FinTech Australia Podcast

Ep 02: David M Brear - 11:FS

January 21, 2020 Tier One People - Dexter Cousins Season 1 Episode 2
FinTech Australia Podcast
Ep 02: David M Brear - 11:FS
Chapters
FinTech Australia Podcast
Ep 02: David M Brear - 11:FS
Jan 21, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2
Tier One People - Dexter Cousins

In Episode 2 Dexter Cousins talks to David M Brear, CEO and co founder of the massively successful 11:FS

Most people in Fintech know 11:FS for the Fintech Insider podcast, but the business is way more.

Since launch in 2016 David and the co-founding team have bootstrapped the business to become the most sought after consultancy in digital banking.  We talk about; 

- How to go from zero to $300m business in 3 years 

- The secret to finding great talent 

- The elements of a winning culture 

- What the M stands for in David M Brear

http://11fs.com

The Fintech Australia Podcast is produced by Tier One People, Australia's leading Fintech Executive Search Consultants

Thanks to our partners FinTech Australia, a member-driven organisation that is building an ecosystem of Australian fintechs to advance the global economy and culture.

We share their mission to build a strong community, foster connections and support innovation. To become a member go to https://fintechaustralia.org.au/join-now/

Tier One People is Australia's leading FinTech Executive Search firm. If you are looking to hire game changing talent contact [email protected]

If you would like to sponsor the show please contact [email protected]

Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 2 Dexter Cousins talks to David M Brear, CEO and co founder of the massively successful 11:FS

Most people in Fintech know 11:FS for the Fintech Insider podcast, but the business is way more.

Since launch in 2016 David and the co-founding team have bootstrapped the business to become the most sought after consultancy in digital banking.  We talk about; 

- How to go from zero to $300m business in 3 years 

- The secret to finding great talent 

- The elements of a winning culture 

- What the M stands for in David M Brear

http://11fs.com

The Fintech Australia Podcast is produced by Tier One People, Australia's leading Fintech Executive Search Consultants

Thanks to our partners FinTech Australia, a member-driven organisation that is building an ecosystem of Australian fintechs to advance the global economy and culture.

We share their mission to build a strong community, foster connections and support innovation. To become a member go to https://fintechaustralia.org.au/join-now/

Tier One People is Australia's leading FinTech Executive Search firm. If you are looking to hire game changing talent contact [email protected]

If you would like to sponsor the show please contact [email protected]

spk_1:   0:06
Welcome to the Tier one people Podcast Fintech Gang changes. I'm your host, Dexter Cousins. And in this episode, we've got a very special guest. David Embryo, CEO and co founder of NFS. David's going to share with us his insights on how to build a winning culture. How did Bootstrap successfully? And he's even going to boast one to start of myths. David. A lot of people would know 11 f s for the fintech inside a podcast, but there's a lot more to the business than just the podcast. Would you be able to share with us a little bit more about what you do?

spk_0:   0:48
We've been up to a few things other than just sort of hanging out with microphones and doing podcasts and whatnot. So I mean, over the last three and 1/2 years, we've built AA Bank out for NatWest in the UK Challenger Sesame Bank, which has been called metal with athletic allowance, and Rose, who's now the c E O. There. Ah, we've done it over in Hong Kong with most we ma'am and standard Charter Down and singer Paul with the good friends that grab ah number of different companies in South Africa with midway through building out a retired banker in the US Um and really? You know what we struck on, um sort of three years ago was kind of a thesis that really was so early in this cycle. You know, the promise of actually everything that the Internet brand Teo to an industry that fundamentally hasn't changed for 300 years was to really move too much more of ah personalised 1 to 1 relationship. You know, Digital was really about using all of the power of the data create a much better experience is much better services for people. But unfortunately the way in which big organisations big banking organisations who have really implemented that was fundamentally just about taking people on paper out of the process. It was all about digital being a AAA justification, you know, digital transformation programme being Diarra wiil being about taking cost out of the organisation. And really it's only been over the last 3 to 4 years that actually digital fundamentally has been about creating better services, better experiences for people and that's predominately led through major changes globally. That's happened both in the regulatory space but also the competition landscape, fundamentally changing new players coming into this space, whether it's Finn tackle, whether it's massive technology companies who are really showing that people just want better services. If you provide good capability to people, then you find that actually they're much more loyal. They have much better relationships, and actually, they're probably much more forgiving when things go wrong. So from 11 a festive perspective, we sort of live by the mantra that digital banking is only 1% finished on then. Actually, I mean, our mission fundamentally is to change the fabric of financial services. And we do that in many different ways. Were on one side a services business working with people around the planet, whether it's regulators or banks or tech players or whoever to build out new green fields things to define strategy and move those things forward. On the other side. It's about building products that actually solve problems that we've had ourselves, whether it's things like pulse, which is a global benchmarking tool over there, it things like NFS foundry, which is a core banking system or force like architecture.

