Victoria van Lennep, Cofounder of Lendable, 28
It was back in 2014 that Victoria had the idea that personal loans and fair rates shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, so decided to cofound Lendable to unite the two. Using machine-learning technology that enables automated credit decisions – and allows them to offer small loans at better rates than banks or credit cards – it’s so far secured more than £125 million in lending capital and £2.5 million in equity funding.
What has been most critical to your success? What advice would you give to young aspiring leaders?
In general, Fintech startups have little room for error. The industry is very competitive and you need to exhibit a high degree of professionalism, coupled with an ambitious mindset that injects durable innovative approaches to established business areas (like, in our case, consumer lending). The key to it all is recruitment: finding the right people to make the business work, which requires a broad mixture of employees: some with experience in the financial industry, some with advanced skills in coding and data science, others still with experience in the customer-facing side of the business. To make it all work you then need to foster a healthy, joyful and collaborative culture that brings out the best in everyone. I think what’s been a critical factor in driving our success is creating a diverse but cohesive team, so the advice I would give to aspiring leaders is to spend a lot of time thinking about how to become a great team player. This is as much about listening as it is about open and frank communication. If you want to be a credible leader you have to take responsibility and ownership of what goes on inside your company, including owning up to errors and failures and learning from them, and sharing successes with all the people that help bring them about!
Is there a diversity problem in finance? Why is diversity important?
There most certainly is a gender diversity issue in both finance and tech. At Lendable we pride ourselves in hiring at a 50-50 gender split for entry level roles as well as senior management. Our Operations, Customer Service and Investor teams are all run by women. We make sure that our employees can advance their skills using external and internal training resources. Our Head of Operations, for example, involved us with the Ambitious Ladies in Tech programme, which features regular mentorship meetings and meet-ups. It’s really important to try and tackle diversity challenges head-on, firstly by keeping gender balance in mind when hiring, and secondly by giving staff time and resources for their personal development. I’m really proud to spearhead Lendable’s drive to make our company a welcoming place for women – it makes us stronger as a company, it benefits our culture, and it makes it a nicer place to work for everyone!