Diana Paredes is the CEO and Co-Founder of Suade. After a successful career in investment banking at Barclays and Merrill Lynch where she covered several asset classes in sales and trading & structuring, she saw an opportunity to innovate and launch her current FinTech startup.
Diana talks to EntrepreneurCountry Global about what it means to be lean and clean in FinTech, and why accelerators are the new MBA…
Suade is an open platform for financial regulation, is there anything else we should know?
It is a solution made from bankers to bankers. I realised there was a way to streamline a very complex process of what is happening inside the banks - it is basically building IT for regulation.
Could you share more about your entrepreneurial journey of implementing modern technology in the financial sector?
I started my career at Merrill Lynch and then moved to Barclays. The regulation that followed the financial crisis heavily affected my career. When I realised the opportunity for my idea I left in a very timely fashion, as FinTech in itself was becoming a very interesting sector, and has become its own entity in the past year. The scale of movement across London has allowed me to flourish in all sorts of ways, and the wave of support for what we are doing and for innovation in the financial industry in general has been well timed. As a startup we have had many opportunities to present and share our ideas, and I was actually pitching at parliament on Monday – there’s a lot of great stuff happening for our business.
I understand that Suade allows financial institutions to ‘transparently deal with their regulatory calculations and reporting, while remaining compliant thanks to a flexible framework’ – why is this flexibility paramount and how it is achieved?
The flexibility is very important because of the inherent dynamic nature of regulation which changes all of the time. So if you are building with technology that is old, antiquated and not flexible, you end up in a situation where you can’t actually adapt to the rules and pace at which they are changing. We achieve this flexibility by using modern technology. What’s interesting is that there is a lot of software that has been built for banks, not just in regulation but other areas too, that is relatively old compared to the technology available and built for a world twenty years ago. If you think about all that has happened in the last two decades, from your iPhone, to the power of computers, to the use of The Cloud; the kind of technology that was built for a world when these things didn’t exist is quite out of date, effectively.
In terms of production, your approach is to go to banks and ‘solve a problem that is immediate to them’, as well as build more services on the side. Could you elaborate further?
It’s a business approach. As a startup, what I have cared about is to be as lean and clean as possible. I did not want to go out there and put out software that nobody wanted to buy. Sometimes as a business if you take funding in too quickly, or you take a different approach to a lean build-out, you’re in a situation where you’re building things that nobody wants to pay for. For a startup, that is dangerous. Enterprise software is not like building an app. You can make something completely redundant, spend years of your life doing it, waste money/resources… and be a lost crusader. Our business perspective is to work with banks, building parts of what they need urgently and validate our approach.
Earlier this year you were accepted for the Microsoft Venture Programme – how has Suade benefitted from this affiliation?
There are a few very good accelerators in London. What’s interesting with Microsoft Ventures is that they are the accelerator of one of the biggest enterprise software companies in the world. For a company that is building enterprise software and selling it to banks, they could not have been a better example to learn from. We have benefitted enormously from the platform, the support we’ve received, the different relationships we’ve been able to create… It’s been a wonderful journey. I read somewhere that accelerators are the new MBA [laughs.] and London offers a very good selection, definitely worth considering when starting any entrepreneurial journey.
It was reported in the Financial Times that ‘banks face new regulations that are complex, costly and inflexible’ – How does Suade overcome this?
I believe that the regulators are trying their best to keep an eye out for the impact regulation has in relation to cost vs. benefits on the banks. From the bank’s perspective, they are always on the defensive because they don’t have the right technology to cope with what is going on with regulation. From the regulator’s side, they have a job to do and the bank’s have failed the system in the crisis. Regulation can be complex and inflexible but the problem is not the regulation, it is how banks are trying to cope with it – so if Suade can provide the banks with the right tools to deal with it we will all be in a better place.
Your ethos centres on embracing regulation – why do you feel this is powerful to a business?
I always start all my presentations asking: ‘How do we prevent the next financial crisis?’ and giving as an answer ‘Regulation’. We believe regulation is the only way forward. At Merrill Lynch, I was a young employee when the crisis erupted and we became another bank overnight. This event had a massive impact on what I decided to do with my career. I saw around me a lot of disappointment and madness, and this is how I came to be in the more structured side of the bank looking closer at regulation, because I realised this was the only solution. Twenty trillion dollars were lost world-wide because of the crisis and this is something people should not forget. Hence why we are passionate about our ethos: embracing regulation to prevent the next financial crisis. An ethos for any company is important because otherwise, what’s the point? Are you going to be a giver or taker in the economy? For Suade, we take our ethos and mission very seriously, we believe in it!
Does the Enterprise Software industry look set to innovate further?
When it comes to enterprise software, there is a lot of opportunity for innovation because enterprise software is the piece of technology looking at taking care of the needs of very big companies. Very big companies can become inefficient sometimes and are not always technology companies themselves. The enterprise software space is really ripe for disruption because there is the opportunity to work with industries that have old software and to innovate in areas where they cannot.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to those looking to create an enterprise software startup?
I would say just do it and get cracking. I would also say don’t get intimidated by how big some enterprise software companies are relative to you who just started. Companies who have been doing it forever aren’t necessarily right and can be quite antiquated themselves. They can be intimidating because they are such big companies and then you’re coming in with your innovation and they have more resources and money. If you don’t quickly recognise your value, realise that you are super agile, that you can innovate in a way they cannot and basically represent future, then you won’t come into your own power. Once you realise it, the sky’s the limit!
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