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Tommy Heptinstall, Co-founder at OrbitRemit

The dream of becoming a professional footballer or cricketer never eventuated for Tommy Heptinstall, Co-founder at OrbitRemit, however an exciting career building a FinTech business from the ground up is keeping him more than happy.

Whilst on his OE in the UK, Tommy experienced the frustration of having his money gobbled up in bank fees, when sending money overseas. Knowing that there had to be a better way, Tommy set about creating just that.

We caught up with Tommy to learn more about his career journey into tech, the current state of play at OrbitRemit and where he and the team hope to take the business into the future. Thanks for sharing your story, Tommy.

“We make it easy for people to send money to their friends and family in other countries”

How would you explain to a five year old what it is that you do?

We make it easy for people to send money to their friends and family in other countries, where those people really need help.  

And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?

We are running a FinTech company focussed on cross-border consumer payments.

Day-to-day I am constantly looking at ways to make the process faster, cheaper, and easier for our users whilst making sure we meet a raft of regulatory obligations across multiple international jurisdictions and AML/CFT regimes.

As a small team, with a finite amount of resources, being tactical and ensuring we are working on the right projects is probably the most important part of my role.

I am always asking, does this piece of work advance us towards achieving our ultimate goals? The other key part of that is circling back, once projects are complete, and making sure the outcomes and side effects are in-line with our expectations.

“I was either going to be a footballer or a cricket star, but here I am about to clock up thirteen years working in fintech.”

Was building a tech company something you dreamed about doing as a kid? If not, what was?

It certainly was not what I dreamed of as a kid! Like a lot of Kiwi kids, I was either going to be a footballer or a cricket star, but here I am about to clock up thirteen years working in FinTech.

Having run the business for quite a few years we have seen the technology available to us rapidly evolve and have been able to utilise this to continue to improve the value proposition for our customers.

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and what inspired you to start OrbitRemit?

I studied information systems and e-commerce at university, at a time when e-commerce was in its relative infancy-think Amazon only selling books and music (yes I am that old).

It was clear from the likes of Borders and Barnes and Noble being toppled that many more products and services would move to a 100% digital distribution model and we decided to launch OrbitRemit as a purely online service.

After finishing university I had worked in other areas outside of tech and was looking to move to the UK.

After moving to the UK I sent some money up via the banks and was amazed at the amount that essentially went missing in fees. The whole thing was so opaque and it seemed like there had to be a better way.

Where do you hope OrbitRemit will be in five years from now?

We would like to be the predominant player in ANZ for consumer cross-border payments. We will likely be listed on the ASX or NZX within five years.

Whilst the market has become more sophisticated in recent years there are still a huge number of people using the banks, who are paying too much and unsure where their money is or what deductions may be made on its journey to the final recipient.

This needs to change and we want to be a part of the continued education to make sure people accessing these services have all the information and can make informed decisions.

Last year alone we saved our customers $50m vs using the banks, which means more money can get to the people who really need it on the other side or gets spent in the local economy here so we think the mission is an important one.

“I like to get my hands dirty in many areas of the business and am probably a little guilty of focussing on the small details at times.”

What kind of boss are you, if I was to ask one of your employees?

I would like to think I am someone that is always available for my team when they need me.

I like to get my hands dirty in many areas of the business and am probably a little guilty of focussing on the small details at times. Having interacted with so many of our early users, that customer-first approach never really leaves you.

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

It's a bit of a cliche but my Dad loved his job and would always say, he never worked a day in his life. It took me a while to find the thing I really enjoy but doing something you love really does take the 'work' out of it.

I love getting up and going to work. Every day is different, it is never plain sailing but that is what keeps it interesting. We are dealing with people connected to each transfer so that humanising element is what gets you through the more difficult situations.

Lastly, as OrbitRemit grows, what are the key traits and characteristics of the people you look for when hiring?

We look for people that are curious, like to solve problems, and value autonomy to get things done. We have a very diverse team spanning 15 nationalities across our 45 people so with that in mind we also look for people who are respectful of others and exhibit self-awareness.

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