In the latest edition of the Full Stack Leader, we talked to Wayne Hennessy-Barrett, founder and CEO of 4G Capital, about finance and leadership.
Wayne discusses the FinTech landscape in Africa and elaborates on the problem of access to working capital for small businesses and the role of mobile money. He focuses on leveraging mobile technology to address fundamental financial challenges.
In the conversation, Wayne talks about the importance of courage, emphasizing that it underlies virtues such as integrity, resilience, and trust, enabling leaders to make tough decisions and navigate the unknown.
He highlights the significance of respecting others, customers, colleagues, and one’s self – this fosters trust, recognition of universal values, and accountability within a team or organization.
Another great point Wayne makes is the commitment to excellence, asserting that a conscious dedication to excellence is crucial for overcoming mediocrity and unlocking individual and collective potential.
Top leadership tips from Wayne Hennessy-Barrett
Below is a summary of the top Leadership tips shared during this week’s interview. Listen to the episode to learn more about the thoughts behind these tips:
- You’ve got to have courage to have anything else
- Respect the others and yourself
- Commit to excellence
- Whatever you do, stay committed
- Embrace the growth mindset
We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find more Full Stack Leader episodes here.
Part 1. On the career and experience
Ryan: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Full Stack Leader podcast. This week, I’m here with Wayne Hennessy-Barrett. He’s the founder and CEO of 4G Capital – a lending group out of Africa – who is doing some really innovative things and has a really great perspective on the FinTech world in a very interesting region.
It’s amazing to have you here, and I’m looking forward to our conversation.
Wayne: Ryan, thanks for having me. It’s a great place to be here.
From military service to finance leadership
Ryan: Awesome. I want to get into what 4G does and some of the unique ways in which you’re handling finance in a really innovative region. But I’d like to start by getting some perspective on who you are and where you came from.
Your history is really interesting. Maybe let’s start at the beginning. How did you even end up in this space?
Wayne: Oh, sure. Thank you so much for having me, Ryan. I guess it’s a slightly atypical backstory. My dad was American. Mother was Irish. I lived in the US till about five, then schooled and educated in the UK.
Always very mission-driven, always impatient to try to close with problems and challenges. So, I found myself joining the British army. I was an infantry officer for 17 years. In the end, before it was time for a change of gear and a change of scene, I found myself working in a finance company in Africa and then leading a management buyout and being captain of my own ship with a lot of help.
Making a strategic transition
Ryan: Yeah, that sounds pretty amazing. So, you started in the military, and then you transitioned into this. How do you move from a military background into a pretty deep and innovative finance background?
Wayne: I was very lucky. I was able to design the move.
I’ll be pretty candid here. By the time I’d been in Afghanistan and Iraq, I’d seen what was going on. I saw the strategic challenges there, the obstacles to actually solving the problem we were trying to solve in the first place. I wanted to move to a profession that was creating value rather than dealing with threats or trying to manage risks with faltering will behind us, if I can put it that way. So, I had the most incredibly lucky career. I had the most extraordinary experiences. I worked with genuine heroes, very inspiring men and women.
And that gave me a lot of strength and also maybe allowed me to pick up a couple of skills along the way. But I knew I wanted to get out. And so I used my last job in the army. I was an executive officer of my infantry battalion, the Coldstream Guards. And I treated that as a CRO role. The commanding officer was a close friend of mine. He was the CEO, and I said, “I’m the CRO. You tell me what you want to happen, and I’ll make it happen.” But I started looking at the inputs and the outputs in a much more business-like way. I started reading everything I could to try to re-equip myself for being useful commercially,
I didn’t quite know where I’d go, but I left. I had a very small stint consulting just whilst I looked at what was going on. Then, I was headhunted by a South African consumer finance company. We said we wanted to set up a lending business in Kenya. And that was an incredible opportunity. And so that began in 2013. So yeah, I thought about it. I decided I’ve got to be open to opportunities.
You’ve got to be very open and receptive to these things as they come along as well.
Transferable skills for planning and adaptability
Ryan: Yeah, that makes sense. That’s great. What did you really take from your military experience as you’ve had it? I want to talk in a minute just a little bit more about where you went from there, but what did you learn being in the military and coming into a space that’s really completely different?
Wayne: Yeah. The common theme of transferable skills.
