Fintech’s personality problem — why founders need to stand out from their crowd

Author: Kat Jackson, Head of Client Services of

The fintech sector in the UK has shown considerable growth in recent years. Yet it hasn’t been averse to the challenges faced by all businesses from the pandemic, through to talent shortages in the digital sector and — of course, the ongoing global recession. These challenges, despite the amount of investment cash still available in London and the wider UK, remain a threat to the ongoing success of any fintech business.

The simple fact is that while there are many fantastic fintech businesses, with talented founders, the right spirit and approach, all trying to build an innovative solution to a business or customer problem, there is also widespread competition. The market has become a great deal more complicated than the David vs. Goliath nature of just a few years ago, when tiny start-ups were bringing products and services to market which represented a fundamental threat to the laggard Giants of the financial sector. The titans are now quickly responding to existential threats by developing their own fintech solutions or acquiring the successful start-ups.

Just in time for this year’s Valentine’s Day, one such financial Goliath shot a Cupid’s arrow at fintech business Cushon, acquiring 85% of the business for £144m. So it’s a crowded, complex and fast-evolving sector - where new players are living and dying as much on their product innovations as the strength of their brand. When consumer fintech banks first emerged, there was little to choose between Atom, Starling, Revolut and Mondo (now Monzo). You can argue that Monzo’s greater attention to its bright orange card branding, and raising the profile of its business through smarter marketing, was the reason it’s looked to be the clear winner of the four. And before the dust had settled on a clear winner, editorial was already being written in the tech press about the new wave of threats.

In this time of recession — splurging on brand marketing can feel like a cost too far. Yet there’s a cheaper way to stand out. With Gen Z emerging as the next wave of consumer — it’s clear that they expect more from businesses they buy from. And there’s a domino effect where even B2B decision making is factoring in things like sustainability and the ethics of the business.

This is why developing and sharing a personal leadership brand for founders is a no-brainer when you take all these factors into account. It’s not about letting a PR tell you they can make you the next Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos, but there is definitely room for putting personality up there with the product when it comes to PR & Marketing in 2023.

Leaders who consistently tick 3 boxes in their personal branding can create a PR profile that not only adds to their business profile but can even become the unfair competitive advantage that will have clients calling your business and not a rival’s:

Be regular

It’s easy for leaders to think profile PR is something to do once, dine out on for a while, and then forget. Or only appear in titles that fit the status of a founder/CEO. But your future clients aren’t reading the FT every morning looking for your name, they might be reading Small Business Issues R Us, where your profile and advice would stand out from the crowd. This can prove infinitely more effective than waiting for ‘red carpet PR’ placement only.

Be authentic

Readers can smell a rat from far away — and anything inauthentic gives an instantly negative credibility rating to anything you might say. This doesn’t mean you can’t bring up your business and what it does, but it’s a fine line between selling yourself and your business and overselling your products and services in a glorified ad.

Be connected

It’s always surprising to see how many leaders are putting things out on their social channels without much impact, but also without thinking strategically about who they’re trying to reach. Adding key industry contacts to your network, whether that’s event organisers, podcast hosts or analysts in your sector, will dramatically boost your personal brand to the marketplace.

Most leaders know who they are - but with so much focus on injecting themselves into their business, they’re forgetting to tell the wider world. Given this year’s challenges, it’s time to revisit any small advantage to be found. And a personal brand is a relatively simple thing to develop.