I recently had the pleasure of interviewing entrepreneur Conrad Ford, who shared with me his journey of becoming a FinTech founder and also gave us a great insight into his business, Funding Options, in this article here.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Conrad Ford, my background is I left university back in the 90’s (so a long time ago) and after deliberating (a lot), I decided to become an accountant.
How did you enter the industry (Where did you study, where did you train, why did you go into FS)?
I went into Financial Services because at the time it was the only place I could sustain my qualification and quality of life. I opted to study CIMA as it was deemed more of a business focussed qualification. I held positions across Product Control and Group Strategy in the big investment banks, before joining a small FinTech start up which ultimately led me to setting up my own FinTech start up. I’m glad I went into Financial Services as it’s ripe for disruption and there are fewer places better for this than Financial Services!
How important do you feel it is to gain as much exposure within a finance function as possible?
My suggestions would be:
- Try and get a breadth of experience and a lot of exposure to what you want to do even if it involves taking a pay cut – get the exposure whilst you can afford it. You just seem to spend a lot less money when you’re younger, so you have a lot more flexibility and a lot more options. I meet a lot of accountants who are stuck in a career that they didn’t want to have because they got hooked on the drug of the big money.
- The greatest regret that I have in terms of my career is that I came out of university just as the internet was coming about and it completely went over my head – I know that there are intelligent people who saw how important it was going to be. My whole career has been driven by the internet, it’s taken over everything! If you’re fresh out of university and you have the foresight to see life changing events like the internet (perhaps now that’s artificial intelligence, green energy, robotics etc) and you ride that horse, you could have an amazing career.
After 10+ years in banking you decided to set up a Fintech start up – What was the inspiration for this?
It was very clear to me that there was a very big gap in SME lending, it was a market condition scenario. I had a strong belief of “isn’t it strange that there isn’t a MoneySuperMarket for business lending”. There was really nothing like it on the market, so at the time it seemed like a no-brainer!
What are the biggest challenges to do this?
I was fairly unique in that one of the hardest challenges for a business is getting funding; I managed to get funding fairly quickly due to the industry connections I had built up, I had actually raised my investment before the business had really come about. The hardest thing that I found was the transition from a large corporate to a start up.
What advice would you give anyone looking to do the same?
Everything they say in the Lean Start Up book is true. The analogy I would give is, “what you learn in a large corporate is how to steer a super tanker, but in a start up you need to be ‘agile’ whizzing around in a speed boat!”. You have to be very agile, very fast and use the advantage you have.
Conrad regularly appears in major national press such as the Times, Telegraph and BBC discussing SME finance. Previously, Conrad worked in group strategy at Barclays, and he is a Chartered Management Accountant.
Funding Options is the UK’s leading online business loan supermarket, in the last year linking SMEs with more than 50 alternative funding providers including marketplace lenders, challenger banks, asset financiers, and data-driven lenders, and raising tens of millions of pounds in vital SME finance. In the Spring 2016 Budget, Funding Options was recommended by HM Treasury for the new mandatory bank referral scheme.
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