Nicolas Weng Kan is the CEO of Yolt a leading open banking provider in Europe, offering Payment Initiation Services, Account Information Services, and Data Enrichment Services to leading financial institutions and ambitious tech businesses. Nicolas is also the former CEO of Confused.com and Google Compare. A seasoned business leader and entrepreneur, Nicolas is driving innovation in the Fintech sector. He was gracious enough to share his leadership journey with us and also explored the value proposition of Yolt.
Leadership Journey, Influences, and perspectives
Our readers would like to know your origin story, a little bit about your background, initial career aspirations, when and how you got unto the path of business leadership? Nicolas: I grew up in Madagascar, went to university in France and got my first job in Japan. Languages came naturally to me because of the diversity of my upbringing - we were speaking Malagasy and Cantonese at home and I was speaking French in school. My dad created his own company when I was just a few years old and I saw the pain, but also the passion he put into building and running a successful company. I guess I had it in my mind from an early age that I wanted to manage my own business one day.
How much of your upbringing, background and environment has influenced your journey as a business leader? Nicolas: I do firmly believe you are defined by your experiences, good or bad and it’s always been extremely important for me to keep on learning. I consider everything that I do as a business leader from an innovation or a learning angle.
What would you describe your leadership style as? Nicolas: Open, transparent and approachable are critical factors of my leadership approach. I like to share the greater vision and work with the team to make that vision to reality.
What has been the key to your success as a business leader over the last 27 years? Nicolas: Challenging myself and learning as much as I can, above and beyond a traditional job description has undoubtedly widened my exposure and experience in my roles – which in turn, has helped me to develop professionally. Also perhaps my natural instinct to find innovative (or sometimes very simple!) solutions to often complex problems has also been instrumental in my success. You have the classical approach to solve a problem (what everybody else is doing) and I always try to find a different angle.
What advice do you have for aspiring business leaders?
Nicolas: Go out and keep an open mind. Listen for input from people who are close to customers but also come up with your own ideas. You do not need to re-invent the wheel every time, but you need a differentiating factor which can be a slightly different idea or simply faster and better execution or lower costs. You should always know what makes your team strong.
Please give us a brief overview of Yolt, why the company was created, its value proposition and its target market?
Nicolas: Yolt is an initiative of the ING innovation hub. Its original purpose was to be an innovator of the burgeoning open banking space and find an innovative solution to make money management more assessable and more easy. The first version of the Yolt app served as a digital personal finance manager, leveraging API open banking connection to allow consumers to aggregate the view of their finances. Along the way we have built our own API connections to banks across Europe (UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany) and we realized that other companies needed those services too, so we created Yolt Technology Services (YYTS) which has an open banking license and enables third party to access open banking data.
What is Yolt’s business model for value creation, and how sustainable is it?
Nicolas: We have a B2C proposition with the Yolt app whereby we are focusing on helping our users get a better grasp of their finances. All your current accounts/credit cards connected in real time in one app. We have different modules that recognize your expenses and help our users build and stick to a budget. Our most recent launch was the Yolt card, which alongside the features within the app, was designed to help users to spend smart and ultimately save money. We are also building a bill recognition module that understands the pattern of spending on a users recurring transactions and presents alternative providers to your existing ones.
We also have a B2B proposition (YTS) whereby third party providers who need access to open banking data can leverage our technology and/or our FCA license. An example use case could be an accounting software firm that needs a regular flow of up to date data to prepare reports. There are multiple uses of open banking and I sincerely believe that we’ve only touched the surface when it comes to what the application of open banking data can achieve. Open banking was predicated on enabling the owner of the data to port their data to providers where that could benefit from the same view as your current bank.
What key challenges has Yolt faced since it launched in 2016, and especially during the COVID 19 pandemic? In addition, how have you navigated these challenges, since taking up the role of CEO in July 2020? Nicolas: The biggest challenge at the beginning was to get through the hurdle of people feeling comfortable with sharing their transactional data with the app. Because we are an original venture of a bank, we have always used the highest level of security and we consider ourselves temporary custodian of the data. Like every other company since March 2020, we have gone into a remote working environment and our biggest challenge has been how to foster a sense of community and purpose while not meeting physically. We have weekly all hands meetings where we talk about a wide range of topics, but we also have meetings free afternoons to enable people to have time to strategize, or simply to give them time to focus on what matters most to them.
Does Yolt have any programs or initiatives in place to support equality, diversity, Inclusivity, and women empowerment?
Nicolas: We are a very young company and are building up our view of the world, but I believe we have a a good basis to build on. Whereas a commitment to equality, diversity, inclusivity and female empowerment may have been ‘nice to have’ initiatives for some businesses only a few years ago, it’s an expectation now, and therefore I think the entire Fintech industry has a collective commitment not only to educate themselves and to care, but to deliver. We have people from very diverse background and origins - I firmly believe this enriches every element of our business.
Does Yolt have any future plans for expansion, and what are these?
Nicolas: Yes, largely within Europe given the availability and stability of APIs. Our next geographical expansion is going to be for YTS as we move into the Benelux market.
We have come to the end of the interview and would like to thank you for taking the time out to participate in this Q&A session. We wish you and Yolt the best. Thank you.