Shefali Roy | From Goldman Sachs to TrueLayer, Diversity and work-life balanceApple Podcast Spotify
In Episode 8 of Searching for Mana, we were delighted to be joined by Shefali Roy, COO & CCO at TrueLayer.
Shefali was a brilliant guest. She had energy, she was open and she also gave some great insight into the innovation behind TrueLayer’s success so far. We talk about so much!
She started her journey in Bombay before moving to Australia, achieving academic excellence from an early age as she went. She joined the cut-throat world of Goldman Sachs, left to develop her career before being one of the first few people at Stripe in the UK.
Now she’s at TrueLayer with a vision for it be the best business in the sector owned by two of the nicest owners in the sector! She talks about the impact of having a strong Diversity & Inclusion policy from the outset, and one of TrueLayer’s guiding principles – ‘Enjoy Life.’
It was a fascinating conversation and hopefully we’ll have a chance to do it again after TrueLayer’s next growth phase!
Lloyd Wahed Welcome to Searching for Mana. The podcast focused on tech innovation in finance – fintech. I’m Lloyd Wahed and I’m a head-hunter. I’m privileged to spend my days meeting with some of the influencers, leaders and founders in technology and finance from unicorn companies to financial disruptors. This podcast we’re going to be hearing from these individuals and really trying to understand how they got into fintech, what they’re doing, what their company is all about, and perhaps some of the trends that they’re looking at in the market.
Lloyd Wahed Shefani Roy from Truelayer. Your product – if you were to elevator pitch to me, please.
Shefali Roy So we are a technology company and we work in the open banking space and we have two products. One is a data product and one a payment product. The data product is one that allows you to, as an application, where B2B business, I should say that first, it allows our business to retrieve the end users data from their bank account with their consent through us. The payment product allows an application to initiate a payment on the end users bank account with their consent through us. So we really I mean, Lloyd, where the intermediary we sit in the middle as that technology stack that helps applications facilitate those payments and retrieve that data.
Lloyd Wahed So that we could understand a use of that right now, there’s been headline news of a partnership with Revolut.
Shefali Roy Yes, absolutely.
Lloyd Wahed In the last week or two. So if you talk us through how, if you have a Revolut account, that would actually affect you.
Shefali Roy Sure. And I see it as a Revolut customer. I was very glad that we were able to help with that. So what Revolut did and launched yesterday, it was this idea of linking other bank accounts to your Revolut bank account and what they’re really able to do then with that is if I link my, for example, HSBC account to my Revolut account, Revolut then aggregates that data for me and says, well Shafina, you spend way too much on coffee this week and not enough on, I don’t know, travel last week. But what they’re trying to do is create an environment where any user of Revolut sees their financial state and is able to ascertain very instantly how they’re doing financially, how they’re keeping to their budget. Are they maintaining their funds appropriately? And that’s really the product. It’s a variation of a PFM.
Lloyd Wahed So Revolut started as an account, but probably wouldn’t have been your only account. You would have had an HSBC/ RBS whatever it might have been. And then people went with a Revolut or other such type of digital banks because they got good insights into their spending.
Shefali Roy Yes.
Lloyd Wahed And they bought into perhaps the philosophy of, you know, let’s let’s do this better. Let’s make this for a digital era. And then you come to now where they’ve they’ve got 10 million accounts, you know, whatever it is, and still really aggressive plans to grow. Yes. And what they’re doing with this is saying, hey, by partnering Truelayer, if you still and a lot of people still will have a traditional bank account, which you might have your mortgage with, you might use another one to get salary paid into. Open it up via Truelayer. But what you’ll get is you get the benefit of being able to see across your finances how you’re spending money. So it’s fantastic. Do you think that there’s a play there that once you then sit on the digital app, user experience of Revolut, that the plan is that then you might just bank with them?
Shefali Roy As an end user, I think if you didn’t, you’d be very silly. I mean, the Revolut has great products and the platform is beautiful. The app just works. They have such attention to detail as a user and cares so much really about the user. So I see this as a customer. So if I’m going to think about why do I have my HSBC account, I should just default to Revolut. I would because they are a better platform they give me better customer service. They give me better rates. The product suite is quite wide. I can do anything on Revolut from having a bank account, doing foreign exchange, getting insurance, buying crypto and trading stocks. I mean, that’s on one platform. I don’t know any other bank on the High Street does that. And they do it in an efficient way, in a very creative way. The app is beautiful and they really, really care about the end user and that experience. And so if you want to take care of me, gosh. Of course, I’m gonna think about why should I have all these other bank accounts? I’m just gonna go to them.
Lloyd Wahed Why do you still have the other bank accounts?
Shefali Roy Because Revolut does not as yet, as far as I’m aware, they don’t do lending and I have a mortgage, so I get better rates with my mortgage provider and that sort of thing. But at the moment, everything else that is in my life financially goes through Revolut. So my salary goes into my Revolu account. I have a mortgage account with my normal high street bank, but everything else, I buy stocks, I trade crypto, if I do travel, I have instant insurance in a new country. If I don’t get it covered by normal travel insurance. I do use it as my default for most things.
Lloyd Wahed So that’s an example of the consumer product that Truelayer has. And then you’re talking about a payments product. What’s an example of that?
