Payment Expert’s ID Check: Payments Professionals offers insight from industry leaders and experts on how they got their start in the financial industry, from their early years in education, to how they have been able to climb the corporate ladder. 

This week, Pedro Batista, UK CEO of spend management solution Payhawk, details his experiences across Europe, how his love for Formula 1 continues to fuel his passion and why a long-term perspective is key to a sustainable career in fintech. 

Pedro Batista – Payhawk UK CEO

What impact did your university course have on your current journey?

I pursued my undergraduate studies in Business Administration in Portugal, followed by a leadership course at Stanford Graduate School of Business. This educational journey has profoundly shaped my current path. My passion for global business management was ignited during my studies. 

Over the last decade, I’ve dedicated myself to developing and scaling businesses rather than maintaining mature, stable ones. This dynamic environment fuels me intellectually, as it presents a continuous stream of challenges, opportunities, and decisions for learning and adaptation based on market feedback. 

The fast-paced nature and potential impact of this work energises me, driving me to continually push beyond my comfort zone, and embrace growth.

Were you part of any sports clubs or societies at university and has this influenced your educational and professional development?

During my university years, I actively participated in sports clubs and served as a key member of the student body association. These experiences significantly influenced both my educational and professional development. 

In the sports club, I learned valuable lessons about teamwork, discipline, and perseverance – all of which are essential traits in both academic and professional settings. Additionally, my role in the student body association taught me how to navigate demanding client expectations and ambitious plans within tight budgets, honing my resource management and negotiation skills.

Moreover, organising a major annual student event exposed me to large-scale project management and event coordination, providing hands-on experience in handling logistical challenges and coordinating with diverse stakeholders.

Overall, my involvement in sports clubs and student societies contributed significantly to my personal and professional growth, instilling in me the key skills and lessons that continue to benefit me today.

 Did you have any jobs outside of the industry before making your start in it and was this experience a motivation to get into the industry you aspired to be in?

Before embarking on my journey in the fintech industry, I spent a decade in Corporate and Investment Banking, both in Portugal and London. This experience was invaluable in providing insights into the inner workings of financial services firms on a global scale and how they cater to their B2B clients.

It allowed me to deeply understand the needs of both SMEs and large corporations, particularly in terms of their treasury and payment requirements. 

As I gained more experience in the industry, I became increasingly intrigued by the nuance of local markets and the challenges faced by finance teams in global corporations or rapidly expanding companies. 

Issues such as liquidity management, data consistency, lack of real-time information, transparency in flow and pricing, and the fragmented nature of systems and data integration were among the pain points I directly observed clients grappling with.

This first hand exposure motivated me to delve deeper into the industry and seek innovative solutions to address these challenges. It became clear to me that there was a significant opportunity to leverage technology to streamline processes, enhance transparency, and improve efficiency in financial operations. 

This realisation ultimately fueled my transition into the fintech sector, where I could apply my insights and expertise to drive meaningful change and provide impactful solutions to businesses worldwide.

What was the first job you had in the industry and are there any lessons from this you still draw on?

My first job in the fintech industry was as the Global Head of Currencycloud, where I was responsible for developing and managing its financial infrastructure, including core business capabilities such as FX, cross-border payments, and accounts. 

This role presented me with a steep learning curve, especially considering the lingering effects of the 2008 global financial crisis and the heightened caution from financial institutions and regulators regarding risk. 

One of the most significant lessons I drew from this experience is the importance of adaptability and resilience in the face of challenges. Navigating through the aftermath of the financial crisis and addressing concerns from various stakeholders required agility and perseverance. Additionally, managing projects across diverse regions such as North America, Europe, Singapore, Australia, and South Korea taught me the importance of cultural awareness and understanding local market dynamics. 

Moreover, the highlights of my tenure at Currencycloud, including building solutions for the US market and spearheading the development of groundbreaking products in Europe, instilled in me the value of innovation and strategic vision. 

These experiences continue to shape my approach to business today where I aim to stay ahead of the curve, foster collaboration, and drive impactful change in the industry.

Who was your biggest role model outside of the payments industry who continues to inspire you in your current career?

Ayrton Senna is my role model beyond the world of payments. His life and career in Formula 1 inspire me deeply. Like many, I see him as one of the greatest drivers of all time. His approach to racing, mindset and his constant pursuit of excellence offers valuable lessons that resonate with the challenges we face in payments.

Just as Senna pushed the limits of his car and his own abilities, I’m driven to constantly improve our firm’s products and services. This isn’t just about staying ahead of the competition; it’s about offering the best value and experiences to our customers.

In both Formula 1 and payments, setbacks are inevitable – whether technological hurdles, regulatory changes, or market disruptions. But we must face them head-on, adapt quickly, and keep our long-term goals in mind. Confidence is also crucial in the fast-paced world of payments. Senna’s confidence was born out of talent but also from meticulous preparation. I aim to emulate this through trust in our team’s abilities and staying informed on industry trends.

His dedication to philanthropy inspires me to think about the wider impact of our work. Whether it’s supporting small businesses, fostering innovation, or promoting financial inclusion, I want Payhawk to create positive change and leave a lasting legacy.

When was your first big break in the payments industry? Why was this such a significant moment for you?

When I secured my first global head remit at a payments firm. This was a pivotal moment for me because it represented a vote of confidence from shareholders and founders, entrusting me with a broad scope of responsibilities and the freedom to chart my own strategic path. 

More importantly, being entrusted with such a global mandate fueled my passion for making a lasting impact. This moment marked the beginning of my journey to create meaningful and enduring change in the payments landscape, driving me to continuously pursue excellence and innovation in all aspects of my career.

Was there a moment you faced in the industry that really challenged you? How did you overcome this?

The global financial crisis posed a significant challenge for all professionals, and I was no exception. Its effects lingered for more than five years, leaving deep scars on the industry’s commercial landscape and risk appetite for both banks and fintech firms. During this tumultuous period, maintaining a relentless focus on innovation and a customer-centric approach became paramount. 

To overcome the challenges presented by the crisis, I adhered to a long-term mindset and resisted the temptation to chase short-term trends. Instead, I remained steadfast in my commitment to innovation and delivering value to customers, recognising that these principles would continue to hold relevance despite the prevailing headwinds and market downturn. 

By staying true to these core values and maintaining a strategic focus on the long term, I was able to navigate through the challenges posed by the crisis and emerge stronger and more resilient in the face of adversity.

Lastly, what is some advice you would give to an aspiring person looking to get a start in your respective industry?

Entering the fast-growing world of startups and fintech can be both immensely rewarding and incredibly challenging. It requires a willingness to take risks and embrace failure as part of the journey. As surprising as it may sound, even leaders of multi-trillion-dollar companies like Nvidia acknowledge the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship.

It’s crucial to understand that the path to success isn’t always smooth; setbacks and heartbreaks are inevitable. However, it’s your resilience in the face of adversity that will ultimately determine your success. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity and let it fuel your determination to persevere and innovate.

Moreover, maintain a long-term perspective. Building something of value takes time and dedication. Don’t be swayed by short-term trends or discouraged by temporary setbacks. Stay focused on your vision and keep pushing forward, knowing that every challenge you overcome brings you one step closer to your goals.

In summary, be bold enough to take risks, resilient enough to weather the storms, and steadfast enough to pursue value relentlessly. With these qualities, coupled with a long-term mindset, you’ll be well-equipped to thrive in the dynamic and ever-evolving world of fintech.