And this works for anybody who’s shifting from one career to another. You could go from medicine to the media or media to medicine. There are lots of people who do things all the time. And actually, there’s a lot of thought about career changes as you’re toward the apogee of career one, or you’ve mastered the skills of career one, and it’s time to put yourself into discomfort and start learning again to really grow and work on the skill stacking.
What does the military give you, particularly as a leader, the ability to plan, the ability to lead, the ability to communicate, the ability to manage many information inputs – “intel,” as we used to call it, and try to analyze that for patterns and themes and to come up with a common operating picture. That’s your market research, your product-market fit, and how you are going to do a solution to come up with a planning framework where you can look at risks and opportunities, match what resources are needed, come up with the framework for a strategy to manage ends, ways and means.
All these things matter. You’ve got to actually have stuff that matters in each of those buckets to have a plan that can be deployed and start stuff moving. But you’ve also got to know that the plan is never going to go the way you plan it because no plan survives contact with the enemy, as we’re taught.
So you’ve got to have this comfort. There’s a lot of misapprehension about the military and the military mindset. It’s not about rigidity. It’s not about following orders. It’s certainly not about telling people what to do. It’s about getting the best out of teams by being comfortable with ambiguity but knowing what you’re trying to achieve ultimately and looking at things thematically and with a very strong focus on values. So I got a lot of that, and that’s been very helpful to this day.
Entrepreneurial journey unfolds
Ryan: Wow. Okay. Thanks. Taking those ideas as you moved out of that realm into more of the private sector and finance, what were your next steps, and how did you get into that world?
Wayne: So, literally, we moved from the UK mainland to Jersey and the Channel Islands, old Jersey, not New Jersey, which is where my wife’s from. And it’s a very small, very lovely, very beautiful island with a lot of financial services on it. A lot of talent here. It’s an incredible place in itself; I was working at a very small boutique consultancy, which was a good apprenticeship to some of the realities of the commercial world.
From there, I was headhunted by a South African consumer finance company. They said, “Look, we like ex-military guys. We know we can drop you in the bush, in the middle of nowhere. You can make things happen.” And that’s pretty much exactly what happened. So I went to Kenya at the start of 2013, working for these guys, and built a business unit from ground zero, literally going off the plane. It was the 13th – no, the 12th of January 2013. And then, six weeks later, we had our first loan out the door. I’d hired a team. I’d got all that kind of initial system set up. Nine months later, we had cash flow break even.
And then, 18 months later, I negotiated and led a management buyout. And that’s when the fun really started.
Navigating risk, growth, and customer success
Ryan: Wow. That has a lot to happen in a very short period of time, including moving continents and diving into a region that you’re really getting into for the first time. I can see why they looked at picking you up if you could make that adjustment that quickly. After the management buyout, though, what was next on your plate, and how did you take that and evolve?
Wayne: Yeah. This is the start of my entrepreneurial journey. So you’ve got the cold terror of owning all the risk, all of it.
So you don’t have anybody else to go, “Oh, that’s all right. We’ll cover that.” It’s all on you. We had to survive, we had to raise capital to grow, and thank God we had the product market fit right in the first place. We had a very effective product, which is still a flagship – a 30-day working capital loan for micro-entrepreneurs to buy and sell inventory.
And we blend that product with enterprise training. So they get knowledge on how to grow a better business, keep records, budget, plan, etc., and that’s what we do. Our company mission is to grow cap; we grow business with capital and knowledge. And that kind of clarity of purpose is our North Star.
But yeah, I bootstrapped for just over a year, didn’t pay myself, and dropped our life savings into the company to keep pushing forward and making things happen. And that was pretty special. Then, we raised our first seed investment close at the start of 2016 with an incredible anchor investor who I will now embarrass: Tom Barry, who is the founder of Zephyr Acorn and a very experienced titan of private equity investment in emerging markets.
And he’s been a great friend, mentor, and board member over this last run. From there, we raised what we needed when we needed it, kept a focus on profitability, managed growth and customer success, and really set our compass on the customer’s growth, health, and well-being.
Learning to tell the right story
Ryan: Wow. That sounds amazing. Congratulations. But I do want to go back to one thing you brought up just a minute ago: “You took your whole life savings.” You jumped into this world of entrepreneurship, and it sounds like you had a very challenging year or two at the beginning. What were some of the big lessons you learned as you got into that? And as you were trying to figure out how to bring capital to your company, I’m assuming.
