANDO I had already opened a few foreign markets, but my job for the coming months will be to prove the profitability of these markets and to win them over time.
For many of our listeners, the role of a CEO in a company may not be fully understood, so I would like to talk about it now. Could you explain briefly what this position is all about?
In terms of terminology, the CEO is responsible for the company’s operations, growth and profitability. The person holding this position should act in a professional, transparent and profitable way for the company.
Steve Jobs once used the phrase “stay hungry, stay foolish,” which means “be hungry, be curious.” He believed that this is what should be characteristic of every CEO and I agree with that.
Anthony Horowitz, a well-known English writer and scriptwriter, said in one of his interviews that no one is born a CEO, but becomes one. Do you agree with this statement?
Nobody is born a CEO, only hard work, learning to be humble and constant striving for self-improvement allow us to develop traits that will translate into the fact that we will begin to perform such a function in the company. CEO must constantly educate himself and prove his worth.
A friend of mine, with whom I have worked for years, repeated that we can put two people in the same situation, give them exactly the same tools and working conditions, but only one of them can achieve success. This is because apart from what we will learn, we also need to have “this something,” the element of happiness.
In the case of fintech and the financial industry, the environment is very dynamic and changes quickly, so the knowledge gained may not always help the CEO, you need to have a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance.
What qualities should a good CEO have? Could you point to the most important ones?
CEO should surround himself with people smarter than him and be humble about his duties.
Working with people who nod and praise is harmful. I was lucky that for years I surrounded myself with people who were experts in their fields and I was always able to accept that I did not know everything.
It is exactly the same at LOANDO, observing all the departments and seeing how they function, I can safely say that I work with people who are experts in their fields.
The role of the CEO may vary depending on the industry in which she or he work. Tell us, in what way should the CEO, who works in the financial technology sector, stand out from the crowd?
I’m sure it’s a curiosity, because fintech is an area that is constantly evolving, where many interesting ideas, solutions and original start-ups are created.
CEO should also distinguish himself by the desire to improve and be persistent and keen. In the case of credit intermediation on the Internet, which we deal with, these features are essential to achieve success.
How do you evaluate the fintech area in Poland and what do you think the future holds for it?
In my opinion, Poland as a country is developing very well in the area of fintech, thanks to which it is now one of the leading European countries in this respect.
I would like to point out that we were one of the last countries to emerge from communism, so private banks started to be established in our country much later than in the West. Interestingly, in contrast to Western countries, Poland was quicker to introduce technological innovations in such financial institutions. I am saying this because I am familiar with this subject and I know what solutions have been applied.
Poland will play a very important role in the international arena, first of all because more and more fintech companies, which are still little known in our country, are developing very well abroad. I think that we are on the right path to become a leader in Europe.
A few weeks ago LOANDO Group appeared in Wrocław at the third edition of Fintech Day, where you participated in the discussion panel titled “LoanTech – borrowing online.” What issues did you raise during your speech?
I focused on topics related to the cooperation of lendtechs with fintechs. So far in Poland we have had a situation where fintechs sought the attention of loan companies and financial institutions by offering their solutions related to the verification of creditworthiness and identity of customers or by offering quick payments.
I think that we are currently in a period when lendtechs should become more interested in cooperation with companies offering additional services or the development of financial services in Poland.
During my speech, I focused on moving away from the current model, i.e. no longer striving for the attention of lendtechs.
How did you feel about being a speaker? Is it a new role?
I’ve already had the pleasure of performing in public many times, but every time I’ve got stage fright and I think it’s a good thing, because being too self-confident doesn’t lead to anything good.
During public speeches and various debates, I love to confront my knowledge with the knowledge of other colleagues, who very often have more to say on a given subject than I do. That way I can really learn a lot.
Which conferences will you be attending in the near future? What events do you have in mind?
In half an hour I’m going to the Economic Forum in Krynica (laugh). The next event I will attend will be the Conference of Financial Enterprises in Poland. In addition, I have saved in the calendar a few conferences on affiliation. Unfortunately, I do not remember their names – this happens more and more often.