Executive Q&A: David Jarvis, CEO and Cofounder of Griffin

David Jarvis, CEO and Cofounder of Griffin, spoke to Technology magazine about his role and using technology in the finance industry

Can you tell us about your role and responsibilities?

As CEO, my core job is to be the primary point of contact for all stakeholders. I represent Griffin to the board, investors, employees, the market, everyone! I’m basically a clearing house of information and storyteller-in-chief, both of which are roles I really enjoy. When things aren’t going well, it’s my job to be honest and transparent about our challenges and failings, then to help everyone get on the same page about how to fix things. My other important responsibilities are fundraising and executive hiring, both of which are mission critical to building a strong foundation for the company to scale and flourish. 

This is my first CEO role, and I’ve learned a lot about the importance of taking a step back from day-to-day operations. I like to put my trust in the extremely smart, highly experienced team I’ve hired, and to make sure they have what they need to do their best work. 

What is your point of difference as a business?

Banking as a Service - or BaaS - is when companies take key banking products, such as payments or credit, and package them up in a way that enables other companies to embed them within their own products. Griffin is a BaaS provider, but unlike most players in the space, we’re seeking a full UK banking license. If successful, that means we’ll offer a full-stack technology solution underpinned by the secure and regulated infrastructure of a bank. 

This is going to be a game-changer for early-stage fintechs who still face major challenges establishing relationships with incumbent banks. We aim to bring the simplicity of Software as a Service to banking, i.e. a developer-first, self-service approach and radically transparent pricing. We want to become the de facto bank that fintechs and innovators will build on, and a long-term partner for firms who want to embed financial products into their customer experience. With a full-stack BaaS solution, we can offer best-in-class infrastructure and operational support for these companies, freeing them up to focus on building their brand and user experience. 

What technology are you most looking forward to using more of?

At Griffin, we have built our architecture around an immutable event log. It doesn't use blockchain technology, but it does provide high-performance, scalable event tracking across the entire platform. This approach underpins our overall system design, and I am excited to see how we scale this capability and leverage its powers in the future. A few of the obvious benefits of immutable architecture include better disaster recovery, auditability, system reliability, and data integrity. From a customer perspective, it means having a complete digital footprint across your entire customer base, which will make analysis, financial crime prevention, and regulatory reporting so much easier - both for us, and for our clients. 

I have a sort of daydream about being able to have a screen on the wall that shows all our critical regulatory metrics updated in real-time - which, as far as I am aware, is essentially infeasible for every other bank in the world. For example, at most banks information around liquidity gets calculated in a batch process once per day, maybe once per hour for the really sophisticated players. Imagine if you could have a system that provides you with a real-time view of your balance sheet and capital adequacy ratio the moment you process a loan? That would be a major breakthrough for the banking world.

What has been your career highlight prior to your current role?

My experience at Airbnb gave me two crucial experiences that have shaped my approach to leadership at Griffin. The first was the opportunity to see how things work at scale. I spent a lot of time liaising with infrastructure teams at other companies, and so I got to see many different flavours of how companies at scale solve problems. It was a really instructive exercise on all levels: human, business, and technical.

The second thing, and the most important for me, was I got to watch how Brian Chesky leads. I didn't report to him directly, but I learned so much from his approach to leadership. Without a doubt, he’s the best CEO I've worked for in my career.

What has been your highlight in your current role?

I would say Griffin as a whole is my career highlight! It’s by far the longest job I’ve had and the one I have enjoyed the most. The challenge stretches out before me and I’m looking forward to every minute of it. I think that’s because being a founder is highly rewarding. Working together to create something new from scratch, turning ideas into reality in real-time - in a professional context, I don’t think it gets any better! 

What is your leadership style?

I try to lead with authenticity and vulnerability, which I think is a really important mix when it comes to building trust. I want to connect with people on a human level and that approach has been pretty successful so far! I think that's part of what makes startups magical: the leader is just a human like you, navigating successes and struggles, doing their best to figure things out. You’re not a 10,000+ people company where the CEO is some godlike creature in a different building. 

What exciting plans do you have coming up as an organisation?

Fingers crossed, we are hoping to become a bank in the not too distant future. Obviously, it is up to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) to make that call. But, we've been working closely with them for some time now and we feel confident that we’ve put forward a strong application. We will see what happens.

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