spk_1:   3:31
David is 11 office back by VC.

spk_0:   3:35
We taken no money so I was kind of like tio sort of blow the horn for bootstraps companies in that space because actually, my my mind set on this is I mean from I think it was month three of the organisation we were profitable. I'm pretty old fashioned that all of this sort of pre revenue nonsense is is definitely kind of not for me. Organisation should be a you know, I don't think you can call it a business unless it makes profit and makes revenue. So s oh, yeah. Call me old fashioned on that one. But for me, it's all about if people really value what you're doing, it's Ah, it's something. You should be off the monitor.

spk_1:   4:09
So what? Do your secrets to getting a business off the ground without funding. David,

spk_0:   4:13
If I'm honest, I think that far, you know, ah, history. I say history in the, you know, briefest sense, given three years. But, I mean, we've got a few moments through 11 affects where we've been, I think, really? Maybe very, very lucky. Probably a little bit. Bulls Ito really try and get people involved in things that we've never really done beef for. I mean, the the first sponsor of Fintech Insider, one of one of our podcast. We had no listeners and hadn't done anything and no idea how we're editing it, but managed to get a sponsor because they believed in the thing that we believed in. You know, the first client of Poles was brought in as, ah, partner, you know the product. Giddings didn't exist before they did it, but they they bought into it. And I mean, I should say d m be invested in foundry. When foundry was just 11 slides, it wasn't anything more than that. So I mean, these things. Ah, really? I think at this stage people, um, investor effort and you know their time and their money on things that they believe will be materially beneficial. Tow them in the industry. And we've been lucky to find people who are probably as crazy as us and share some of the vision, which is which is

spk_1:   5:24
coming on to that and talking about talent. You've managed to attract some incredibly talented people to the business, particularly in this last 12 months. What do you put that down to, David, And have you got any secrets? He can share. I think

spk_0:   5:39
it's been interesting. I mean, the I always think I think this is why I think entrepreneurs. I mean, I'm 39 years old now. I was but say entrepreneurs kind of a little bit older can do this probably more effectively than people who are starting out a lot younger because I think building up a network of people you've sort of gathered three your career that you like. I don't know when, but we're gonna work together again. Um, I mean, I met Jason Bates, who was ah, cofounder of styling and moans. Oh, back when he was at Starling, I was still at Gardner and we sort of came into contact, and I mean, it was, ah, one of those things where I know people kind of don't necessarily believe in love at first sight type thing, but I knew with Jason we'd work together at some point. Um, similar weeds. Ryan, where? Amar CEO. You know, when I was a look banking group, I worked with him when he was a healthy eye on DH. You sort of get a feel for people in terms of actually the types of relationship that things that they're really, really shrunk it doing on then at the point where you actually got that opportunity to work with them. Very similar conversation with Ross Mess Finn, who was one of the other founders of the company when he was a map. We worked really, really well together, so actually, it's just collecting people who you've got on understanding of, actually, where the skill sets where their strengths on and that's that's the starting point. I mean, beyond that, I honestly think it's like I mean, successes is fundamentally about momentum. And then once you can get that boulder going, then you know one success leads to another success, which leads Teo the sort of magnetic thing that you can pull together around the brands that actually sort of does things in a different way. So, you know, the beginning, It was it was tough, you know. It was hard tto Ah, get listening to a podcast. It was hard to get, you know, people to come on the podcast. It was hard to get our client to do a piece of work or to you Ah, get enough. But in a daughter to do a thing But, I mean, if you success things and actually those things, whether it's good work or whether it's great talent just become ah, magnets one another, Andi. I mean, there's a few people that actually said we were mental at the beginning. He you know, actually, ah, very interested. I mean, Leader is a really good example, actually. I mean, I spoke spoke to you. Aah! Leader. Good to see the beginning of sort of selling out 11 if s. And and she said, you know, it's lovely, David, it's a lovely idea, but you're crazy, and I will never work. And, you know, I felt very smoked two years like it's come back. Go. Hey, Okay, so it's working. You want to come get involved now this. And I mean the rest will be history, I'm sure. But it's Yeah, it's good. I think it's, um, you do a good thing. You kind of landed that up to the next thing that you do and then just use that momentum in the sort of magnetic nature of that success brings to bringing other people in. And it's I mean, it's gone from that Teo, you know, we get hundreds and hundreds and applications for roles And, you know, lots of kind of goods inbound from people Teo to really Ida help in a partnership, sensible or work with those or forests.

