Embrace change, take risks, and disrupt yourself

Hosted by top 5 banking and fintech influencer, Jim Marous, Banking Transformed highlights the challenges facing the banking industry. Featuring some of the top minds in business, this podcast explores how financial institutions can prepare for the future of banking.

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The Importance of Attracting Rebel Talent

Traditional organizations find rebels to be disruptive troublemakers who make processes and decisions more difficult. Legacy organizations that are embracing digital transformation find these same 'misfits' to be a positive influence on innovation, creativity, growth and cultural change.

We are joined today by Matteo Rizzi, who has authored a great book entitled, 'Talents and Rebels'. In this episode, he discusses interviews and personal observations that make a case for organizations to embrace those people who may appear disruptive to the norm. In fact, he suggests that we should seek out more of this type of talent.

Jim Marous:
Welcome to the show, Mateo. It seems like just yesterday we were together in Budapest, at an event that had both of us on stage, but also featured the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak. Talk about a disruptive event.

Matteo Rizzi:
Indeed.

Jim Marous:
Yeah.

Matteo Rizzi:
Indeed, Jim. Thanks for having me. And indeed, it looks like yesterday, and with Steve we had great fun.

Jim Marous:
Yeah. So your new book is a culmination of your journey over the past several years, as you've helped organizations better understand the innovation process. What prompted you to sit down and create this very unique book?

Matteo Rizzi:
So the consideration that, I can actually say it in one sentence. There is a reason why all the people who started, tried, inside Swift, which was a pioneer in the FinTech in the feedback space, they are not working for Swift anymore. Including the back then CEO, Lazarus Campos who is now my partner at FinTech state. So there is a reason why all this lateral minds apparent disruptors, sort of the rebels as they call them in the book. They're not working in the corporation anymore. They all pursue their own careers, and they all found their like a happiness and passion and drive, outside the corporate world. So the book answers the question, is that a coincidence or is there a new type of talent? Then you know-- that there's usually only tolerated by corporations instead of used as a super clever weapon to cope and deal with the common disruption.

Jim Marous:
So how long have you been involved in the search of innovation, the speaking on innovation?

Matteo Rizzi:
I want to say 10 years. Actually it's funny because this in the next, in the coming month of May, we're going to do the FinTech stage festival in Italy. Which is at it's third edition. And the theme of the show is [inaudible 00:02:35] of Fintech. There are not a lot of people and you and I are two of them, who can say they are dealing with Fintech for 10 years. And this is a little bit what you know, what they always say is that the Sphenotribe was born in 2009 inside Swift and we created first the start up challenge, global startup challenge. The winner, the first winner was a TransferWise, which today is one of the unicorns. And then more unicorns actually, sort of came to that show like a Revolut or Currency Cloud. All these, like, big guys.

Matteo Rizzi:
So they went to Sphenotribe and Swift when they were like a bit more than five people in a garage. So that was like one side of the FinTech story that clearly make, probably myself and the team and Sphenotribe pioneers. But that is more actually. When you think that Vitali Buterin came and presented a theorem to one of the cyber [inaudible 00:03:44] in, I believe it was 2012 and in the room full of bankers, talking about what today is, one of the largest blockchain infrastructures in the world. And back then it was just a kid, that genius kid that like explaining his super ambitious idea, another rebel by the way. So that's how inspiring, and sort of forward looking. I believe our work was 10 years ago and we kept doing this until pretty much today, whether the evidence is that for the first five years I did it within Swift, and for the last seven because that decade is-- it goes beyond already. I did it as an entrepreneur and as a-- as a-- I wanna say as a rebel, maybe it's the simplest world for work.

Jim Marous:
You know, one of the foundational thoughts in your book is that while a lot of people would like to consider themselves a rebel, very few really are, is that probably what you've seen as well?

