Financial IT had an inspiring interview with Ovidiu (Ovi) Olea, Founder and CEO of Valoot Technologies Limited (Valoot) about industrial changes and the way Valoot differentiates itself in today's marketplace.
Financial IT: To kick this off, could you please tell us briefly about your background and Valoot?
Ovi: I started my career in cash management at Citi. Essentially, this was the payments business for the bank and I got into it because when I was reading the description for the various areas offering internships, this was the one that I had no idea what it did. Nearly nine years later, I finally had a pretty good idea what it did. Because I genuinely liked the work and the people, I ended becoming a "payment expert" before fintech starting minting its new gods. My payments expertise helped me land a job with HSBC on the trading floor where I was taught FX by some really knowledgeable people. The payments + FX combination eventually helped me spot a gap in the market and I decided to give it a go on my own.
Financial IT: What did inspire you to set up Valoot? And how long did it take for the implementation of your idea?
Ovi: On the HSBC trading floor I was exposed to just how low, how competitive FX rates can be. And yet the moment I stepped away from my computer, and particularly when I was overseas travelling for business or pleasure, the rates available for my "consumption" were galactically high. It struck me that a solution that gives you "trading floor" FX rates for your purchases abroad would catch on. Less than a year after resigning from my last job and starting Valoot, we are now signing a partnership with a leading financial player that saw the situation the same way as I did.
Financial IT: What value does Valoot you bring to customers? Could you explain us how it works in practice?
Ovi: Rates straight from the trading floor to your card. We work with merchants to deploy our solution on their point of sale. Wherever you will see Valoot available, you will be given the choice to select your preferred currency. Once you tell us what currency you prefer to pay in, we use those "trading floor" FX rates to convert the merchant's local currency into your preferred currency. Then your card gets swiped as normal. You don't need to apply for a new card, you don't need to install an additional app, you don't need to register for the service. We are better than Revolut - way less hassle. The answer to card problems (amongst which FX is a big one) cannot be solved by issuing more cards.
Financial IT: What are the catchiest trends in the industry now, in your opinion? How does Valoot address those trends and challenges?
Ovi: Sometime late last year someone decided to get regtech as the favourite made-up word of 2017. I am not even pissed off that my LinkedIn feed this year is regtech regtech regtech. I just want to meet that person, that influencer that can decide what everyone else then takes as the Lord's gospel for an entire year. I want to meet this person that so many industry thought leaders
(what the hell is a thought leader anyhow?!) seem to automatically obey like sheep.
Financial IT: What are the major success tips that you would give anyone starting a FinTech startup?
Ovi: Always listen to your mother. Whenever you think about starting or joining a startup, apply a simple filter: Would your mother use the solution that a particular startup seems to be really excited about? If you think your mother would never use it, or would only ever use it because she really loves you, then walk away.
Ovidiu (Ovi) Olea
Founder and CEO of Valoot Technologies Limited (Valoot)
With over a decade of experience in cash management and foreign exchange, Ovi was established Valoot in order to address the inefficiencies and lack of transparency involved with card purchases abroad.
Prior to setting up Valoot, Ovi worked in sales in transaction banking and foreign exchange in Hong Kong, London and Frankfurt with Citibank and HSBC.
Inspired by seeing a beggar in Shenzhen collecting donations over WeChat Pay, Ovi decided to pivot slightly and with the help of his amazing team managed to launch WeChat Pay in UK in 2 months.
Originally from Romania, Ovi graduated from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland with a degree in International Relations and Economics. Ovi has lived, studied and worked in various countries across the world including Japan, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.