“In terms of our market, the banking crisis was a benefit to us. ” CEO Q&A – Ollie Walsh, CEO, PiP iT Global

Business, CEO Q&A | Wed 12 Dec | Author – Business & Finance
Ollie Walsh

In our next CEO Q&A, Ollie Walsh, CEO, PiP iT Global speaks to us about his priorities and goals, the fintech industry and statements of intent.

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

My main priority is to keep the team happy and aligned. As CEO, I don’t see my role as running the company, but as leading it. The key to that is making sure the team understand our strategy and mission, that they buy into it and that all team are aligned to those goals and understand how they contribute to it.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

My biggest challenge is time. In the early boot-strap days all three of the cofounders were working full-time jobs as well as building PiP iT Global. Working round the clock is the only way to keep that going.

Now that we are funded we are all focused full-time on our business, and we have a team of 13 people, it’s still about time; making sure time resource is allocated where it is most needed.

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

We are a Social Impact company so it is very much part of our story and our recruitment that we are here to make a profit, but core to our mission is to benefit society. Our team and our business partners really identify with this mission and so its central to motivation.

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

For an international payments company based in Ireland, I think it’s a combination of dealing with other EU countries position on financial regulation and also dealing with regulators in other territories. Although in theory the regulations are pan-European, we are finding there is a difference in how they are applied in different countries. Depending on where a company sends payments, they have to deal with different regulators. Right now for example, we are dealing with several national banking regulators in West African countries and they have a different definition of ‘remittance’ than we have in EU.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

The trends in the industry are all around blockchain, payment APPs etc, everything except cash! There is a drive towards a ‘cashless society’ which ignores the fact that Use of Cash in most of the world is growing, not declining. But we are happy to be pretty much on our own in the sector by digitising cash.

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

Not as yet. We have rapidly grown from 3 – 13 in the last 4 months and we have been really lucky with the high quality of people who have joined the team. We only did 10 interviews to recruit 10 people! I expect as we continue to recruit it will become more difficult.

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

As a sector, FinTech and specifically PayTech are both very new. It’s an exciting space to be in and it is changing constantly. There are a lot of traditional players in the space – the big banks for example – who are very slow to embrace change. I’d like to see the legacy players become much more dynamic and innovative as it would benefit the industry as a whole and more importantly benefit the consumer.

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

In terms of our market, the banking crisis was a benefit to us. We work with the unbanked migrant market and that segment grew during the crisis.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

We are not feeling it as yet. We have a wholly owned UK company and our UK employees work for that entity. Payments made from the UK by our consumers are banked in the UK and then distributed to our payment partners from there, so essentially it acts as a stand alone company.

We have however started to view the UK as a non-EU entity in terms of regulation on the assumption there will be some barrier between UK and the rest of EU for passporting.

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

Success for me is about being happy. I love what I do, we have a great team, we are in a great city. I have a ten minute walk to work in the morning, across the river and through Galway city, I get to walk my four year old to school every day. These are huge quality of life points for me.

What drives me is our Social Impact mission. We are in an exciting space in FinTech, but we really make a difference in people’s lives.

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

‘Do it now’ advice from my Uncle Brian when I started work after college. He is a sales trainer and saw procrastination as a big problem in business. Don’t put off anything unnecessarily – decisions, calls, emails – Do it now.

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

I’d say closing out our funding round. It was a huge amount of work dealing with a US VC, Enterprise Ireland, and angel investors in Ireland, UK and US; I don’t think I realised how much of an achievement it was to get it done till a few weeks after we had signed the agreement and the dust settled.

Q. What’s next for your company?

Next is scaling and growing transactions. Our pipeline is packed and the challenge now is to get them all through the onboarding process, integrated and transacting. We are live with five partners now, but have 30 going through onboarding so the recently extended team is at full tilt already. More recruitment is planned in Quarter 1 next year within our tech team, account managers and the sales team.

Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2019?

We are still early stage, so we have a long way to grow. The company was five years old the same week as the funding round came in. It has been a long road to get to that point, but I feel getting the funding was the company getting to the start line. After five years, October felt like ‘Month 1’ from our plan. Now it’s time to get that plan fully implemented and grow the business and bring our benefits to more people.

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

Our company has ‘Global’ in its name which is a statement of intent. By this time next year I want the company to be truly Global.

Do it now.