From Banker To Fintech Founder

From Banker To Fintech Founder

Resplendent in an expensive waistcoat and shirt combination, Antony Jenkins looks the model of a successful banker.

I only mention that because the fintech entrepreneurs I talk to often are more likely to be sporting quarter zip jumpers or t-shirts under jackets, than the more formal attire favored by banking executives. But Jenkins has a foot in both worlds. After three years as CEO of Barclays Plc, he is now in the driving seat of the financial technology company, 10x.

Created to provide (mainly) incumbent banks to match the agility and customer friendliness of technology-driven challengers, 10 X is part of a relatively underreported corner of the fintech marketplace that provides solutions to institutions rather than consumer-facing brands. Jenkins describes 10X as business-to-business-to-consumer.

When I spoke with him via Zoom, I was eager to learn about the realities of transitioning from a corporate job to the less certain life of an entrepreneur.

After Barclays

Jenkins’ tenure as CEO of Barclays was relatively short – three years between 2012 and 2015, to be precise. During that time, he oversaw a period of restructuring. His departure was – according to contemporary reporting – down to a disagreement with the board over the pace and manner of changes.

However, it is often not difficult for corporate executives to find high-level roles within their industries and Jenkins has had a long career in banking that has included time at Citigroup and various roles at Barclays himself. . So why jump into the entrepreneurial life?

“I’ve had a great run in corporate life, but I suppose I’ve always had entrepreneurial yearnings,” he says.

Perhaps more importantly, his experience suggested to him that incumbents in the banking sector had a problem that needed a solution. They are quite lazy when it comes to serving customers and launching new products.

“In my career, I’ve had to launch a lot of products,” he says. “It can take up to seven or eight months.”

In contrast, he said that 10x – which is essentially a banking as a service platform – could enable banks to reduce that time to weeks, partly by consolidating all the necessary data and making it available. in real time. In this way, his goal is to enable mainstream banks – often hampered by legacy IT systems – to compete with challengers.

Big Tech

This, he says, is important, not only because “neo” banks are nipping at the heels of longer-established rivals but also because big tech companies are also joining the financial services market. .

But why are banks turning to fintechs? They’re not short of cash and won’t struggle to attract digital talent – they can afford the wages, after all – so why would they buy technology from outside? In fact, why do they look to fintech for answers.

“The banks are our competitors,” Jenkins acknowledges. “And I see a lot of people doing it for themselves. But it is difficult for incumbents to change themselves.”

Equally, you could argue that it is difficult for fintech outsiders to gain a foothold in B2B or B2B2C markets. Customer-facing fintechs can capitalize on consumer frustration and build highly focused services without the constraints of legacy technology. B2B players place products and services at the center of an industry that has its own way of doing things.

That’s where people from a banking background have a potential advantage. They know the industry and its problems. At the same time they can focus on developing solutions. “We’ve done nothing but do this for the last seven years,” Jenkins said.

A corporate background also helps when it comes to funding. Jenkins is in the fortunate position of being able to put up £1 million of his own money at 10x before asking for funding. So far, from Series A to C, it has raised around £252 million.

A Mindset Shift?

But running a startup morphing into a scaleup probably requires a different mindset. There are no safety nets like you can find in corporate life. “There’s more responsibility,” he said. “You know it’s on your team and you make it. The highs are higher and the lows are lower.”

At the same time, there is a sense of freedom. “You feel very unconstrained,” he added.

Until now 10x has signed up six customers, including JP Morgan Chase, the Nationwide Building Society and Westpac. The near-term goal is to serve around 20 institutions by 2025 – mainly in levels 1, 2 and 3 of the banking market. Jenkins sees that as a realistic target. “At that time we will be cash positive.”

Fintech is still the poster child for the UK tech ecosystem but as challenger banks and finance providers continue to grab headlines, the industry itself is looking for new ways to compete. That opens up possibilities for b2b solutions that are experienced but not seen by consumers. An alternative career for bankers, perhaps.