LFP186 – “Doing Culture Well” as a Key Growth Tool w/Richard Arundel Co-Founder Currency Cloud

Currency Cloud are one of London’s oldest Fintechs being founded over a decade ago. As they recently sold themselves for £700m to Visa – in cash – they clearly know something about the entire startup-realisation process. Big time. One of the aspects whose importance grows along the journey which co-founder Richard shares with us is that of Corporate Culture, a topic we have touched on before but one which is no more ever fully-sorted than your relationships are. It might be tough enough to keep one relationship going well for a decade but imagine the countless relationships between everyone in your firm and you get some idea of the scope of the challenge.

When you and a chum start your Fintech you don’t need a culture – your culture is whatever and however you guys do things. For some time the vibe remains collaborative as you are quotes “all in the same room” and like any bunch of folk you develop a modus vivendi as well as a modus operendi.

Indeed it is these characteristics that give the new starter great advantages of speed and flexibility over incumbents.

One of the key challenges is – and this applies to us as people as well as at the scale of businesses – growing up without growing old. You want to mature whilst retaining the fun, experimental, playful, flexible aspects of childhood.

Naturally this is easier said than done both for people and for companies. For companies the increasing specialisation and physical scale leads to greater speciation and it is all too easy for oganogramitis to creep in. Naturally the challenges are only magnified when your colleagues become not just at worst a floor away but thousands of miles away.

Topics discussed include:

  • the importance of clarifying things you don’t understand – all too often businesses can run into problems as everyone assumes everyone is on the same page or understands something
  • Richard’s career journey from summer job as an estate agent through to super-successful Fintech founder
  • the micro-economy of Shoreditch before it became hip (&more recently plasticised)
  • business archaeology through buildings
  • Currency Clouds podcast – Payments Innovation
  • how podcasts have changed the world of real education (as opposed to institutional narrow perspectives on The World)
  • what does “culture” mean? Richard’s definition
  • stigma attached to ides of Fintech culture being ping-pong tables
  • high morale, high productivity, what drives you to want to work for a given firm
  • values
  • CC’s three key values are “better together”, “own it” and “be human”
  • the importance of being able to go much further than slogans and being able to exemplify what a couple of words mean in a given firm in practice – another company might eg use “better together” but actually mean something rather different by them
  • amplifying “better together” in CC’s case
  • value of culture externally too – in this case working closely with customers not as some kind of “vendor-client” relationship
  • connecting values too vision and mission – how they relate to purpose
  • the what and why one does things
  • absorbing culture via imitation as well as instruction/training – hence the importance of being driven from the top
  • CC coming up to 450 employees
  • cross-functional collaboration
  • how architecture affects culture – a Case Study
  • multiple offices, multiple timezones equivalent let alone covidy “remote first” challenges
  • “the fundamental of culture is building trust”
  • you have to invest in culture – money, time, resources
  • “the other side of the organogram these days is a description of the culture that defines how the boxes should all relate to each other”
  • binding people together – how do you create culture, what is the centripetal force, the binding energy and its “frequency/colour” 
  • “it starts with hiring”
  • you still need to get people together
  • the relevance of Babycham (?!) and post-interview non-interview interviews – the failure rate in the early days of potential hirers at this stage
  • what the modern equivalent is in a much larger organisation
  • dealing with the opposing force – centrifugal force, which as we are seeing now esp in the US can tear societies apart, tribalise and create entropy rather than coherence
  • how often project failures/difficulties in MegaBanks are actually down to cultural issues and non-binding of competing departments
  • how Currency Cloud work with centrifugal force which is inevitable when you have human beings “under a roof” – whether real, plural or remote
  • what Currency Cloud’s market position and future plans are

And much much more 🙂

Share and enjoy!