“Good people are hard to find so when you have them look after them well” CEO Q&A: PJ Byrne, Flexi-Fi

CEO Q&A, Interviews | Thu 8 Aug | Author – Business & Finance

In our latest CEO Q&A, PJ Byrne, CEO of Flexi-Fi, speaks to Business & Finance about talent challenges and new tech trends in the consumer finance industry.

Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

My aim is to grow the Flexi-Fi brand throughout Ireland while providing retailers with solutions to the challenges they currently face with upselling, increasing basket sizes and driving footfall into their stores.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

While market penetration is always a key challenge for CEOs I am happy with our progress to date. Every week prominent retailers with an Irish and global footprint are joining our solution because they see the unique benefits of our finance products which helps their customers buy what they want.

The availability of talent is also problematic. With Ireland now at 4.8pc unemployment it gets more difficult for companies who are in an expansion phase.

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

There are a range of benefits for our team at Flexi-Fi that we are proud to offer. For example, we are very flexible around start and finish times, days worked etc. Work/life balance is crucial for us so we actively encourage our people to achieve this balance and we facilitate where we can. We also have a great after-work social club which the staff have really embraced.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Brexit poses a significant challenge because anything that threatens consumer confidence is bad for the finance sector. Some of the reports released by think-tanks and the Central Bank make for tough reading. That said, I remain optimistic that a solution can be found before the October 31 deadline.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

More and more people are looking for faster, easier solutions when it comes to consumer finance. They want a seamless experience whereby the time delay between application and purchase of the goods is minimal. They also want to know their data is secure. As a result of this we have invested heavily in Mitek’s cutting edge technology, Mobile Verify®, so customers applications will be more secure, faster and more affordable.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

We need to embrace automation in all processes and intensify this. So for instance when it comes to verification of PPS numbers and proof of address we seem to be so far behind other countries. This in turn adds another layer of cost to doing business.

Q. As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

With Ireland moving closer to technical full employment the ability to attract talent gets more and more challenging. However, it is good to see the Government pushing the STEM agenda and trying to build resilience into the Irish economy by encouraging further innovation. This will not only benefit my sector but many others too.

Q. How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

Our strategy was pretty simple; let’s remain in Ireland and help our partners and customers through the tough times. I really think that is the differentiating point between us and your traditional finance houses. We also developed products that was very competitive compared to that of a bank or credit union. We now want to consolidate that position and build on it so we can continue to be market leaders in this space. We will achieve this through further investment in new products and listening to what consumers want.

Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

I am footballer when I am not in the office! The qualities that it takes to succeed in sport are similar for business. The essence of team is everything. We all have to be motivated, work together, deal with challenges and overcome them. Without this broad buy-in we cannot succeed.

I like to continuously challenge myself and try and improve on my last performance. That motivates and inspires me to be the best I can be.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

My advice would be, empower your people to be the best they can be, let them use their initiative and trust them. If they make a mistake don’t spend time giving out to them, ask them what they have learned from it and what they will do different next time, then move on. Good people are hard to find so when you have them look after them well.

Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

Reaching our ten year anniversary in Ireland was a huge achievement. Through that time we built a robust business despite the hurdles in front of us like the recession.

Also, having global and local retailers like Samsung, The Range, Wriggle Learning, Inglot and iCLOTHING come on board is a massive endorsement of us and our business.

Q. What’s next for your company?

We are ambitious for the future. We are looking at developing other cutting-edge financial products and exploring the possibility of entering new markets in order to respond to consumer demand. Undoubtedly, it is an exciting time for the business.

Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

We want to be a household brand in Ireland. We want consumers to trust Flexi-Fi and use us on their shopping journey.

The qualities that it takes to succeed in sport are similar for business. The essence of team is everything.