FinTech CEO Tom Cregan of EML Relishes Marching To The Beat Of A Different Drum in 2021
Tom Cregan, the Managing Director and Group CEO at EML, is a heavy metal drumming and martial arts enthusiast on a mission to infuse rhythmic harmony into the world of payments. His favourite part of any day as Chief Executive is finding a ''1+1=5 moment'' by thinking and approaching an aspect of the business differently.
”Problem-solving is such a cliche, but that is the best definition of a good day as a CEO. Thinking up a use case for how our payments products can fit into someone else’s business effortlessly and seamlessly. Or, asking, how can we transform a business process to make something new and exciting happen?” said Tom Cregan, who delivered a short answer to the question of what keeps the Chief Executive of a PLC awake at night?
”Honestly, nothing – I sleep soundly at night. When you’ve got a great team, I know they’re doing their best every single day. It doesn’t impact my sleep, and I don’t spend my time wondering what could go wrong. If something goes wrong, the person whose job it is to deal with that is more technically minded and qualified to handle it. I know they bring their A-game to fix any potential issues, fast. If it’s a more significant issue, then they will move to Plan B. I don’t spend any night fretting about the business. Instead, I spend time figuring out where our company will be in 3 and 5 years from now versus what could hypothetically blow up in our face today? I focus on thinking about a vertical that could be huge that doesn’t yet exist.”
The company has recently made strategic investments in two disrupters in America with global ambition, Interchecks and Hydrogen. Tom explained his thinking behind FinTech’s newest incubator. ”EML FINLAB has such a crucial role. We think of ourselves as disruptors. Whereby, other companies see us as leaders in business. We’re disrupting fast because there are people who want to disrupt us. I think – how do we continue to innovate, find new verticals and problem solve?”
Thought Leaders are accustomed to peering inside a crystal ball to predict what will happen in their industry in the future. Tom Cregan is incredibly optimistic about the next 3 years, armed with EML’s Project Accelerator. ”It’s about having conversations with investors and entrepreneurs who can see the next big thing coming down the line before anyone else. We can now predict where potentially huge new growth areas globally will stem from, and we’ll work on being one of the first players to the market in the future in these new segments. You always hope you get it right, and an idea goes big. The robust global alignment of all of our technology infrastructure is a current priority.
We appreciate just how quickly everything will change in the next 3, 4 and 5 years and how we can prepare. For a decade, EML and PFS were pretty much doing the same thing; working hard to enhance our respective product suites and moving from physical payment cards to digital enablement, Pays and mobile payments. Now, with Open Banking, there’s a transformation on the way, especially within traditional fee structures.”
Tom sees the future of payments looking very different from the industry we’re familiar with today. ”I predict a whole new series of payment scheme rail tracks on the way in the next 5 years from distributed ledger to Blockchain technology. We need to be ready for this shift, now. Part of our FINLAB investments are aligned with big changes on the way. If we invest in a company, even if it’s a small investment in an Open Banking participant, these entrepreneurs come to work thinking about and living and breathing Open Banking every day. Essentially, our investments get us a ringside seat to help to future proof our own business. The alternative is waiting 5 years and seeing how we missed out on a range of opportunities. With EML’s Project Accelerator, layered APIs will roll out in multiple global markets via one, simple integration. It’s ingenious.”
EML enables companies of all kinds to integrate with disparate organisations. If you want to start a neobank today, you can begin on the EML platform, choose a processor to do the work and pick other constituent parts – just like a technology buffet integrating efficiently through one means. ‘‘There are people out there way smarter than us. By working with them and investing, we’ll now benefit by being at the cutting edge. You could spend a lot of money on consultants, or we can back good, collegial people who are winners and gain through this type of future-proofing to ensure we stay relevant in 3, 4 or 5 years. It’s like any industry; once you get the platform and foundational level components right, you can build your reputation. That’s precisely what EML did.”
Over 1,150 stories about EML’s new investment wing, FINLAB, have already appeared around the world. It’s an area Tom loves discussing. ”We often compete with companies where the money is no object. They can hire as many IT Engineers and staff as they like. Accelerator and FINLAB give us an excellent opportunity to make sound investments in technology. I love the view that we can have one touchpoint with our customers to provide them with a global reach.
”Our competitors can’t support their clients internationally in this manner, and that gives us a distinctive edge. A winning global product suite offering from Day 1 within an innovative and exciting tech eco-system is how we will prosper down the track. Then, it’s as simple as plugging in additional solutions from our partners to choose from an already impressive portfolio as appealing as an assortment of chocolates. This could double our chances of closing any deal with an array of value-added solutions and shifts our mentality from a processing mindset to a product mindset.”
Ever wonder what makes the CEO of a listed company tick? Tom enthusiastically jumped at answering the question. ”I love connecting people with our clients for strategic partnerships – alignments that perfectly complement each other and make sense. You don’t have to climb Everest every day, but you can add some value each day, and it accumulates and hopefully compounds by thinking outside the box. When you go above and beyond and give your clients something they never banked on – that’s gold. The same goes for every department and each employee. We listen every time anyone has an idea about making a process simpler and more accessible for ourselves and our clients. Imagine the power of everyone at EML having a 1+1=5 moment – such thinking becomes self-reinforcing, for everyone, and intrinsically motivational.”
He shared the name of a global business titan he admires and believes that Elon Musk will save the planet. ”Space X is a fantastic business model with reuseable rockets and Tesla electric cars. Elon’s an ambitious visionary and a creative force of nature. He’s an incredibly persistent big pitcher, and he backs himself. What’s not to admire?”
Finally, when asked about his heroes growing up, Tom reminisced about the former Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating. ”He could single-handedly disarm opponents with his wit.” No doubt, the former PM’s timing was as precise and hypnotic as Tom’s drum beats to his musical idols Metallica, Iron Maiden and Anthrax.