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This start-up is doubling headcount, Machiavellians need not apply

Christian Nentwich

Christian Nentwich, co-founder and CEO of London financial technology start-up Duco provides services for the financial sector, but has never worked for a bank. This, he believes, helps him produce products for the industry at a much faster pace than the institutions themselves.

Can you tell us a little about what your company does? Pitch it in three sentences.

Duco provides hosted services that simplify complex data problems. Our core product Duco Cube enables operations departments to set up and manage reconciliation controls quickly and easily, without IT effort. Essentially we are moving the industry away from heavyweight software models and manual processes towards highly automated, easy to use, cost-efficient solutions.

Why is there a demand for your product from financial services firms?

We believe the industry is now more open to new technologies and service models for a couple of key reasons; regulations driving greater transparency and the urgent deployment of controls and budget constraints encouraging more efficient processes. Undoubtedly the widespread adoption of easy to use, design-led technologies in the consumer space is also helping. The result is that the financial services industry is waking up to the fact that there’s a better way of doing things.

How did you get to where you are today?

I set up my first firm during my PhD at UCL with my supervisors, who were keen on technology transfer and taking computer science research out to industry. We started selling what we had then to banks – and here we are, with the second company, Duco.

Taking the entrepreneurial route is a brave move; why did you decide to do it?

It wasn’t really brave at all. I was lucky enough to find myself thrown into it. Although I’ve worked with large financial organisations many times I have never really worked for them. It’s enabled me to develop a slightly different mindset.

If someone’s considering going it alone, what advice would you give them?

Don’t do it ‘because you really want your own company’ or just because the life style appeals to you. A fantastic idea is a better reason. Build a great network of contacts in your current job, always be genuine with people (it’s a small industry), and have a go.

How many people do you employ currently? Are there any plans to expand?

We are 10 at the moment and see ourselves growing to probably double in the next 12-18 months. It is very important to us to take our time and do it in a controlled manner and hire only the best people out there.

How can I persuade you to hire me?

Leave the suit at home, put your thinking hat on and show initiative. For technical roles, side or pet projects are great evidence, send us links. If you’re coming from the financial sector, the capability to think beyond current practices, show vision and understand the impact technology still has to make is vital.

What sort of personality does it take to work for a start-up? Can you give us three character traits?

A willingness to work without hierarchy and solve whatever problem is thrown at you as quickly as possible is most important. Three important traits would be:

-Ability to deal with constant shifts in priorities

-Being a “doer”, not a talker

-Being easy to get along with

How would you describe the culture of your firm?

Everyone who works here is fairly obsessed with technology, both in and out of the office, but we’re also highly driven and professional.

We’re also down to earth which makes Duco a fairly relaxed place to work. And we operate a zero office politics policy.

Sell your company to technologists working in the financial sector – why should they want to work for you?

We’re not necessarily looking for financial technologists.

If you’re a brilliant technologist, excited by the opportunity to do things differently and just happen to be currently working in finance then that’s fine by us.

Outside the financial sector, technology has been moving at a remarkable pace and our team is really driven to bring these advances into a sector that, comparatively, has been moving in slow motion. We’re 100% confident you’ll learn a lot.

We think we’ve done a pretty a good job of creating a supportive, sociable working environment. No one here runs for the door at 6pm.

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