Shefali Roy So if, for example, you were going to top up your Revolut account or if you were going to, if you say you had a nutmeg or a fund management account or you’re looking to top up a stock trading account, instead of going into your bank account and transferring the money into your stock trading account, you would integrate that trading platform, would integrate with Truelayer and say, alright, well, we’ll just direct them credit – your money from your bank account through our app alone so you don’t have to go to your bank and through that with your consent, we’ll just debit it, 100 bucks if that’s what you want to trade with. And so in-app the merchant or the application is allowed to initiate a payment on my bank account which I’ve linked to top up that a trading account. So the user experience there is really quite effortless and frictionless. And that’s what you want. If you’re looking at topping up your pension or your ISA or something which you held with nutmeg or Wealthsimple or whatever it might be, seem sort of concept: I deposit 100 bucks every month in my account to invest in a fund rather than do a direct debit for my bank account or go into my bank account every month to transfer the money. Wealthsimple might say, look, we’re gonna integrate with Truelayer and that allows us to direct debit Shefali in-app in Wealthsimple, we’ll initiate a payment on your bank account and we’ll just take the 100 bucks that way. So you don’t have to chop and change applications. So that’s really payment initiation. I mean, the good thing about it, which is very different and this is what is really phenomenal is the merchant initiates the payment. It’s not the user. It’s not the consumer. It’s the merchant. And that’s a great experience.
Lloyd Wahed So to get some idea of the scale of the business right now, you’re through – series C?
Shefali Roy Yes. We raised last July.
Lloyd Wahed Yep. And there’s 100 ish staff.
Shefali Roy Yeah. We hit 97. I think we hit 97 this week actually. I mean, I joined when we were five. So it’s kind of bonkers. I mean, I’m sometimes very nervous that I don’t identify…
Lloyd Wahed And how long was that journey from five to ’90s?
Shefali Roy 18 months
Lloyd Wahed Superquick
Shefali Roy Yeah, superquick.
Lloyd Wahed Okay. And the business is international as well. You’re moving to new territory.
Shefali Roy Yeah. So we’ve got a small team in Hong Kong and we’re looking at Australia and we’re looking at Europe as well.
Lloyd Wahed Okay. And the makeup of that 100 ish people is tech, data, management sales?
Shefali Roy Well, it’s quite a bit I see it’s a lot of tech, half is approximately tech and the rest is sales, ops, compliance, legal, finance, client care. That’s sort of stuff.
Lloyd Wahed And your role is the chief operating officer.
Shefali Roy The chief operating officer and the chief compliance officer.
Lloyd Wahed So what does that mean that you have to do?
Shefali Roy I mean, it means you have to do everything. So you know, I mean, as you grow, you’re able to delegate a little bit more. But at some point, I think I did everything but engineering because I’m pretty crap at it and actually don’t how to do it. So I did everything but engineering. And that’s the joy of the startup actually, that you do everything: you product ideate, you sell, your run budget, you do the legal and the compliance and you answer the phone and the intercom, sort of stuff, intercom being online chat tool for help for clients. So you do everything. And now as we’ve gone a bit more, we now have people who work and in the organization and we’ve got heads of teams who now run teams for us, which is kind of fantastic. But you do everything really. I mean, you know, on any one day, you could be doing a podcast, which is really lovely, to arranging some chairs because we have new guests that have to come in, to this morning, you know, talking to legal counsels about new territories and what you’re going to do there. So it could be really..
Lloyd Wahed If ever I was if I was selling chairs and desks, then you’d be a good client with the growth, right?
Shefali Roy Absolutely. So really, I was literally talking some real estate this morning because we have to get new real estate because we’ve outgrown what we have at the moment.
Lloyd Wahed And you’re Clerkenwell at the moment.
Shefali Roy We are. We are in Hardwick Street, just round from Sadler’s (theatre) as well as which is a beautiful building. And we’re just trying to figure out what else can what else we can acquire or rent there, because, not acquire, really rent because we’ve already outgrown our space. We moved into the first floor. We moved into the third floor two years ago, we moved into another floor last year and then we had to acquire the third floor in that same building about three, four months after that. And that’s now become, you know, event space and our auditorium and kitchen and things.
Lloyd Wahed So how have you grown from, my interest as a head-hunter, how’ve you grown? Have you partnered with headhunting firms, recruitment firms? If you go on internal talent team? Do you use the founders and the experts? Networking? Is it all of that?
Shefali Roy It’s a bit of all, actually. We started with very much our network and thinking how do we know and who can we entice to come and join? Then it was me going onto Angel List and every single possible LinkedIn search, to go, who can we acquire and who can we hire from there? And I have to say, engineering hire, engineering talent in the city is very, very hard. And because I am not an engineer, I have no idea what I was doing. So that was exciting.
Lloyd Wahed What did you find hard about it?
Shefali Roy Well, programming languages are very different. And what, you know, one engineer learns and develops their skill and expertise and might be something very different to what we have and what we’ve developed our tech stack in. And they’re not transferable for the most part. And also, they’re just very sticky. I mean, they’re like doing what they’re doing. They’re like coding and love their language. And that’s really great. But it kind of didn’t help me.
Lloyd Wahed Did you find any tools beyond LinkedIn that helped you?
Shefali Roy People, lots of people. Like, who do you know, and our network.
Lloyd Wahed But not tool, so nothing like, there’s some tech players to find engineering talent like hackajob.
Shefali Roy We couldn’t affrod it. We literally couldn’t afford it. We couldn’t afford agencies. And we don’t use agencies for the most part. We couldn’t afford it. So we literally had to go: who do we know? Go call some friends and friends. Call your friends and you know, do me a favour and come and work for us. So that sort of stuff,.
Lloyd Wahed So referrals.