Wayne: Yeah. Where to start? I’ve done just about everything wrong that you can do wrong as an entrepreneur. And just the need for high pain tolerance and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Ryan: I think that’s something that works for all, but the thing That means that you actually do keep going as opposed to dying in the sandstorm is the need to learn. I was awful at telling our story. Awful. And I had to learn pretty quickly how to get better at doing that. I was very functional. Yeah. What were you doing? When you say “awful,” what was awful about it?
Wayne: I was being very linear. In a way, I was being a typical infantryman, and I started explaining what I was doing and why I was doing it, and that’s the wrong way round.
And I was talking to everybody that I could meet to try to get a check written. And what I wasn’t doing, actually, was targeting the right people to speak to, finding who is going to be aligned, prioritizing those engagements because your time is your one non-renewable resource. You can pretty much replenish everything else, but not time.
And you burned a lot of shoe leather, a lot of wasted conversations, but then possibly some of those conversations would have gone better if I’d led with the problem I was solving and led with the customer, which is really what this is all about.
I was doing myself a disservice because customer success is my obsession. They are the most resilient, most inspiring, most amazing people, 80 percent women, 40 percent youth, 77 percent rural business owners buying and selling agri goods, vegetables, agricultural supply chain, household items, and they’re buying and selling this stuff every day.
They’re up at four in the morning, and they’re getting their kids ready for school. They’re keeping the show on the road, and they are ambitious. And they are highly profitable, and they have great margins. They just need a hand. And I can relate to that, and I can relate to those people. And so when I started focusing on telling their story and then how we’re helping them, suddenly, people started sitting up and taking notice. I hope that’s got better since then.
Bridging gaps with mobile money and education
Ryan: That’s great, yeah. And it’s a kind of nuance of the process of getting people aligned with your vision to where you’re really giving them the “why,” right? ” Here’s why this matters,” and allow them to be a part of that. So, once you’ve got them excited about that and you were able to bring in some investment and really get the company going, maybe tell everyone a little bit about how it works and like what you actually are doing to change finance in the African landscape, because it’s very interesting in the way that you evaluate people who might be able to receive loans, and how you’re making decisions that have been very good so far.
Wayne: Thank you. Thank you. So, the problem we solve is access to working capital for small businesses. And while financial inclusion, banking, and access to credit have got much, much better in East Africa – in Kenya and Uganda, where we work, there’s still a huge gap to fill. The finance gap across sub-Saharan Africa is something like 500 billion, which is massive. Globally, five trillion dollars.
This is where you want to lead. Okay. So, the customer problem and the total addressable market globally are $5 trillion. So, please, all investors driving along and listening to this podcast, this is the important bit: Don’t swerve off the road, but this is the size of the opportunity that we’ve developed the delivery mechanism to address and solve.
So these guys need more easily accessible working capital loans on the right terms for their business delivered through a channel that they can affordably access because they don’t have laptops and computers, but they do have mobile phones, feature phones, and now prevalently smartphones. So, we can provide these loans using mobile money.
So, it’s called M-Pesa in Kenya. If you imagine money by SMS, okay, your phone is a wallet, and you can transfer fiat currency by SMS channel, and your wallet will be credited to your phone, and the sender will be deducted. You can cash it out at a terminal and turn it into paper, or you can put paper into a terminal and get it digitized onto your phone.
And that’s the magic of the Kenyan and the African mobile money landscape. So that’s what we do. And we provide these micro lessons. For every loan, you get a little lesson, whether it’s five or 15 minutes deployed via our YouTube channel on your device or through a relationship officer face-to-face or on the phone.
The customers learn to keep better records, make better business plans, and start thinking about the future and how to manage their finances. I guess what differentiates us from other lenders is that. We’re not just trying to shove money at people to grow our own loan book; we are making sure we’re lending to the right person, the right amount on the terms that work for them, and they understand the proposition, and we’re so blessed because the market we’re in is growing exponentially. By 2050, one in three working adults will be on the continent of Africa, and one in four human beings will be and
Coming to Kenya, particularly, which is an amazingly stable democracy with a functional rule of law. They have 93% green energy production through geothermal, wind, or solar. So, if you’re interested in having your supply chains sustainably delivered, this is an incredible place to invest in to get your business set up.
And we’re here to help to grow that economy. So yeah, it’s an amazing place to be.
