From the virtues of diversity to daring to break the rules, Monzo’s co-founder and CEO Tom Blomfield has revealed his best tips to achieve success.
It’s a hectic time for the Monzo founder. But despite planning the neobank’s expansion to the US, dealing with the coronavirus, throwing shade at German competitor N26 for claiming that it pulled out of the UK because of Brexit when he believed it was because it failed to “connect” with customers, saying that open banking has yielded no benefits to new FinTech startups, and seeing one of his co-founders exit the business to focus on his alpaca farm, Blomfield still had time to sit down with British GQ to answer a few questions about how to successfully grow a FinTech business.
He has some experience. Having launched Monzo in 2015 together with four other founders, Blomfield has grown the business to become one of the most recommended brands in Britain and to a point where the unicorn has achieved a valuation at over £2bn.
In the new interview, he encouraged budding entrepreneurs to dare to break the rules, albeit with some moderation.To that point, he remembers an episode when he co-founded Boso.com, described as an “eBay for students”, in 2003 while still studying at University of Oxford. “I scraped a load of email addresses from the university directory and messaged them all directly about my first business,” Blomfield told GQ. “I was almost immediately banned and kicked off the university network for a few weeks.”
Monzo is not Blomfield’s first FinTech startup. In 2011 he co-founded GoCardless, the direct debit FinTech, together with Hiroki Takeuchi and Matt Robinson. And it seemed that he learned a lesson about the benefits of diversity during his time at the company. “At GoCardless, we only hired people with almost identical backgrounds to us: 25-year-old ex-management consultants,” Blomfield said. “At Monzo, we’re much more open to people from diverse backgrounds. Experience is powerful.”
Blomfield also encouraged FinTech founders to not expect immediate success or to be afraid of getting their hands dirt. To that point, be remembered working out of a programmer’s kitchen in the early days of Monzo’s story and to do “all the crap jobs” such as “packing envelopes, taking the bins out.”
“When you’re only ten or 15 people, the CEO’s job is often to do what no one else wants to,” Blomfield said.
The digital bank leader also dared new venture to have the guts to stand out, pointing at how Monzo chose brightly coloured cards to differentiate itself form incumbent lenders.
His final tip was to ignore the haters. “Everyone said it wouldn’t work,” he said. “We were putting forward a 30-year-old who’d never worked in a bank before as the CEO of the UK’s newest bank. People thought we were insane. Now we have 1.2 million customers.”
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