Shefali Roy Very much so. And we still do that till today. Most of our team, actually, I would say, has been referral based or applying to us. Very, very few have been, I don’t think we use agencies really. We have had contract talent team come in. So this sit in with us. But they sit in-house. And so then they use their own networks, but their second it to us just for a while, you know, and contractors. But then we very much use our existing networks for core parts of searching.
Lloyd Wahed With the pace of talent that you put in. And I’m going to assume the bar was incredibly high, given what you’re doing. And it’s a very competitive type of talent you’re bringing in. How have you managed to set that diversity into the culture?
Shefali Roy From the get-go? So we, I mean, I think I gonna say, I’m just going to look at who our founders hired me as the fifth person. We already had an engineer who was a woman in our team by then, the first four. I was a fifth. And we said it very early on. The expectation that we want to have a gender balance and we want to have diversity and we don’t have inclusion, because I think fundamentally we know that diverse and inclusive teams build diverse and inclusive products and that is better for our customers. So our clients appreciate it. And so we knew from the get-go that we wanted it. It’s nice to have a seat at the table, so I enforce it. It was a KPI for my talent team who reported to me very, very early on. So they were measured on it. And I do remember one of our talent guys going; this is very hard. I mean, quite it is hard. That’s why it’s a KPI.
Lloyd Wahed Yeah. So you put a KPI. What did that KPI look like?
Shefali Roy That they have to have gender parity through almost every stage of the process. So us, our process is if someone is referred or say, someone applies to us, they do a screen call, a phone call with our talent partner. They then do a summary.
Lloyd Wahed So is that culture?
Shefali Roy No, that’s just. Hello. How are you and why do you apply for this role? And what are your expectations and what do you think we do and what do you do and all that stuff. Just ascertaining near the land really and if that goes well, then they have a call with hiring lead. If that goes well there then sent a written task they have to write and normally takes a couple of hours to do. And if it takes longer than you should be here. That’s, we designed it so that it only takes a certain amount of time for you to do. When they pass that. And hopefully, that’s a great piece of work. Then they have an onsite with about three or four people, including Hiring Lead, which covers a range of things: skill, communication, culture, leadership skills. And if you’ve done all of that and it all goes well, then you get an offer.
Lloyd Wahed Fantastic. Also you say the culture, for you is that it might not be different if yo describes what it is that you’re looking for in that aspect of the interview.
Shefali Roy Are you a good person? Are you a decent human being? Are you nice? And you could be the engineers’ engineer. I don’t really give a shit if you’re not a nice person. You don’t get hired at Truelayer. And that’s fundamental. That is absolutely fundamental to survival.
Lloyd Wahed So what type of question can determine if someone is a nice person or not?
Shefali Roy Well, I think you can tell by their demeanour in an interview. I think you can tell by how they interact with certain questions. Men are easier to call out than women. And second, that it’s true. But you can ask particular questions. And I won’t tell you now because I’m losing my secret of questions about what really, you know, tweak someone. But you can ask very particular questions to candidates and it sparks a reaction. And that tells you whether they’re going to be team players, whether they’re decent, whether they’re kind, whether they’re nice, whether they’re ethical. It tells you a lot, actually. And I think if you don’t figure out by the end of the interview whether they’re nice or not, that’s the fault of the interviewer, not the interviewee. And I think that’s important for us. And so I should say one of our guiding principles, our company is enjoy life. Now, I don’t know any startup in London or in the world, that says, and at the rate we’re growing, that enjoy life should be a fundamental principle of our company. And that’s because we have a very healthy view about life. We have a very healthy view about work and work product. But we also have a very healthy view about what and who we want to work with. And that’s important to nice, kind, decent is important. And you can be the best person on the planet in your respective field. But if you’re a dodgy person, then you’re not gonna get in.
Lloyd Wahed Yeah. As one of the nice things about being a founder of early on in creating a culture in a business is that you get to choose where the bar is on a number of things and you guys are really prioritizing that everybody who comes in is just a good person, it’s pretty important. That’s who you want to work with, who represent you.
Shefali Roy Well, you spend most of your life and adult life at work. Like if you spend a week with people you don’t like, like, I don’t know what you’re doing there, really. And it could be an end result: oh, my God. That we’re going to be this super duper successful company. And I only want to work for companies that are going to be a rocket ship and all that stuff. Lovely. Very rare. Does that happen to every single one? But surely on the right, you want to have fun? Anyone have fun with people who are not idiots?
Lloyd Wahed So what do you guys do to have fun?
Shefali Roy We have a very healthy balance of what work works and what is work product. We’re not huge fans of people working late at night. I get really irate if I see people working after 7:00, 7:30, it really gets my goat. We get really upset if people work on a weekend. We are deliberate about it. Like I’ll pull people up if they do it.
Lloyd Wahed I was talking to somebody yesterday who’s one of the very large investment banks. And the culture that the more junior you are and actually the more in a hot seat you are – by that, I mean destined to go wherever the big trades are, then the later, you work,.
Shefali Roy That’s ridiculous.
Lloyd Wahed The time is actually outrageous. We’re talking like past 12 night, typically, and then also on the weekends. So if you try and talk to this person over dinner, they can’t. They’re just on their phone and they’re being chased up by seniors.
Shefali Roy That’s ridiculous. bonkers.
Lloyd Wahed And I get it. If you’re in some type of merger or acquisition, there’s a project that every now and again, you might have more work than you can do in the time that you’ve been given. But if that becomes the norm, then surely that’s just poor planning of yours.
Shefali Roy I disagree even about the ad-hoc, because that is just poor planning and poor management. I don’t think he has anything to do with – it’s a special project and it’s M&A or whatever you might be doing so work, you know, 18 hours a day. There’s absolutely no reason and destiny to anybody should be working longer than a good eight hours. You know, we start at 10 we finish 6:30-7:00. It’s very rare that anybody at Truelayer is working after 7:00-7:30. Very, very rare.
