Ammar Akhtar is the co-founder and CEO of Yobota, a London-based technology company. The startup was founded
in 2016 and since then Yobota has built a fast, flexible, cloud-native core banking platform, which allows clients to create and run innovative financial products.
What is your background and how did you come to create Yobota?
I spent the best part of a decade working in consultancy, project management and product development before co-founding Yobota in 2016. My co-founders and I started the business with a vision to create a new core platform which would allow new and relevant financial products to be made available to consumers.
I think most of us have experienced frustration with our banks in the past – how difficult or time-consuming it has been to open a new account, or get a new credit card, for example. This poor customer experience is the result of various factors; industry constraints, regulatory requirements and highly flexible financial products all tied up with legacy IT.
Yobota was created to change this. Thanks to the hard work of our brilliant team a fast, flexible, cloud-native core banking platform is readily available, which allows clients to create and run innovative financial products. It’s already being used by approved banks and lenders.
In your first 12 months, what were the biggest challenges you faced? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was finding the right people to work with. There is naturally a lot of focus on the product when starting out, but we needed to find great people who could further shape the vision and turn it into a reality.
We had to go through the usual operational and commercial pains of scaling the business, too, but it was the technical challenges which were unique due to the sheer scale of the product. In building something new, fresh and innovative, we had to adopt a new approach to developing systems; each facet required something different and at times we had to look beyond methods and techniques
that were quite deeply ingrained to instead do things in new ways.
How has the business evolved since it was launched, and what is your core focus at present?
The evolution of the business has been interesting. At the start we were focused on “pure creation” – we were building something completely new. As we have grown and acquired clients, we have had to develop a more controlled environment in which creation and operation must be balanced.
We naturally have to ensure everything is running smoothly for our clients while still ensuring we’re
pushing forward with our roadmap. My personal focus, like that of many CEOs, is quite spread, and I still enjoy being involved in many technical discussions. But ultimately it all boils down to finding the best routes to grow the business and ensure the right people are hearing about Yobota.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business and the fintech sector more generally?
The coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated the adoption of fintech. In fact, a recent piece of research we commissioned found that fintech usage in the UK jumped by 50% during the lockdown period.
As consumers and businesses were cut off from the physical world, they increasingly relied on digital solutions to manage their finances. Financial services firms, meanwhile, had to ensure their clients could still perform critical tasks (check their finances, access credit, transfer money, seek advice) at a time when bank branches were closed and staff were working remotely.
If it wasn’t already clear, the finance sector will now understand how important it is to make progressive decisions when it comes to developing or implementing technology. Those who have so far failed to do this would have found it difficult to deliver an exceptional level of customer service during the lockdown period.
There was only steady, cautious adoption of fintech during the 2010s. However, COVID-19 has now catalysed this process.
What are your plans for Yobota in the years ahead?
The way we’re set up can become a good demonstration of “how to do” enterprise grade technology in the modern era. Our focus is very much on the further build out of our core banking platform, and serving a broader array of clients.
We know what it takes to run a bank, and that challenge is always evolving – so our product needs to remain ahead of the curve.
What advice would you give to tech entrepreneurs just at the start of their journey?
Find out what you don’t know. Once you’ve done that – either learn it or find the people who can help you crack it.
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