Medhy Souidi had been working in banking for four years when he joined a fintech start-up in his adopted hometown, Hong Kong.
“Most of my Hong Kong friends working in finance say they could never do what I did,” says the Frenchman. “There’s too much tiger-mom pressure on them to stay in large banks and have a solid stable income.”
Souidi left his portfolio management advisory job at Indosuez Wealth Management in May last year to join blockchain company XNotes Alliance in a research, strategy and communications role.
But while he still does occasional consultancy work for the firm, his stint as a full-time employee didn’t last long – in January Souidi moved back to banking to take a contract position at UBP.
“You could view my first job in fintech as a failure as it didn’t bring monetary rewards and I’ve had to take my current role to pay my rent – it’s not cheap to live in Hong Kong,” says Souidi. “But working for a start-up for a few months has actually made me even more motivated to return to fintech as soon as I can.”
Why is Souidi still attracted to a sector that almost left him on the breadline? “I honestly learnt more new skills in six months at XNotes Alliance than I did in my previous three years in banking.”
“As a junior at a large bank you mainly spend your time just ticking off items from a limited to-do list that your manager gives you. But in fintech you use your initiative more and you build up knowledge across a much wider variety of business areas.”
“In my banking job, my manager would typically say no to any entrepreneurial projects I suggested. But I’m an entrepreneur at heart – that’s why fintech appeals,” says Souidi. “A big bank puts you in a box and your boss’s boss doesn’t even know your name, unless you make a mistake.”
Souidi is now spending almost all his free time trying to network his way into another Hong Kong fintech firm.
“Monday to Friday I work from 8.30am to about 7 or 8pm at the bank. Then I often have meetings with fintech people until 9pm – it’s actually easy to network that way in Hong Kong. It’s a late-night culture here and most people work nearby each other,” says Souidi.
“I spend Saturdays on fintech too – you have to make sacrifices if you want to break into the industry. Most people aren’t prepared to do that,” he adds.
More specifically, Souidi volunteers and freelances for Metta, a Hong Kong ‘entrepreneurs’ club’ which regularly hosts fintech get-togethers.
“I’m the contact person if you want to come to Metta for an event. I help organise leadership breakfasts and other events, I do the ticketing and I welcome people. By doing all this over the past few months, I’ve really expanded my network in the Hong Kong fintech community.”
“Now that more people know me and the Chinese New Year holidays are over, I hope to have some concrete opportunities opening up in the near future.”
Longer-term, Souidi wants to start up his own fintech firm.
He says the year he spent working for the Agence Française de Développement, a French government body that finances projects in developing countries, has fuelled an interest in “financial inclusion”.
“I’d like to create a fintech product that helps people in poorer countries with small remittance transfers,” says Souidi.