Spearheading the journey to automated finance operations in the B2B fintech space, Fennech is revolutionising the way finance directors, controllers and treasurers manage their finance functions.
We caught up with Chief Product Officer, Rob Lunn, to find out what inspired Fennech’s innovative mission, how they’ve made tracks in a crowded market and how they continue to navigate unchartered territory.
Rob sets the scene by explaining the backdrop, against which Fennech was built; “For many of us, our careers started in large corporations and banks where our roles were to deliver products that provided solutions for customers. However, the bank’s challenge was the technology they used to deliver solutions was rarely up-to-date. Large corporations, particularly banks, aren’t agile and have always had a challenge in adopting new, innovative technology.”
A shared vision
The outdated technology, combined with the realisation that Rob and the senior team were not solving all of their client’s challenges, highlighted an opportunity which resulted in the launch of Fennech:
“Whilst working at a large bank, you soon realise that what you’re trying to fix for clients is only a narrow part of what is actually a long process chain that has many other challenges in it, predominantly manual processes that are heavily prone to error. This meant management could never get a clear view of the financial state of the company and as a bank, you were never able to solve all problems for a client.”
It was this recognition that brought the Fennech team together and is why, when establishing their company values, Fennech decided early on that they would always put customers at the heart of everything they do. At its core, Fennech’s mission is to positively impact those working in back offices, alleviating frustrations of manual data entry and giving visibility of financial data, ultimately empowering clients to make effective decisions.
The art of fishing
Founded in 2017, Fennech recently celebrated its third anniversary – virtually of course. As a young company, we were intrigued by how a relatively small fish is navigating a big pond. Rob shared some of Fennech’s guiding principles on reaching their vision:
- Walk the walk. Rob explains that you need to behave like a large organisation to warrant their interest: “Pay attention to the risks and compliance factors in terms of managing your own finances so you can assure clients you will be around in the future. As a start-up, particularly in the fintech space, you not only need to demonstrate that your technology will solve real problems but give clients confidence that you will be around in the future.”
- Persevere. When you think of the fintech sector, you expect it to be fast, agile and development changes to be rapid. Whilst there’s truth in this, Rob reveals “you don’t realise how much you will be tested. You often face knockbacks and challenges that make you question your solution and whether you are taking it to the right customers. To succeed, you need to persevere and have a team around you that is open, honest and capable of looking at the market openly. It’s hugely challenging but hugely rewarding too”.
- No man is an island. Collaboration has been crucial, and Rob admits, “it has been refreshing to see how collaborative the fintech world is. If you meet someone in the sector at a conference or event and want advice, people will give you the time. Collaboration is in the DNA of fintech businesses, which is because you soon realise that you can’t solve all challenges customers face alone and will need partners to make your vision happen”.
- One team, one dream. For a small start-up, Rob can’t emphasise enough the benefit of having a close-knit team and knowing not only each other’s strengths, but weaknesses too: “the team at Fennech is very experienced and the important thing about that is, we know when to ask for outside help. There is strength in asking.” It was this open-minded approach which connected Fennech with Gerald Edelman (GE).
The power in asking
With many potential customers based in the EU, Fennech set its sights on international opportunities. With the uncertainty of Brexit looming, however, there was a concern that an EU domiciled organisation would be hesitant to sign a contract with a UK based firm. Fennech considered several options, one such option being incorporating an EU subsidiary in The Netherlands. Whilst the team possessed some knowledge in this area, they were in need of expert advice.
One of Fennech’s guiding principles is knowing your team’s capabilities, and conversely knowing when to seek help. Rob recalls being in unchartered territory and reaching out to GE: “we got to a point where we knew we needed specialist advice. Our initial draft plans on how to operate the Dutch subsidiary needed to change. Sonal’s considered, balanced advice ensured that we were not only covered in areas we hadn’t accounted for, but we were also able to drive change in our long-term approach. We are now confident that we are setting up the Dutch subsidiary effectively and efficiently. Sometimes, it’s about knowing what you don’t know.”
Through GE’s alliance with XLNC, its international association, GE was able to consider the implications from a Dutch perspective by reaching out to their Dutch associates, STP Tax Lawyers. Together, a unified approach was identified which worked in both jurisdictions. Such collaborative advice was invaluable to Fennech.
The future for Fennech
With much uncertainty in the air, we ask Rob what’s next for Fennech and whether COVID-19 has scuppered plans.
Promisingly for Fennech, “the coronavirus has made people look at their business in a different way. Now, people in leadership positions are not only looking at costs, but also at how robust and sustainable their systems are.”
Initially when lockdown started, Rob recalls that some clients put deals on hold to focus on immediate issues, but Rob is hopeful about the increased importance of digitalising operations: “In a strange way, coronavirus is having a positive impact on Fennech. It has definitely fast-forwarded companies to focus on their systems and processes and how robust they are.”
Rob and the Fennech team are extremely positive about the future. The team, aptly visualised by a desert fox in their logo, have worked in a smart and agile way, remaining true to their vision whilst remaining open to opportunities. We’re inspired by Fennech’s smart, collaborative and honest approach to growing their business which will guide them to positively transform the operations of the clients they work with.
Written by Sonal Shah, International Tax, Gerald Edelman.
Featured client story by Gerald Edelman, view original publication here.