A FinTech founder’s guide to structuring and hiring quality teams

Rajat Deshpande   /    CEO    /    2022-02-01

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What’s the one thing that a FinTech can do to be in the top percentile of value-creating companies? In my opinion, it should start by hiring better. 

FinTechs in India at this point are a dime and dozen - each one innovating to improve financial access to the underserved and fill the gaps left by traditional banking. In a situation where many have overlapping goals and products, gaining a competitive edge can come down to the one factor that, unfortunately, most founders don’t pay enough attention to in the early days - i.e. hiring.

To an extent, that’s understandable. The focus is on raising capital and refining the product. However, both of these are dependent on hiring the right team. But most founders don’t have a background in HR or hiring. In fact, research shows that less than 1% do.

For the rest of us who are figuring it out from scratch, here are a few quick tips that I’ve gathered from my experience:

Define your values

This is the foundational step of your hiring strategy, without which, you’re just going in blind. Defining values involves asking questions that could border on the philosophical. Ask yourself and your leadership team what brings you to work every morning. Why do you do what you do? What is the difference you want to make? What kind of culture do you envision and what kind of people could bring that culture to life? Once you have the answers, go find the people who will make it happen alongside you. 

Next, define your teams

You need people to build your product, raise awareness around it,  sell it, and finally  address any concerns that may arise around your services. Apart from this, you need to plan for future product roadmaps. Build a buffer of administrative resources to ensure that the company runs smoothly and so on. So, at the very least, your FinTech should have the following:

Product and Software Development team

This is the lifeblood of your FinTech. They’re responsible for what your product looks like and how it functions. Ideally, a development team should consist of:

UI/UX designers who understand how users will interact with a product and design mobile and web applications accordingly. They’re essentially responsible for what your product looks like to the people who will actually use it.

Front-end developers who can develop and maintain the above discussed interface.

Back-end developers are responsible for the server-side development. They build the architecture that powers the front-end - i.e. the user-facing website or app. These websites and applications are built on commonly used languages such as Java, Python, Rust, etc - so it’s essential that developers are familiar with at least one if not more. 

The backend development team is a stronger competitive advantage for a FinTech than most other teams. This is the team that brings your ideas to life and cutting corners here could be risky. The current gold rush for engineering talent won’t make this job any easier but it would certainly be helpful if you determine and offer lots of non-cash incentives and perks that could lure developers. 

Testers - as the name suggests, they test the product before final deployment so that it’s bug-free. Testing team works closely with the engineering and product function. It’s where the rubber meets the road and hence, the testing team’s composition and quality must be suited to your specific business. FinTechs often have complicated product flows and lots of edge cases that must be tested for - experience and exposure are the guiding principles here. 

Risk and collections team

If you are in the business of money, it’s highly unlikely that you can get away without building a robust risk team. You’ll also need a collections team if you are in the business of digital credit of any kind. 

The overall performance and viability of your efforts is reliant on these teams. 

At a high level, they’re in charge of building and deploying underwriting models, monitoring credit risk, and implementing an effective collections process. You need individuals with a solid background in finance, statstics and data engineering who are comfortable analyzing data and leveraging statistical models to optimize risk decisions.

Customer support

Your customers will likely have recurring questions about your product, and will also come to you for support if things go wrong. And while it’s true that we’re in the age of chatbots, a lot of times, customers with a query are looking for a real human to speak to. 

Handing this role requires a deep understanding of the product alongside exceptional communication skills. 

Customer support can make or break your business, so ensure you don’t rush this hire - and once they’re in, offer them the support they need to become product experts.

Marketing team

FinTech, though booming, is still in a category defining/expansion mode. 

Having a marketing team, however small, can help get the word out and raise awareness around what you have to offer. Besides, you’re competing against incumbents - who, though traditional, enjoy customer trust. 

Hire a content creator and marketer who’s familiar with different forms of content such as videos, blogs, brochures, and websites. He or she should ideally be supported by an SEO specialist who can help the content gain visibility. Start with these and then add a designer, a video specialist, and a strategist to the team. Both B2B and B2C companies need marketing and it’s better to set up that function with well-defined mandates sooner than later. 

Sales team

Selling a FinTech product is no easy feat. You need sociable self starters who can build client relationships from the ground up. While previous SaaS sales experience is a plus, it’s not necessary. 

Sales is a ‘learn as you go’ kind of a role, and what’s more important than any particular skill is the drive to learn and the desire to help you grow your company.

Finally - have a recruitment expert to guide you through this process. As founders, you have enough to juggle at any point in time. Leveraging the expertise of someone who helps hire people for a living can only add value to the process.

And most importantly, no matter what the role - prioritize a good attitude over skill. The latter can be taught, and the former is hard to find!