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AMA: Phillip McGriskin, founder of Vitesse

AMA: Phillip McGriskin, founder of Vitesse

If you're not familiar with our #FounderStories yet, let us fill you in. Founders from all walks of life tell us how their business began, the successes along the way, the pitfalls and much more.

Phillip McGriskin is the founder and CEO of Vitesse, a settlement and liquidity management system that simplifies international payments.

Hi Phil! Tell us about your company.

Vitesse is a UK based, FCA regulated business that focuses on providing cross border payment and treasury services. We focus on verticals that have quite a specific need or set of problems typically involving payments and treasury. Our lead vertical is insurance.

For the insurance industry, we help with global payments but uniquely our solution also includes a treasury and regulatory element that greatly assists our customers, not just with excellent payments around the globe but also with capital optimisation and decrease of capital at risk.

We work with some of the largest insurance businesses globally, including Mayfair, CEGA, Brit and over 60% of the Lloyd’s of London market to help give them complete control and transparency, as well as excellent claims payments.

How did the idea for Vitesse come about?

I had sold my business which focused on collecting money or “payments in” on a global basis. It became clear that there were still multiple areas within the “money out” payments arena that were inefficient and not getting any attention.

The incumbent providers for the services Vitesse is offering to our customers are the banks. We had seen businesses compete very effectively against the banks in the payments arena so we identified a specific vertical (insurance) and went after it.

Are you and your team still working remotely? Do you plan to keep that going?

We have always had an element of peripatetic working in the office. Covid obviously expanded that significantly, but I would say that now things have settled down we are back to “normal” in terms of team and actual office time.

How do you keep your team aligned?

I have an excellent senior team around me and I share all my news with these experts. I don’t believe in silos. I don’t believe in blame games. And I don’t have time in the office for anyone who doesn’t agree with this.

I think this has a knock-on effect on openness and trust in the office. This in turn makes the team more cohesive and less in need of aligning. But we do of course do regular stand-ups.

Our teams are interacting and collaborating in the office on a daily basis and we do regular cross-company information sessions where a specific area of the business will update the company and what they do, what their goals are and what help they might need from colleagues.

What is the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?

The most valuable lesson I have learned is to “fess” up quickly to mistakes and don’t be afraid to change course to avert disaster! 

The biggest mistake I have made that I’m willing to discuss publicly is probably relating to sales and marketing. Not enough marketing and lead gen early doors and slow build and focus on sales teams. It really hampers the growth momentum.

What about a business disappointment that led to something better?

The first business I started was created off the back of a failed dot com business I had been working with for years. I was bitterly disappointed when it failed. And I was completely at a loss as to what to do.

I am not “classically trained” i.e. I had not earned any degree, so to get back up on the horse in a crowded employment market was a daunting prospect. And it was not easy. 

But I got my nose down, applied myself and things worked out! 

Do you have a share or option scheme in place for your team? What impact has it made?

Yes. We couldn’t operate without it. It allows us to compete on some level with the big boys and their big cash pay packets. Obviously, our team loves it also. 

That's what we like to hear! What does company culture mean to you?

Everything. Without the right culture, there is no company. In terms of the specific cultures:

  • Honesty/openness

It never ceases to amaze me that there are still people who believe in ‘versions of the truth’, especially when owning up (or not!) to something. It's so damaging. 

  • No blame

If people feel there is a blame culture they are unlikely to be completely honest, especially in times of challenge, which is when you really need honesty.

The knock-on effects are a lack of awareness of problems that may be easily solved and the inevitable looking over the shoulder. Two great examples of growth limiters. 

  • Hard work

It sounds really simple but I regularly see half efforts. I’m not sure it’s worth bothering at all if you’re not going to give it your all.

It's very evident to customers and colleagues when the work ethic drops. You’re only fooling yourself. And you definitely are not impressing anyone.

And in a business where we’re out to impress our customers anything less than 100% just won't cut it.  

In a parallel universe, if you hadn’t started this company, what would you be doing?

The only tertiary education that was of interest to me was to become a teacher. So I think I would be teaching. Either that or running a windsurfing school somewhere hot. Two very different outcomes, I know!

If you could only eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Is this ageing Phillip with one eye on health and the waistline answering or is this a “go for it” question? 

No judgement here, go for it!

A health-conscious Phillip would say something stupid like healthy salads and fruit. But if it’s really me answering, then BBQ, all day, every day! 

Good choice! Thanks for your time Phillip. It's been a pleasure. 

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