Lloyd Wahed And you guys are having a lot of success. I’m sure it’s a lot to learn from there, not just from investment banks or law firms or pretty much every industry, but in startup culture as well. If you read, you know, what would Elon Musk attribute some of his success to, then, or, you know, Jack Ma in Asia. And they will typically say the kind of 996, you know, I just crunch more numbers than people.
Shefali Roy What’s the 996?
Lloyd Wahed It’s that you’re working from nine till nine, six days a week.
Shefali Roy That’s ridiculous.
Lloyd Wahed Yeah. And you know, if you break it down, if you’re productive in that time, then it probably makes some mathematical sense that you’re getting more done. But I suppose what it doesn’t and maybe some people can and they enjoy it, but it probably doesn’t account for burnout. You’re not productive in that time.
Shefali Roy Well, we don’t talk a lot in our world in startups about mental health. We should talk about that because not just generally on this podcast, but generally, we should talk about that as an industry because there’s this myth that the longer you work, the harder you work, the more successful you are. And that is not true at all. And we don’t believe that. And I think and again, I’ve worked, you know, for some of the more successful companies in the world. I’ve never come across a situation where someone said, I’ve never heard this 996 thing. So this quite new to me. But I don’t believe that because I think a lot should be said about working smart, not working longer, harder, faster, stronger, whatever, working smart and being creative and figuring out how you can do eight hours worth of work in two hours. There’s a lot of merit in that. And actually there’s a lot of fun in that because you’re trying to think, where you’ll be creative so you can do more interesting things. I’ve never worked in an organization, I mean, except for Goldman’s actually, but I’ve never worked for an organization where just because you worked longer, you promoted or you’re paid more or you were given “thanks”. Never, never.
Shefali Roy I think, just to my list of quotes from billionaires, Bill Gates says that he’d hire a lazy, intelligent person every time because that person will find a hack to get somewhere quicker.
Shefali Roy Absolutely.
Lloyd Wahed I think it’s what we’re talking about. And so you have worked to a number of headline global businesses. So let’s get to that, when we kind of complete the journey back to where you are now. I want to go further back and understand how you got into this prestigious institute, you have on your jumper.
Shefali Roy I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it today. I was the only thing I had ready, which was clean. I was like, I’m going to wear this because it’s easy. And then I forgot it shows what it was, but I certainly did not know it was being recorded, Lloyd.
Lloyd Wahed Seems very convenient.
Shefali Roy It doesn’t. I’m sorry.
Lloyd Wahed So where did that list? Let’s go right back to beginning. So where did you grow up?
Shefali Roy I grew up in India. I was born and brought up in Bombay.
Lloyd Wahed Right. OK. And you were the daughter of a father who was a pilot? Is that correct?
Shefali Roy Yes.
Lloyd Wahed And so that meant you travelled around a lot?
Shefali Roy Too much. I mean, you know, it was unfortunate. But I always say my parents – they were nomadic and they travelled quite a lot themselves. And really, it was my mother who brought my brother and I out because unfortunately, my dad was just never around, because he was travelling so much. It was an amazing childhood, though, because we got to see some stunning places all across the world since I was two. So I’m more familiar and more comfortable in a plane than I am in a car or a bus. Let’s put it that way.
Lloyd Wahed So to get into Oxford to study behavioural economics?
Shefali Roy I did. Exactly. So I did. I had a very weird route, actually to Oxford. So I studied when when my parents sort of moved from Australia, from India to Australia and immigrated. They did a little short trip in Singapore for about 10 years. And so my brother and I kind of grew up in Australia by ourselves for a bit of the time. And I went from school in India to school in Australia. But being Indian and being the education system in India, I skipped a few years because it was just a higher education standard than than in Australia. And that meant I went to university very early. I think I was 15 or 16 when I went to university, which I would not recommend people either. I would not recommend that, it was very traumatic. And I did law first that I did economics. Then I went to Oxford, did sort of PPE, came back to Australia, did a masters in journalism and communication, finished, worked in Australia concurrently for a long time at HSBC and Aviva, then came back to the United Kingdom to do a second masters at the LSE at the economic history, work, started working in Europe. And so I work in Goldman Sachs, actually.
Lloyd Wahed And then if you stop there up to that point before you joined Goldman’s, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do?
Shefali Roy Yes. So I plan, I did a very weird thing, which is I planned my career backwards. So when I was about 17 or 18, I very much thought what I want to be when I’m 40. I want to end my career at 40, actually, because also I mean, working is good, but it’s actually quite boring. There’s so many more interesting things to do in life. And, you know, I’m exhausted. I’m tired and want to do this for the rest of my life. So I said to myself, at 18, 19, if I take 40 as a benchmark and I want to stop at 40, I want to be successful at 40. Financially secure, financially aware. And I do want to work. at 40 I would say, this has been delightful but I’m done. And so I work my way from that and thought from 18/19, what would I want to do and where do I want to go? And so that’s how I did it.
Lloyd Wahed So you have this plan that you wanted to be out the game, retire by 40. And this is you’ve worked this out about 15?
Shefali Roy I was 17, 18. I was like, this is it, I can’t. Because by then, I had already worked for about a year.
Lloyd Wahed And it’s had enough after a year.
Shefali Roy I said, this is ridiculous.
Lloyd Wahed And you said there’s more to life than working. What was that plan? What was what was the plan that at forty I’m going to be doing something else. What was the vision like? An astronaut. A painter, poet?