Regulatory shifts, tech evolution, and talent surge
Ryan: What has it been like to actually grow a business from where you were even five years ago in Africa in Kenya and Uganda, and like, how has the landscape shifted not only just in terms of how you’re seeing the ability to do lending, but like in the actual business side itself and what you’re managing,
has it been easy to create tech there? Has it been challenging to get through certain regulations? What are some of the things you’ve faced?
Wayne: Thank you. Yeah, the speed of change has been pretty phenomenal when you think about it. So, the regulatory landscape has evolved for the better, which is great.
When we started, there was no regulation for lending. Now, digital lenders need a license from the Central Bank of Kenya. We are one of only 30 companies to have that license (out of the total 500 digital lenders). That puts us in a good space in a crowded market, but where we succeed for the reasons I described, we focus on our customers.
I don’t really worry about the competition. I wish them very well. A healthy industry is good for everybody. But this is a fast-growing market. We solve one particular part of its problems. And so that’s a great place to be. So that’s regulation. Similarly, in Uganda, there’s a decent regulatory framework.
Secondly, technology. Ten years ago, you had to build everything yourself. And very energetic, local talent but not always with access to the most modern practices. Today, Kenyan developers, quite a lot of them, are working in Google in Mountain View, with whom I was very happy to share a couple of drinks when I was in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago with Meg Whitman.
And there is this incredible ecosystem. We also see many more options for building off-the-shelf solutions in a more composable and decomposable banking-as-a-service architecture. So that just didn’t used to exist. Now it does. So they’re parts of our digital estate, which we pay visas for, and we bring in from providers, the stuff, which we think is what gives us the magic advantage that we build ourselves. And the nice thing is that you can switch it in and out to a much greater degree today than you used to be able to and then finally talents the hunger, the growth.
We’ve got over a thousand employees now in Kenya and Uganda. Ten years ago, clearly, we had rather fewer; they tended to be older. They tended to be more experienced in conventional microfinance. Today, the vast majority are young graduates. We still have a lot of our veterans from back in the day, which is just magical.
And I’m so proud. My chief operations officer began as the HR manager, two of our product leads began as junior fields and relationship officers, and now they drive the PNL. It is an incredibly beautiful story, and I’m extremely proud of them all. But yeah, you’ve got these hungry, ambitious, educated, incredibly hardworking, and talented people who are looking at the future with a lot of hope, ambition, and competence.
And that’s the important word because dreams are cute. You’ve got to make the rubber hit the road, and you’ve got to be able to run an operation. And so it’s a great place to do business. There are challenges, of course, and I can talk about those.
Africa’s tech hubs
Ryan: Yeah. What does the tech hub in Africa look like?
I know Kenya is a big central point for that, but is there a specific area or a region that people are pulling from?
Wayne: So Africa is the world’s biggest continent. It’s 54 different countries, and the cardinal points for technology are Nairobi Lagos, Abuja, Nigeria, Cairo in the north of Egypt, and then South Africa – centered around Cape Town, Johannesburg, etc.
So, if you think of Africa as a gigantic diamond, each of those points has those hubs, and those tend to serve their immediate regions. I think it depends on what you’re trying to do. And I think that you have to get the right match for the problem you’re solving for the region you’re in.
And these are big regions. The East African region has 500 million people. So these are big markets within a huge market. You’ve got to get the right blend of local expertise, particularly in product design, and then world-class engineering. You’ve got to have world-class engineering.
And that’s very much there in some places. In other places, it’s still a work in progress. So we have a combination of international and local staff for these things.
Tech talent boom
Ryan: Wow, that’s pretty amazing. And have you found that there’s new training for developers in these regions?
And is there a big push to cultivate that job landscape?
Wayne: Very much. Each of those places has its own phalanx of incubators, coding schools, and ecosystem drivers. And then you just look where the big names are: we’ve got Microsoft, we’ve got Google, we’ve got IBM in Nairobi alone.
And, of course, there are elsewhere. And there are other guys who I have to stop from pinching my staff because they’re so good, right? But I take it as a compliment. It’s good. No, that’s great. But what’s nice is when they come back as well, or when we get guys who’ve had that experience in those organizations, and they go, okay, “I want to get my hands down again.
I want to get back in the field, and I want to see what I’m doing. I want to see tangible lives being changed as we enrich our customer value proposition and we enrich our digital channels.”