spk_1:   8:38
Have you found that the podcast on the branding is being a good two of not just for talent attraction, but also bringing in new business and clients?

spk_0:   8:46
Yeah, 100%. I mean, at the beginning of the company, you know, you're, ah, five people sitting around a table trying to figure out how you can compete with the censure and McKinsey and these guys and, ah, you know, we couldn't outspend them from a ah marketing perspective. You know, those guys have got hundreds of thousands of people that got more marketing budget. Then I think we would possibly know what to do with, um, but really, what we decided to sort of out fight them on was just brutal authenticity and a level of distribution that actually would create a fundamental, different way of actually engaging with the customer base. You know, I'm not sure. Even now, you know, it's three and 1/2 years into 11 affects. We could spend the amount of marketing we'd need Tio reach the amount of people that we do with the level of content marketing that we kind of put out. Andi. And from my perspective, you know, we focused so much on brands because I think when you look at all the things that we put out from a narrative perspective, it's very much not really about opera box. It's not about what we what we do. It's fundamentally about what we believe. I think if you if you can align with people on either your belief system or your aspiration about what the industry could be, then actually you find the level of connectivity that you start to get with people to be fundamentally different from what it would be. If you just put out some, you know, bullshit brochure about actually, how could your product walls And and I kind of think that again we sort of set ourselves up to be, you know, how can we be authentic? How can we be provocative? How can we really establish human connexions with the brand? Um, which is why it kind of feels like the hard work has really been done. You know, we we sort of pushed hard now to establish, AH, global brand and a you know, an element of success that that has kind of brought autism in whatever sort of micro level that it really sort of is right now. But now we're really Feroz. It's it's kind of just leaning into fill the potential that way sort of created for ourselves. Um, which is exciting, you know, it's every day's a new new task and a new ah new issue to kind of face into in some form or another. I sort of describe ourselves on a shoe if you know the quote from Jurassic Park, where they describe themselves of having all of the problems of a theme park and a zoo at the same time. But we've got yeah, I mean, all of the problems of ah research company, a media company, ah, technology firm in a consultancy, all sort of rolled into one, and that a wonderful thing because all of those things are really opportunities to sort of do it in the way that people haven't done it before, which is really for me, the thing that excites me.

spk_1:   11:32
It's really interesting that you say that particularly when you consider usual advice that anybody gets in a start up is that you should focus on one thing and do it really well. Would you say in your experience that that perhaps not the best that face,

