ON THE SOFA

Op de bank met

EBURY

Melanie Dufour, Juan Lobato & Caroline Oosterbaan

ON THE SOFA

WITH

JUAN LOBATO FROM EBURY

Melanie Dufour, Juan Lobato & Caroline Oosterbaan

“Actually, I don’t like changes at all.”

Juan

ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN EARLY OCTOBER WE HAD PLANNED TO MEET IN PERSON BUT DUE TO COVID-19, THE INTERVIEW IS TAKING PLACE ONLINE. FROM THREE DIFFERENT EUROPEAN CITIES AND ON THREE DIFFERENT SOFAS, CAROLINE OOSTERBAAN, MEMBER OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AT NIBC IN THE HAGUE AND MELANIE DUFOUR, FINTECH SPECIALIST AT NIBC IN FRANKFURT, SPEAK TO JUAN LOBATO, CO-CEO AND CO-FOUNDER OF EBURY IN LONDON. JUAN, WHO WAS BORN IN SPAIN AND HAS BEEN A UK RESIDENT FOR TWENTY YEARS. EBURY WAS ONE OF NIBC’S FIRST FINTECH CLIENTS. CAROLINE AND MELANIE ASK HIM ABOUT FINTECH DEVELOPMENTS.

Caroline: “Hi Juan. It’s great that we can see and speak to each other thanks to the wonders of technology. And how wonderful that you’ve agreed to be our guest for the anniversary edition of our magazine.”

JUAN: “It’s an honour to be your guest. I came into contact with NIBC several years ago now through an investor and I immediately had a click with the organisation. NIBC believed in Ebury and I’m still really pleased about that. You gave us a chance. When I launched my first company, fintech didn’t exist yet. I sold software across the world, but it was very difficult to get the global financial traffic handled with my bank. We did business with various countries, so we had to contend with different currencies, exchange rates, etc. I had to figure out and learn a lot before I finally discovered how to do business efficiently on an international level. When I sold my software company, I thought it would be good to use my knowledge to help other companies with their international payments. That’s how Ebury came into being.”

JUAN
“I have one key piece of advice: embrace change!”

Melanie: “From your perspective, what characterises the relationship between Ebury and NIBC?”

JUAN: “As I got to know NIBC, I soon realised I was dealing with a creative organisation. You really were prepared to exchange ideas. Fintech was new, and there weren’t many banks in Europe that understood us as a company. We were looking for solutions that were not necessarily conventional for a medium-sized business such as ours. But you worked with us and together we looked for solutions to every problem and challenge.”

Melanie: “Ebury was our first fintech equity investment. How did you manage to convince our bank to invest in your company?”

JUAN answers with a smile and a wink: “That may have been thanks to our friendly approach. We had little experience in the banking world. It’s a complex world, but we have always taken an open and modest approach. Our guiding principle was that everyone is doing their best - both us and NIBC. Sometimes things go well, and other times not so well. In any case, we were pleased with our collaboration with banks, so when we were looking for an investor we thought it would be best to approach a bank. We knew we could learn a lot from each other. Ebury and NIBC really complement each other.”

Caroline: “You say you’re modest, but your growth strategy seems far from modest. How’s your future looking?”

JUAN: “These are uncertain times. We were growing rapidly, but COVID-19 is posing a challenge. It’s not possible to grow at an aggressive pace at the moment. We’re mainly using this period to optimise our organisation. Nobody knows what will happen, but when this is all over our organisation will be even more stable and well-prepared.”

Melanie: “Ebury is a success story. What is your success factor?”

JUAN: “To be successful, the right timing is important but you actually need luck. After all, no one really knows what will happen and what is the right timing. For Ebury, the timing turned out to be perfect when we started. There were a lot of disruptions and major changes and we took advantage of them. We were new players in a new industry, and we brought innovation to the table. That gave us a flying start and meant we could quickly expand to other European countries. There will be fewer major technological changes and innovations than in recent years. Hopefully, the timing will continue to be good for us. We are an independent company with a healthy foundation. Most fintech companies are not yet profitable and we hope to be able to build on that. That’s something I’m confident about.”

Caroline: “If we reflect on the past and look to the future, what would be your advice for banks?”

JUAN: “I have one key piece of advice: embrace change! Be open to change. Many fintech companies have been innovative and creative when it came to doing things differently, but banks can do the same. Tech companies are very willing to share their knowledge and collaborate with banks. They are happy to offer solutions. Banks can benefit from that; they have the right basis for it. In the near future, there will be two types of banks: those that are open to change, which are and will continue to be successful, and those that are not open to change and won’t make it.”

Caroline: “How were you able to embrace the changes and what was your experience of that at Ebury?”

JUAN: “Hahaha, now you’re really honing in on one of my weaknesses. Actually, I don’t like change at all. I’m very aware of that and so I surround myself with lots of people who compensate for it – people who love change and even encourage it. It’s important that we keep our radar on at all times. I’m in close contact with the investor community and I try to spot innovations and trends early on. In our sector, what we develop today may become obsolete tomorrow, so change is essential. That requires a team – and in that sense we complement each other well. Fortunately, it’s not just down to me.”


Caroline: “I hear you say that change is essential, but at the same time that you don’t really like it. Over the past ten years, you made bold decisions. How did you cope with the inherent risks and change involved?”

JUAN: “I really depend on the team. There is no way I could do this alone. It’s all about partnership; all the decisions we make are team decisions. Within the team, we share the knowledge as well as the burden and the risks. I may not like change, but I do always believe in possibilities. I stay focused on that and it keeps me positive.”

Melanie: “Juan, how do you see the digital future of banks?”

JUAN: “Banks will always exist, but service provision will change. Banks need to develop more digitally. Fintechs won’t replace banks. Some banks seem to be feeling that pressure, but I don’t think it will happen. There are only a few fintech companies that will take over service provision from banks. And in fact, fintechs will help banks to digitise. Digitisation offers a great opportunity for banks to expand and optimise their service provision for customers. Banks have already shown that they can develop great digital services for their customers. They don’t need to worry about being side-lined. In fact, the opposite will happen and collaboration will increase. Banks and fintech companies can learn a lot from each other and make use of each other’s qualities. The collaboration between NIBC and Ebury is a great example of that.”

Melanie: “Caroline, in closing I have a question for you. What’s the digital plan for NIBC?”

CAROLINE: “The partnership with Ebury, and those with other fintechs, have helped us as a bank. These partnerships have broadened our horizons and shown us the possibilities out there. They also enable us to reflect on our own organisation. Digital developments allow us to work differently, both on an internal level and with our clients. Also we have launched a number of fintech initiatives ourselves, the latest one being: yesqar. All in all, we learn a lot from fintech companies, and that’s an essential part of the development and growth of organisations such as NIBC.”

CAROLINE: “So I fully endorse Juan’s motto: embrace change! But I’d like to add: embrace partnership. After all, you make more progress together than alone.”

CAROLINE: “So I fully endorse Juan’s motto: embrace change! But I’d like to add: embrace partnership. After all, you make more progress together than alone.”
If you would like to know more about our services and how we can support you with your growth, please visit our website.