After starting his working life as an apprentice in the motor industry, Daniel Biggs switched careers and quickly moved his way up the FinTech ladder. With over 10 years of experience in top-level financial services roles, Dan’s focus is on client-staff relationships with an emphasis on enabling successful client outcomes.
Outside of Privalgo, Dan’s time is divided between his family, Formula 1, and restoration projects.
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Table of Contents
Welcome to your ValiantCEO exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Daniel Biggs: I’m Dan, the Managing Director at Privalgo, a London-based payments FinTech scaleup.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get to where you are today? Give us some lessons you learned along the way.
Daniel Biggs: I didn’t want to be a CEO when I was a child. What I really wanted to be was a racing-car driver – I’m a huge motorsport fan. The ambition was there, but perhaps not the talent. Eventually, I had to give that dream up. Before I entered the world of fintech, I was working in the motor trade. After a few years, I eventually felt that I had outgrown the industry. Reaching as far as I thought I could, I felt I was limited by the prospects that the career would provide. It was time for a move.
In 2005, I joined a foreign exchange company in London and worked my way up the ladder there. In 2016, that business was acquired.
After the acquisition, I felt I needed to go on my own path. So, a handful of my colleagues and I left to create Privalgo in 2018. The rest is history, as they say.
Tell us about your business, what does the company do? What is unique about the company?
Daniel Biggs: Privalgo helps businesses streamline and maximise their international transfers through intelligent payment solutions. With risk management and conversion optimisation techniques, we empower companies to safeguard against volatility and capitalise on opportunities in the FX market.
We’re unique in that we combine A-grade technology with an excellent level of personal service. We connect with our clients on a personal level, come to understand their requirements and shape our solutions to best meet their business’s needs.
How to become a CEO? Some will focus on qualities, others on degrees, how would you answer that question?
Daniel Biggs: I myself don’t have any degrees. I left school and went straight into the world of work. Sheer common sense is a good CEO trait that I don’t think gets enough attention. Other qualities I think make a good leader are self-reflection, resilience and emotional intelligence. That’s what I look for when building a team.
Most importantly though is vision and ambition. You need a true understanding of your market and the ability to envision what the business will look like in five/ten years. Where do you want to be and how do you get there?
What are the secrets to becoming a successful CEO? Who inspires you, who are your role models and why? Illustrate your choices.
Daniel Biggs: I’m not sure if there are any ‘secrets’ to becoming a successful CEO. But I do think there are certain attributes many CEOs share. These include some of the traits I mentioned, like vision, ambition, teamwork, and a strong understanding of the industry. Throughout my career, I’ve had a number of professional role models. Each of them has contributed to my ongoing growth.
I’ve also found that a role model doesn’t have to be so clear-cut, as long as you’re learning from them. Previous colleagues have taught me some good lessons, some bad lessons. Whichever direction, they’ve all helped shape who I am today. In terms of other CEOs and Managing Directors, there’s not really any I specifically follow. Yet, I do like to observe and see what lessons and attributes I can garner from them.
I’m mostly interested in writers and theorists. I read a lot. I’m interested in the common behaviours and traits of high-performing individuals. I read and attempt to understand what are the typical attributes that make a strong leader, then I reflect on my own performance against these.
Many CEOs fall into the trap of being all over the place. What are the top activities a CEO should focus on to be the best leader the company needs? Explain.
Daniel Biggs: This goes back to what I was speaking about before – vision and surrounding yourself with the right people. Day to day, leaders need to future plan. You must imagine what the future looks like and then determine the resources you’ll need to get there. I always ask myself: what resources will we need to protect, control and promote the business?
Second is the people. As you said, many CEOs fall into the trap of being all over the place. You can’t micromanage. You need a team who you can trust, who you can delegate responsibilities to and let them own it. Ownership and accountability is a really important thing for me.
Once you have this accountability, your team can then have the freedom to do their best for the business. That’s everyone working towards the collective goal and real progress.
The Covid-19 Pandemic put the leadership skills of many to the test, what were some of the most difficult challenges that you faced as a CEO/Leader in the past year? Please list and explain in detail.
Daniel Biggs: Privalgo is a young company – and was an even younger company when the pandemic hit.
The tech side of things was not too difficult. We’re almost entirely cloud-based. This meant that we were able to lift and shift all of that to our respective homes. One day we were in the office, the next we were able to do the same work from home. The more difficult aspect is people. How do you keep your team motivated when they’re required to work from home? This comes back to trust and ownership. When nobody’s in the office you can’t see what people are doing. They might be taking an extra hour off to put their feet up.
I learned that it’s okay. As long as the business is doing the things it’s supposed to be doing, then you need to trust people. Once someone feels trusted, they take ownership of things, and that’s how they stay motivated. What’s more, unlike more established firms, which when the pandemic hit had the capacity to hibernate, we didn’t really have the same luxury. Whatever the environment, our company had to grow.
Therefore, we decided to remain bullish despite Covid. In a way, it was sink or swim. We chose to swim – and swim hard. We kept on hiring, we continued to spend on tech and marketing, we carried on acquiring new clients. It worked, and Privalgo maintained growth.
We’re an international payments business that serves both businesses and individuals. Foreign exchange tends to be low on the list of priorities anyway, but we found it to be even lower during the pandemic. That was one challenge we had to overcome: how do you promote your product to a company when all they may be thinking about is survival?
To some extent, the lockdown shaped the culture we have now. We’ve continued the mantra of freedom and responsibility.
What are some of the greatest mistakes you’ve noticed some business leaders made during these unprecedented times? What are the takeaways you gleaned from those mistakes?
Daniel Biggs: If we’re talking practically, a number of businesses weren’t cloud-based in their infrastructure. When it came to shifting everything home, they really struggled. This reaffirmed to us the importance of being agile with your tech. Naturally, there was a stark reaction to the pandemic. Understandably, many businesses went into survival mode. In these cases, pressure must have been put on client and supplier relationships. I can imagine that many relationships were damaged throughout the pandemic, and it will take time to rebuild them.
I’m extremely proud that Privalgo was able to support its clients and suppliers during such a rough period. I feel our relationships are stronger for it. What I’ve gleaned most from the pandemic is the need to futureproof. It’s all about risk management. Nobody foresaw the pandemic, but we had the resources and the talent to still thrive in spite of the conditions we found ourselves in.
What is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Daniel Biggs: We’re experiencing sharp growth. We’re continually developing our product offering, entering new markets, and expanding the team. We put the profit we make straight back into the business.
The challenge now is growth vs profitability. Do we continue this hard and fast growth? How far do we want to go? And what would be the reason for doing this? They’re the big questions I’m asking now.
You already shared a lot of insights with our readers and we thank you for your generosity. Normally, leaders are asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is the most useless skill you have learned, at school or during your career?
Daniel Biggs: Back in the day, I was a pro at the wheelie. I spent months perfecting this skill and it is of absolutely no use. That said, it did help me get my first love.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Daniel Biggs for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Daniel Biggs or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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