Shefali Roy Do something different. Teach, write. Do do something in the creative world. Travel, do nothing. That is very enjoyable. If you’ve ever been unemployed with money, that is a very nice. Just something different. And give myself an opportunity to think what else is out there in the world that I really love.
Lloyd Wahed What you did say, was that, that doesn’t come a 25. You were like, I will get to 40, what was the thinking there? You wanted to accumulate some money?
Shefali Roy Yeah, absolutely. Because, again, I mean, I am the product of Indian parents, but their generosity ends at some point. Basically at 20. So you kind of have and you know, actually I like my parents are just wonderful and fantastic and they’re very, they’re, they’re great. But it was very much thinking at some point you have to be sort of self-sufficient and, you know, money that you’re not going to miss. That’s very nice to be in that sort of financial state. And 40 seems like donkey’s years away when you’re 18. It’s like, I’ll never get there. And of course, I got there last year. So that was not very pleasant. But it was just far enough that you think you have a substantial career and you’re gonna give it your best shot.
Lloyd Wahed Yeah. So after quite a lot of education and numerous masters in this or the other, you thought to attack that goal, that I will go work at Goldman Sachs?
Shefali Roy No, I thought I want to work at the best and the best in every field anywhere in the world. And by then had already worked in HSBC and Aviva were doing fantastically well in Asia and Australia at the time. And then I deliberately came here to do my masters at the LSE. And so I never worked in Europe before. And I thought, well, let me just see what that’s like. And so Goldman’s was an opportunity that came my way. And you don’t pass that up.
Lloyd Wahed What were you doing there?
Shefali Roy I was running a sort of, working in private wealth and asset management to look at their compliance across India.
Lloyd Wahed For how long?
Shefali Roy About 18-19 months
Lloyd Wahed Yeah. So the culture at Goldman’s is from all accounts intense.
Shefali Roy Uff too much.
Lloyd Wahed The reverse of what you’ve been saying the creativeness of your current company. I suppose long hours. It’s competitive, it’s cutthroat. You experienced that?
Shefali Roy Completely. So. And when I was there, I was sort of 26, 27 at the time. You when you joined Goldman’s a) you know what you’re joining. I mean, if you’re if you don’t know what you’re joining, then you shouldn’t be that you’re not worthy of that job. I got to say, it is a phenomenal company. They are thinkers. They’re doers. They’re risk takers. And if you are off that type of being ambitious, wildly ambitious, in fact, incredibly hardworking, work and an happy to put in the hours, happy to put in, to know and be knowledgeable. You are also working at the best and with the best and you’re willing to go: I don’t know. I’m not the smartest person in the room, but everybody else around me is, and I’m so happy to be here. If you that kind of person, there’s no better company on the planet. I think the Goldman Sachs.
Lloyd Wahed Do you think that’s still the case?
Shefali Roy I don’t know. 12, 13 years on, I don’t really know. But at the time that I was I mean, Lloyd, even till today, hand on heart, I can see honestly, it was the most intellectually brilliant career choice I ever made. And if I was 27 again and I had that opportunity again, I won’t even blink an eye I’d go do that again. It was phenomenal for me at the time of my life. And I was there and Goldman’s was doing some extraordinary revolutionary things in terms of products and financial management. They were really at the forefront of financial innovation.
Lloyd Wahed So the decision to leave…
Shefali Roy I was exhausted. I burnt out. Completely.
Lloyd Wahed was it a hard decision or it was an obvious decision?
Shefali Roy Yeah, absolutely. And I think, as you rightly said earlier, it is competitive. It’s hard. It’s tough. There’s a lot of expectation. It’s really cutthroat. And I’m not that person. I am not the person who goes: I’m just going to shaft my, you know, the guy sitting next to me, the guy who is next to me for a job. And obviously, that’s what Goldman does. But it is very individualistic in some respects. It’s very much a team and others. But personality, if you take the holistic. It just wasn’t for me. I mean, I worked, I think, an 18 hour day every day from my second day. And I loved it. But that’s not sustainable the long term. And as as a as a human being, it just wasn’t worth it for me.
Lloyd Wahed And then you end up Apple at some point shortly afterwards, which the culture clearly has to do in certain divisions, be creative. But from what I’m aware of, which is probably not much, there’s creative pockets, but then there’s an operating business model. How close were you to product and their creativity or operating the business?
Shefali Roy Not very. So I took my creative stand was at Christie’s before I left. Before I left Goldmans because I left financial services, because with the financial crisis coming on and then I moved to Christie’s. That was my creative outlet. And I had a bored, actually, and then thinking, well, what else do I love? And I love technology and going to Apple. I wasn’t really that close to product development or design because that all roads lead to California and Cupertino. But my job really across the world for Apple was really looking at how do we build great business, ethical business, conduct a supply chain, a compliance, environmental compliance, looking at doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
Lloyd Wahed Okay. So. Ethical thing, that I think Apple had some bad press on was the supply out in developing countries where the culture wasn’t always fantastic, would start some debate.
Lloyd Wahed You mean Like third parties that were producing apple goods?
Lloyd Wahed So you have that’s what I mean. Well, yeah, I think at one point that was a number of suicides and those one of them third party outlets. But were you involved in that type of work?
Shefali Roy No, not particularly. But I think what was lovely about being in that company at the time was then actually being able to move the needle and see to their manufacturers: you better clean this up. Otherwise, we’re not going to do business with you. And that’s a path for great company and that’s a path of great leadership.
