As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Oliveira.
A seasoned banking professional, Ron Oliveira is an innovative, forward-thinking leader with extensive experience building and shaping organizations from the inside out. A native Californian, Ron has worked in the banking business for nearly his entire career, from small community banks throughout the region, to larger, more well-established institutions worldwide. During his tenure, Ron has worked with a wide variety of clients including everything from local farmers, to small businesses, to retail and even larger global enterprises.
His robust experience has allowed Ron to develop a unique appreciation for the human component of doing business, prioritizing what customers want and need. Having spent many of his formative banking years at institutions with a heavy focus on community, Ron understands the importance of building trust with customers and brings that level of a “customer-first” approach to Revolut. Additionally, his global practice has allowed him to appreciate the need for innovation and mobility in this ever-changing industry.
Ron’s vision for Revolut U.S. is to continue to develop a global presence while channeling many of the organization’s resources and ideas into local initiatives throughout the country. His commitment to Revolut users is paramount and informs much of his work and ideas at the company.
Thank you so much for your time Ron! 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 was raised on a ranch in the central valley of California and went off to college to get my agricultural degree and maybe a small hope of being a professional baseball player. I graduated, attended a job fair where several banks were soliciting for a training program. I thought; I am never going to be in banking but what a great opportunity to learn. Well, 25 years later and having worked across the financial industry, I am now the CEO of Revolut for the U.S. territory., bridging the gap between traditional banking and the digital future that has arrived.
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?
There are a lot of funny mistakes I have made, I’m not really sure where to start.
Right before I went to work for Revolut, I downloaded the app and became a customer. However, I was only using it sparingly the first few weeks. I walked into a meeting with a group of long time Revolut users. We started talking about what was great about the application and where we could improve. I could not navigate through the application as fast as everyone else and was playing catch up the whole time. My take away, be prepared or don’t bother showing up.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I have always enjoyed reading — I even love that “new book” smell. However, these days it’s audio books, of course. I had a great history teacher in 7th grade and she made it so real for me. I have read countless books about significant people in history. I do believe the book that has made the most impact are the two I always go back to browse again and again — “The Words We Live By” from Brian Burrell and “Lend Me Your Ears” by William Safire. These two books look at the power of both the written and spoken word. This has helped me throughout my career to always weigh my words carefully and to remember “less is more”.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Revolut began about 5 years ago but just launched in the United States in March 2020. Our ultimate vision is to be the first truly global bank, digitally. A person should be able to easily view, control and manage their finances all in one place, from the palm of their hand.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
My number one principal is: All the decisions you make, if somehow were brought out into the bright light of day, you are confident in being able to stand by them. Even during times that may not appear to your best moment, your values still show through. The other principle I follow is: Success can only be measured from the future looking back. The praise or criticism you receive at that specific time should be taken lightly. History will be the true judge of your “success”, so keep that in mind.
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?
This event, though not over by far, from a personal basis has already left its mark. You start to think about how it could impact your loved ones and close friends. You think about those that are elderly, in compromised health that could easily be adversely affected. There was a mental timeline I had about how long those I care most about were going to be among us, pre-covid. COVID-19 changed all of that for me and challenged me to rethink my relationships. How did I address that and how has it permanently changed me? I made time to connect, to look for ways to get together, just talk. I learned so much more about many of my friends. Many of my relationships got stronger. I rediscovered a phrase that I always knew to be true, but now it feels even more important to ensure I say it — “How can I help?” Also, it’s really important to tell friends and family how you feel about them, don’t just assume they know.
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?
Work in this environment has it’s challenges but I am lucky to work with a great group. We already worked well together so the business has not missed a step. However, I do miss the social interaction and am looking forward to getting back together. The biggest business challenge has been with new hires. Hiring people remotely, never meeting in person is difficult. It really materialized when it comes to the Revolut culture. Someone can read the employee manual, our value statement and goals but you can not humanize it and that is most important. Team huddles, One on One’s, sharing fun facts about each other, are just some of the ways we used to interact and you can’t replace the personal connection that provides the fabric to a company’s culture. Culture is like DNA, you can’t physically see it, but you sure can feel it. Did I say, I am looking forward to getting back together?
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus 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?
I think I answered this with the family related question earlier. The only thing I would add is you need to be more proactive in your relationship. Speak your feelings, let people know where you are with them. I found acknowledging those feelings to them and yourself won’t solve something like COVID-19, but together we will prevail and be stronger together.
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?
The new normal will be different and I believe for the better. Business will finally realize the “work from home” concept has come of age and provides a better work-life balance. The idea of being in the office, a group setting and human interaction is critical but you can still work from home a few days a week as well. Specifically, in the fintech arena, the transformation to digital has accelerated and we are not going back — a cashless society, with fewer physical locations. This goes for almost every current high touch business. Do you need the size of waitstaff at a restaurant? Can you just order, pick it up and rather than take it home, seat yourself and enjoy the dine-in experience? The opportunities will be found in looking at how we did something pre and during COVID-19, using what we painfully learned and applying it to the post-Covid world.
I believe the opportunity is in how people are transforming their thought process. When someone wants to do something, their first thought will now be, “Can I do that from my phone?”. The outcome will be significant — less driving, less pollution, a smaller carbon footprint and giving yourself a little time back in your life.
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?
The Post-Covid economy will be an acceleration of the COVID-19 for Revolut. We launched in the United States right at the beginning of Covid and what we offered resonated more than ever. Revolut is building out all the features it has in Europe for this market.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Don’t wait for more clarity, or until COVID is over or some other event to transpire or end. Try things in this new environment, experiment in small doses, be flexible and willing to adapt. There is nothing wrong with making small mistakes and learning from them to be able to grow.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
You are either going forward or backwards, there is no such thing as static. When I hear someone or a business say they are happy where they are and no change is necessary, they are only fooling themselves. Everyone else is moving and you’re standing still, most likely going backwards by default. This philosophy has been relevant to most all of my personal and professional life.
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