Meet Simon Moran, our Chief Commercial Officer. Simon has been at TransferGo for exactly a year, but has already helped to create and shape some of our biggest success stories. These include building a brand new enterprise B2B product from scratch and solidifying our relationships with global brands such as Visa, Mastercard and Ripple.
Here, Simon Moran discusses his 20+ year career in financial services, adapting to the Covid-19 crisis and the value of bringing your authentic self to work.
“Working in payments wasn’t always the plan. When I first joined PayPal, my friends thought I was crazy…
I was born and bred in Brighton and have always lived in the UK, although my heritage is all Irish. My surname is a very common Irish surname, which in England is pronounced differently to how it is in Ireland (Muh-ran vs. Mor-on).
I was always very interested in IT and computing, which way back then was a new thing. After my advanced education, I decided that coding wasn’t for me so I made the switch to more business-type subjects and fell into payments directly after university. It wasn’t the plan but it landed me a job at American Express, which had a large base in my hometown. I worked there for a while managing projects, but after 9/11, there was a lot of turbulence in the market. Through that however, I got the opportunity to join Visa, moving me to London full-time.
I stayed at Visa for seven and a half years, moving through programme and project management type roles into more commercial, sales and relationship management roles. I then moved up to owning some of Visa Europe’s largest relationships, before making the switch to PayPal. At the time, my friends thought I was crazy. It was a brand that not many people in the UK had heard of at the time. But I was hungry for growth and wanted to move to this punchy American company with a UK office with only 45 people at the time. It felt like I’d gone from a very big global business to a much more start-up type of environment.”
“I was fortunate to cut my teeth into some senior management roles, which is what I had the hunger for…
Over the next 10 years at PayPal, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to grow teams, run a very big business and cut my teeth into some senior managerial roles, which was what I had the hunger for. As it came up to a decade, I became aware of how the company had become the huge global ecommerce behemoth that we know today. Whilst that was fantastic on paper, my ability to do things and impact the business got less and less as time went on.
So I decided to take the jump into start-up life. I moved into my first C-level role, as a Chief Commercial Officer at a start-up called Yoyo. I spent two years there, building the fundamentals for what they were doing from a sales and commercial perspective. My role was both commercial and operational, combining a CCO role with a COO role. After two years of setting up their business fundamentals, I was then introduced to the founders at TransferGo.”
“It took just 20 minutes to decide that TransferGo was the next challenge for me…
TransferGo’s chairman Renier Lemmens was an old boss of mine at PayPal many years ago. Just over a year ago, TransferGo was looking for someone like me and so Renier picked up the phone. Within 20 minutes of sitting down for a coffee with Daumantas, I decided that this was the new challenge I wanted to jump onboard with. I liked the story they were telling and the social mission at the core.
Historically, there have been some really big incumbents that have overcharged people wanting to send around money globally by a long way. That was something that was still continuing. In contrast, TransferGo had built this growing technology platform but were more interested in doing the right thing. They wanted people to have access to financial inclusivity and move those funds at reasonable, transparent rates. And they wanted to help their families back home have a better quality of life. Almost exactly a year ago, I joined as Chief Commercial Officer.
When you’re joining a start-up, the level of security is not the same as it would be if you were working at a multi-million dollar company with 15,000 people. The things you have to trust are the founding team; you have to believe in them and what they stand for. When I met Daumantas, Justinas and other senior team members, they really told a great story. I felt their values matched my own and that there was definite value I could add to the business. It was also obviously fortuitous for me that I already had a background in the industry.”
“Covid-19 hasn’t necessarily introduced the level of chaos it might have done had we been a different type of business….
It’s a very difficult time. Everyone has been watching the news and how governments around the world are reacting. We’re all operating within the same environment of imperfect information but we just have to do what we can. It’s very similar to how you have to react to any volatility in the marketplace that could impact business.
Initially, we were watching Covid-19 and hoping it wouldn’t get so bad. There was a point where we had to make some decisions on how we needed to operate. I think we’re fortunate as an organisation that we operate an entirely digital system already. And because some of us often worked from home, we already had the infrastructure in place to do so. In contrast to a lot of old-school businesses, we had the foundations in place to to build from. That’s an important part of what’s enabled us to still be productive and successful at this time.
It was the right thing to close our offices prior to the official lockdown. Beyond making sure everyone had the infrastructure they needed, the key focus for me was the health and safety of every individual. Being able to react quickly and make sure everyone understood what was happening was important. As was making sure that we as a company were doing the right thing by our staff.
On the commercial side, clearly selling face to face is now not possible. It’s now more about video conferencing and making sure we had everything already prepared. Banking infrastructure is another function I run and we’re largely dealing with banks electronically, anyway. There are definite challenges; but they haven’t necessarily introduced the same level of chaos had we been a different type of business. I can imagine a lot of other businesses are having a different type of conversation now and are having to take advantage of the various routes that governments are making available. Thankfully, we’re in a fortunate position not to have to do that.”
“There are so many things we could be doing at once; the challenge is to focus on the right one and stick on course…
I’ve already experienced hypergrowth as a small part of a very global business when I was at PayPal. The support structures were already there and we had the resources to call upon. At a series B start-up like TransferGo, it’s different because we don’t have an external mothership to call on for funding. We have to be self-sufficient, but that’s one of the key things that really drew me to scale-ups and start-ups. I wanted to have that experience of really needing to contribute meaningfully to the decisions being made and the growth of the organisation.
