3 Lessons Learned from Scaling a Fintech Company During COVID-19
Jonathan Chu | MBA Class of 2021 | Action Learning
One of the best things about ASB is the opportunity to explore multiple industries and functions that we may not have otherwise through hands-on projects. Action Learning arms us with relevant experience that maximizes our opportunities when we graduate.
For Jonathan, Jenie, Utkarsh and me, it meant being part of the scaling journey of Green Packet, a fintech company based in Malaysia. The firm boasts a track record of “firsts” such as the white label e-wallet as a service (WaaS), its latest “first” in the fintech industry.
In this highly competitive industry, moving fast and executing well is everything. Despite COVID-19, companies cannot afford to decelerate lest they be left behind. So how does a company like Green Packet, which has recently shaken the industry, transform itself while keeping up with competitors?
With this question at the back of our minds, we “went and saw” what it would be like to scale a fintech company. We determined what worked and what didn’t and came up with the three key lessons below.
Lesson #1: When in unknown territory, map it out first
At ASB, we are trained to think like consultants, and the first thing consultants do when embarking on a new project is map the current situation. That way, no matter how unfamiliar the territory is, we still know what we’re dealing with.
“Mapping out different processes and customer journeys is more important than it sounds. Operational issues may seem mundane, but they have a big impact on an organization’s overall productivity and efficiency,” Jonathan explains.
We began by mapping the customer journeys of two key fintech products. We interviewed every key team lead involved in the process to understand what worked and uncover the pain points and their root causes.
After four days of intense interviews, we ended up with 61 opportunities. That’s when the exciting work truly began.
Research has shown that when a company is ready to scale, it needs to part ways with its established systems, processes, policies and practices. That’s because what brought the company this far may not bring the company further.
MIT-ASB Professors Charles Fine and Loredana Padurean have written about this, noting, “The ‘scaling’ stage begins once a company has proven some key aspects (e.g., technology, customers, pricing) of its value proposition and must now grow in parallel to its market alongside its production and delivery capabilities.”
Bearing this in mind, we looked at the opportunities we identified, matched them with Green Packet’s strategy and operations, and put on our thinking hats to determine if these opportunities were worth pursuing. We asked:
- Is this really important?
- What difference would it make?
- Is it aligned with the company’s vision and direction?
Lesson #2: Develop a SWOT team dedicated to scaling the company
Professors Fine and Padurean stated in their research that companies have to consider ten strategic thrusts when scaling:
A scaling company needs “scalers,” or people who have the tools, frameworks and experience that provide structure and discipline in execution. These are people who can orchestrate change and pull different forces together to deliver excellent results.
“Strategy may be the thing everybody fixates on, but without the ability to manage processes on a micro level, the best-laid strategy will fall apart,” Jonathan adds.
The Group CEO of Green Packet had this insight in mind when he brought our Action Learning host, Joel Wong, onboard. An ex-Accenture consultant, Joel has a plethora of experience in professionalizing processes and operations. In fact, he designed our onsite sessions with Agile in mind.
Lesson #3: The work is easy, the people are not
Spending four weeks with Joel provided us with many insights about what it takes to manage different stakeholders through change. He grilled us on the secret art of winning people’s confidence, building rapport and relationships, and establishing common ground from the onset.
He also taught us the importance of clearance meetings to gain confidence and attain buy-in as we put together our final proposal.
Not just professional growth, but personal growth too
We started out with the desire to understand how to scale a fintech company, but we walked away with more than just that. In four weeks, we managed to put together a proposal of 29 recommendations and an implementation plan as a “blueprint” for the company to move forward. The journey has been challenging, but the team worked well together and made it happen.
But that was not all.
“The Action Learning journey is a personal journey and one needs to make the most of it, regardless of the circumstances,” Utkarsh shared.
We even walked away with tools that we could implement in our lives. “Seeing a company practice the ‘4 Disciplines of Execution’ was eye-opening. It’s something I would like to use in my daily life,” Jonathan added.
If we could go back in time, would we have done the same thing, the same way? Absolutely. We finished this project having grown both professionally and personally – and that has made all the difference to us.
“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”
— James Cash Penney, Founder, JC Penney