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My first boss: Jaidev Janardana, Zopa Bank CEO

The people who helped shape business leaders

Since Jaidev Janardana joined Zopa it has secured its banking license and increased its lending volumes six fold. Photo: Sportsfile
Since Jaidev Janardana joined Zopa Bank it has secured its banking licence and increased its lending volumes sixfold. Photo: Sportsfile (Sportsfile)

UK-based Jaidev Janardana joined Zopa Bank as COO in 2014 before becoming CEO a year later. In September, the online bank said it was generating £250m in annual revenue after obtaining one million customers.

I was managing a team of about 12 at Capital One UK when Michael Woodburn offered me this job doing arrears management, collections and recoveries at the height of the financial crisis around 2008.

The in-house team was about 300, with 500 outsource vendors and it meant managing a team of around 800 as chief credit officer. Michael was probably the best boss I had and he helped me in several ways.

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A leader is someone who figures out what needs to be done. Through that transition more often than not a leader’s job is to inspire, create positivity, attract a lot of good people, talk about the problem that needs to be solved and why it’s important.

Read More: My first boss: Andrew James, Citigroup’s EMEA head of wealth at work

Michael used to drive this Toyota which was about 50 years old and bought clothes from charity shops — he was a very down to earth boss. Further, he helped me through my new journey, talking about what it feels like from leading a dozen to hundreds, changing management processes and the way you look at team performance.

The most important thing in conversations is that when you are leading a large organisation you make it a point that people know who you are, where you're coming from and that’s how you make decisions. Ultimately people follow people.

It also came at a hard time personally for me. Growing up I had financial trouble with money and it took me back to some of those times and how my family and I felt about it.

In talking to Michael, he helped me see things differently, that there was this challenge but actually having access to credit at that point early in my life helped me complete my education.

Jaidev Janardana, pictured middle, spent 12 years at Capital One. Starting out in McLean, Virginia, he was initially focused on the US card business. Photo: Sportsfile
Jaidev Janardana, pictured middle, spent 12 years at Capital One. Starting out in McLean, Virginia, he was initially focused on the US card business. Photo: Sportsfile (Sportsfile)

What stood out was having faith and giving someone the opportunity in a challenging environment. I’ve taken this forward today at Zopa Bank and making people do things they wouldn’t think possible.

So, how could I use this loyalty Michael had given me to think about the way we were talking to the hundreds of thousands of customers and how their experience could be better? Knowing that I had been on the other side of it, it was broadly thinking about using and borrowing credit to be a force for good.

It was also the purpose when I joined Zopa Bank when it was a peer-to-peer lender, transitioned into a bank and started the journey again in borrowing and saving. We thought about how those two products can help create a positive impact for customers.

There were a number of things that attracted me to the job — and wanting to understand the customer was one.

Read More: My first boss: Nick Ogden, the ‘founding father of fintech’

There is an understanding in financial services that not all growth is always good, particularly if you are in the business of lending. I thought this was a good base for the longer term, something that will help customers through their life.

Most of our tech has been written in the last five years, while we have been using artificial intelligence since 2015. From a customer standpoint if you are looking for a loan or product, within four to five minutes of completing a 90-second application form you can know what the price might be and that it doesn’t impact credit history. Meanwhile, our complaint numbers are far lower than the industry average.

Michael is now on our board today as our consumer duty champion. It goes back to my faith in him, as he truly thinks about the consumer and at Zopa Bank we are committed to that goal.

Jaidev Janardana was speaking at the 2023 Web Summit in Lisbon

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