CEO and co-founder, Akoni
Grit is my single top tip. Gather all your energy and focus on what you are trying to achieve.
What do you do?
As the CEO and founder of Akoni, I oversee strategy and manage general operations of our business as well as business and corporate development and making major corporate decisions, together with our management team. Being a co-founder is both exciting as well as challenging, as we work in a fast-moving space, with the market and technologies rapidly evolving as well as client and partner needs. Our business is small and structured to work in a very agile manner and we are focused on specific objectives and growth management.
On a day to day basis, I meet with our clients and partners, including large-scale data providers and banks, as well as other types of financial institutions, within the UK and globally. I also manage our funding and new and ongoing investor relationships and oversee our governance and regulatory requirements, as one of our subsidiary companies is FCA regulated, working with multiple banking / financial services providers.
In terms of strategy, I read continuously in terms of market trends and analytics, through both the standard media, specialist fintech and financial services, as well as a large range of google alerts on topics of interest. Myself and my-founder Panos and our management team spend time reflecting and discussing key market trends and data innovations and have an ongoing feedback look with key partners. We gain continuous feedback from our clients and partners, as well as market trends in terms of the prioritisation of next stages of delivery of solutions.
Why did you choose this field?
I love the process of creating, innovating and executing, as well as leadership and responsibility – I consider myself fortunate that this is the fascinating craft that business enables. I also love the pace of change, and delivering on innovation in an exciting environment. I have always worked within financial services driving innovation and did not have role models however I knew that I would aspire to change this. I have worked in the fintech sector for approximately 4 years, and within financial services for 26 years, and am a deep sector specialist, with many mentors in different aspects of my earlier career. After graduating with a degree in information systems and becoming a CA, I knew I would pursue a career in finance. I realised early on in my career that I wanted to grow my own business, and it took me many years of establishing myself and my network prior to going out there.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I wish I would have known how important it is to take care of your health and fitness as well as getting sufficient sleep, and gathering all the support you can to enable this as well as support relating to family and friends. I also believe strongly in focusing on your vision and pushing forward, through all difficulties, so finding a way of seeing each situation as a mountain to climb and conquer, developing an attitude of strength and professionally delivering develops your dependence and credibility. I would say to my younger self that every challenge I encounter, will eventually contribute to my journey and it is my decision whether or not to allow myself to be defeated by this.
Why do you love working in STEM?
Building and growing. To wake up everyday knowing that no day is the same and getting ever closer to the goal in mind is extremely exciting. At the moment we are going through an investment round and recruiting new team members, as well as expanding our reach and finally distributing our product on a white label basis. Being able to see your company grow and analysing the new disruptions that are rapidly changing this industry everyday is what I look forward to.
I also love contributing towards a more resilient society – I believe technology and finance enable democratisation of financial services: essentially providing products at low cost to small businesses and consumers that previously were only available to large global multinationals and HNWs. This creates a more level playing field and ultimately contributes to greater growth and resilience across all of society.
Best advice for next generation?
Grit is my single top tip. Gather all your energy, focus on what you are trying to achieve and do not pay attention to anyone with negative views. The sector has a fantastic range of opportunities and decides which is best for you. Always behave above your current level or pay grade - be the consummate professional and go the extra mile, continuing to apply yourself and be fully committed.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
Cleopatra is unquestionably my role model.