spk_0:   11:46
Yeah, I always think it's I think it's bad. Bad advice predominantly given by the seeds on the idea of Just focus on one thing when they say that what they really mean is just focus on that one thing that invested in your company to do. And don't get distracted from that thing that we're paying you to do on from my perspective. When it's you. I mean, that's like it's like a supermarket just selling one product that doesn't make sense, right. If you want to be successful, you need teo diversify. You need tohave. I mean smooth peanut butter and crunchy peanut butter, right, because different people have different preferences in terms of what they have. From my perspective, it's like sensible spread betting. Um, you know, really, what we did was I mean, we didn't know, you know, 11 offence wasn't set up to go. We have this one product point here, and we're gonna do this one product. It was set up, really to create an environment, Ah, culture of a business that actually would at least the potential within the people who actually work there. You know, my frustration working at places in the past was was that really the things that inhibited people from doing the best way that I've ever done was actually not the inability to spend or, you know, having few too few people. It was the culture within those organisations that actually prevented those things from happening. So from my perspective, actually, we've set out to build a company that allows people to do the best work that I've ever done in my life. Because if we can achieve that and actually that 11 offences the you know, the pride of the place when they talk about their experience, whether it's through, you know, speaking thing they're doing, or I mean, whether they're interviewing for another job in another place and that that's fine as well, we want the 11 f s to be the shining thing that they're proud of, because they would have done the best best work of their lives here for me. You know how we've set out is to do that spread betting approach. You know, both from a will This thing work perspective, But fundamentally, if you look at the things that we've done, whether it's consulting is a people business, right? The revenue from it could be quite spiky if you're talking about your whole scale. Greenfield building a thing When it comes to things like Punks, Pulses AA subscription product, it works on an annual recurring revenue. If you look a boundary, Will Founder requires 18 months of development with, you know, one or multiple partners before you're getting into, you know, more major scale and your recurring revenue, and for me that this was an exercise in How do we build the business, how we build a profitable business in the short term, that page for us to build a very profitable business in the long term? You know, I think a big part of us being completely self funded means we can make much more strategic decisions around how we go approach things, actually, almost the diffusion of focus being a benefit, really, rather than, ah, negative, really. You know, I'd say I mean the first things we did to put money in the bank were speaking gigs, speaking gigs paid for us. Teo hire somebody to come in and start doing consultancy work. And the revenue and profit from the consultancy work has allowed us to build the first prototype of parts and things to my point earlier and around the the sort of snowball effect of success and the momentum that that brings revenue models from the work in that way as well. You know, you don't just do one thing and do that forever and hope it's still sort of Ah, you know, still still is relevant to the market. You've got to continually be sort of pursuing good ideas and moving and shaping. Um, if nothing else, really, Just because actually the market kind of response to you I mean, when we first started doing 11 infest, the market was very different to three and 1/2 years later in terms of all of the changes and all the innovations that have come to the market. And, you know, that's the beautiful thing about this industry. It's just changing so quickly and moving so fast.

spk_1:   15:47
It is, in fact, when we speak with CEOs, we would say that pace of change is probably the thing that freaks in upmost. I'm coming on that. David, is 11 if s your first time as a CEO.

spk_0:   16:01
Yeah. I mean, yeah, even if it is my 1st 1st thing CEO, really, which which is good. I mean, I worked for some really, really good ones or work with some really, really bad ones in the past. I'd say I'd probably learned more from the really bad managers in the bad CEOs. That kind of worked with the good ones if I'm gonna shoot you and same with the environments that I've worked out, some honesty I find again are sort of slight chip on our shoulder of having worked in places where things went all always perfect means, actually, we've got something to improve on.

spk_1:   16:32
And as a leader, what's the culture, values and overall philosophy that you try to bring into the business?

spk_0:   16:39
Um, I sort of, you know, philosophy on sort of leadership really is, You know, we deploy a lot of servant leadership, you know, we are no, in any way, shape or form. Er ah, hierarchical company. Um you know, we sort of believe that bad and good ideas can come from anywhere. You know, whether it's bad ideas coming from the top for good ideas, coming from sort of anybody across the organisation. Trust is like a huge thing from my perspective and give you go kind of trust both upwards and downwards in terms of people around the business. And that kind of breeds to, ah presuming presumption of positive intent through everybody in terms of where we're at, Um, I should say I mean, my background is is less. You know, before this, I Iran got his global bitter banking practise and done very things in sort of banking and insurance and and sort of consultant see sides of things. But honestly, I wouldn't really sort of consider myself a businessman. I'd sort of say I'm more of a sports guy. Andi, bring ah, Lord of the the mentalities of sort of very successful sports teams into what we want to sort of pursue with 11 effects. Really, this isn't about and and if I want to see, I think there's a rial honesty to sports that actually is often very much kind of missing within the business context. You know, there's many organisations that kind of can't really move quick enough for being as transparent as a sports team would be. I mean, if somebody's playing badly on the team, they know when you know really quickly. And actually you'll do everything you can in a sports team. Teo. Increase the productivity of the team to increase the impact from an individual perspective on actually, I mean, with sports teams, you know, it's a CZ. Much about psychology is it is physiology. And I think a lot of these things are very much kind of missing in the, um, missing in the in the business world. I mean, I'm often sort of reminded when it comes to sort of management. There's a religion. Good quote from Nigel Clough, where they've just got Nottingham Forest just got absolutely spanked on. He knows that the 11 players coming off the field need completely different communication. You know, some of them will need to know that it's the best game they've ever had, and they were hard done by, and some of them you'll need a kick up the arse and nothing else. You know, some of them will need literally no words at all because they know what it is that we need to do. And I think if you can kind of take that, um, that approach, which is, I think, good managers, good leaders really understand that it's not really about them. It's about what it is that they can do to get the best out of everybody else around them. Whether it's creating a sense of urgency, whether it's creating a vision and reinforcing that of where we want to get Teo, whether it's giving people kind of a level of motivation toe to run through walls that they wouldn't have really dead to do before. A lot of these things really come down. Teo. Actually, you need to understand what it is that motivates. Your people, know really just what it is that motivates you. Andi. Again, many people forget, I think, particularly when it starts coming. Tio, you know, really big corporate organisations. He actually stops being about really getting the best out of the people and actually starts just becoming about managing the board or managing a group of shareholders. And that's where I think you start to see a riel changing the productivity of the people within an organisation. And unfortunately, it's where you start to see a almost a nun recoverable position from a cultural perspective in those companies as well.

