Ex-banker turned GoCardless president Paul Stoddart talks fintech, Brexit, pandemic recovery and Russia
At the start of this month, Paul Stoddart jumped ship to become the president of the newly-minted fintech unicorn GoCardless.
Stoddart, who describes himself as a “banker by trade,” spent years at Natwest, Barclays, and was most recently the chairman of Mastercard’s VocaLink.
In an exclusive interview with City A.M., Stoddart said that joining GoCardless was part of a “conscious decision to move out of the big corporate world and be more involved in establishing and growing businesses where you can see the impact more directly.”
The London-based payments firm, which launched in 2011, aims to fix the way businesses collect invoices and make recurring payments by building technology on top of the world’s existing banking systems.
GoCardless focuses on recurring and subscription payments, from gym memberships or magazine subscriptions, to utility bills and school fees.
“Increasingly businesses, both digital and physical, are switching to a more loyalty type payment structure, because if you think about it, a one-off transaction, your relationship is over pretty quickly,” he said.
“With the ability to maintain engagement over a period of time, it improves your opportunities to upsell, cross sell, and all sorts of other things”.
Stoddart explained that GoCardless aimed to be “more of a partner” to the banks rather than a direct competitor.
“In an interest rate-rising environment, they’d be better off focusing on lending,” he said, rather than developing cardless technology.
Stoddart said that Britain’s exit from the European Union has not had a detrimental impact on the business, and instead has actually made the firm “double down” on its efforts to grow overseas.
Stoddart said that rather than trying to serve the European market from London, the firm has sought to boost its presence in a number of countries across the channel.
“We weren’t trying to establish relationships from scratch in a post-Brexit environment,” he explained.
“We’re not trying to service customers in France out of our UK office. We are localised to the extent that we need to be, and that’s actually very important for any business to consider.”
“It is now highly inefficient to try and service multiple markets from a single market base because of the regulatory regime.”
“I think the goal for me is that for us to be competing effectively locally, we have to show up locally.”
“We have to look like a domestic player and not like a foreign player trying to kind of scrape the cream off the top.”
“So in actual fact, we’ve made decisions to double down on our investment to make it successful.”
People do business with people
The firm, like every other business, has also had to battle the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Stoddart said that while some positives could be drawn from companies being forced to think more about how to communicate and collaborate more effectively with employees not being in the office, the lack of human interaction has obviously taken its toll on businesses.
“People do business with people,” he said, adding that if people can’t build relationships effectively it can be detrimental to a business.
His main concern coming out of the pandemic was a “bit of a lag” in new business, as they have not yet been able to properly capitalise on relationships established during the pandemic.
“You can’t shortcut that. You have to go through the process.”
He said, however, there was now a “level of excitement and enthusiasm from people as they’re getting back into the office, spending time with their colleagues and coworkers.”
“I’m hoping that can be harnessed,” he said.
“If it wasn’t for the very distressing situation in Ukraine, the economy would be benefiting from a real boost in terms of enthusiasm, energy and engagement,” he added.
He concluded by saying GoCardless has no ties to Russia.
“We are not actively doing business [in Russia]” he said, adding that the firm would not want to be exposed to any potential money laundering risk
“It’s not a market we’ve looked to expand into.” With GoCardless’ growth, it might soon be the only one.