Roxana Mohammadian-Molina is chief strategy officer at Blend, a digital lending platform for property developers.
She spent the early part of her career in investment banking but has moved over to fintech in the last five years, giving her a balanced view on the pros and cons of each.
FinTech Intel spoke to Mohammadian-Molina to discuss her career, the unbundling and rebundling of banks and fintechs, and she offers advice for entrepreneurs just starting out in fintech.
Tell us about Blend.
Blend is a digital lending platform. Specifically, our market is property development, for those that need funding and debt to build their projects.
We have stepped into a gap in the market, created after the global financial crisis when high-street and traditional banks lost their appetite for some types of lending, including development finance.
This led to the emergence of many non-bank providers over the last 10 years, particularly specialists such as Blend, which focuses on property development across the UK.
What does your role as chief strategy officer at Blend involve?
I have been with the company since it was founded in 2018. In my role as chief strategy officer, I look after the growth of the business, strategic partnerships, investors and borrowers.
I would describe my role as very broad. My main job is to help grow the business and take it to the next level.
Chief strategy officer seems to be a relatively new role—is that right?
You are partly right, a chief strategy officer is not a new role, but in the last few years it has acquired added significance and a whole new dimension.
I think in recent years it has become a key executive role, as the person who really helps with the overarching strategy for the company, and bridging that gap between the long-term objectives for the company and the short-term goals.
Can you compare your time working in legacy banks (Morgan Stanley and Barclays) to fintechs? What can they learn from each other?
When I left investment banking to join fintech, we saw the unbundling of banks and fintechs. Banks stopped offering certain services, such as lending, and fintechs appeared and took over these things.
But now, I think what we are seeing is the rebundling of banks and fintechs. Back then, banks were almost dismissive of fintechs, but now they are really looking at fintechs from the corner of their eyes and are interested in what they are doing. Take the example of JPMorgan Chase acquiring Nutmeg.
Of course, each has its benefits and drawbacks. Fintechs are smaller and therefore more agile and able to move quickly. So if you want to get a decision made, it doesn’t take five or 10 committees to do it.
In banks, things are a lot slower. There is a lot of legacy tech and systems that are difficult to overcome. But there are benefits. They are large organisations with access to a large pool of talent.
I think what we are seeing now, with the rebundling, is ideal. It’s the best of both worlds.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs starting out in fintech?
Firstly, I would say really research your market, understand it and identify its main pain points. Then cross-check that with your own knowledge and capabilities to see if you can add value and solve those pain points.
It’s important to have a vision and enough passion to make that vision a reality.
And for any entrepreneur, it’s important to be resilient and adaptable. To be willing to take risks and know when to cut your losses.