Having amassed over 20 years of experience working with various global organisations within payments, corporate finance, capital markets and structured finance, Finaro Managing Director Charlon Scicluna has had quite the journey, climbing the ranks from financial controller to business leader.
His journey started at Deloitte, which the Managing Director describes as his first experience in a professional environment, and one that sowed the seeds for what was to come.
After almost seven years with Deloitte in Malta, Charlon took a leap of faith, and moved to PwC in New York, where he joined the Banking and Capital Markets team. “This was an amazing experience because I was exposed to working with Tier 1 banks and market leaders. It was also my first experience within the banking world,” he recalls of this exciting time.
A couple of years later, he went on to join Deutsche Bank within the Structured Credit and Global Credit Trading Desk, and it was here that he gained valuable experience managing a team, gathering further knowledge alongside peers hailing from Ivy League business schools and top colleges in the US.
Fast forward to 2008 and the credit crisis – and what Charlon describes as a game changer. “The area of the industry I was working in disappeared, and this led me to think, ‘what’s next?’” he recalls. Setting his sights back on his island home, Charlon noted that Malta was at an exciting juncture, was largely not impacted by the crisis. Joining the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, he made the move back to Malta, and began using his expertise garnered in New York and getting involved in a number of startups.
“This is what landed me a job at Credorax, now Finaro in 2013, which I joined as VP Finance, and the rest is history,” he smiles.
At the time, Finaro was very different to the global cross-border payment leader and fully licensed bank empowering international commerce it is known as today. “I’ve seen Finaro, grow – when I joined it was just 40 people working for the company, which had just been set up locally, and we were in the process of setting up our R&D centre in Tel Aviv,” Charlon explains, adding that Finaro was founded in 2007 and by 2010 became a principal member of Visa and Mastercard and we were awarded an EU PSD license, allowing us to start acquiring payments for merchants, going on to make its first transaction in 2011. From then, it began winning the market due to its cutting-edge technology, progressing to where it is today.
“My first task when I joined – apart from the day-to-day tasks of financial controller, was to upgrade the license to that of a credit institution or a bank. This was successful, and in 2015, Finaro was licensed as a bank in Malta. That is when I also made General Manager of the bank, moving out of finance and focusing more on setting up the operations side of things,” he states.
Looking back on his journey, Charlon considers his time working in the US as invaluable, giving him “an important perspective of the world out there, working in the number one financial hub in the world. You really understand the level of work ethic one should have within these organisations.”
The second turning point however, was his return to Malta, and the move from a big bank to a small company – and the shift in perspective that comes along with it. “Joining Finaro moved me from being a financial controller to being a manager and strategic thinker. I learned a lot, and must admit that I was very lucky to be supported by an amazing C-level team which made my mission easier,” he maintains.
“Listening and learning are very important lessons I’ve learned along the way,” Charlon says of the journey leading up to his current position. “You never know it all – there is always more to learn. You need to be present, give back to individuals and teams, and be able to receive and accept feedback. Clear communication is also key in the role of a manager.”
Most important, however, is focusing on the organisation’s purpose – which, he says, is just as important as profit.
And of course, Charlon’s success story mirrors that of the company itself. “Finaro has an amazing story, and I’m proud to be a part of it – for me, it’s literally like seeing a child grow. I’ve seen it grow from a small startup of 40 employees to 370, at our headquarters in Israel and Malta and scattered across Europe, the UK, the US and China, building its technology, penetrating new markets and launching new products. Every step improved the business and moved it in the right direction,” the Managing Director affirms.
Having announced its new company identity (and thus changing its name from Credorax to Finaro) last December, the leading payments provider and merchant acquiring bank, the company has had some more exciting news to share earlier this month – its acquisition by American leader in commerce-enabling technology Shift4 Payments Inc. (NYSE:FOUR), in a deal worth $575 million.
Describing this as a very exciting time for the company, Charlon explains that the acquisition comes with a vision of what Finaro will be doing alongside Shift4. “One area in which we see Finaro integrating is through their payment platform Skytap, in order to provide the same offering within the European sphere,” he reveals, before pointing out another important area relating to a setup called VenueNext, which is a point-of-sale, mobile commerce technology that relates to entertainment centres like concert arenas and stadiums.
But perhaps the most exciting project, the Managing Director says, is actually related to Elon Musk’s SpaceX – the well-known Starlink project, which, through the use of 40,000 low-orbit satellites, will provide broadband internet globally. “This is one of the projects we’ll be integrating to, with Finaro/Shift 4 processing the payments for it,” Charlon smiles.
Looking ahead, the Managing Director describes 2022 as an exciting year, affirming that, apart from the acquisition and the exiting projects tied to that, the company is also focused on executing its pipeline and commercial strategy for 2022, and its objectives set pre-acquisition. “We are also always launching new products as a technology company, and in 2022 we will be launching a new product in B2B Issuing – which is also built on cutting-edge technology.”
Concluding our chat with a final word of advice for aspiring leaders, Charlon says that prioritising your time is essential. “As a leader, you need to focus 80 per cent of your time on the 20 per cent of the most strategic and important tasks – that is what a leader should really be focusing on, in order to give direction to the team.”
The interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders 2022 project. The new online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.
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