Five with Fidel #1: James Allgrove, Fidel CRO
First things first. Welcome to Five with Fidel!
This is our brand-new interview series where we hand the proverbial mic over to those who know the payments world best. Our guests will be sharing their expertise on the industry and its future - all within five questions. Seems like a lot to fit into five questions? Not for these folks.
In our first edition, we’re delighted to be welcoming our new Chief Revenue Officer, James Allgrove, to take the stage and answer...Five with Fidel. *crisp high five*
A little backstory
James joined us recently as Chief Revenue Officer to oversee all customer functions at Fidel. Previously, James spent over six years with Stripe where he helped set up and grow their UK business into their largest international market. He also spent three years in New York, building out Stripe’s presence and scaling the team to more than 140 people. Before Stripe, he was at Bain & Company, Nutmeg and Merrill Lynch.
We’re excited to have James join Fidel and bring with him an expansive background in fintech, consulting and payments as well as in scaling companies. His expertise is hugely valuable to helping the team continue to liberate developers from obstacles blocking them from innovating payment-lead financial products.
Now, let’s get down to business - it’s question time.
Q1 | Firstly, welcome! It’s great to have you onboard - but, what attracted you to join us?
Thanks, it’s great to be here! I think Fidel is at a genuinely exciting stage at the moment, and that was definitely a big factor in my decision. We’ve got a great product, excellent customers and fantastic traction in the market. That provides a really solid foundation for us to build on, and as you might be able to tell from my background, I love building.
Fidel’s technology and product is another part of what I find compelling about the company. Something that my previous company, Stripe, and Fidel have in common is that they’re both built by developers, for developers. Putting a focus on building a world-class product and experience for developers provides huge differentiation and helps us work with those who are creating the most user-focused, payments-led products. Finally, there’s the team. We’ve got a great group of people here, dotted around the globe - it’s just a shame I haven’t had the chance to meet everyone in person (yet)!
Q2 | What was the most important lesson you learnt about company scaling during your time at Stripe? What’s your best advice for getting growth right?
At Stripe, the mission to increase the GDP of the internet by removing complexity, time and operational overhead from payments. To achieve that, we had to strike a fine balance between thinking ahead and moving at pace. When you’re product-led, you have to know how to move efficiently, but also execute really well and with no compromise on quality.
Secondly, remaining focused is essential. Technology has huge potential to do countless things, but all of those things take time, energy and resources - just because there’s a lot of things you can do, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to try everything at once.
Finally, hiring the right people is absolutely key. While at Stripe, we scaled our New York office from 5 to over 140 people in two years -- that’s a lot of new faces! It was important to have the right recruiting processes in place, as well as patience. Hiring someone quickly may help in the short run, however, waiting and finding the right hire will take you a lot further in the long term.
Q3 | It’s fair to say that you’ve got a lot of experience with payments technology. From your perspective, what is the most exciting or interesting development you’ve seen in the world of payments?
I think the fundamental drive behind many fintech businesses has been to reinvent traditional services by taking a much more customer-centric approach. I think many legacy financial players have an outdated view that, as long as the product functions, that’s all that matters. In reality, how things work really matter to consumers.
Fintech companies have created amazing experiences for consumers that drive their own growth. Think about how simple, even magical, it is to manage and send currencies with TransferWise or to trade cryptocurrencies with Coinbase. Fidel offers developers a new way to create more of these magical experiences for consumers.
Q4 | What’s the most important quality needed to be a great leader?
I think humility plays an important role in great leadership, especially when you’re experiencing business success and growth (and the associated growing pains!). When I say humility, I think that can be demonstrated in two senses. On the one hand, it’s about trusting and empowering the team around you to do the right thing. It’s about approaching your own role with a growth mindset, as a chance to constantly learn and develop.
Q5 | Finally, and arguably most importantly, favourite pizza topping? (editor’s note: no wrong answers unless there’s tropical fruit involved)
I knew there would be some tough questions coming! Luckily I was given prior warning that this might come up. I’d go for Prosciutto and red onion - a true classic, I’d argue!
*Editor’s note: This is a strong choice for a pizza topping, and we can’t fault James for his decision. He’s gone for a classic italian-based topping and no controversial fruit in sight - you love to see it.
You can connect with James on Linkedin here if you’d like to say hi, congratulate him on his new role and/or question his choice of pizza topping. Oh, and make sure to look out for our next Five with Fidel episode - you can subscribe to our blog here to never miss a beat.