11:FS 2019 in Review

 David M. Brear photo
David M. Brear Group CEO
5min read

What. A. Year. 2019 has been an absolute whirlwind of growth and expansion and in true 11:FS style, we continued to ramp up and start new things right up until the last day of Q4.

With key folks joining this year it feels like we’re putting the pieces in place to continue achieving great things at velocity as we scale even bigger next year.

There’s been an inordinate amount of stuff worth celebrating but here are some key milestones that sum up 2019 for me…

March: Consultancy of the Year

There are very very few occasions where I will be made to don a tux. Seriously. But the prospect of beating some of the giant firms to a shiny-ass trophy and being named Consultancy of the Year was way too appealing for us not to show up with hustle.

The room teemed with atmosphere. After our friends at Starling Bank hoovered up Best British Bank, Best Current Account Provider AND Best Business Banking Provider, came our category. The tension.

I can still hear the countdown now (and definitely watched the video about 400 times afterward) when 11:FS won, voted for by the very community who supports us everyday. What a moment to be proud of - you can read my immediate reaction here.

March: 11:FS Foundry became a thing

Another chocolate bar bought in aid of a maiden transaction!

For six months our 11:FS Foundry team, headed up by Leda Glyptis, has been beavering away building our core banking stack in partnership with DNB. In March, we had our first live transaction.

More big news to come heading into Q1 of 2020, so watch this space

It’s alive! A huge step for the team and much celebration was had.

The team are now making the front-end plug and play BaaS platform as streamlined and engaging as possible while continuing to work with DNB to test and move into other value chains within the bank. More big news to come heading into Q1 of 2020, so watch this space.

Learn more about Foundry here.

July: Will.i... knew we could get him on the pod :)

It was during our Xmas Afterdark in 2017, four beers in, that I pledged to get Will.i.am on Fintech Insider. After the news hit that he had taken a role as Strategic Board Advisor at Atom Bank the same year, you can imagine my determination to come mic to mic with the man himself.

Roll forward to July this year and after some very specific pre-show food requirements... Boom! Will.i.am had a seat at the table. There we were at the National Theatre Studios recording an Atom Bank takeover show with Will and the bank’s senior leaders, and yes we did book a swanky studio just for the occasion.

It was a great show, diving into what sets Atom apart in the industry and the development of AI. I have to admit there was a huge part of me spent holding back the urge to ask him about the Black Eyed Peas...

That was it. Year already made. Listen to the show here

Key players join the team

Eric Fulwiler - Chief Marketing Officer

I’ll admit prying Eric away from Gary and VaynerMedia was a little scary but it couldn’t have been a better decision… plus in Gary’s words, “Oh those guys? I like those guys”.

Over the years we’ve done a good job of brand marketing and content production. However, as the company continues to scale at a rapid pace it was the right time to bring someone in who was going to turn up the dial and structure out the team to create a beast of a media and marketing machine.

Eric joined the company by storm, plugging the gaps we have to really support our services lines. Here’s a bit more about him here.

Shaun Meadows - Chairman

This year I decided it was about time I had a boss. Shaun Meadows was a billion levels up from me when I was at Aviva but when I left he continued to be a trusted mentor and advisor throughout my career.

With Shaun’s wealth of business experience, it was a no-brainer to bring him in as Chairman of 11:FS so that the rest of the Exec team could also benefit from his wise thoughts and opinions. We sat down when he joined and he gave his take on where he sees us going as a business.

Michael Curds - Chief People Officer

As a company we achieve our mission by unleashing talent. We bring in the best people to deliver the best work of their lives. At the size we are now it was absolutely crucial that we brought in an A-team player to spend 100% of their time ensuring the bar was kept high and that our talent was taken care of.

Enter Michael Curds, former BCG Ventures Head of Talent. He, along with his entire BCG recruitment team who joined a few months later, have been doing a stellar job of building a deep candidate pool and maintaining consistent quality on our hires, ensuring they align with our culture and beliefs. More on him here.

September: Home 5.0

We’ve been feeling slightly nomadic this year as less than 12 months after our move to Devonshire Square we relocated to Finsbury Avenue. We are very much at home with Monzo, Starling, Onfido and Tech Nation right on our doorstep. Hello, free-flowing podcasts guests :)

We’re hoping to reside here for at least a few years, but time will tell ...

