With 17 years of Financial Services experience under his belt in places such as London, New York, Tokyo, and Singapore, Nasir Zubairi has brought his own touch of innovation and value to numerous organizations and startups. His current role at FinLeap sees him advising and building the next generation of FinTech companies to ultimately change the face of the financial industry.
We are proud to have Nasir presenting at Data Natives 2015!
Table of Contents
How did you make the jump from financial services to FinTech?
It was 2008. I was working in a bank. I recognised that I was not happy waking up in the morning, not happy at the prospect of another day in the office. I decided to make a change. I did not go straight into Fintech, I first went to business school – I was thirsting for new knowledge after a long drought.
Can you describe the journey that led to where you are today, and your major influences along the way?
Sorry to be non-descript, but all my experiences, all the people I have met, all the things I have done, personally and in business, have shaped my direction and brought me to this point. I like to learn something new and useful every day and have been blessed to be able to achieve that.
What major milestones or landmark events have stood out to you during your time in the industry? What are you still waiting for?
Very specifically – the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the takeover of ABN Amro by RBS. I think these two events seeded a major change in perspective about banking; not in a positive sense. The knock-on impacts – the credit crisis, regulatory reform, banker bashing, the “99%” movement…. are catalysts for the rise of “Fintech”. More focus on the sector led people to see the cracks in the services being offered and to be proactive in trying to do something about them.
What am I waiting for? I am waiting for the first bank to issue a mobile phone instead of a credit card. That will be game-changing. Right now it is more evolution rather than revolution.
What have been the most significant challenges you have faced while trying to drive innovation in the finance sector?
I set up my first venture in 2010. this was when the Fintech movement was really in its infancy. It was so hard to raise money. Investors did not think treading on the bank’s patch made for a wise business. What could a start-up do against the mighty goliaths in the Industry? Ha!
More broadly, the whole process of starting and building a business, though incredibly exciting, is hard work, especially the first time. No matter what you think you know about it, the reality is very different. Building your network requires a monumental effort – I used to be so exhausted at the end of the week from all the “selling” that I just didn’t want to talk at all over the weekend.
Of your achievements and accolades so far, of which are you most proud?
Being voted “Best Mentor” at the Awards for Enterprise in 2012. I was so happy to find out that I was useful!
What kind of problems are you aiming to tackle in your role at FinLeap?
The opportunities in Fintech are massive, we have barely scratched the surface. I would love to find a way to provide access to credit for the 2 billion people that are unbanked in the world. What a problem to solve.
What advice would you give to the Nasir Zubairi of 20 years ago? Anything you would have done differently?
No. I would not have learnt what I have learnt if I had not done things the way I have and I probably would not have known the alternatives and to advise myself differently. Vicious loop. The key is to try not to make the same mistakes again.
Which companies or individuals inspire you, and keep you motivated to achieve great things?
I am a great admirer of Warren Buffett and his pragmatic approach to investing and growth. Also Soichiro Honda; he took on the giants and won.
(image credit: CGP Grey)