Holding yourself accountable

 David M. Brear photo
David M. Brear Co-Founder & CEO, 11:FS
5min read

2020 has been a funny old year on many fronts so far, hasn't it? Over the last few months something interesting has happened for 11:FS, as myself and my co-founders, Jason, Ross and Simon explain.

We’ve started to attract a new kind of attention. The kind that makes you stop and go “huh?”, “why?” and “what’s changed?”.

Anyone who knows us knows we’re pretty straight talking - that’s why we’d like to take a few minutes to share our thoughts on the topic.

We’re proud of the 11:FS brand reach. People are often surprised to learn that we’re not even 200 people yet despite the impact we have had globally doing some of our best work.

As a challenger in our industry, that’s exactly what we’re aiming for - to put a positive dent in the way people think and the way things are done. Our vision is to change the fabric of financial services. You don't do that quietly.

On that journey we’ve benefited from great, frequent, and positive press coverage while also working hard and investing significantly in building our own media business.

This effort from so many has helped raise the profile and awareness of our brand and connected us even further to the amazing financial services and fintech community that we aim to serve.

However, recent events feel like we’re entering new territory, a transition that others have experienced as well.

People love the underdog

You start off as the small, scrappy underdog with a big vision; everyone’s rooting for you and it’s mainly upside and opportunity. But you’re making more noise than impact. In 2016 we were “those podcast guys” and we embraced that, t-shirts and all.

We’ve been building challenger banks, fintech propositions, new technology platforms and strategies for some of the biggest brands around the world over the last 4 years.

To get people to think differently, we have to say what we think and do what we believe in, even if it’s hard.

Over this time we’ve started taking business from competitors, having big-name talent join us, saying no to some people and some things. We now have people who don’t want us to succeed. And it seems that that’s when things started to change. We started to get more and also different attention.

It’s hard to pinpoint when it happened, but it’s clear that increased negativity is what sells and gets clicks. The BBC hauling Monzo over the coals on Watchdog, newspapers and outlets focussing on fintechs like OakNorth or Freetrade and their leadership leading with unsubstantiated and anonymous claims.

While we are not the first ones to be frustrated about reading inaccurate articles about us, we are big believers in transparency. Articles that stray from misinformed observation to personal attacks feels like a step beyond the notion of holding people to account. We have even heard tales of competitors and reporters briefing people against 11:FS and ringing around ex-employees looking for stories, which is alarming.

And look, we’re not perfect and we’re not beyond criticism. We’re human and we make the wrong call on occasion. But when stories start appearing that are blatantly untrue and based on anonymous quotes, you know something has changed.

Just last week we were singled out for changes that we have made during the current pandemic. We did nothing obscure or different to any of our competitors, far from it given the approach and way we communicated it to our team. But for some reason, we became the article, one with factually inaccurate claims using anonymous sources with people digging through ex-employees looking for dirt.

Proud to be different

The willingness to be provocative in changing the fabric of a centuries-old industry is exactly the spirit that we as co-founders have had in common since day one.

We couldn’t be more passionate about our people and the culture they have built. From day one we have built 11:FS around and for our people.

To get people to think differently, we have to say what we think and do what we believe in, even if it’s hard. We share our journey openly on social media. And we’re transparent, maybe to a fault sometimes.

We couldn’t be more passionate about our people and the culture they have built. From day one we have built 11:FS around and for our people. Our people are our everything. Our culture is our everything.

To us, culture is the behaviours you accept and the ones you don’t. It’s what happens when the leader isn’t in the room, it’s something that is built bottom up. We have been purposeful and specific with the culture we’ve cultivated over the last four years, and we would defend it and the people who built it to my last breath.

And we owe it to our employees, our clients and their customers to be honest and direct in dealing with performance issues and cultural alignment when they arise.

Always holding ourselves accountable

We do our best to hire and support people who will thrive in our culture and against our expectations. It doesn’t always work out and that’s okay. Values only matter if you hold people accountable to them and we do.

As we grow, we expect our peers, our community, the industry and the media to hold us accountable. In the same way that we hold them accountable to help move this industry forward and do our, and their best work.

So we’ll keep doing what we do best, trying to build a company our employees can be proud of. We are working phenomenally hard on new banks and fintech propositions across the world.

Thank you

For all those Elevens out there past and present - you have gotten us to where we are. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you.

For all of the emails and messages of support over the last few months - we truly appreciate you and your support. Thank you.

Thank you to the fintech and financial services community. There are so many talented folks out there putting in hard work, in between looking after kids, loved ones and unexpected pet interruptions. We see you, we value you and we're here for you.

Our focus on delivering our very best work for clients and looking after our people remains unshaken, no matter what kind of attention we get.

Thank you.

- David, Jason, Simon & Ross

 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.