With an office that seats 150 people it now actually takes a few minutes to walk from one end of the office to the other! And with an internal studio kitted out with rock-band-worthy sound proofing we have certainly settled into our new HQ.

We’re hoping to reside here for at least a few years, but time will tell as we are expected to double in size come this time next year… I can see Ryan our COO is beginning to sweat already.

September: Linkedin Top Startups

For the second year in a row 11:FS was named a top 20 startup, this time rolling in at number seven! We are super duper proud to be alongside some of our industry friends at Clearbank (11th), Monzo (first), Starling (fourth) and Bud (13th).

It’s a real heart-warmer when you know your company is awesome but you find out that other people think that too. This is one we hope to keep going forwards for sure. You can read more of my thoughts on this here.

October: 11:YEARS

With it being exactly 11 years since the financial crisis, it was obvious that we had to do something to mark the occasion...

The idea of shining a light on how London became a global fintech hub started to snowball, until we realised that no one had ever before told the story of how the wonders of what we have in the industry today came from the ashes of the crash.

[11:YEARS] truly was an achievement that will live on to educate way past 2019

Challenge accepted!

Through hours of organising, narrative writing and diary chasing, our media team, with the help of producers at ROAM Media House, created a 60 minute film featuring senior leaders from regulators, investors, government, big banks and the founders of challenger banks, to tell the story in its entirety.

With over 200,000 views in the first few weeks, we have many people to thank for bringing together this story. It truly was an achievement that will live on to educate way past 2019. If you still haven’t watched it, do it now!11:YEARS - The Rise of UK Fintech

November: 11:FS goes global

We always planned for 11:FS to hit the US by storm. With European fintechs like Monzo, Revolut and N26 making their way across the pond and the market appearing to be three years behind the UK, it felt like the right time to do it...

Alongside Sam Maule and Sarah Timmins, who have been our far-flung US team to date, Will White joined us to head up our expansion beginning with NYC. With a background in operations and starting companies from scratch, Will cut the ribbon of our new office in November. It’s in Barclays Rise, Flatiron where a lot of startups like Level 39 or WeWork begin their journey.

So far it’s been a case of talking to as many people as possible and with our first NYC After Dark under our belts we’re getting our name out there and ramping up activity in 2020.

November: Values we value

Arguably one of the most important programmes of work kicked off this year, alongside Mike joining to help spearhead the project. 11:LIFE is an initiative that is going to take another year or two to fully accomplish, but in 2019 we kicked it off by curating and launching our company values and attributes.

Why was it the right time to do this?

For three years we had been living by the motto of “don’t be a dick”, which was a super useful temperature check on how we work with each other and our clients. But as we have scaled significantly we needed to implement something a little more substantial and meaningful that would be the foundations of every employee’s 11:LIFE from hiring to eventual exit (should they have to).

... Values should be about individual employees, not a generalised banner for the company in its entirety

Most companies have values, many of which are meaningless murals that no one cares about let alone lives by. So after a tonne of time in workshops, focus groups, researching and reflecting on all the bad experiences we collectively had, or had seen when it comes to values, we took a whole new approach to the process.

It became painfully clear that values should be about individual employees, not a generalised banner for the company in its entirety.

With that in mind we took all our accumulated beliefs that were already there from three years of evolution, and formed them into an articulation of what “Eleveness” actually means to us. These will be used in our hiring process as well as our performance management framework as a whole.

Four values, 12 attributes. Stay tuned for more on this as we move into Q1.

What comes next?

So there you have it. Quite the year and really it feels like we’ve just got started.

With 11:FS Foundry launching next year, our Media and Marketing team kicking off a whole host of new podcasts and content, our 11:FS Pulse team looking to forge more of a community on their user base and Consulting continuing to hit every corner of the world helping banks become truly digital… well there’s much to be excited about in 2020 :)

 David M. Brear
About the author

David M. Brear

David is the CEO of 11:FS and since his dream of being a sportsperson was crushed (along with the ligaments in his knee!) and he had to get a proper job. He has worked in pretty much every angle of the financial services industry but never lost that competitive desire to win.