Lloyd Wahed Yeah, but that’s still a big problem, isn’t it? Just generically across the industry and the news with particularly fast fashion isn’t is in the press at the moment of causing, you know, a number of really poor environments in developing countries. Big challenge. Yes. I’d take few powerful companies to sacrifice some profits and invest.
Shefali Roy Well, I think that’s great leadership. Sorry to interrupt, that’s great leadership that says they’re not going to do this anymore. And so now there’s this huge push to its sustainability and environmentally conscious fashion, clothing and recycling. And that’s wonderful for the industry. I hope we do it more.
Lloyd Wahed Yeah, you can. You can you can visually see that changing in the right direction. I think, but it will take it will take a long time. So then you are working it with Stripe. How early were you with Stripe. So for the audience who don’t know who Stripe are, this is a company who just absolutely went from 0 to 1 in record speed. I dunno what they’re valued at now, but it’s that tens and tens of billions that the founders, Irish brothers, incredibly intelligent individuals. I’ve listened to a number of podcasts that they get on and you can see why they’ve been so successful. Don’t know much about the company beyond that, could you?
Shefali Roy Sure. I mean, so I joined Stripe when they were very small in the UK, so I think they were about maybe eight or nine people here. And so I joined them here at that point.
Lloyd Wahed And how big were they in America.
Shefali Roy In America, I think they would have been about a hundred,.
Lloyd Wahed OK, it’s still quite early on.
Shefali Roy Oh, absolutely. And so a lot of my job here was helping them get licence and doing on sort of the compliance and compliance and regulatory work in EMEA and making sure that we started well. And so that was a very early stage to join. It was very young. And it was actually it’s a great coming. Now, I think they’re saying to 2.5 Thousand people or something. So it’s large.
Lloyd Wahed Yeah. It’s I think rumoured to be, you know, in Silicon Valley like “that’s the company”. It’s that successful and it’s Patrick Collins and John Collison. I think most, you know, people around there like he is a handful of the brightest.
Shefali Roy And I think as well I mean, I think both Partick and John and I only knew them when I was at Stripe, but they are phenomenal leaders and visionary really when they think about it. And you can see why Stripe really capitalized on market. They were not the first to the market doing what they’re doing. And you know, we were not the first payment processor. There was Paypal and gocardless was here as well. And Adyen, in in in Europe. And, of course, also looking at the credit card companies. But I think the vision of those two founders was so extraordinary. And the way they distilled it and a trickle down across the organization are so phenomenal that for all of us and it was the first time I ever worked at startups. For me, it was just great to look and learn and be like a sponge.
Lloyd Wahed Yeah, I heard I heard Patrick explaining how they got traction quicker than similar companies. Was the philosophy of if they got a meeting with a company who were interested in the product. Then they would just send the implementation team.
Shefali Roy Yeah. This is I mean, I remember a story I think that there’s a picture of I think Patrick Green himself on one of his bicycle’s to integrate it into someone’s website. And I think when you have that type of leadership, goodness, I mean, for the rest of us, it’s easy peasy to follow that.
Lloyd Wahed And that’s amazing. And so with Truelayer you’re number five. Does that make you a founder?
Shefali Roy No, I’m not a founder. Thank, you know, thank God. Because that’s Francesco and Luca. I’m just the fifth employee and I’m the COO.
Lloyd Wahed And and Francesco is he’s quite young? Did he graduate from LSE in 2012?
Shefali Roy I believe so.
Lloyd Wahed That’s not an MBA or?
Shefali Roy No, I don’t know what he did at LSE, but yeah, his is a graduate of the LSE. Young is a relative, I think. I think they’re both in their mid-30s, so thats pretty good.
Lloyd Wahed Okay. And was part of what you bought into him as a person And the vision?
Shefali Roy Could be, I mean, both of them are phenomenal guys and they’re very good men and they’re very honest and authentic leaders. And that’s very nice. So after Stripe, I took a bit of a sabbatical and thinking, well, what I want to do, because I was at Oxford finishing my executive MBA and I thought, well, what do I really want to do now?
Lloyd Wahed You were near 40 at this point where you were going to retire.
Shefali Roy I was about 36, 37 at this point like times, you know, I mean, I finished at Stripe. So I’m like, I don’t really need to work. But let’s see what else is out there because it’s I’ve got four years to go to 40. And so at the time, I thought, would I really want to do? And so I looked from literally from San Francisco to Shanghai thinking anywhere in between. I talked to as many people as I possibly could about what I want to do next. And I was in a relationship at the time in San Francisco. So I thought, well, maybe I should stay and have San Francisco because, you know, here’s my relationship and let’s see if this works. And unfortunately, it didn’t, But also, San Francisco was a really tough city to kind of live and breathe in. And it wasn’t my city. It’s not home to me. But in between that, I looked across the world and I thought, well, what am I gonna do and who do I wanna meet and what type of industry I wanna be in? And I looked at everything health care, transport, shipping, crypto, data, finance, everything in between. And I ended up not really settling on anything until one of our investors, who was an acquaintance of mine said you should come back to London and meet these two blokes, Francesca and Luca. And we’ve just invested in their company and they’re really wonderful. And you should go talk to them about this thing called open banking and have a chat. And I was, all right. And we had two coffees and an email later and I joined them.
Lloyd Wahed So you joined because you had a very good look: you know, what sectors? What’s going on in the sectors? What interests me with the skillset, I can bring to this. You’re in the fortunate position at that point, having had good experience, done well for yourself. You could take the patience to make sure it’s the right decision and you want it to go to something permanent because you know you’re not a contractor in the interim. You buy into complete mission. But actually what it was for somebody who you already knew and he recommended you as a referral, to a bunch of successful founders. And then he met them, you bought into the people. And beyond that, you looked at the prospect. And so with open banking, this is 18 months ago. You know, what was that? Why? Why was that prospect beyond the people and the culture that looks good, so interesting to you.