Opportunities and challenges for finance in Africa
Ryan: Yeah, I know you’re doing a lot of the engineering workaround, like the way you deliver payments and the way that you’re assessing after people have received loans and engaged with it.
Are you looking at any of the alternative payment mechanisms or currencies as possibilities as well? I know Web3 has been up and down in terms of its popularity, but one of the big regions that has been talked about pretty consistently is Africa and the potential value of Web3.
Do you see that?
Wayne: I do. I think about it all the time, and it’s very interesting. I think we don’t have to reprise all that sort of Greek tragedy of crypto over the last 12 months, but it’s a different outlook in Africa.
Because many of the regular fiat currencies themselves are pretty volatile, that delta between crypto volatility and fiat is much closer indexing of risk between that and, say, the dollar and Bitcoin or Ethereum or whatever. And then, when you talk about a stable coin solution where you have the advantages of blockchain or distributed ledger approach of tokenizing and managing value and value storage and being able to put in a transactional solution, you can see why people are interested. That said, African governments are growing and working very hard to grow their economies.
Fiscal policy and control over that kind of use of currency are as important there as they are everywhere else. But I can see whether the overlaps might get more traction there than maybe the FTC’s apparent outlook on crypto in the US.
So I think, like everywhere, the way you turn these concepts into success is by highly responsible application. We’ve been crazy hard about risk and government risks and compliance and all that stuff from the get-go, partially. It’s probably shaped by my own background, but I just think when you’re dealing with credit, particularly payments and people’s money, you just got to be really careful.
You’ve got to be safe. So, I think the opportunities are there. But yeah, with those caveats.
Small transactions, large impact
Ryan: that’s really interesting. Yeah. I think about the valuation landscape of when you lend at given points and that volatility, at one moment, could be really valuable for someone. At another moment, it may not be enough. They may have lost it really quickly. Is that something that these people face?
Wayne: I’m not so much my customers. A couple of them will be crypto guys. But like everybody, what are you doing? Are you speculating?
Are you doing this as part of your balance portfolio? So you’ve got a couple of cows, and you’ve got a couple of bucks of crypto in what is hopefully a sensible wallet. You’ve got some savings in a savings cooperative. Then, you’ve got the inventory of your business. The wealth is illiquid and can be pretty volatile, but our loan amounts are tiny. They’re $50 to $1,500.
But we’ll move a hundred thousand of them plus a month. So, these are large-scale small transactions for low-income people so that they can become medium-income people. And then, I hope, one day, high-income people.
AI and automation in transforming finance
Ryan: Do you think there are any really great tech plays that are going to help you achieve this goal over the next little bit that might be game-changing?
Wayne: I think “more of the same” is a really smart approach. What has worked for us before? Let’s keep building and doing more of that, but then it’s also “using emerging technologies where they add value.” We have to talk about AI now. And clearly, we’re looking at LLP chatbot services for endpoints. This is not new, but bringing it competently into our digital estate into our customer endpoints and increasing automation makes you more efficient; there’s going to be an outlay, but it improves your margins. It, therefore, makes it more resilient. It allows you to serve more people more quickly at scale, but what we’ve got to hold on to with white knuckles and never ever let go is that portfolio quality, which is based on lending to the right people in the first place, which is based on a commitment to their success,
That’s what we got right. That’s what we’re going to keep getting right. But we need to be able to use automation and the power of data and data extrapolation to do that at scale. We closed our series C lab around last year, and that’s what we’ve been investing in.
It’s looking extremely promising, and we’re seeing the performance uptick in the teams that are converted to the new platform already. And that’s just incredibly exciting. And it’s the start of the journey. I’ve been doing this for ten years. I feel like I’ve barely got started. This is the train set I wanted to have in the first place.
But that’s how it goes. Things don’t land in your lap. You’ve got to build it. And actually, that’s the joy.
Ryan: That’s great. Yeah. And it would be boring if you had it right away, too. So you gotta get to that.
Wayne: I could probably stand that boredom, but yeah,
Ryan: Listen, it’s been amazing to talk to you and really insightful on the path that you’re taking to really open up the world of fintech in a region that is really right for a lot of experimentation and seeing how people can work together. So, thanks for sharing all of that insight.
And I’m excited to come back with you in just a minute to hear your top leadership tips.
