My Year on the Finax Team
So a year ago I fulfilled my career goal and started working at Finax. I can still consider myself a rookie, on the other hand, I've been here long enough to be able to evaluate. That's why I decided to share my experiences and describe what brought me here. And if you're worried that it will be all positive, it will be. What else is there to write about a job that can be summed up in one word, dream job?
I joined Finax in May 2022 as Head of Marketing. However, before I get into how I got here and what I've been up to, I'll describe my career path so far. These are directly related to my decision to work for Finax. (I won't mention specific company names, but anyone who is interested can easily find it on my LinkedIn profile, for example.)
On the Road to Fintech
I started my career as a marketer in a now-defunct PR agency after college. I took care of clients, which included pension management companies, and participated in the ministry's information campaign about the second pension pillar.
This experience in financial service communication then opened the door to one of the top 3 insurance companies in Slovakia, which also no longer exists under its former name because it merged with another and rebranded (changed its brand). That's how I got from PR to marketing and the aforementioned rebranding was a huge experience for my career.
Three years of experience as a marketing manager helped me land a similar position at a private bank. And here we come to Finax, or rather my interest in financial-technology startups and investing.
This interest was sparked by my boss at the time, who introduced me to the fin-tech world and introduced me to American robo-advisors such as Betterment and Wealthfront. It could have been around 2012 and our dream was to bring such easy, fair, and accessible investing through digital channels to our Slovak clients.
We didn't succeed, but a few years later, inspired by the same models, Ďuri Hrbatý and Rado Kasík brought one of the first robo-advisors to Central Europe in the form of Finax. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...
Our plan of a Slovak robo-advisor went by the wayside because another great opportunity presented itself and that was to launch the first Slovak "digital-only" "mobile-first" bank. The year was 2015.
The First Mobile-Only Bank
Let me stop here for a moment. It was my "pet project", my biggest career milestone so far. It was unique not only because we were tasked with building an entirely new brand that would bring a small revolution in Slovak banking, but also because we were operating as an internal startup in a large company.
We started with a team of three people that gradually grew and recruited great experts from inside and outside the bank. We were operating under a secret name, with our own corporate culture, and tasked with the job of disrupting the parent bank from the inside, we felt like pirates.
It was a great opportunity for a marketer to go crazy, it wasn't just about creating a new brand from the ground up, but we managed to bring a number of things to the table that were unheard of before. For example, launching the bank in beta for fans only, operating completely paperless, logging into the app via emoji (which is not only cool, but also more secure than PIN 😎), the ability to choose a more informal interaction mode (the vast majority of clients actually chose it!) and then use it even when they were talking to an operator, and many more.
Within a few months of the public launch, the new brand became the most preferred digital bank in the country and traditional branch banks were suddenly on billboards competing to see which one was more digital.
This period was great, but also very exhausting. The new bank brand required non-stop attention, which you can't keep doing for long, so when the management decided to change the strategic direction, it was also a signal for me to move on.
The opportunity arose in the largest Slovak insurance company, which needed to launch digital marketing. However, after a while, I realized that the environment of a large corporation was not right for me. I belong to people who want to be able to shape things, they need to see that their work has left a trace, has brought real benefits to people, and improvements to their lives.
"Only in Finax"
In 2018, Rado and Ďuri founded Finax and started quietly picking up clients. At the beginning of 2020, I became one of them. From the moment I found out about Finax, I was a big fan. Not only because someone finally brought a service to Slovakia that was sorely lacking here, but you could feel the same enthusiasm and sincerity in their communication that I enjoyed when I was setting up the new digital bank's communications.
It wasn't just a revolutionary product. As a marketer, I admired, for example, the ease with which finaxers create content in blogs, in podcasts, on YouTube... Content marketing is an area close to my heart (I launched the first banking content portal in Slovakia). But at the same time, it was a big challenge in every company to get quality content from fellow experts, not to mention management. However, at Finax, it worked. Another thing that impressed me was the naturalness and openness of Finax's communication. It's another one of those things that financial services marketers write into their values and strategies, but it's a Herculean task to sustain that over the long term.
Related to that is another, probably the most important thing, and that is putting the client's interest first. Many proclaim this about themselves, but few really follow it. However, it has always been clear from Finax's communications that they don't just play at "client centricity", they mean it.
That's why, when someone asked me at the time where I wanted to work, I said only at Finax.
Happy Employee = Happy Client
One day, when it was time for a change, I came across an ad for a career site for marketers and clicked on it "for fun". To my surprise, there popped up an advert for a Head of Marketing at Finax! I didn't hesitate for a second, I wrote an email from the heart in which I briefly summarized some of the things described above. It turned out that I managed to catch it at the last minute because the candidates were already pre-selected and my future colleagues just forgot to turn off the advert...
Already the admission interviews confirmed that my expectations were correct. In the first round with Duri and Rado, I was strangely listening more than talking and in the next round I worked out an assignment which I defended in front of my future team. For employees to choose their future boss by voting is not exactly common and it shows that not only the client but also the employee is important for the company. After all, a happy employee is the best client.
The liking was mutual and my first contact with other future colleagues was at a team building where I was invited before I started. Already there I felt like I was among my own.
Just as the Finax brand doesn't play at anything, so are its employees. They genuinely believe in their product, love it, pull together, and enjoy every success. Again, for me, this was something that every company wants to have, but, honestly, I haven't experienced it in any company to the extent that I have at Finax.
One of the things I missed was the startup enthusiasm and the opportunity to watch something grow under my hands. When I joined a year ago, Finax was still officially a startup. Today it's 5 years old and has picked up other great pros in the meantime, so it's not like everyone is doing everything anymore, but the enthusiasm hasn't waned.
The dynamic between the visionary Duri and the pragmatist Rado drives Finax forward. It's a similar dynamic that worked in the most famous tandems known from business or art, such as Jobs - Wozniak, Lennon - McCartney, Jagger - Richards... But Finax is not just its founders, executives, and podcast faces. What's great about it is that every employee contributes their bit to keep the company moving forward.
Those who know me know that I wouldn't write such odes if I didn't believe it myself. My role as the person in charge of marketing is to keep the authenticity and honesty of Finax alive, and with this blog, I wanted to contribute to that as well. I wish Finax a long life and if you decide to try a career at Finax, I definitely recommend it!