Matteo Rizzi:
Yes. That's actually a very clever sort of statement because actually one of the chapters is, is that a rebel or just a clever guy? There is a difference between someone who is that really smart, in a business, in a relationship or you know simply in like a catching up and see all the sort of the connections in between-- like different-- either businesses or entities or products. Rebel, somehow, makes these connections in a way that is unseen before. Which is why I always make the difference. And the one line out of the book is that you need innovators to sort of develop the business, but you need rebels to survive. So when you think of the biggest failure of-- or missed opportunities in-- like large corporations who failed. And I hope, you know, we all know that [inaudible 00:06:00] examples but there are more, there is blockbusters, you know the [inaudible 00:06:03] you know behind the oldest means the opportunities.

Matteo Rizzi:
There were people who were unheard or tolerated or ignored or sort of undermined. Why? Because rebels are not considered as a resource. The article, see that had been most of the time a problem to solve. Why is if you're smart and clever and maybe you fit well in the mall, then you're very much likely to sort of, how do you say the goal up the ladder, you know in the corporate hierarchy whereas the rebel doesn't give a damn about becoming a CEO. You have some CEO rebels but rebel-- a rebel is motivated by relevance, by impact, by how is he or she going to change the lives of people or like the mission of the company? It is less about the power, money and even like recognition. I believe that a rebel wants to be fairly recognized about his or her work but not with money. If I'm making sense.

Jim Marous:
Yeah. So is in most cases, is rebel pretty much in the background then?

Matteo Rizzi:
I think so. I think so. And then you know-- you'll-- and then there is the Elon Musk and the Steve Jobs and the, some others where--

Jim Marous:
[inaudible 00:07:42].

Matteo Rizzi:
--exactly who are actually rebels and the leaders and also like a game changers, like a geniuses right then and is always like a combination of [inaudible 00:07:55] I guess the right. So when you actually, you, you and I both like heard the story of the other Steve Wozniak. You know, Henny was saying, I was the one like behind the scene thinking that this stuff that we were building could have changed the word, but you could tell that he was unable to sell it. Right. So you needed someone who was able to sell the vision at that was at the other Steve right--

Jim Marous:
Was Steve Wazniak, then he's more than rebel and Steve Jobs really was the innovator because Wazniak said, you know, if it wasn't received jobs, I wouldn't have been able to really visualize how this could be used. But I was creating some cool stuff.

Matteo Rizzi:
Yeah. Actually, probably, I think it would be fair to admit that Steve Jobs is probably as well as the Elon. Maybe they are in a category on their own right. Or in their own category of a rebel geniuses. If you want to, and possibly its not even relevant, right. To put an etiquette on them. But the thing is, the answer to your question earlier is that, indeed, most of the time, the rebel, they're actually hanging out together or actually they should hang out together so that they don't feel completely isolated from the rest of the company.

Matteo Rizzi:
But it is true that statistically speaking, they're the ones like a very hard to promote. For example, like a tool. You don't give a promotion to a rebel. Right. Because usually is he or she is not very good in managing people or even dealing with people sometimes at all. Right. Because he rather sort of inspire people and become a leader for them than manage them and sign their expenses, if I make sense. So it is true that they are rather sort of hidden. Isolated. And that's exactly my point when they actually try to teach corporations because as a part of the next mission, pass the book actually already in the past-- probably like couple of years. So they'd be-- we haven't been asked to, by large corporations to help them sort of deal with their talent. Right. And the advice we always give is that the, instead of isolate them, create a catalyst where these rebels can have ties with the rest of the company and actually use them as your secret weapon, right? Or your engine, your disruptive engine that is going to inspire the more advanced part or the more advanced challenges of your innovation journey.

Jim Marous:
So when we are at Novathon we had a meeting with people that Intesa Sanpaolo had selected to be kind of like management trainees but innovation trainees where they were actually selected because of their disruptive tendencies and they're actually going to be inserted in different parts of the organization from the standpoint of being able to bring innovation and disruption to different areas of the organization. Is that what we consider like the, the go forward moving for a lot of organizations where they actually find those people that may be much more comfortable disrupting things and looking into the future and insert them in different parts of the organization that they can actually make a difference?

