Delphine Ruaro, Product Manager at Zopa shares her experience
At the end of my Masters, while I was looking for my first job, I promised myself I would never work in finance. I was studying at the LSE and in the numerous career fairs, there was only one question amongst students: “so do you want to get into consulting or investment banking?” And between the stories of never-ending working hours, the sad thought of a life spent in Powerpoint presentations, and the gray hair on the 27-year-olds who came presenting, I was not sold by either. And I swore to myself to never end up in a corporate job for a financial institution. Very simply, there were three aspects that did not attract me about the whole industry:
- All the projects seemed completely detached from empathy and didn’t seem to have the customers’ best interests at heart
- The people working there didn’t seem very fun and open-minded
- Traditional banks felt like the opposite of innovation to me. They had no knack for digital products and had to hire consultants to think outside of the box
Personally, my mind was set on tech and entrepreneurship - I wanted to become a product manager for one of the great tech companies, serve my customers in the best possible way, develop innovative ideas, ship new features fast and work with geeks all day. But to my surprise, in London, the most interesting problems to solve and the best tech talents were all in... finance. But not the finance that I had in mind, a curious corner called “fintech”. They spoke the same language of agile, sprints, design thinking, and growth hacking I was used to, and were the main speakers of local tech meetups.
I became interested and got a job at Zopa, a peer-to-peer lending company that provides better loans and investments in the UK.
It didn’t take me long to discover that my preconceptions about finance, here, didn’t hold true.
- First of all, money is one of those universal problems - everyone cares about it, and most people struggle with it. It makes 40% of the UK population anxious and 37% say that money is their biggest source of stress. An even less sexy but fascinating topic is debt. Over half of UK adults have personal debt, and many do not know how to manage it properly. So it’s a really fascinating and important topic to explore. In my job, I get to talk to customers a lot. Everything we build is backed by research, so we spend a lot of time understanding customers’ perception of debt and money, how they manage, what their biggest pain points are, and what we can do to help. Turns out - finance is a place that needs a lot of empathy. Because when you get it right, it’s very easy to bring a much better experience and offering than what’s been out there historically. And that’s why people love companies like Monzo, Yolt, and Zopa, who finally put the customer at the heart of everything they do
- When I started networking with people working in fintech, I mainly met people like me. They were here for the tech and stayed for the purpose, a bit by surprise. At Zopa, the average age is around 30, and we cover many nationalities. The floor is crowded with developers and designers who come from various backgrounds but very importantly adhere to my dear tech bubble of pretentious coffee, podcasts, cycling, pottery making, post-its, and whiteboard sessions
- We've been so used to traditional banks that we accepted crappy UX, random fees, and insane exchange rates for decades; and still today there's huge inertia from people who stay with the same bank their whole life. So the potential for innovation is massive - everything is there to be changed, improved, surprised. With the advent of new regulations like Open Banking, start-ups in fintech are surrounded by green grass projects to figure out what the banking of tomorrow could look like. Creativity, check
Moving to fintech has been an exciting adventure and has brought me closer to my goals than I thought. To all the techies out there who may have the same preconceptions I had about finance - I can guarantee you, fintech isn’t the same. And if you’re looking to bring positive change, there’s a lot of really interesting challenges to solve. Money is everybody’s problem, so you might be able to help someone save enough to buy a house, or get a fair loan deal to buy a new car when theirs breaks down on the side of the road, or slowly build back their credit after a rough patch, or even send money abroad to their family.
Delphine Ruaro, Product Manager at Zopa.