The Innovators — A Conversation with Bernadette Wijnings, CFO of Blanco Services
At this year’s Fintech Awards Luxembourg we offered a prize to the top placing startup with a female CEO or co-founder. The winner of this award was Bernadette Wijnings, CFO of blanco — a product aimed at wealth and asset managers. What could be a more perfect a way to kick off our series of interviews with Fintech founders than by talking to her!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role?
I’m Bernadette, CFO and founder of blanco. My career started about 13 years ago as a strategy consultant. I advised many financial institutions in the meantime, and decided 1.5 years ago to start my own Fintech. With blanco, I am mainly concerned with investors and HR.
Besides blanco, I manage my other company on a part-time basis, a strategy boutique with 27 people. Furthermore I have an active family life with my husband and 5 (!) kids. With them and my friends I love cooking, drinking good wines, driving our boat in the canals, cycling around the city and having long conversations.
If you had a personal mission statement attached to your work, what would it be?
Choose to do something that you love and feel passionate about; it will give instead of cost you energy. Enjoy the path, not only work for the end goal. I wanted to create that type of environment for myself, but also for all the other people working at blanco. If people feel good and do what they really like doing, things go much smoother, and both people and the company grow at the fastest pace possible.
What do you see as the major challenges and opportunities for the fintech industry?
“It takes a lot of guts to start rebuilding parts of the IT infrastructure that may have cost the traditional financial institutions millions or billions to create.”
The major challenge I think is that we are trying to disrupt a system that is extremely complicated. This system consists of many small pieces, and generally each Fintech company targets just one of those. Therefore cooperation is key. Also, it takes a lot of guts to start rebuilding parts of the IT infrastructure that may have cost the traditional financial institutions millions or billions to create. Furthermore, a big challenge is gaining trust with clients: they lay part of their vital infrastructure in your hands, which is a brave thing to do with a start-up, but it is essential in making them flourish. The opportunities are endless — there is still a lot to improve in terms of real customer focus, attending to their needs and also lowering the prices.
And for your company specifically?
Our major challenge at this point is speeding up, recruiting more developers, and finishing our software in time. We are in the luxurious position that we can co-create our platform together with clients who are willing to co-fund the development, and who have already ensured revenue when the product is finished.
In terms of opportunity it’s more market driven: we would like to expand internationally as soon as possible.
What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in FinTech?
Do what you love to do, listen when necessary but be stubborn at times, persist, find a great team around you, don’t mind when you fall but learn to stand up again
Are there any misconceptions attached to the Women in Fintech movement?
“It’s about enriching views and visions, to get to a balanced result, and different nationalities and backgrounds help as well.”
Most probably yes, but it doesn’t make much sense to talk about it for long. We’d better focus on the positive aspects, and expand our network as much as possible. Maybe ‘Diversity in Fintech’ would even be better by the way, because gender doesn’t say it all. It’s about enriching views and visions, to get to a balanced result, and different nationalities and backgrounds help as well. I’m quite proud that blanco already consists of people with 8 nationalities, and we just got started.
What do you think is the most attractive feature of Luxembourg as a Fintech hub?
It’s an active hub, really trying to connect all stakeholders. And of course in terms of market it’s quite interesting for us considering the relatively large number of wealth and asset managers.
Any personal insights about the world of financial technology you want to leave us with?
It’s a world that is moving fast and really changing the financial environment. I’m very grateful to be able to be part of this disruptive scene, and to be able to build up a company from scratch that really changes the current landscape and potential of financial technology.