Five Minutes With… A Fintech CFO

Interested in pursuing a career in fintech or wondering how innovative industry leaders manage their time and discover the inspiration to launch advanced financial products?

Taking five minutes out of your day to read interviews, listen to podcasts or absorb video content can be invaluable, whether you’re considering your future employment options, deciding whether to enrol in a particular study course or wish to understand how the blend of technology and finance come together to change the way we borrow, budget and spend.

Insider Intelligence reports that the global fintech market is set to grow at a compound annual rate of 20% by 2027, anticipated to be worth a staggering $305 billion within the next two years. 

Trends such as AI consumer analysis, machine-learning-led advisers and digital credit assessment tools are becoming the norm for banks and lenders, catalysed by the Coronavirus pandemic when organisations turned their attention online to maintain trading during lockdown periods.

Insights Into the World of Fintech

Learn insights from Jody Baumgarten, CFO of Wonga Online, a digitally operated, South African-based short-term credit operator. Baumgarten is responsible for regulatory compliance standards and core systems oversight, having progressed from Dubai World Holdings before joining the brand in 2011.

In 2019, he purchased the Wonga name, previously a subsidiary of the British business, alongside two colleagues, creating a new dynamic approach and reshaping the organisation into a forward-thinking innovator.

How Does Wonga Online Differ From the Original UK Company?

While many in the UK might recognise Wonga as the original payday loan provider, the online business was launched back in 2019 and is separate from the previous international company.

The management team saw how the business could address real-world needs for a local, well-managed company that catered to the specific demand from the South African market, introducing greater flexibility and accessibility.

Today, Wonga Online is focused on sustainability, personal service and stability, implementing a range of 100% compliant lending practices to support responsible lending policies.

How Is Wonga South Africa Helping Improve Financial Equality?

It’s no secret that debt challenges in South Africa can disproportionately affect some demographics, and our mission is to make a positive impact on the financial space through education and inclusion.

The Money Academy is one such resource that offers free learning to help individuals engage in an online course to understand budgeting, debt management, how to save, and how investment works.

How Does a CFO Balance Family Life?

As a father and husband, I’m also a keen sports person, and I love biking and sea swimming, with several adventure races and challenges such as an Ironman under my belt.

Setting personal goals strengthens your mental resilience and tenacity, and I enjoy the commitment of training for a bigger target and focusing on those small steps that can help any of us achieve great things – even if they seem insurmountable, to begin with.

How Important Is it for Fintech Professionals to Spend Time Off-Screen?

The issues linked to extended time in front of a screen are well documented, from reduced sleep to lack of concentration, and I believe it is extremely important to switch off periodically rather than expecting to be online 24/7.

Balance is so important, so while running our rapidly expanding company is a significant opportunity, I use sports, family time and swimming to help maintain that work/life balance that is such a priority in the modern digital world.

What Can We Expect to See in Fintech in the Year Ahead?

The pandemic was undoubtedly a big force in fintech growth, where people were more familiar with managing transactions online, from ordering groceries to applying for a loan. However, a current trend is linked with inflation, where financial pressures are growing and affecting more and more people.

Higher living costs and sustained high interest can make it difficult for people to manage their essential outgoings, so working to bring inflation to sustainable levels will be a key issue in the next few months.

How Is Wonga Incorporating AI Into its Systems?

AI and machine learning are big drivers in fintech, and our outstanding in-house experts work diligently to keep abreast of tech announcements and use cases where AI has the potential to make credit more inclusive.

What Advice Would You Give to Aspiring Finance Professionals?

Accounting has always been a valued profession, but if you’re in the early stages of study, I’d suggest thinking about how the scope of roles in the financial sector has grown over recent years – there are hundreds of opportunities out there!

Financial education courses often still focus on conventional applications, but the pace of change is rapid, so familiarising yourself with new technology and trend predictions could give you a valuable head start in the real-world workforce.

Finally, I’d say that one of the most important tips is to listen and learn – experienced professionals can offer a wealth of experience, so always be willing to accept good advice and use it to your benefit.

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