From daring pivots to monumental acquisitions, BUX CEO Yorick Naeff shares the riveting evolution that catapulted BUX from a speculative trading app to the forefront of financial empowerment. In this podcast episode of the Scale Lab, he explains the secrets behind BUX’s unique approach, strategic pivots, and Yorick’s insights into managing investors, fostering diversity, and cultivating top-tier talent.

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What is the edgiest thing that happened in BUX?

00:01:13 –  We try to do things a little bit differently with BUX because we operate in a pretty old space. The traditional brokerage industry has been there for years and you won’t be able to differentiate yourself if you approach things the same way as others. You need to find your niche, your unique selling point. So, with BUX, we’re focused on bridging traditional brokers with the new investing, i.e. cryptocurrencies & Defi type of solutions.

If you look back at the pivots you’ve made along the way, is there anything in your entrepreneurial journey that really stands out?

00:02:44 – In the past seven or eight years, there were lots of different things that stood out, but I think there are a few things that are especially worth mentioning for people listening to the podcast. We’ve made one large pivot along the way with BUX. Initially, we started the company with the idea of making investing accessible, intuitive, and also affordable for everyone. This vision is still there, but we completely changed our own mindsets on how this should work for people.

We started with a speculative app that had a very understandable & great UX/UI, fat finger design, essentially everything the new generation wants and expects from a mobile application in the trading space. And we were very successful at it. However, at some point, you realise that speculative trading isn’t everything. We also want to help people build a financial future for themselves.

Therefore, that initial vision became much larger, which implied that we had to change our investment proposition to a more mid/long-term one. And this shift is very difficult to make if you use the same application you currently have. So, we did a few things: first, we fully acquired our entire executing broker partner back in 2017, and as a result, owned the full value chain. This acquisition was a very important learning point of how to basically build a brokerage firm from the ground up. It was our biggest pivot as a company, which lead eventually to our flagship app BUX Zero.

How important is it for you to own and design the whole stack?

00:05:50 – The way I personally see it, is that I want to own the critical parts of the value chain. You want to own everything that regards your brokerage business, and there is a simple reason for it. The only way to keep that competitive edge, as well as the agility and the fast development pace, is by owning the key business elements yourself. Once you depend on another company, you will lose that competitive edge.

Were there any other crucial product decisions you made besides this pivot?

00:09:49 – The most important thing we did is create virality. In our early days, we created a reward system, where a current customer was rewarded if they brought a new person to BUX. Our growth was pretty stable, but when we introduced this new rewards programme, people had an incentive to invite their friends to join BUX. Our main goal was to create awareness because we believed that a good product should sell itself.

Of course, if you really want to establish hypergrowth, you need a critical mass of clientele. Initially, we didn’t have the cash to deploy significant marketing money. So we established a base of early adopters and then started this reward programme in order to generate this snowball effect a little bit. These days, you need a critical mass per country in order to get that virality going. And for that, you need to do marketing.

You did mention before that your investors have high expectations. Maybe we can explore a bit the relationship with investors. Are they pushing you in areas where you don’t want to go or are you completely aligned?

00:19:34 – I think it’s the investors’ job to keep pushing the management team as much as they can to deliver on the ambitions that they set. I’m a very ambitious person, so I set my goals extremely high. And you will probably see if you look at interviews that I’ve done before, that I’m talking about millions of customers and I generally feel that way. I do believe that we [BUX] should be the European number one.

Do you have any lessons that you could share on how to manage your investors and how this relationship works for you?

00:23:06 – I think it’s all about expectations management. You need to set expectations for your board and clearly outline who is in the lead. Of course, we can vote if you are not happy with something, but it’s ultimately me making the final call.

That said, we had the luxury of choosing our investors. For a very specific reason, we chose Prosus Ventures and Tencent. It’s great to have them as an investor because they are a massive company with a dedicated team of people helping you out with a variety of things, such as recruitment, PR, media, etc.

How do you retain that kind of talent? And you said you aim for a diverse team at BUX, is there an existing policy on that?

00:32:18 – We make sure to provide our employees with stock option plans as well as provide non-financial benefits, such as team-bonding events, lunches, pension plans, flexible work environment, etc. So we’re doing a lot of stuff to make sure that we retain them. There’s one thing I do want to mention as well – obviously, in the Netherlands, as a fintech firm, it is quite difficult sometimes to find really experienced senior people. But with a flexible work policy, we are open to hiring talent outside the Netherlands too.

Talking about diversity – already in 2016 – we told ourselves that diversity plays a very important role in the hiring process. I firmly believe that a diverse team is a better-performing team. And at some point, I said that we need a gender & ethnically diverse management team. It was a hard target we set for ourselves and thus made it happen. Diversity brings different points of view and perspectives on the same things, which is very beneficial for the company’s multiculturalism & international growth.

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