Ali Khwaja, is the SafeCharge CFO and joined from Berenberg Bank in February 2015 where he was a Financial Technology Analyst. He has more than a decade of experience in the financial markets and technology sector., where he specialised in the payments space; and was ranked Top 3 Technology Analyst in Europe by Extel Thomson Reuters. Prior to Berenberg, he was a Technology Analyst at UBS and he is an alumnus of University of Oxford where was a Rhodes Scholar. SafeCharge use digital tech to revolutionise payments, creating maximum flexibility and minimum risk for customers, and tailoring the service offering to meet the needs of individual customers. Ali compares this quest to monitor and tailor for individual customers, using technology and a people-centric approach, with success stories such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, EBay, Netflix, Uber, Airbnb.
How did you get into the finance industry?
I did a double major in computer science and economics in undergraduate and during my project worked on developing neural networks (artificial intelligence) to forecast stock prices and exchange rates. I was fascinated by East Asian crisis and by investors like George Soros. After postgraduate studies, I joined the financial services industry as an Economist for a leading investment bank in Pakistan. Then I was elected as a Rhodes Scholar and went to the business school at Oxford. Before graduation, I had job offers from Google and UBS and I chose the latter.
Tell us about SafeCharge. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
SafeCharge is one of the leading digital payment companies in Europe. Its certainly the fastest growing amongst its peer group and it is always exciting to be in a high growth and successful environment. The company was founded by David Avgi, the current CEO and his associates. So while the business has the maturity of age, it still has growth rates which even start ups envy. That was the main thing which attracted me to SafeCharge; the culture, the technology platform and the desire to be in a growth environment.
I think we can safely say now that the structural trend supporting increase in digital transactions will continue to increase. As our society moves more into the digital age, our dependence on paper cash and coins will continue to be replaced by digital transactions done online and on mobile. SafeCharge sits at the heart of this trend and this is ofcourse the secret sauce for our high growth rates. We provide merchants with the ability to accept online and mobile payments and provide customers the ability to make transactions; simple, secure and convenient.
We are now widely recognized as the industry leaders in Europe, especially in transactions which require high frequency and low latency rates. Now we want to extend our platform to new verticals like travel and in geographies like Asia and South America.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to SafeCharge's success?
Payment industry is all about partnerships. Of course before I joined the company was extremely sucessful in developing and nurturing myriad of partnerships with a wide range of industry players. For example, SafeCharge is Prinicipal Member of Visa and Mastercard, it has a PCI (Payment Council) certification since 2007. The company has acquiring banking relationship with 16 banks like WorldPay, Barclaycard, etc. These partnerships are the core factor behind the success of the company. Since I joined, we have built partnerships with 2c2p in Singapore and taken a minority stake in the company. 2c2p is one of the fastest growing payment processing companies in Asia Pacific. We also recently announced a strategic partnership with FinTech Group AG in Germany and its subsidiary BIW Bank. With this partnership SafeCharge will be able to provide the full suite of banking facilities to our clients.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
As I mentioned earlier, we have entered the digital age. Smartphones have further accelerated these trends and have enabled us as people to be connected virtually all the time. I think the next stage is for machines to be connected through the Internet of Things. This has led to an inflection point in our industry as more and more economic and commercial transactions are now happening over digital devices. This plays to our strength, since SafeCharge's technology was always build for high frequency transactions and provides low latency and a robust, secure platform.
Do everything with passion and energy.
Your greatest success as CFO of SafeCharge? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
We are a mature business and one which is growing very quickly. In such environments, there is no luxury of looking back and getting glory on past success. Its always about looking to the future. The success of the company is everyday driven by all of the 400 odd team of SafeCharge. Its a team play.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Be driven to achieve success.
Describe the ideal experience using SafeCharge.
Mobile payments - its the best system to make quick transactions.
How do you motivate your employees?
Motivation only comes from collaboration and open communications.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Water & Chicken
What literature is on your bed stand?
Lots - I read a lot. Not on the bed stand but mainly on planes. Currently reading :
How Google Works
Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
Recent edition of Harvard Business Review
Role model - business and personal?
Business: Teddy Sagi - he epitomises hard work, drive and energy.
Personal: My father - I wish to have intellectual depth and his calm personally and my father in law - wish to have his patience and charitable nature.
Technology, reading books and SafeCharge.
Favorite travel destination?
What's next for SafeCharge?
More of the same. We don't need to re-invent ourselves. We have a very successful business and as long as we can continue to execute on our plan, our growth will accelerate.