Success

The founder of a $1.7 billion fintech firm reveals his single biggest predictor of success

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Monzo founder Tom Blomfield talks at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2017 at Arena Berlin on December 4, 2017.
Noam Galai | Stringer

Tom Blomfield, the founder of U.K. fintech Monzo, has said that being determined and resilient are fundamental to success. 

Blomfield, who stepped down as Monzo's CEO last year and then announced he was leaving the challenger bank altogether in January, was speaking on an episode of the Diary of a CEO podcast released Monday. 

The fintech founder said he would first advise young people to learn to code, as this would help pave the way into a "really well-paying career for the rest of your life and it's a great step into entrepreneurship." 

"More fundamentally, I think just being really, really determined and resilient — seeing an immovable object and either finding a way sort of round it, or under it, or over it, or just straight through it," Blomfield said. 

"Being indefatigable basically, I think is the single biggest predictor of success," he added.

Looking back, Blomfield said he felt he had a certain amount of "arrogance" to think he could take on the traditional banking system, when he launched Monzo in 2015. 

"I think if I knew then what I know now I wouldn't have done it really," Blomfield said on starting the popular challenger bank.

Monzo is one of many so-called unicorn companies to emerge in Britain. The start-up was last privately valued at £1.25 billion ($1.72 billion) in 2020, down 40% from a previous valuation of more than £2 billion a year earlier, due to uncertainty resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"If I knew … the amount of pain and heartache involved I would never have started. But I didn't know that, so I had a huge amount of self-confidence, a huge amount of naivety and just assumed that I could figure it out," he explained. 

Blomfield said he felt more confident in his late 20s but that had been tempered through more experience and seeing more failure. 

'I'm hugely privileged' 

Blomfield also suggested that coming from a more privileged background gave him the confidence to take more chances in his career. For instance, he turned down a job at consultancy McKinsey just a few days before he was due to start working there, after getting an offer for his payments firm, GoCardless, to join the Y Combinator accelerator program. 

"I think I'm also just really impulsive, so I think (I'm) quite self-confident. But I've taken quite big life decisions without very much reflection and that's worked out really well (for me) — I'm hugely privileged," he said, having grown up in the U.K. and having had access to good education. 

Blomfield attended a grammar school (selective schools that require passing entrance exams) before going on to study law at the University of Oxford. 

Blomfield said he, therefore, felt like he could take risks because he had a "safety net." 

He argued that few young people in the U.K. from a similar background, with "great supportive families," actually take enough risk, instead opting for "pretty safe careers in law or consulting," for example. 

'I can't work with this person'

Blomfield also touched on his departure from rival challenger bank Starling, where he worked as chief technology officer prior to setting up Monzo. 

He disputed claims made by Starling founder Anne Boden in her book, which was published in November. 

Blomfield denied the accusation that he led a coup and pulled employees away from Starling to start Monzo. Instead, Blomfield said that he quit, after being fired twice in six months and claimed that Boden then fired the "entire company," which he believed was "just a reflection I think of the way she operates." 

"And after six months, I just thought 'I can't work with this person — it's really damaging to me and my mental health' and so I resigned," he explained. 

Starling declined to comment on Blomfield's remarks.

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