Shefali Roy So the phenomenon about open backing is it could actually change financial services. If you really look at open banking and if you extrapolate open banking and think about open finance and then you extrapolate that and think about open data. Now, if the infrastructure and the base level is designed and we own that infrastructure and then you just add on all of these other elements, then that becomes a really exciting proposition in the world of data. So for us and certainly for what Francesco and Luca are trying to do, which I think they do very well, is how does Truelayer become the intermediary and the connector across the globe. That becomes a very interesting proposition, whether it is data transferring or looking at how you initiate bank account payments across the world. It is a completely different alternative to credit cards and financial services. It’s a revolutionary way for a non-financial company to become a financial company to Truelayer.
Lloyd Wahed But why doesn’t that already exist in the form of, you know, these big companies, such as a MasterCard or Visa?
Shefali Roy Well, they don’t have the reels. And also, if you do a bank to bank transfer Visa doesn’t get a dosh for that, there’s no interchange fee has to be paid. So this was an equalizer. I mean, it came about because of PSD2 of the Payment Services Directive, which is a European regulation. It was then solidified by open banking in the UK. And it really, the whole point of it is competition, right? The whole point of it is saying to the consumer. You have more choice, better products, better services, less fees, cheaper, faster. And that is a very attractive proposition.
Lloyd Wahed But if you, the consumer, what are the threats to how your data’s used?
Shefali Roy So that’s a really good question. I mean, Lloyd it is also thinking about from a consumer’s point of view, the end users point of view, what are you doing with my data? Now, the only way this works is if the end user says I consent to give you a data, it is completely predicated on the end user going: I’m happy for our application to have my data and I’m happy for them to give. Get it. Our consistency – yes. If they say no, this doesn’t work. So you have to be as an end consumer, really confident about who’s storing my data, where it is. And Truelayer it doesn’t do that. We just do the pass through of the data. So an application you could you could set an application: Take my HSBC data. And I’ll consent to it because that’s my bank. All Truelayer does really is part of the data from your HSBC account to that application. You have to be really comfortable with the application. What do you do with my data? How you storing it? What are you gonna do with it? If I want to delete it? Can you delete it, if I want to revoke the consent I’ve given to you? Can you do that? The security and the privacy around that has to be really tight. That entity has to be regulated. We are regulated by the FCA. All of those checkpoints are really fundamental to making this sort of “ecosystem” work. And if it isn’t, then open banking doesn’t work.
Lloyd Wahed So if you are back, you know, early 20s, out of education, you were thinking, how can I retire at 40. Today, do you think that you would you would enter into a similar type of company is as Truelayer, you know, who’s the new Goldman Sachs for you? What advice would you give for that type of move?
Shefali Roy So I think the first thing to says startups are hard. I think this is misconception about it that, oh, my God, I just join. It’s gonna be fun and, you know, have a beanbag and unlimited sweets and snacks and they’re going to become this “unicorn thing” and that never happens. I mean, it’s really rare. There’s some extraordinary companies out there that are and they’re worth a ton of money. And it’s because they really worked at it and they put in the odds and they are focussed and disciplined about how they execute. So it’s not easy. And if you’re willing to actually do the odds and put in the work, there’s a tremendous amount of great risk taking and payoff there. I had a boy when I worked at big companies because I think it’s it’s all a rite of passage with certainly understanding the room, understanding how work dynamics work. Understanding politics in a workplace. Understanding, learing and hierarchy. People think, oh my gosh, a startup is very flat. And to some degree it is to a point. But after a while that’s unsustainable. You have to actually layer. And we started that at Truelayer because it’s impossible for Francesco, Luke and I to manage 97 people. So the reality of that comes in. It also brings in a level of maturity. And I think that’s really fundamental in some people just aren’t mature enough to work in a startup and say, you should think about that. And so the advice I would always give is do you due diligence, understand what they’re doing, and for goodness sake, work at a company whose product you believe in. you know, I was talking to some friends at Bloomberg, the other day, and this guy has been at Bloomberg for donkey’s years. And he wants to take a leap and go into working at a startup and a small company. And I said, what you want to do? And he said, well, I’ve only ever known working finance. And I said, well, you hate finance. I mean, you hate it. And Bloomberg is a great company, but you hate finance. Why would you want to do that? Work at something that you love? And as I think about the top three things that you love, we always talk about really cool things that happen in healthcare because his wife is a doctor. You like stuff in transport because you love travel. What the hell are you doing working in a finance company? If you want to take the leap and you’re gonna make that risk and have your midlife crisis, for goodness sake, do it for what’s worth it. You know, do it for something you’re really going to really take the risk for. So believe in the product. Believe in what we’re trying to do and what that company is trying to achieve. And believe in the founders because the founders make it actually. And, you know, someone I was interviewing about eight months ago for marketing, said to me, and I felt she should get the job. But she said to me, if if, you know, Francesco and Luca are on the cover of Wired, what’s the headline? How? What’s what’s it look five, 10 years from now? What’s the headline that goes on the cover? And I said, we become one of the most successful financial companies with two of the nicest blokes on the planet. And she was really stunned by my own answer. She was like, you’re joking? I mean, that’s that’s the headline. And we can get there because we have that DNA in our culture. We have the belief. We have the smarts. We have great people. If two extraordinary founders who are extraordinarily lovely, that’s what you get there. We’re not Elon Musk, Jack Ma.
