We caught up with Justin Basini, CEO, ClearScore to find out what makes him tick.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
It’s hard to pin down one singular stand-out at ClearScore. We’ve gone from zero to 12 million users globally in five years, and we were profitable after three years – which is a massive achievement as a start-up.
But the key has been building a product that is truly based on trust. From day one we have been determined to positively impact the lives of our users – to help them build their financial confidence so they can make better financial decisions that will help them get on in life. That this remains absolutely central to everything we do is something I take great pride in.
Alongside this, I truly believe we have built a workplace like no other. Our culture is a massive part of our success: we work hard, relish change and treat each other with respect. So, while the growth and the profitability of the busines are great, it’s the fact we’ve never lost sight of our users and our own team that makes me the proudest.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
It wasn’t a career ‘in technology’ as much as it was ‘making a difference’.
My starting point though was my interest in doing the right thing by the consumer when it comes to data. So often data consumer data is used unwisely. With ClearScore our philosophy has always been to find ways to use data to help.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I know first-hand the strain that a working environment can put on a person – so when we founded ClearScore looking after our team, giving them space to prioritise their wellbeing and work on their personal development were massive priorities for me.
In terms of my role, I really see my job as bringing the best out of others rather than flogging myself all the time – and a big part of that is ensuring that we all have well-rounded lives. From an in-office library to mental health resources and a personal training budget, we give our people the things they need – both professionally and personally.
We have an inclusive culture at ClearScore, but I think it’s really important to lead by example on this and demonstrate to my team how I am balancing my life.
What do you think has emerged as the technology trend of 2020 and why?
It’s not necessarily a new trend, but data protection and cybersecurity massively increased in importance in 2020.
We saw a significant increase in fraud during lockdown – our own research uncovered over 5.3 million passwords on the dark web in just three months and 55% of UK consumers are more worried about online fraud now than they were before the Coronavirus pandemic.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Open Banking services are a particular priority for us. Many of our lending partners are eager to see a real-time view of consumers’ creditworthiness. The traditional method of using people’s credit scores can take many weeks to reflect reality, which in the current circumstances, isn’t viable. As a result, one of the knock-on effects of COVID-19 has been a large-scale withdrawal of credit from the market, precisely at the time when many people need it most. Open banking is increasingly landing well with customers and we have seen adoption rates increase throughout 2020.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?
For me, exercise is integral to managing stress. I box and work out every week, but walking has also been vital during this time. I also meditate every morning for around 15 minutes – it’s so important to find that moment to quiet my brain and connect with myself and the unseen world.
Other things have also been more important during lockdowns. Simply enjoying the little things, turning off email, Slack and messaging. But above all I think it will always be important – COVID or not – to try and be patient and forgiving to oneself and others.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
It wouldn’t be one decision, but a mindset. When I first set up a company, I grew the team to 12 people but, in truth, I didn’t know what I was doing. When the dotcom crash came, we crashed along with it and I started making poor decisions.
Unfortunately, my coping strategy was to work harder than ever. I was already doing 60-hour weeks; I started putting in 90. I was trying to work myself out of the crisis, but I wasn’t exercising or sleeping properly, and my thinking became muddled. I can see now that my attempts to fix the problem were doomed to failure from the outset.
It was obviously a difficult time – one I nearly didn’t survive. But it taught me an important lesson – that effort in business has to be sustainable to be truly effective.
It’s why I question the fetishisation of the start-up ‘struggle’. There’s this sense that to succeed, an entrepreneur has to put absolutely everything they have into their business – losing sleep and friends along the way, and very possibly compromising their mental health. But such extremism absolutely doesn’t guarantee success.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?
Regulation is a key challenge in the financial services sector. Whenever we enter a new market, we have to ensure that we are able to support all stages of the credit application process online – and to be absolutely watertight on our compliance processes.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
2020 was a challenging year like no other. One aspect that that gave me joy was how flexible and adaptable the team were to the changes and uncertainly we all faced. I, and every member of the team, has had to show tremendous resilience. This will need to continue into 2021 so our January virtual kick off will be focusing on each and every team member’s personal development. By supporting each other and empowering each person to create their own pathway to reaching their full potential, we will be able to handle anything that comes our way in 2021 and the future.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
One of the biggest drivers of success – perhaps paradoxically – is being comfortable with failure. Most of us fail at some point and it’s ok if you do. If you’ve learned something and worked with some great people, it’s still incredibly valuable. The key thing is to make sure you know what you’re learning, and enjoy the journey.Click below to share this article