A global player in fintech: it's all about engagement
'In the evening I sometimes think back to my working day. Then early in the morning I've been virtually in Asia, traveling the world with talks in EMEA, and then to Uruguay, Brazil and the US. I really believe in a personal approach and always try to make 'real' contact. Despite the virtual setting, I often get a lot of information within those first 5 minutes about how a colleague is doing. . I am proud that in a short time we have truly become a global community.'
A year ago, Anne Langeveld-Mulder was appointed Chief HR Officer of Peridot Financing Solutions through YESS. Margreth Jonk, Partner of YESS Boer & Croon, talked to her about her experiences at this exciting company.
Just for the readers, can you briefly talk about the genesis of Peridot and what the company does?
Peridot was created through Blackstone's acquisition of Switzerland-based Global Supply Chain Finance (GSCF) and part of IBM Global Finance (IGF), both of which specialize in complex working capital financing programs. We structure, service and finance working capital programs between multinationals and their distributors. Companies get their money quickly when they have sold something and, on the other hand, only have to pay later to those from whom they buy products and services. This is how we support companies with short-term financial space. Peridot was not launched until 2021. As a result, we have a real start-up culture and mentality, while the combination of GSCF and IGF brings deep industry knowledge, extensive specialized expertise and geographic reach in 75 countries. Despite being a new player in our industry, Peridot was already managing over $68 billion in technology volumes by 2022. Because it is wholly owned and funded by Blackstone, the world's largest alternative asset manager, it provides us with a large and flexible funding pool, key relationships and strategic guidance.
Challenges and concerns
The financial world is in a state of flux. What do you notice about it?
There has been a lot of volatility in the market. Still, this presents interesting opportunities for us. Many customers are less able to go to their banks. We are an attractive alternative to banks, especially since we have Blackstone behind us. In addition, we have a solid position in the tech market and are growing rapidly in other sectors. There is a lot of growth potential there.
A year ago you started setting up the HR organization. How did you approach that?
From the moment those two companies were merged, suddenly over 300 people around the world had to work together. So especially on the cultural side there was a lot of work to do. Actually, we opened a store that was profitable from the beginning, but with a lot to be set up behind the scenes. On the legal, financial, HR and marketing side. And of course IT, the critical lifeline of our organization.
It was a flying start in many ways. I started at the basics, addressing the critical processes in HR. We have employees in 21 countries with as many legal environments. So it takes some time to get that all aligned. In the beginning, there was always a fire to put out somewhere. To get a good picture of the organization, I sent out an engagement survey at the same time. That revealed three main areas of concern. First, there were a number of payroll and benefits issues that needed to be resolved. Second, communication was very fragmented. For example, there was no intranet and people really had no idea who was working for Peridot on the other side of the world. The third element was engagement. Our employees were eager to undertake things, but did not have sufficient insight into the possibilities and what budgets were available for them.
How do you deal with these cultural differences?
In some countries people are very used to a fixed hierarchy. Whereas in the Netherlands it is normal to spout ideas, regardless of your position.
We want to build a culture where everyone is encouraged to think and take initiative. But you have to be aware that this doesn't come naturally in every culture. Shortly after I took office, I went to Budapest to get to know one of my team members better. Only later did she confide in me that she thought she was going to be fired. After all, why else would I come all the way to Hungary? My first visit to Kuala Lumpur was also difficult at first. People responded very formally and reserved to my questions. But when they understood that I was genuinely interested, an honest and open conversation started about what was and was not going well within the organization. Those visits to the different branches of Peridot are really important to strengthen the commitment mentioned earlier. What we are also working on is inclusiveness and emphasizing tolerance for different cultures, age and sexual orientations as a company value. We have established a number of initiatives to develop this, several "Communities" and a series of online meetings on various D&I themes. Our first virtual Diversity Cafe was a great success and it shows that we as Peridot consider inclusiveness very important.
How would you describe Peridot's culture?
The international nature of Peridot is an important part of our culture. You are in calls all day with people of different nationalities. There is also a strong sense of solidarity. We form a close-knit team, we win together, but we also confront setbacks as a team. I am very impressed with the quality of our people. There is a very strong drive to constantly improve, and that also stimulates me as a professional very much. Our management team consists of different nationalities and is spread across New York, Budapest, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Many of our people come from IBM, where there was a strong corporate culture and a process or procedure for everything. At Peridot, we had to build all that from scratch. That took some getting used to for them, but on the other hand, they really liked being able to think with us, exert influence with that and see that decisions could be made very quickly.
There is a lot of mutual solidarity and commitment to each other. After the war broke out in Ukraine, many of our people in Hungary were worried about their safety with a war in their backyard. In addition to making donations, we also offered our staff to help them if they wanted to go to a safer country. This is certainly not (only) initiated by HR, there is a lot of intrinsic focus on issues that impact the lives of our employees. Another example is the CEO calling me for the right email addresses to give our South Korean colleagues heart after that terrible attack in a nightclub in South Korea. Such a role model from a senior person is very important to your culture.
Investing in managers and culture development
What's in store for the HR-field?
We want to invest heavily in our managers and have created a 6-month leadership program. In addition to two programs in Hungary and Switzerland where people met physically, we have now developed a virtual program for our remote managers in America and Asia using a learning platform, gamification, virtual assignments, online coaching and a physical two-day meeting in Atlanta and in Kuala Lumpur. We are a knowledge-intensive organization and our managers are more technically gifted professionals than people managers. There needs to be a little more balance in that. Managers are still an important reason for employees to stay or leave. In addition to people management, we also pay attention to change management. That's an essential skill, given the amount of change we're facing. We have also created a community for managers in which they can share knowledge. Sharing with each other is still not done enough so providing a structure for this is seen as very pleasant. Furthermore, we have started an International Exchange Program to let people experience what it is like to work in another part of the world. We are currently working on seven short-term assignments and one for two years. We expect to learn a lot from that. That cross-pollination is important for a global player like Peridot and can strengthen team spirit.
An international start-up environment demands a lot from an HR team. My team is heavily involved in building the desired corporate culture and strategic direction of Peridot, but it is equally important that we get the basics right and understand well what is going on in the "here and now" of our employees.