Matteo Rizzi:
So I don't think that there is yet a perfect recipe for that because sometimes if you just spread these are talents in different parts of the organization, then they become sort of too weak. If you allow me to say that to actually make it make a change. So they might be, legal sparkle to inspire, but they won't have the critical sort of inertia to be able to sort of dramatically propose something new. Because in my experience, at least, the vision of a rebel is so different from whatever the company or the environment feels she is evolving in. That it requires a sort of endorsement but also like a critical mass of approval, if you want to, or from either some of their peers. So the other rebels, but also finding sponsors within the organizations that believe in the dream. So is actually not only the first step for a company would be let's find these rebels that create the Karpeles, and that's give them the freedom and some super ambitious challenge and let them work and then create ties with the rest of the company to actually make this challenge actually feasible and get very-- in a fast failing approach or sort of let their creativity's sparkle until, that is, one of that ideas that actually find the right waves or synchronize the ways with the business.

Jim Marous:
I was just wondering, so how do you recruit a rebel? But more importantly, how do you continue to motivate them?

Matteo Rizzi:
So actually the-- I think that if our friend Brad, Brad King, actually, the broader sense, that sentence on the back of the book and it says, that is this say that it takes one to find one. Right? And in the case of the rebel, that's very true. I always say that rebels sniff each other, which might not be the perfect English word, but you see what I mean. They sort of-- They recogni-- [inaudible 00:14:30] they recognize themselves. So you need to-- Now of course, not every single like HR Head of a larger business is a rebel or can be a rebel, right. But it this through that you need to have the courage to understand that the person in front you might not be the usual candidate that you have been recruiting so far.

Matteo Rizzi:
And at the same time, that person in front of you will send you signals that, I am different. But if you give me-- if you make me enough relevant in this company, I am going to be the engine that you need to disrupt yourself. To use Gene Larousse you know, love [inaudible 00:15:21] . So that's the [inaudible 00:15:25] and the, and then you were talking about how do you motivate a rebel. And the Rebel, I can start by what doesn't motivate the rebel, and the most of the parameters that you would use in normal, like the corporate life, like money, [inaudible 00:15:44] business car, the or this or that car or whatever. These are not the pieces of the puzzle that you need to put in their place and to get him or her motivated. I think more about freedom, impact, relevance, recognition and drive. So this are like-- and by drive, I mean, make this person not feel alone, but on the other hand, treat this person as a type of resource that needs to be considered. Which is actually the biggest challenge is this mental path of accepting these type of resources as a resource. Again, not as a some strange animal that you need to deal with.

Jim Marous:
So in an organization, how do you find the difference between what I'll call a rebel without a cause, and one that can be instrumental in the growth of an organization's innovation process? In other words, how do you define or spot someone who maybe is just plain disruptive versus those that are going to be valuable to an organization?

Matteo Rizzi:
Hmm. So this is another like extremely relevant question. I there to say it's almost like you have read the book, which, which I'm pretty sure you did.

Jim Marous:
Yes.

Matteo Rizzi:
Otherwise you would not have asked this question because indeed that there are actually people who are just there to create noise. And you know, we could call them the fake rebel. Right? So the one that are just there because they like to say the opposite or to play the contrarian, right? Eh, there is a difference in between, play the person against everything or anything just as a sort of a, as an apriori or be someone will not only challenges the status quo but also very quick, actually propose a something that actually has an impact. And usually the rebel doesn't come just with a problem, that rebel comes with the problem with a way to solve it that might be actually sort of disruptive for the status quo, but it's not unfeasible.

Matteo Rizzi:
And I actually have, I happen to be the perfect, the story to explain it actually with my own experience. The reason why I left Swift in September, 2013 and I told you this story already, but I'm glad to be able to say to a bigger audience is because I tried for nine months from January to September to sell the idea of an Sphenotribe fund. So I wanted to create a financial arm within Swift, under the Sphenotribe brand that was able to invest in all these gems that we were finding [inaudible 00:19:08] Sphenotribe startup challenge. And the that would then-- that would that allow Swift back then to today, maybe be an investor in Revolut, TransferWise, Currency Cloud, and plenty of other either multi hundred dollars startups or unicorns at the same time. It would have been by far the largest FinTech fund ever.