spk_1:   20:12
And do you think being bootstrapped has given me the freedom to be able to implement all of these different ideas?

spk_0:   20:20
Yeah, 100%. I mean, if we had a we had a board who was asking, Ah, lots of probably sensible questions. We probably would have been a CZ bravery as stupid as we have been to try as many things as we did. But, I mean, we've been Oh, the beautiful thing about when you spread bet and, you know, don't put all of your eggs in one basket when all of them hatch, you're in a really good place. And, you know, we've been very, very, very lucky with 11 affects, you know, the timing was perfect. We've just got some beautifully talented people. We've been again very lucky with the sort of context of that what hap. And but I'm a big believer that you you very much kind of make your own luck. In this world, we we work super, super hard. And actually, I think we've tried to do something in a way that just people having dumb little

spk_1:   21:04
thanks, David. That's or East. Great advice there. We've got some questions now from some of the listeners, and the first one's from Madam. He's a big fan of the Fintech insiders podcast, and he wants to know if there's ever been a time in the 11 F s journey where you felt like quitting or you felt like there was a challenge that was too big to overcome. And if so, what was your mantra to help you get through it?

spk_0:   21:30
Honestly? Never. Yeah, I honestly have. Never was. There were a moment through through 11 effects that I felt like it was too much or that I felt like quitting on it. Andi on. And I think it's honestly, I think that's down to the team. But I think if you kind of look at the people that we've got in place, um, I really don't feel like there's anything that we couldn't really face into. I think we've got ah rial, great amount of transparency and honesty across from our management team, meaning that there's nothing that actually, collectively, this team couldn't face into. So No. I mean, I was very sure we could make this success before we even started. Andi, if anything, I think my probably my biggest ah, biggest criticism it And if anybody can ever have for me is that I have, ah, on unrelenting amount of positivity for the opportunity that's ahead of us. Um, meaning that, you know, I had absolutely no doubt that we will. We would have been competing with some of the biggest players on the planet. And actually, if you kind of look three and 1/2 years in three and 1/2 years from now, you know, I've got some pretty big aspirations of where we want to get to as well. So I mean, if I took time out and thought about it too much, I think that's the bit where I'd probably start. Just getting a bit daunted by the scale of the mountain that was scaling. But from my perspective, there's never been a second that I've thought anything other than this being her. A huge success,

spk_1:   22:56
These questions from me, David. So what does the M stand for in David M. Bria?

spk_0:   23:04
Um, you know, I'm really I'm really, um I'm no angle about too many things by really anal about having the M in there s o the M stands for Michael. Um, I have had a couple of people suggested stands for money because, like, it's been like a reinforcement thing, but it's definitely money. It's definitely Michael and I was named after my dad, so unfortunate. My dad died. Ah, lung cancer when I was 19. And the reason I'm sort of really anal about having that am in the middle there is is just a kind of a constant reminder off him and the great sort of foundations that he sort of gave me. I think between my mom and my dad's, they very much gave me my work ethic and my sort of value of money, my approach to life, on having that sort of Ah, that sort of constant reminder there of Dad for for that just gives me that extra edge to kind of give up from ministry. I think it's amazing the sort of ah, the length of a shadow that he casts having you know, been gone for so long. But actually, from from my perspective, it's just a night constant reminder.

