Philippe Gelis: Co-Founder & CEO, Kantox

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Philippe is co-founder of Kantox. He began his career working for Renault Suisse as a financial controller. He then gained invaluable experience in the banking industry as a consultant. Before found Kantox he was strategy & management consultant at Deloitte. He is specialised in corporate finance and business strategy. Philippe has a masters in business strategy and an MBA corporate finance, both from Toulouse Business School.

How did you get into the FinTech industry?

With my partner, Toni, we were working as strategy consultants in Deloitte. Working with a client, we discovered that FX was a very opaque market for SMEs and that banks were screwing them. We checked with a couple more clients and they had the very same issue. At that moment, we understood there was a clear market opportunity.

Any emerging industry trends?

Banks have now understood that they need to partner with Fintech to really reshape the industry. It is no more about competition but about co-petition. It is all about mixing the balance sheet and numerous clients coming from banks with the innovative culture and ability to build a great user experience coming from Fintech firms.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Regulation is an on-going challenge, we have to invest a lot to keep up the pace. Europe has a well unified regulatory framework thanks to PSD but out of Europe it is much more challenging, particularly in the US. But in the end regulation is also a barrier to entry, wo once you are in it protects you. Opportunities lie in technology because to add long-term value to your clients you need to build unique and sustainable technology. Marketing is not enough. So Fintech firms are now focusing on building competitive advantages based on technology more than outspending their competitors.

Inspiration for Kantox, and your vision for it?

I think that most people in Fintech are here to bring transparency and fair prices to the industry. Most of us still record the “2008 trauma” with too-big-to-fail banks abusing the system. We want to promote a new kind of financial services where it is all about the client, not all about your bonus. Finance should support the global economy while it has become an economy by itself with no other purpose than short-term profits.

What's next for Kantox in the near future?

Kantox was built as a marketplace to exchange foreign currencies. So it helped businesses get transparent prices and save money. On top of that, we have added a software layer that help clients manage their FX better, monitor risk and automate transactions. In some way, it is corporate FX machine-based.

Your key initiatives for the success of Kantox?

Focusing on the right clients. In the end, your resources (time, money, people) are always limited, so it is important to spend time on the right clients, those you can bring high value to and those that will pay for that. Market segmentation is really key.

Your most difficult moment at Kantox? (and what did you learn?)

We started in 2011 and at that moment Fintech was not a hot sector. We had to educate clients and investors were not really bullish. So raising money was tough but we learned how to build and grow the business with low money. From then we decided not to enter into this crazy fundraising race and I think it was the right decision.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Clients came to Kantox because after the financial crisis having a solution that was transparent and offering fair prices to trade FX was unusual. But now I would say that what they value most is the software layer we have built and all the business intelligence and automation they get from that, it is the real game changer.

How do you motivate others?

I do not really think that you can motivate people with words. I think that you can motivate people when they feel they are part of an amazing story, something unique that has a real meaning. When they can tell their friends to love the company they belong to. Being the “David” competing against the banking “Goliath” is a great story, even more when you grow fast and you are well covered in the press. I always say: “we do not do it for the money, we do it to have amazing things to tell our kids”.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Always think long-term. Light speed success is not the norm. If you want to build an amazing company it will take years, you will make mistakes, then you will learn. It is like a marathon, be prepared to run long.