Matteo Rizzi:
But after nine months of battle, okay, I could not make it happen. So I failed and I bailed. Why could I not make it happen? Because of a million of good reason. And also the governance wasn't ready. It was too complicated. It was out of focus and maybe I didn't find the right sponsor, whatever. But mine wasn't just a crazy idea of an outsider doing something that was completely out of the sweet perimeter. We were still in like a financial services investing in startups. You know, I was creating something together with a swifter ecosystem. So it wasn't something completely crazy. So I wasn't just the waking up and saying, yeah, this guys doesn't work. You guys don't understand this. FinTech are going to eat your lunch and be like the protester, right? I came with a plan, the plan failed, but they still came with something that was actually feasible. This is, I believe process is possibly the best way to distinguish someone who just barks and someone else who you know actually is trying to make a dent because he believed-- he or she believes that this solution is going to be a game changer.

Jim Marous:
So you know, you work primarily or a lot in the financial services industry. Aren't financial services firms and rebels, something like oil and water? Can they-- where have you seen them co-exist well?

Matteo Rizzi:
That actually-- statistically speaking-- let's start by this. Statistically speaking one or 2% out of any organization are rebels because rebels is not a business state of mind. It is a human being state of mind. So you're rebel because you know the, you're actually have a different way of seeing things in whatever situation you're in. It is not only the place you work is also the place you live, is your communities. You always have this lateral thinking, which is, which is different, right. So that's point number one. And then in the financial services though, it is a bit more complicated because we are talking about like, fuel dozens of thousands of people in multiple locations, right? So even if you have a like a three, four or five or 10 rebels in a Country, they might not be in a different place.

Matteo Rizzi:
And so if this sometimes is actually difficult to like gather them, let alone like simply finding them, okay. Unless you really look for them and you start the communicating about the fact that you love different talent, but you love it for real, not just as an HR sort of manifesto. Right? So, and the other challenge is that, especially in financial services, changing these big machines from inside, it takes a lot of start alignment, for lack of a better expression. So sometimes it's not enough to just be able to identify these, these rebels, but you need also to use a softer, if it's not really a technique, but there's sometimes there's that is just common sense to be able to cluster them and giving them a challenge to solve the and giving them the means and the executive visibility to make that thing, if not the reality at least to something that you can sort of evaluate or get inspiration from.

Matteo Rizzi:
But it-- and so the fact of the rebels being the rebels and the corporations be like oil and water. It is true not only in financial services actually, but it is through that there are-- especially the big tech players for example, that of course they have been experiencing a much bigger growth compared to some more classic or, dinosaur like incumbent. So they started dedicating the space, mental, cultural space to these types of talents. I mean it's clearly the Googles and the Amazons of this world, they clearly have-- they clearly have created and are creating, space for these different talents to fry.

Jim Marous:
Unfortunately, we're out of time. Before we say goodbye, I do want to find out on number one, can you tell our listeners how they get ahold of your book? It's Talents ane Rebels by Mateo Rizzi. How do they get ahold of it?

Matteo Rizzi:
You can go on Amazon. That is both an ebook and you can get delivered of course if you are like in a Europe or in Italy. That is also so the [inaudible 00:25:18] platform, which is hopefully H O E P L I and that's the name of the editor. The title is Talent and Rebels dealing with corporate misfits. That is also the Italian version. And Neil's off today. Very soon we're going to have the Portuguese version, so--

Jim Marous:
Congratulations.

Matteo Rizzi:
Thank you.

Jim Marous:
Yeah. And where will they see you next? Where do you go on stage next?