Having said that, it’s definitely a challenge. What’s absent with all start-ups of this scale and age are supporting functions. We don’t have all the resources both in terms of people and funding to do everything. More often than not, start-ups at our stage fail because of too many opportunities and not being able to choose between them. For us, that’s definitely true. There are so many things we could be doing at any one time. But the most difficult thing for us to do is focus on the right ones and stick to the course. If there isn’t a clear decision making process or you fail to narrow your options down in the right way, it can lead to the spreading of resources too thinly. So you may back too many horses and not win on anything. You have to be careful, but also move quickly and with purpose.”
“We stick to our core values. As a result, our story continues to interest our investors and we continue to have a bright future…
As a business, we’ve had some really good success stories over the past year. My role is actually split into three different parts. There’s the enterprise business product and sales side. I own all of the B2B product strategy and sales, and building that side of it. That’s almost like building a start-up within a start-up.
Our remittance as a service product is brand new, so in that respect, I’m really proud of building a brand new product from scratch. I believe it has the capability and the potential to be as large, if not larger than, the consumer side of the business. When you consider that the consumer product growth was at 140% YoY in 2019, I obviously have huge confidence in the B2B product. We now have a fully functioning product with our first signed corporate customers using our platform to move money around the world.
The second part of my role is the banking and infrastructure piece, which is the plumbing of how we move money globally. It centres on the partnerships that we need to have in order to make that happen. There’s been a real step change in the last 12 months on how we do that. We’ve obviously hired a larger team in order to really put a lot more muscle behind that part of the business. We’ve also solidified relationships with global brands like Visa, Mastercard and Ripple.
And then the third piece of what I do is help with the overall commercial strategy and fundraising for the business. We’ve raised significant funding for the business over the last 12 months, which I’ve been heavily involved with. In the current context especially, it isn’t always an easy thing to do and we see other organisations failing to do it. So it’s great to be able contribute to that process and help continue to power the growth of our platform. I’m also pleased that we stick to our core values. As a result, we’re able to tell a story that remains interesting to existing and new investors. And we continue to have such a bright future because of that.”
“I’m confident that there will be life and business beyond Covid-19, but we’re still asking ourselves the hard questions before they become reality…
Right now, we’re very focussed on making sure we’re doing the right things in the current pandemic. I’m confident that it will end and there will be life and business beyond Covid-19 and we’re making preparations for that. At the moment, we as a leadership team are obviously doing a lot of work on the various ‘What if?’ scenarios. We’re also making sure that we ask ourselves the hard questions before they become reality.
For now, we’re very pleased with how the business continues to operate in tough times. We’re helping more people and businesses move more money cross-border. As people move away from a traditional cash-based way of sending those funds (simply because they’re not able to do it), they now have other options like us. The way I view it is that we’re able to contribute to the prosperity of individuals and businesses as much as possible in tough times. So I think we’re going to come out of that strong.
Over the next 12 months, it’s also about replicating a lot more of what we’ve done in the previous 12. So continuing that growth trajectory: 140%+ growth YoY, signing more customers on the corporate side etc. Accelerating the growth of the platform is very much at the forefront of my mind. I think we’re going to see a much more rapid release of really exciting features. If we can do this whilst anchoring on our core principles, we’ll be doing well.”
“I’m a big fan of bringing your whole self to work. It helps you connect with the business and the people you’re working with…
We end up spending more time with our colleagues than we do with our family. So as well as having integrity and putting in the hard work, having fun is important.
Over my career, I’ve worked for some large global organisations and their culture is not always as empowering as you’d maybe like. You find an organisation’s culture seems to pervade from the top down. Naturally, as you move to smaller organisations, there’s more of a focus on building the right culture. And I think many start-ups do that almost better than anywhere else.
As a leader of people, there always has to be a focus on building a culture. When we think back over our careers, we tend to think about the people we’ve worked with and achieved things with. I enjoy the social side and making sure that we have events and a shared culture. I think TransferGo does that really well. Whilst everyone is super-busy, they also share the same values and behaviours. I certainly feel best when I can bring an unvarnished version of myself to work. It’s where I feel at my most authentic.
It also helps from a sales context. I find a smile and acting in the way you usually would helps to get more done. When you’re at the beginning of your career, the tendency is to project a perfect version of yourself. It’s a bit like dating, right? You’re out there on your best behaviour and then 3-6 months into the relationship, things can be very different. After the first 10 years of my career, it became clear that the benefits of wearing those masks and trying to be someone you’re not aren’t helpful. It’s more productive if you can be yourself. People also appreciate you more.
A business has a heart and a soul and a lot of that is through the people. You can put the structures in place, achieve huge growth and have some great technology. But the biggest asset is the people.”
“I’m always the first to throw a joke in a situation. I can also do a mean Robbie Williams and Rat Pack rendition…
Maybe it’s a British thing, but I’m always the first to throw a joke in any situation. I find it brings joy and lightens whatever’s happening.
You might also be surprised to find out that I’m a big karaoke fan. I love to sing and perform. I know that we have actual ex-pop stars on our team, so I can’t claim that. But I can do a mean Robbie Williams or Rat Pack rendition if ever called upon. Given the right motivation, I’m up on that stage and grabbing the microphone. And it’s difficult to get me off. In more recent times, due to having a toddler at home, I can also blast out any of the classic Disney ballads.”