Life is too short to just turn up to work for a paycheck
A chat with Kiwi.com CFO, Iain Wetherall
Iain joined our company as Chief Financial Officer on November 1, 2020. Prior to starting his journey at Kiwi.com he held the position of Chief Financial Officer and also Chief Investment Officer at Wizz Air, and has held various finance roles at Ahold Delhaize, PwC, Singer & Friedlander Bank and KPMG. We interviewed him to find out what his first impressions about Kiwi.com are, what he likes most about the job, what he does to stay sane in the current online reality, and more.
Enjoy the read!
When you joined us, you said that back in the days when you were at Wizz Air, one of your responsibilities was to fight against companies like Kiwi.com. How does it feel to be on the other side of things?
After nine years working in the airline industry it did feel a little rebellious. So why Kiwi.com? Firstly, I really believe in what Kiwi.com represents in terms of product and people. Secondly, I believe in the management team, I was very impressed with CEO Oliver Dlouhy, CTO Jozef Kepesi and the business and team they have built. Thirdly, the financial support and wealth of experience at the investors, General Atlantic. If you put all of these ingredients together, Kiwi.com felt like a great company to join at an exciting time.
Didn’t it feel risky in such uncertain times?
Life is too short to just turn up to work for a paycheck, life needs to be interesting. I need to be stimulated, work hard and play hard and want to contribute to something special. The reality is that Kiwi.com has all the ingredients to be a huge disrupter in the global travel space and I felt I could really make a difference to help it on its journey. What I am particularly excited about Kiwi.com is the fact that we can channel all our firepower on product innovation and our customers.
How do you think your leadership style will work with a company like ours, and our business model based on disruptive technology?
I’ve worked for companies that operate what you could consider “legacy” business models, including banking, food retail and airlines. Now it’s really refreshing to work for a young team with a mission to disrupt, push the boundaries and challenge the status quo.
My style is inclusive, mentoring and nurturing, I’m competitive and results driven. At Kiwi.com I feel I have a lot of experience to share, help the team, come up with innovative ideas and help build a sustainable platform for growth.
What do you like most about your job?
For me it’s all about working with people and helping them build a business, a function or a career, and in achieving success. A motivated team can achieve anything. I like all aspects of finance and have a natural curiosity to understand the processes behind the numbers. I love being part of a motivated, positive team that is heading in the same direction, supporting each other on the journey and celebrating the successes.
Is there anything that perhaps surprised you about Kiwi.com?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the finance department. I’ve played the role of a financial janitor a few times over the years cleaning up companies and getting them back on track for growth. I’m pleased to say that this is not the case at Kiwi.com.
While 2020 was a very challenging year, the COVID-19 crisis has provided a good opportunity for Kiwi.com to refine its business model and adapt its processes accordingly. In my view, today Kiwi.com appears to be a much stronger and more focused business than it was 12 months ago.
And are there any challenges you foresee?
Challenges are ever present, the key is to identify them, plan and act accordingly. The main challenge currently upon us is the COVID-19 crisis. Firstly, we must ensure that all Kiwis, their families and our customers remain healthy and safe during this time. From a business perspective, we need to remain focused, minimize complexity, and keep the team spirit. When the recovery does come Kiwi.com will be one of the structural winners and the challenge will be to manage the growth again.
Speaking of COVID-19 situation, how are you finding home office reality?
Building relationships with Kiwi.com colleagues is not as hard as I thought it would be – technology has really helped, I never used Slack before! Of course it’s not the same as meeting someone face to face, having a chat in the corridor or having a few beers, so I miss that.
At the personal level I’ve enjoyed being at home because I’ve been traveling for work like crazy for many years, frequently travelling three weeks out of every four. Right now I’m healthier than I’ve been for a while, I’ve lost a few pounds and my family actually likes me being around, which is a good thing!
Continuing on a more personal note, what do you do in your free time to disconnect from work and stay sane?
My wife and I go for a walk first thing every morning which is a great way to start the day. I like most sports either as a spectator or participant. I recently took part in my first triathlon and have the bug. My son loves rugby and my daughter is absolutely football crazy, so I also enjoy being out kicking a ball around and end up getting dirty most weekends. The ski season is upon us, so we’ll be hitting the slopes provided the resorts stay open!
What about the music, do you have any favourites?
Hmm on Friday I like getting into the weekend mood by listening to dance music while cooking a pizza for the kids with my headphones on. So my Friday night playlist would be David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Imagine Dragons, this kind of stuff.
Are you into traveling?
Definitely. I love the world, there are so many fantastic places and wonderful cultures to experience.
What’s the most interesting or spectacular place you’ve visited?
There are so many. I’ve worked in the US, Europe, the Middle East, India, Central and Eastern Europe. I’ve lived in Singapore, so I’ve seen a lot of Southeast Asia – rafting down the Mekong through the Golden Triangle, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam was amazing. Sri Lanka and Indonesia are beautiful. Cave diving in Mexico was also very memorable. I also love Italy and the South and West of France. Last year when I had time off before joining Kiwi.com, I tried out kitesurfing on Lake Garda for the first time, and also learned to surf with my family in the West of France – I know I didn’t look cool, but it was great fun.
Last question – Can you think of any particularly funny, crazy experience, or trip you’ve been on?
Oh loads… when rafting in Kenya I hit a hippo and nearly went for a swim in a crocodile infested river. During that trip we camped on a sandbag, and we just had a cloth fence around us for ‘protection’. I woke up one morning and these big hippo footprints were about a foot away from where my head was a few hours before – that was probably one of the scary-funny stories. There were also things like putting wood on the fire and scorpions jumping out. These are just a few from the top of my head.