Matteo Rizzi:
Just today. I received the schedule for my next six months. So he's going to be 20 cities, four continents in the next four months. And the next one is a Maputo in Mozambique because we created a platform called TimePledge.org that is basically helping African entrepreneurs in developing sub-skills like how to pitch that idea, how to like raise money, how to bootstrap the company. And we wanted to create a platform through which anybody from outside Africa with experience and time and passion obviously was able, I mean is to go to Africa and coach these entrepreneurs for free maybe because, he or she is speaking in a conference or maybe because he has a mission in a given County and they'll be extending his or her stay on site. We will organize a some classes and courses for am so the, in the next four months, only for TimePledge.org I'm going to Maputo, Vegas, RB, Jan, that car and Nairobi and that makes us FinTech stage, which is sort of the organization through which at TimePledge started to live.

Matteo Rizzi:
And myself personally, very grateful because when you get the opportunity to give back, even if it is like the humbly experience as an entrepreneur and what you do best, which is basically coaching startups, we really helped to make a difference. So thanks for the question and allow me to start over. Talk about TimePledge because it's a project very close to my heart.

Jim Marous:
Mateo, before we leave, it would be really faulty if I didn't bring this up. You've just started breaking banks in Europe haven't you?

Matteo Rizzi:
indeed. Absolutely. So together with the, you know, a number of amazing other hosts like a, [inaudible] scroll on there or you know, Megan Jensen, Nina Mohanty [inaudible 00:28:07]

Jim Marous:
And Spiros? Don't you? You have Spiros as well, don't you?

Matteo Rizzi:
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Spiros, Spiros Margaris-- [inaudible 00:28:19] I just said it with a different--

Matteo Rizzi:
Indeed, we actually-- we took the challenge to actually bring a breaking banks in Europe and we started very-- we, I think we are at show number 13 or 14 already. And what is great is that the reaction from all the different European guests and the lights of the different people system was really great. Not only because breaking banks, the largest FinTech broadcaster, as a study and as an important brand, but also because there was no European focus, the English and local language FinTech podcast. So we have stopped in this journey as we, as we speak, breaking banks Europe is going to be live podcasting the, from a FinTech stage of festival in May. That's going to be our first live show and yeah. Thank you, Jim. I mean as a fellow podcaster, I'm really happy. I'm really happy you bring this up. Thank you.

Jim Marous:
Well, it's, it's always a pleasure talking to you and I'm sure we're going to cross our paths sometime in the near future until the next time. Matteo. Hey, have a great day.

Matteo Rizzi:
Thank you very much, and it was a pleasure. Thank you so much.

Jim Marous:
Thank you.

REFLECTION:

Speaker 1:
So what a great interview with Matteo. You know as I look at that interview I look back and I say, "What are the reflections? What do we learn from that?" And I think one thing is clear is that sometimes the people that are the rebels, the misfits, if you were, the people that are continually rattling the cages and not accepting the comment of, "We've never done it that way," or, "We tried that before and it didn't work." Maybe we have to listen a little bit closer to these people because they may be able to provide the kind of incentive, the kind of motivation, the kind of insight into what really needs to be done that others may be afraid to say.

Speaker 1:
So, it's interesting because Matteo mentioned about the fact that it's number one hard to find those people because some people are just disruptive for disruptive sake but these people are motivated differently, they come up with different ideas and sometimes they need to get closer and closer to the top of the organization to have their voices be heard. I do get the impression too that maybe over time a misfit once they make their impact known and once they get their voice heard it may not be an ongoing process. Maybe they're simply a misfit or a rebel along a certain line of communication, maybe it's just around digital banking maybe for instance.

Speaker 1:
It was interesting because there are some rebels at the top of organizations. He brought up Elon Musk, he brought up Steve Wozniak, and to a degree Steve Jobs, he brought up I think Richard Branson is a good example who have really, both the rebel and they're a disruptor. And I think the CEO of T-Mobile would be another example. But often these people are in the background because they don't seek attention they seek the ability to give an input. So look around your organization, I'm sure there's people in your organizations that would be considered many times a misfit, a rebel, an outcast, who may have an idea that may transform our industry, may transform your organization.

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