What are the qualities of Great FinTech Leaders?

Search Google for information on leadership attributes, and typically you’ll find the same collection of repeated advice - albeit reworded or approached from a different angle.
The most common characteristics include being;
  • Courageous, or: bold, deliberate, fearless, persistent and decisive.
  • Collaborative, or : a delegator, personable, communicative and a team player.
  • Visionary, or: inspirational, insightful, and knowledgeable with foresight.
  • Humble, or: emotionally aware, mindful, clear, transparent and authentic.
Whilst these characteristics are somewhat accurate, more often than not information supplied that backs-up these statements is broad, vague and non-specific. For example, it’s said that great leaders learn from others, are always learning and foster a growth mindset - fine, but how do they do this, who are they learning from and what exactly are they studying?

In this article I will be looking at the four topics of Courage, Collaboration, Vision and Humility - relating this directly to the current FinTech market, what is needed to succeed in leadership and how this can be achieved.


Would you like insights on FinTech in 2018?  Before reading on, take a moment to download our 2018 A-Z of FinTech trends - available now click to view & save


Courage during a FinTech revolution

Traditionally, being a risk taker in a banking and financial landscape hasn’t been a desired leadership strength. In fact, quite the opposite has been true, with those working in banking generally considered cautious, reliable and risk-averse.
Today, the courage to take risks and drive forward change is vital; in an unprecedented time of FinTech innovation, reduced regulatory barriers and a thriving startup market.
To be fearless is not to be foolish. The greatest leaders know that strategic thinking, and taking the time to truly understand the workings of your business, are what allows for brave decisions and bold steps forward.
In a news item for the Financial Time, Richard Branson writes:
“There is no substitute in business for actually running a company, and that is a risky game where one needs to be brave, focused and sometimes lucky.”
Alternatively, David Brear (CEO at 11:FS and previous Global Director of Digital Banking for Gartner) is also quoted as saying;
“Technology innovations will be the heart and blood of the banking industry for many years to come and if big banks do not make the most of it, the new players from FinTech and large technology companies surely will do.”
Collaborate with everyone
In our 2018 trends eBook, we wrote that a prominent theme for this year will be collaboration. Specifically, between traditional, established financial institutions and the fresh, innovative FinTech startups - who until now have primarily served to disrupt the industry status quo.
A core attribute of any FinTech leader in 2018 will be the ability to communicate openly within the complete financial market; as institutions change their mindset on FinTechs from a threat to opportunity.
Collaborating successfully is about more than just talking and listening to others. You need to be able to learn from their worldview and experiences, encourage sideways thinking and opinions, tolerate insights different from your own and know the team around you.
Authentic interactions enable leaders to recognize and leverage the drivers, emotions, and motivations of their people. A great article on the subject was written by Carol Kinsey Goman for Forbes [1], or alternatively, see  ‘Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results’ by Morten T. Hansen, a bestseller promoted by Harvard Business Review [2].
Have vision and foresight
Embracing uncertainty and being prepared for if things go wrong is one thing, but great leaders go beyond this. Great leaders learn from what’s come before and what is happening now and can deduce (even in unsettled waters) where and what the next change, or trend, will be.
Much of this comes from experience and the ability to quickly adapt; happily letting go of old beliefs once valued, and being open to new ideas and practices. It’s also associated with a focused viewpoint, that doesn’t allow for minor distractions. Selective ignorance is bliss.
In an interview with JPMorgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, when asked about the characteristics he looks for in future leaders, he says;
“Some people walk into your office and say ‘yeah, I’d like to know about the strategy of the company’ - but they didn’t bother to read the chairman’s letter I wrote which is 30 or 40 pages long. They’re people that walk in and say ‘Yeah, you should really be thinking of doing better digital services’, but they don’t look at the ones we do, do. The other people that walk in, they know everything and so, they have a conversation that actually enhances your life - as opposed to the other way round.”
Studying past leaders, finding a mentor, listening and learning from others with different skill sets and experiences, and always being an engaged member of the FinTech community. All techniques that enable vision and future foresight.
Humility opens doors to opportunity
Staying with CEO Jamie Dimon for a moment - in that same interview he also spoke about the character of leaders;
“They say the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They don’t shave the truth, and they say the same thing to you, that they’d say to you (another). Because the second I see people doing something different from that - I have no interest. I don’t have time for that."
Humble, honest, transparent, personable. A great leaders integrity has to be unquestionable. Interactions must be authentic, and knowing when to admit fault, learn from failures and accept criticism is key.
Master this quality and you will surround yourself with like-minded people, that can take advantage of every opportunity for growth - in an environment that encourages and feeds success.
A popular read on the subject is ‘Leading with Humility’ by Rob Nielsen [3]. Alternatively, see H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick [4].

In summary great leadership in FinTech today centers around the ability to take strategic risks, be innovative and be brave - but remain humble, open to new ideas and opinions, and able to communicate authentically.

Interested in learning more about executive and leadership FinTech job opportunities? Find you recruiter to contact here.



[4] http://www.bradlomenick.com/h3-leadership/

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