spk_1:   24:10
I got another question for you, David, and this one's from Jackie. It's a rather poignant question, and that is Australian banks. Trust is at an all time low. What lessons can we take from the UK on DH? What would be your advice to Australian banks to restore trust with customers?

spk_0:   24:34
Yeah, I mean, I think it's an interesting when I mean, the hard thing about trust is I mean, you can dish trust somebody until you but until you actually do something about it, doesn't really matter. I mean, from the bank's perspective, we're listening to this like the great thing is that the public have a really, really short term memory. Um, I mean, if you look at some of the things that have happened in the UK with people like TSB, you know, you had major meltdowns, people kind of also two terrible things kind of were happening, but actually the amount of people and actually left the bank left that organisation was very, very minimal. You know, the sort of peek of the financial crisis in mid 2008 then? Actually, we're in a situation where I think the I think it was only, Ah, sort of. Ah, I think it was the media industry who were less trusted than bankers. You know, there was literally people wiretapping and phone tapping people that were less trusted, them bankers. But actually I mean, given the stuff that they've done, given the fact that they've spent a hell of a lot of money on above the line marketing, they seem to have got themselves back into the rankings when it comes to trust. And what I'd say for the fin tech industry, you know those singers of the world over there in Australia. Actually, this is an opportunity to use those messages. I think it very much. If you look a tw, it's it's hard to create a new market. But if the market that you're entering into the incumbent organisations have, um you know, real, sort of dense in their armour that actually using that to your advantage when it comes to you, your positioning in the market and going after those guys, I mean, if you look at how pet you did, coach, you know, Pepsi really sort of road on coach branding to really establish themselves in that market and actually many of the challenger banks could do that. I think a lot more proactively. You know, it's one thing creating yourself in your your own sort of fashion. But actually doing it in comparison becomes really sort of intoxicating when you're looking at doing customer acquisition. I think there's so many people who are just frustrated with, Ah, you know, both the behaviours of the incumbent organisations, but I mean fundamental just the level of service that they get. I mean, I always say it's reasonably ironic that the industry working is called financial service because the lack of any service in some organisations is just Ah, it's just absolutely shocking. I mean, if it was a restaurant, you would stop going to it, right? If it was any other walk of life, you would stop using that, Pritchard. But because you have really no choice and you know, for for a good, you know, 50 years and a couple of generations didn't really have any choice but a big incumbent organisation, you know, almost the public. We're lucky to be blessed to be given mortgages and loans and all of these different things, and now that's very much new thing you know very much the the power of choice within the market. Teo, change how the business models works and the level of of expectation that people kind of have the competition for me if I was Ah, new challenge. Banco Grin in Australia. I really be using that to my dog

spk_1:   27:40
on our final question for you, David. And this one was the most popular one by far Is when will 11 f s b launching in Australia?

spk_0:   27:50
Uh, I mean, you know, I should say right now I think we've worked pretty much everywhere. You know, every big sort of landmass. We've done something. Um I think the sort of appeal, if you really look at the appeal of what we've sort of stood out to do with 11 infests that, actually, we've we very much bean kind of that dog whistle Teo really frustrated organisations that really believed that they could do it in a different way. And because of that, we've been very geographically dispersed. You know, we've done work everywhere Australia included in that, um but really the I mean, I'm talking to you now in our office in New York because actually we're finding loads of really interesting, really big bits of work to do so suddenly. If there's a really big, interesting, big bit of work to do over in Australia, then that sounds like a really good reason Teo to set up an office at that point. So we're Yeah, I mean, get in touch. If you got that thing and then we'll building office. Fisher

spk_1:   28:48
David. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. And thanks so much for sharing the 11 f s Storey. We were she on the rest of the team on absolutely incredible 2020.

spk_0:   29:00
Thanks so much. Thanks for trying real.

spk_1:   29:03
That was David Embryo of 11 effects with some incredible insights. Thanks for listening and make sure you subscribe on Spotify, our iTunes. And if you're looking for game changing talent, he confined us at Tier one people dot com or email us Info tier one people dot com