Lloyd Wahed that’s great advice. So if you were thinking about some other concerns, we’ve discussed ethics and we’ve talked a bit about how to get a balance with gender and diversity business. Is there any other issues within gender diversity, such as like the inequality of pay, that you’re passionate about and wanted to discuss?
Shefali Roy So I think for us and I think we know this in finance, that women are underpaid. I mean, not in finance, across the board. Women are underpaid. And for us, we have taken a very deliberate view of how we look at pay. We look at pay parity. There’s no question that women at Truelayer are paid as much as or equal to or more in some cases as some of the men for some of the rules. And so the way we look at it is what’s the base? It’s equal. And you look at it as future potential, not past experience. So, I mean, you know, to the women who are listening to this, you’re always going to go in thinking there’s five job requirement dot points, do I fulfil all five? And we also know that, sorry, guys, but the guys are going to I can do one of these things. I’m going to fake my way through the rest of the four and talk myself out. And that’s really what happens. And so similarly with pay, when you say to a woman, a candidate, what was your pay and what are you expecting or what’s your what’s your worth? We know that they’re underpaid to begin with. So when they come into Truelayer, they sometimes get a 20, 30, 40 percent bump because we pay at market and we pay for the job irrespective of gender. We don’t pay for what you did in your past company or your gender.
Lloyd Wahed Right. So, okay. Is the pay diversity here? What we’re saying in some sectors, in some companies, but in the main man are paid more then the women, particularly, maybe the higher up you go in businesses. Is that because you think the females day push as much for pay or you think that that’s market-led, and they’re offered less?
Lloyd Wahed No, I think of women. I think we are just sometimes nervous about it. And we have disbelief that, gosh, should we pushed the envelope and should we rock the boat and all that sort of stuff?
Lloyd Wahed And that is that because there’s something inside saying, well, I probably shouldn’t because it’s harder for me to get this role.
Shefali Roy It’s it’s the system. I mean, it’s in the system. I always I’ll give you a great example. We were hiring. We were writing a job spec, in fact, last year for a role. I can’t remember what the role was, but I had put in the job’s description “we’re looking for” whatever it was, who is..
Lloyd Wahed Nice guy in finance? Haha
Right. But no. Well, I can’t remember what it was but say, it was sales executive I can’t remember, but say it said “we’re looking for a sales executive who is a visionary and a great leader.” and my talent partner said to me, we should take out “visionary”. I was like, really? Why? And he said because women will be nervous of that word and that adjective and they will not apply. I never thought about that. And I’ve never grown up thinking, my goodness, I shouldn’t apply for a role like that. I never thought about that. And then he backed that up with each PR articles and research. And he slapped it to me, in fact, said, read all of this. And I’m like, okay. And I did. And as you read it, you have this sort of innate, really heartbreaking thing of, gosh, that’s actually true. So we actually took out the word and we now have hired a woman for that role. But his view was if we left that word in there, we would not have women because they would just feel out of confidence.
Lloyd Wahed Does he have a psychology background?
Shefali Roy No, I think he just cares about who we hire.
Lloyd Wahed Yeah, that’s it. So what I’m curious about is if you don’t think that you would apply for a role based on it saying you are a visionary. So you take out the word visionary so that you can get gender diversity in the applications, then can the person be as visionary? Is it just in this instance that the connotation of visionary has been in history and biographies laid on men’s?
Shefali Roy Well, I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. And maybe it’s a threatening word. Maybe the expectation was rather high, but it was just as..
Lloyd Wahed Is that cause women less, the cliche here is that, you know, in let’s say trading, women are less, they take more of a risk-averse approach to trading. So on a stockbroking floor, that’s why more men be that, because the risk is where the profit might come from. But to be, you know, a contrarian, if that’s what makes you successful, then wouldn’t you, as the employer hire the man for that role?
Shefali Roy Sure. Then you ask the questions in the interview, right. So you ask those questions if that’s what you’re trying to ascertain. Assuming you ask those questions in the interview to go, well, let’s test for that. Let’s test for those qualities that we actually want. So we take out certain words, a certain language. And in in a job spec that potentially entices more people to apply. But then when you look at a CV and when you look at the actual applicant to the candidate process, then maybe in that process you say you test for that and you go. Are you as extraordinary as we would like you to be?
Lloyd Wahed And one of the issues is, is, is the grassroots and not as many females are coming through, let’s say, for your engineering team, for the education system, selecting that degree, but that the ratio is desperately lower. So you have to pick from us a smaller pool, so your culture can get it right. If it’s true, that’s KPI is for doing that. But what can we do to promote the grassroots issue changing?
Shefali Roy So we’ve. We do a lot on the community side, so a lot of, we’ve been doing that for about maybe a year or two, is really going to universities, whether it’s Imperial or even these codacademies, and saying, listen, how do we bring more people in to the into the pipeline and how to encourage young girls and young women to kind of take this up. And so we’re very particular about. But having it as a KPI means from the get-go. If if the KPI doesn’t meet, then every week I say to our talent team: what’s up with this? And what are we doing about it? So it’s trying to do that. It’s giving back in the community. We do a lot of community work. We try and host events which are women oriented. So having, you know, women who code are women in tech and even sort of disenfranchised and looking at communities where they might not have called classes as part of their education. What do we do there? How do we fund that at all? Do we volunteer our time but try to do all of those things to make it more diverse? It’s not just young women, it is non-white males and trying to get everybody who is not a non-white male to get in. Give it a shot.
Also published on Medium.