Get To Know Our CEO Mitul Lakhani
iMoney CEO Mitul Lakhani celebrated his first full year in charge of the company in July 2019 (after serving as CFO for three years). To mark the occasion, we asked him a few questions about his journey and how he got to where he is today.
How do you feel about your first year as CEO of iMoney?
I feel really good actually. It’s been a long journey getting here, but I have to admit that the last 12 months have probably been some of my most fun moments.
Challenging no doubt, but it feels immensely satisfying to date.
Would your childhood friends or teachers be surprised to see you in your role today?
Probably not. I was what would call a very studious geek. Top of the class most years, used to get my homework done on time. I would like to think that my parents had a pretty easy time of making me do my homework.
But I think the academics aside, I started becoming more of an all-rounder when I went to boarding school in Kenya. I was nine-years old and that was when I had to stay away from my parents. We just moved to a new country, so I started getting involved in a lot of team sports.
I think that really helped me become more of a team player. I was often captain of teams, which helped me learn in terms of leading teams; and just in terms of boosting and building my overall confidence.
So, I try to encourage my kids as much as possible to take part in team activities. Be it in sports or in other extracurricular activities.
What were you like as a team captain?
Good question actually. I enjoyed the responsibility but obviously that was a very long time ago. I was still very young and, you know, not as sophisticated as sporting captains as these days.
So, it was more of a case of leading the team out onto the field. Helping out in terms of making decisions on the field and really just leading by example. Just making sure that the team has the same objective and gave their best.
Also, I think it’s easier when you’re all kids aged nine to 16. Everyone wants to give their best, so it was probably easier leading a team at that point in time.
What sports did you play?
I played cricket, hockey, football, and rugby. Those were predominantly the team sports at the time. Cricket was probably my strongest.
I was born in India and grew up playing it on the streets and I’m still a passionate cricket fan.
How do you feel about England winning the cricket World Cup over India?
I was a bit disappointed, but it’s about time they won it. I was getting a bit tired of hearing how they invented a sport that they’ve never been successful at any of the World Cups. So, I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have to hear about that anymore.
You have a unique perspective of having been the CFO and CEO of iMoney. What did you wish you knew before you stepped into your current role?
There is nothing that I wish that I knew, because if I had known what it was like to be a CEO then I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. Part of me wanting to be a CEO was driven by the fact that I wanted to learn a lot more and take on new challenges.
I’ve been here for four years as CFO. So, I was very ingrained in the culture and in terms of what we’re doing as a business. I guess it was more of a case of I wanted to step into a new role and take on that additional responsibility, but more importantly continue to learn and grow as a person.
If you can name just one thing, what would you pick as the key highlight moment of your first year at the helm?
That’s a really good question. There have been a lot of good highlights, but I think the biggest would be the amount of fun that we’ve all had collectively over the last 12 months. I truly believe that we have a unique culture here. I might be biased when I say that; looking from the top down.
But the different people that I get to spend time with probably more so than in my previous role. Getting to know people, understanding what they enjoy, and what their strengths are. You know, sort of help coach and mentor them along the way.
The highlight is the amount of fun that we’ve had and the successes along the way. No doubt there have been some challenges, but it’s important that we celebrate what we do and have fun.
So, what is a typical day at work like for the CEO of iMoney? What are the ups and downs?
Wake up in the morning and go to the gym – if I have the energy. Then spend time with the kids before they head off to school and grab some breakfast. I try to be as healthy as possible, and coffee is a necessity.
I get to the office, sit down at my desk and spend the first hour going through emails and planning out my day. What it looks like and what I need to be on top of. Then the rest of the day is mostly in meetings and one-on-ones in terms of what needs to be done to help drive the business forward, decisions to be made, and what people need in terms of mentoring and coaching.
Usually what I find is that towards the end of the day is when I sit down at my desk again and catch up emails, do my thinking, planning, and getting ready for the next day.
So…. what time do you leave the office?
It varies really. I don’t keep track of it. There are times when I feel okay leaving the office at around 5.36 to get home and spend some time with my kids. Have dinner with the family if they haven’t already eaten without me. Which is most days, as they have dinner really early.
On average, it’s between six to eight PM that I’m out of the office.
In seven years, the iMoney team has grown from a startup in a co-working space to over 210 strong workforce spanning four countries today, What’s next?
I like to think about the next five years as how can we continue to build and grow what we have. How can we continue to help consumers make smarter financial decisions and how we can help our employees continue to grow and build successful careers here at iMoney.
Also, how we can help our partners to grow their own businesses as well.
For me, that’s the fundamental aspects of our business. I want us in five years’ time to collectively look back and say “wow, that was amazing”. At the same time, I want us to also look forward to our next five years.
What would need to happen in the next five years for you to call it a success?
In my opinion ‘success’ can be defined and measured in lots of different ways. I think it’s less about how I define success and how we collectively as an organisation defines it.
As long as we achieved the three things I said earlier, making sure consumers make smarter choices, making sure our people are growing, and making sure our providers are happy with what we’ve done for them. That to me would be a success.
What excites you about the fast-growing fintech business today?
The fundamental thing that fintech is doing and has the ability to do is really make a difference in people’s lives. Especially in terms of their financial lives. It’s everything from increasing financial awareness, increasing financial education and literacy, to giving everyone – and I mean everyone – access to the financial products that they need.
Ultimately, it’s helping people become more financially independent. Helping them achieve their financial goals and dreams.
One last thing. What was the best advice anyone ever gave you and did you follow it?
I can’t remember who gave me this advice but it was along the lines of “whatever it is that you’re doing, make sure you’re really enjoying it and make sure you’re happy. Life’s too short for us to do things that we don’t enjoy or are not happy about.”
Do I follow it? In most cases yes. There will be times where you have to do some stuff that you don’t necessarily enjoy. For the larger part of it, I really enjoy what I’m doing right now. I’m here and I have no plans on doing anything else.
*Responses have been edited for clarity.