Wayne: You’re very kind, and it’s been a real privilege to talk to you
Part 2. Top leadership tips
Ryan: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Full Stack Leader podcast. I’m here with Wayne Hennessy-Barrett. We are talking about FinTech in the African region and, really, growing technology within that region as well. So, I’m really excited to hear your top five tips because you have such a unique background. Let’s jump into it. What’s tip number one for you?
Tip 1: You’ve got to have courage to have anything else
Wayne: Thank you, Ryan. Tip number one is courage. It is the wellspring of all virtue. You really have to have the courage to have anything else. You can’t have integrity, resilience, or endurance without courage. You can’t make the hard decisions when you need to, and those are the protective elements, but you also can’t trust other people or see beyond the horizon without overcoming the fear of the unknown.
That’s really, I think, number one, but it does need to be balanced so you’re not being reckless, but yeah, courage is number one.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s a great one. And to really run an organization and to step into unusual circumstances or things that you’re trying to discover, you have to lead with that.
It’s really important. How about tip number two? What do you have?
Tip 2: Respect the others and yourself
Wayne: So number two is respect. It’s respect for others. It’s respect for the customers or colleagues or stakeholders, your investors, and very much respect for yourself and what’s right for you and everyone.
Regardless of their background, we’re all on a journey that’s shaped by our circumstances, and without validation and without recognition, people’s behavior starts to strain, and fear, anger, and frustration come in. Respecting and recognizing universal values overcomes prejudice, unlocks trust, and also allows accountability. You will be happy to be held accountable if you respect other people and, indeed, yourself and you can hold other people accountable because you know that you can expect great things from them, and if that’s not happening, then you’re entitled to ask why
Ryan: What’s a format of respect with your team that works really well with them?
Wayne: People on staff are incredibly polite to begin with. So you begin everything with the common courtesy of “How are you doing?” to get those pleasantries out of the way. And there’s that, but then something that we bring into our culture. A couple of mantras: “Be relentless on the problem, but supportive of each other.”
So regardless of the hotspot that you’ll have, you go, “Hey, listen, I’m not against you. I’m trying to solve this problem, and I know you are as well, so let’s get onto that.” that’s a good way of doing it.
I think looking at it through this particular lens covers inclusion. This covers equality, this covers all the things that matter so much but without necessarily reusing some languages, just getting a little bit overused sometimes, I think. Because if you pin it down to respect, then that means respect. And so that means courtesy. It means standards. It means love and being there for each other.
The company runs on love. I was a professional soldier, but the ancient Spartans define the opposite of fear, not as courage, but as love, because love of your comrades, love of your country, love of your mission. And so that’s a really important channel to just be aware of.
Ryan: That’s amazing. Thank you. How about tip number three?
Tip 3: Commit to excellence
Wayne: Excellence. I’m unapologetic about it, but it’s a harder word to use today because there’s rightly an enormous commitment to give everything, giving everyone a voice, and giving everyone space. But if you’re not consciously committed to excellence, then you have a subconscious commitment to mediocrity.
If you’re not demanding excellence from yourself but also expecting excellence from other people, you’re not respecting their potential or their agency when you accept those standards. We all have this same fire in our hearts.
Everybody wants to be part of some of the matters. Something that’s bigger than themselves. It means striving, pushing through the pain barrier, and going the extra mile. Yeah. Then, that excellence mindset drives precision and clarity. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So many wonderful army phrases you can chuck around now, but it does work.
It does work. And any athlete, any successful company, nobody does anything half-baked.
Ryan: Do you think the incentives for excellence with your team are inherently baked in, or do you guys help bring them out using different tools? Is there a specific way in which you inspire excellence?
Wayne: We work so hard to get this right, and I don’t think you can ever stop working hard to try to get it right. You’ve also got to keep listening to your people, so I really value feedback and my guys and girls and ladies telling me what they need. And the commercial element is super important.
So, we operate bonus systems, which are based on collection rates as well as disbursement rates in traditional credit. The sales guys get their bonus if they sell out a ton of loans, and then the recovery guys get their bonuses if they make sure they get repaid one way or another.
That can be quite an unattractive way of doing business. So we make our people responsible for both those metrics. And that then ties into customer success because you’ve got to lend to the right customer on the terms that work for them.
So we think we got that about right, but then actually the less tangible things, your recognition, promotion opportunities, investing in staff training not just telling them they’re great, because it’s nice, actually believing and knowing they’re great and only hiring great people. We know we hire people for energy, attitude, and talent. We can teach you the rest. You don’t have to be a portfolio-whiz kid; you’re just smart and hungry and integrity-led and part of a mission that actually makes communities better, makes the country better, and makes the world better. We’re doing green finance. I didn’t talk about this. We’re doing green asset financing now, and we’re financing electric vehicles.
