As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Merry.
Jonathan is the CEO and founder of MoneyTransfers.com. Jonathan is a recognized expert in the financial trading and FinTech industries. Having previously worked in the FX trading industry, he found his passion in the currency transfer market. Being an avid traveler, Jonathan had encountered many issues when sending money around the globe. He realized the complexity of money transfer industry and spent countless hours understanding and analyzing the services offered by money transfer companies to build a transparent, data-driven and user-focused platform to compare the very best money transfer providers leading to the creation of MoneyTransfers.com. Since its inception, his business has helped countless individuals from around the world save money on transferring money to and from abroad.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’ve had a varied career from an early age, due to not deciding to go to university. Initially, I took up development and worked for 2 years as an apprentice, however that didn’t quite tickle the itch that I had. From here I made a move into marketing at a start up in finance for another year, then progressed into product management for another year. While I had enjoyed these roles, I had a real entrepreneurial drive and wanted something that I could funnel that energy into aside from outside work ventures.
With my varied experience of marketing, development and product I came across the joys of the money transfer industry when travelling and really struggling with how to avoid fees on my travels. From this the idea set in that I could fix this, and I quickly moved forward and sought help from a startup accelerator that I luckily was accepted into. The company has grown from that very moment, it’s been a massive adventure ever since!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Funniest mistake made was when we were really early on in the business. In hindsight, it’s obvious to see the issue now, but when you’re in the moment, you don’t always see the painfully obvious starting you in the face! Long story short — too many active projects at one time.
I had grander ambitions than just the money transfer industry, so we started getting involved in the insurance and investing industry. Running around spinning plates couldn’t be truer! While we tried our best — we were all over the place, and then penny finally dropped that we couldn’t do the work of 15 people!
We laugh about it now, as we refer to it as the manic times/spinning plates era, but it serves as a big reminder to not take on too much at once, and instead focus energy to do things with a greater chance of success.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Rand Fishkin — Lost and Founder
A brutally honest and transparent take on tech start-up life. It’s really reassuring as a tech start-up founder when you hear a leading figure in tech talk about their own problems — it’s relatable. How he worked through his problems whilst growing his start-up to where it is today is a truly inspiring story.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
That’s correct and there’s a fundamentally clear reason for that. It was through experiencing the problem myself whilst travelling that I came up with the idea of a completely transparent, comparison site for money transfers — providing the user with the cheapest, safest and most efficient options. This was something I needed at the time and felt that there wasn’t anything in market that met these criteria. From that end, this became mine and the business’ main aim of achieving and our purpose.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Running your own business is non-stop and no guide book in the world can prepare you for it. It’s like learning to ride a bike in some ways. Once you take those stabilizers off whilst your learning the ropes, it’s then over to you, you’re the one in control. That’s empowering in so many ways, but of course, it brings many stresses as well. Therefore, maintaining a healthy balance between work and life couldn’t be more important. It’s probably more important more than ever right now, what with having to live and work at home 24/7!
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I think we’re all facing similar issues when it comes to maintaining our relationships with our friends and family. Especially with my family living in different parts of the country, it’s been hard. However, for me, particularly coming from a tech background, it’s refreshing to see how technology has truly helped to some degree. For me, Zoom calls/ FaceTime have become the new normal. I’m probably speaking to my parents more now than I did before the crisis! I’m sure others are too. I guess at times like this you learn about what really matters. I should probably also throw in the Zoom quizzes, although I’ve lost count now how many I’ve done!
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Naturally, working completely remote rather than being in the office together was probably the hardest. However, introducing scrum methodology, daily stand-ups, ensuring that myself and the team are always on digital comms tools (i.e. Slack), changing our project management tools and process (i.e Trello & Kanban) and full utilisation of automation tools. Integrating all of these elements into our work life has made the transition into the “new normal” relatively easy and it has started to really benefit the company. It’ll undoubtably be something that continues post-covid era.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
We live in a highly connected world which is brilliant, but it can also have its negatives. One of those negatives is that our news right now is completely saturated with Covid-19 related stories and a lot of these stories are negative. Add social media to the mix and add the fact that a lot of people are unemployed or furloughed in the UK. The end result is a lot of people feeling more anxious and worried, with all the news that they’re reading on social media and with all the spare time they have on their hands — it’s a really toxic mix and a real worry.
I think recommending having a mini digital detox is really healthy right now, particularly from social media. Instead, with the spare time pick up a hobby. Do something you’ve always put off. Be that learning a new language, or even learning to DJ! It occupies your mind in really positive way. What’s more, you’ll come out of this with a new skill that you may not have had this situation had occurred. I think it’s important to remain positive as much as possible during such an unprecedented global crisis.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I think from a generalist point of view, I believe a new form of office will take hold over the next decade. A hybrid model if you will. Digital comm’s and digital project management tools will continue to evolve and take hold in even the most archaic of industries. From our perspective, we’ve already seen the opportunities. Individuals who traditionally would have sent money abroad to loved ones via a physical store i.e. Western Union, under lockdown measures, have been forced to look online and find an online provider to do so. We’re been fortunate to be perfectly positioned for these specific individuals who don’t know/understand the online market. Moreover, we’ve helped these individuals (along with our existing customers) find cheapest, safest and most efficient way to transfer their money.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
100%, without a shadow of doubt I think it will. I believe it’s already set the proverbial ball in motion and there are some things that will fundamentally change forever. Everything from non-working policies to the huge spike in contact less payments — these will form legacy events that will completely change user behavior. Digital processes, or the digital way of working in particular, has shown the world how we can work in a completely different manner. However, I think it’s the one’s that society least expect to change that will be most interesting to watch unfold.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
As mentioned, we’ve already noticed a change in user behavior. This has been to our benefit. However, to continue to capitalise on this, we need to better understand our user. Some of these potential customers will need further educating and hand-holding. It’s precisely why we’ve built out a “guide” section on our website. We plan on expanding this further, potentially moving into video to help the customer understand the market better in an easier format and ultimately help them through the process from start to finish.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Analyze the digital trends within your own industry and within your organization. I’d recommend looking at your competitors too — how are they pivoting at this moment in time? From an internal perspective, I’d provide a more flexible approach to working once this is over (i.e. working from home options etc). Go digital — if you haven’t already. Digital transformation is growing exponentially during this crisis. It’s saved many companies that were on the brink and will continue to do so.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I think in the book I mentioned earlier, Rand Fishkin’s Lost & Founder, he reveals how traditional Silicon Valley “wisdom” leads far too many startups astray — I think there’s a number of interesting characters within the UK tech space that can lead you astray too! That’s why I like the Latin phrase “Cui bono?”, in who’s interest does it lie? I always ask myself that in any meeting I’m in. It helps you understand the perspective of your peer, colleague, business partner or investor.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I’ll be writing on our news section of MoneyTransfers.com, catch me there!