Andrew White, chief executive of financial technology start-up FundApps, worked for a number of banks and financial services firms before going it alone. Like many technologists, he grew frustrated with the lack of independence and the internal politicking, so took the entrepreneurial route. Being based on London’s Silicon Roundabout allows the firm to take a relaxed approach while being a stone’s throw away from the City.
Can you tell us a little about what your company does?
Regulation is the number one topic for financial services companies today. The burden to keep up-to-date with all the latest developments is extremely onerous and practically impossible for all but the largest banks.
FundApps provides an internet-based service called Rapptr which allows fund managers to upload their funds and to be informed if they are breaching, or close to breaching, any rules which apply to their fund.
Why is there a demand for your product from financial services firms?
It’s simply a necessity for financial service firms to have a compliance monitoring capability in place. Previously companies could get away with doing it in Excel, but the calculations are now so complex and changing so quickly that this is no longer an option.
Both investors and regulators are demanding more transparency into the compliance process and a web-based system is the only practicable way to achieve this. Our competitors are still stuck in the era of having to install desktop software and all the inherent horrors this brings.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started work as a software developer in Zurich, creating software for private banks. I moved to Frankfurt soon after and became involved in the fund industry and specifically in compliance. In 2007 I relocated to London and started selling into the hedge fund space, but started seeing that they weren’t too enthusiastic about all the IT requirements (databases, servers, middleware etc.) our software had.
My old company was bought out in 2008 and soon after I quit and headed away to South America for a year – travelling overland from Mexico City to Rio. I returned to London in 2010 and immediately started working on FundApps, leveraging my experience in the marketplace but armed with all the modern technology available.
Taking the entrepreneurial route is a brave move; why did you decide to do it?
I really don’t see it as that brave. As an employee someone half-way around the world can decide you should be made redundant just by analysing figures in an Excel sheet. As an entrepreneur (or working in a start-up) you are completely in control of your own destiny, you make decisions every day that directly impact the future of the company.
Also I can’t function in companies where a large part of your time is spent on politics. I just want to get things done and make the best software possible. In my old company we had steering committees, product meetings, strategy boards etc. In the end nothing got done as everyone was too busy posturing and disagreeing due to their own personal agendas.
If someone’s considering going it alone, what advice would you give them?
Have a read of Eric Ries’s “Lean Start-up” and Jason Fried’s “Rework”. The main tenet of these is to build something quickly and get out there, knock on doors and get feedback. There is no point working away on your master plan for years, launching and then finding out no-one is interested in what you built. Constant feedback means you can develop a product / service that the market wants and hopefully will pay for.
How many people do you employ currently? Are there any plans to expand?
We are currently six, but are looking to hire more developers as well as people for our regulation monitoring and rule writing team. We’re based in Old Street ( on the ‘Silicon Roundabout’) where there are an amazing number of creative people and talented coders (not to mention good pubs), but I can put on my suit and walk down to Bank in 15 minutes.
London is by far the biggest market for us in Europe, but we are already sounding out the best way to open operations in New York and Hong Kong – as we know our products are equally in demand there.
How can I persuade you to hire me?
Be passionate and driven. Nothing turns us off like someone who sits in an interview exuding zero enthusiasm. Even if you are enthusiastic about some obscure language or database, it doesn’t matter. In a start-up you have to be very self-reliant – there aren’t layers of management to tell you what to do, so we need to feel people can start and learn by themselves.
So, what’s more important to you – excellent coding skills or a wealth of financial sector experience?
Actually we’d like both. We want great developers who can work on complex back-end algorithms in .NET as well as UI/UX experts who can make the HTML/CSS sing.
On the other hand we are also looking for compliance officers and risk managers who would like to bring their domain expertise and work in a start-up.
What sort of personality does it take to work for a start-up? Can you give us three character traits?
Everyone is different, but there are some commonalities that we see. To really get the most of a start-up you will need to be self-motivated. We don’t have training courses or managers to tell you what to do, so you’re going to have to make decisions on your own! There’s also a strong element of perfectionism in what we do – our competitors are happy with “good enough” (at best), but we want to deliver the best software and service possible.
Three traits: Driven, Flexible, Innovative.
How would you describe the culture of your firm?
Exceptional, pragmatic, sporty, intelligent, fun, open.
Sell your company to technologists working in the financial sector – why should they want to work for you?
We work with every type of financial client – from small hedge funds, to medium sized asset managers to global fund administrators. The demands of changing regulation means our software is constantly evolving. From day to day we might have to create a new module to calculate a new capital ratio required by legislation, so you’ll NEVER be bored.
You will have a great work atmosphere – wear what you want and no set hours (as long as you get the work done). It’s also an extremely social company – we regularly go carting, surfing & kayaking together. You’ll also be working in one of the hottest FinTech start-ups in London, but will also earn a good salary (unlike most start-ups).