How I became a tech entrepreneur without giving up my banking job
There’s a standard route into entrepreneurialism among finance professionals. Agonise over the decision to leave a high-paying job for a jump into the unknown. Eventually take the decision and use funds saved through years of big bonuses to get the business off the ground. Work harder than ever. Launch the product and pray for it to start making money.
For Malcolm Lewis, a consultant at Deutsche Bank who’s recently launched an iPhone app called MoppedUp – which allows homeowners to create to-do lists for their cleaners – it meant long hours in the evenings and weekends while still keeping the day job.
“You learn to get by on a few hours’ sleep, and also sneak a in few hours before heading to work in the morning,” he says. “There was a slump after the birth of my second child when sleep deprivation became extreme, but it’s possible to do this in your spare time if you’re disciplined.”
Lewis’ example shows that if you have an idea for a new business running around your head, you don’t have to quit banking in order to realise it. So far, he’s pumped £10-15k of his own funds getting the app off the ground, so having a regular income was important. He also transitioned out of an operations job into financial technology, so quitting the industry after this was a harder decision.
Operations jobs have long been heading out of major financial centres like London and New York to cheaper locations that are either onshore (think Salt Lake City or Glasgow) or offshore (Philippines or India). However, Lewis says that the fundamentals of the job have changed.
He started out in derivatives operations at Royal Bank of Scotland in 1996. “At that time you were involved in the plumbing of the banking system and it was much more project-based. You faced a problem and you were given the opportunity to solve it. Now, it’s much more process-driven and a lot of people have moved away from what is a declining market.”
After nine years in operations, working at Nomura, Merrill Lynch and SG Warburg (now UBS) among others, it was a move to Australia that allowed Lewis to change his career track. Working for a local stock exchange, his experience of change management in the City was welcomed. A few other contract gigs down the line, and he had enough experience to make transition across to business analysis and project management back in the UK.
It’s this that has helped get the MoppedUp off the ground. Lewis has done all the coding and testing of the app himself, only bringing in a team of coders to do the “nuts and bolts”.
The idea for the app came from both Lewis’ frustrations with his own cleaners, and realising that many of his colleagues had the same issue. “The financial sector is one of our biggest customer bases, simply because they’re so time poor,” he says. “One in four people have a cleaner in the UK. It’s important to be able to manage this service.”