First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nigel Verdon: Am well as can be expected in these challenging times.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Railsbank.
Nigel Verdon: I co-founded Railsbank in 2016 alongside Clive Mitchell. And this is my third successful startup, having previously founded Evolution, Currency Cloud, and now Railsbank.
I have spent nearly 30 years in the finance industry, and before that, I was an engineer in the manufacturing industry (and have two engineering degrees). My experience in learning about, and experiencing first hand, the deep transformation within the manufacturing industry (for example, Toyota inventing Kanban cell manufacturing and JIT manufacturing) very much shapes how I look at the financial services industry: product, product engineering, process engineering, qualitative techniques and end to end automation.
How does Railsbank innovate?
Nigel Verdon: Railsbank is built on innovation; indeed, the finance industry demands it.
Our proposition is radical – we allow marketers, product managers, developers, CEOs, and founders to rapidly prototype, launch and scale financial products using our open finance platform, consisting of operations, regulatory licensing, and a rich set of simple APIs. Railsbank’s APIs are the building blocks that enable customers to build pretty much any financial use-case they can imagine, meaning our customers can deliver delightful finance experiences to consumers and businesses.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nigel Verdon: Starting from scratch in 2016, we have had very clear plans about our growth trajectory over the last four years, and we are fortunate that the pandemic has not affected those plans to any great extent. We have continued to build our finance platform, create a strong customer base, hire top talent, and attract external investors that are supportive and look long term.
In terms of coping on a day-to-day basis, we are a truly digital native company, so all our systems are cloud-based. Our offices have never been about where our systems are based, but geographical locations where the teams are based. Many traditional companies within the industry are not so fortunate and still have physically-based hardware that requires people in the office, whereas the vast majority of our 200 people work from home. Most have adapted extremely well, and productivity has been unaffected. Of course, some people find it harder to adapt, but our Head of People keeps in close contact with anyone who reaches out with concerns. We are also very supportive of equipment that makes it easier to adapt to being at home.
Our teams are also spread across three continents, so we have to comply with varying country’s lockdown rules and advice, which means that at any one time, we are subject to a wide range of different conditions and regulations.
As we hopefully come out of the storm next year, how companies and their people will adjust to the new normal will be a huge challenge.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nigel Verdon: Running a startup is one of the biggest challenges you are likely to face in business, so it prepares you for a wide range of issues that will come your way. Although no-one could foresee the impact it was going to have, the pandemic is such an issue and continues to do so. Therefore, difficult choices are part of the territory and what you see is that systems and people cope with the pressure in different ways, so it has required a flexible management style.
One of the main lessons I think we have all learnt is that you are never too sure what lies around the corner. You have to look forward when planning, but you have to be aware that it’s not always going to be a calm sea out there. And the best way to cope with the turbulent times is to keep faith in your core values as a company and remain true to yourselves.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Nigel Verdon: Sounds glib, but you have to stay focused and disciplined, and knowing that you are part of a team helps tremendously. We started Railsbank with just four people, now we number over 200, working across numerous time zones. And we all have a responsibility for each other, to ensure that we give our best at work and remember to have family time and relax. These days, managing your downtime is just as important as your work time.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nigel Verdon: In each of our core activities, we have competitors, but quite honestly, we prefer to stay ahead of the pack and not look in the rearview mirror. We are pioneers and innovators in our industry, and people tend to take their lead from us. We stay ahead in the game because we are continually investing in our market-leading core finance platform and the best people we can hire.
Your final thoughts?
Nigel Verdon: Covid-19 has been truly horrible. Its global effects have hit each and every one of us and made all of us take stock of what we have. But if we can learn from this as a human race, it should stand us in good order for the future.