We’re financing solar power units and stuff like that. This is exciting. And we can give people the opportunity to be part of that, but we need professional behaviors that mean it succeeds. And so, having this kind of warrior culture is based on really positive outcomes. It’s a lovely thing. We can never stop at it.
The culture is probably my number one responsibility as a founder.
Ryan: That’s great. Yeah, I hear all of it, and I can hear your balance between that warrior-like attitude but also the care and the thoughtfulness and, as you put it, the kind of love in it. That’s really amazing.
How about tip number four? What do you have?
Tip 4: Whatever you do, stay committed
Wayne: Commitment. Again, it’s a “Yeah, God, can we not have something a bit more technical?” These are simple, basic things, but without them, you’re done. Entrepreneurship, solving hard problems. Whether you’re a staff member or whether you’re on the ExCo and you’re managing some huge change program, or indeed one of our investors, you’ve got to be committed. You’ve got to be committed, and you’ve got to be in it, and you’ve got to be all in. And there are times when you just want to quit and times when actually you do have to cut base on a particular thing that just ain’t working, but that’s in order to win at the big game so that you’re not burning resources and some of that’s not working, but you just you’ve got to commit. This is committing. We are solving a very hard problem. We are doing what is thought impossible. We’re giving unsecured credit to low-income Africans with pretty much no data, no deposits, and no security; they don’t bank with us.
We’re doing this, and we’re making money. They’re making money. Our investors are making money. This works. You can’t be half-pregnant. You’ve got to be all in.
Ryan: Yeah. That makes sense. And commitment means different things to different people.
But it is a requirement when you’re thinking about guiding people into really challenging unknown situations in a lot of ways. All right. How about tip number five? What have you got?
Tip 5: Embrace the growth mindset
Wayne: Number five is growth. All these things interrelate, and I’ve got a usual sort of boss slide with lots of circles with the names, and they all overlap, and they move around.
But money’s in the input. The output is growth. The output is joy. The output is relationships. The output is the things that make life special and worth living. The customer success, brand, business, personal growth, and family growth all come as a result of moving capital from A to B and back to A again with alpha so that we can be the stewards and the catalysts of growth and become better versions of ourselves.
And we’re a B Corporation, we’re Africa’s highest scoring B Corporation. This matters because it’s an external validation of our commitment to shared value creation and to shared growth. This commitment makes your counterparty, whether it’s an investor or a channel partner or your customer, your ally, and it makes you their indispensable partner.
They will benefit from having you in their life, but it does require thought. It requires you to plan the journey for the company you want to be, for the person you want to be, the life you want to have. What kind of world do we want to live in? And it’s a world that is nested in a universe of abundance.
I’m a big fan of Peter Diamandis and this mindset. This enabling mindset of a universe of abundance, we have unlimited solar power, and we have huge amounts of wind power. We have unlimited human potential. We have this enormous demographic dividend that is coming in Africa. I do not like the narrative of a low-populated world because it takes you to some pretty unpleasant solutions to that.
Okay. And that’s not great. We are on a planet that can feed itself ten times over if we just get agriculture, right? We can create limitless electricity. If we just use the right forms of power, we can clear up the mess that we’ve made. We can solve these problems. Climate change is a reality, but we can manage it if we do the right things now and if we’re committed to growth responsibly, sustainably, and all the rest of it. So I think we do need to be up for the fight, up for the challenge, clear-eyed looking at these challenges and not being downbeat about the portends of doom, which is entirely possible if we don’t do the right thing now.
But if you say that it’s going to happen, then suddenly you’ve broken everybody’s hearts, and now people are wondering why you bother. I don’t go with that. I think we can fix this, and I think we have to commit to growth.
Ryan: What your mission is with the people that you help is a really good example of how growth is a mindset, and it can be something that we can all latch onto. So, I really appreciate the passion behind it, and I can understand why it’s underpinning your entire business because you are guiding the people you’re supporting toward growth.
It’s very powerful and a great message for everyone.
It was amazing to have you here today with us. And I’m very excited to see where you go and how all of the growth happens over the next little bit.
Wayne: Fantastic. Thank you, Ryan.