MeetOurMentors: A Conversation With Derek Rego – Former Citi Global Head of Treasury and Trade

Derek Rego is a former Citi Managing Director, Global Head of Technology – Treasury and Trade Solutions. A seasoned executive with 30+ years of technology experience and over 25 years of Citi service – Derek recently mentored with Level39 and we caught up with him here. 

What were your initial impressions when meeting with Level39 entrepreneurs today?

As a former Global Technology Head of Treasury and Trade Solutions – my main thoughts are around how the products resonate with me to address a specific business challenge or outcome. I need those startups to pitch me the value of their products from a business point of view and how they see the future evolution of their products – not just the capabilities of the immediate technology platform. I’ve also found new technologies interesting – businesses based on new fields such as cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence. How do these technologies fare in the long term and how dependent are they on a specific factor? For a business which is based on cryptocurrency only – what happens if cryptocurrency collapses? This isn’t just true for crypto – but other new fields, too – what happens if the bubble bursts?

How do you offer your support? 

I encourage new businesses to think through the various use cases of their products – they might have a technology which they want to use in a certain setting – but could they broaden out its use and deploy it elsewhere in the future ? In a different sector, or a different part of their customer’s business? Sometimes there are missed leverage opportunities here.

I also encourage businesses to think about changing economic trends. If a business is thinking about using assets as collateral for loans – I think about how ownership of assets are changing, how young people are less likely to own a house, for example.
This is the kind of mindset I’ve developed over my decades of working in a fast evolving and highly competitive environment – applying a wider perspective on addressing issues, creating leverage and building business value when it comes to technology delivery.

How do you apply technology within the bank?

A number of Banks now have their own in-house intrapreneurship programs, encouraging employees to pitch and build products as if they were startups, with budgets and road-maps.

One thing I’ve learnt over the years is that rolling out new externally developed technology products/platforms and incorporating them into an existing ecosystem comes with its own unique challenges. The Technology Products/Platforms need to be very adaptable, configurable and allow for easy integration, with wires hanging out, so to speak. You can’t buy a piece of software, or technology, which is self-contained and not easily interpretable, otherwise you have to spend a lot of time and money to make it work (and sometimes have to compromise on business value in the process). That’s why I encourage new businesses to design and sell technologies which can be easily adapted and integrated, these are key considerations that need to be understood and incorporated as the product is architected and designed during the early stages of product development.

What are your thoughts on Fintech and the Level39 ecosystem?
It used to be a common misconception that Fintech would destroy Banking – but the reality is completely different. Now the ecosystem understands that it’s very much about creating an equilibrium, a balance between the startups and the incumbents so that both can thrive. Banks will always have a very important role to play in finance, there’s certain things that only they can do. But the fintechs are more agile, have no legacy considerations and can deploy quicker, faster and better than the banks can at present. That’s the role fintechs can play and the balance that must be achieved to mutual benefit. This is the future !

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