As traditional banking is disrupted by fintech, Daria Rippingale, the CEO of Bankingblocks, is reshaping the ecosystem of banking solutions for fintech businesses by bridging the traditional banking service gap.
Bankingblocks is a wholesale banking solution for the fintech and payments industry. It combines banking practices and acquires license groups to create a stand-alone and turnkey modular banking service which is agile and flexible for the fintech industry.
After four years in Amsterdam, Daria described how “an even wider world opens up to you” after she learnt to “spreken de Nederlands”. She shares with Advance the craze for cycling in Amsterdam and her enthusiasm for the fintech industry.
Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications & Digital Manager, Advance.
What made you relocate to Amsterdam?
I built a business strategy which required obtaining a Financial Institution License in Europe, so once we were approved for this (which is a story in itself), I got on a plane and off I went! After much research, I settled on Belgium as the best place for our licensing so I put together a small team there (as it’s required by the nation’s financial regulator), however, when it came to setting up our primary business location, Amsterdam was the easy choice. In addition to being a small city, and very easy to get from A to B, it is also a bustling international hub where professionals from all over the world (especially in fintech) call home. I now have a team of 30 people in Amsterdam, which features a mix of 20 nationalities and 18 different languages. I am very happy with the choice: Amsterdam is in a great part of the world, an hour or two flight to most European cities and a very colourful city to live in on the whole – there’s never a dull moment!
What was your first impression? What’s the biggest surprise / unexpected thing?
My first impression was WOW – people here really like to party! Then I walked about three blocks out of the downtown area and it was a totally different situation (ie. situation normal). The biggest surprise for me was how easy it is to live here without an ounce of Dutch language (unlike other European cities where the local language is essential if living there or staying long term). This lack of immersion does make it Dutch a difficult language to learn, but once you start to “spreken de Nederlands” (not actual Dutch but as close as I can get), an even wider world opens up to you! In terms of the unexpected, it’s definitely how tall and high up *everything* is. I’m 5′ 4″ and constantly standing on kiddy-stools to do the most everyday things, like getting a plate from a kitchen shelf or cooking dinner! Also, my first impression of the cycling situation here was ‘the Dutch are crazy’. After 4 years in Amsterdam, I can now formally confirm – they really are just plain crazy (with bikes).
What’s your typical workday like?
Busy and buzzing. We are based in the city centre and have offices in London and Brussels so there are always people coming and going, workshops, training and more. I am travelling between offices, meetings and events half of the time, so it can be hard to keep a routine. In general, however, it’s an 8 a.m. start, lunch with the team (every day), afternoon meetings and then the evening is spent catching up on emails and calls before any time I have left for dinner, TV and spending time with my very tolerant boyfriend.
What keeps you excited about your work?
Honestly, the complexity of our industry. I’ve been married to the payments/fintech industry for more than ten years and I keep learning, exploring and gaining more from it each year. I need to be constantly on the move and in a constant state of development and the financial industry provides that hit. Operating in this sphere requires you to be always on top of the regulations, technology, trends and so on… It also has such a cultural impact on society. It might sound very boring for many but for me it’s just fascinating.
What are some of the common challenges facing fintech and payment companies?
Fintechs deliver the technical platforms that modern customers demand and need, but they’re receiving limited support from traditional banks. Whether it’s poor connectivity, concerns about market competition or a general unwillingness to help, fintech businesses are being increasingly held hostage by traditional banks. Although there is widespread acceptance that fintechs will take over the customer-facing finance market, traditional banks are still unprepared and unwilling to provide emerging fintech companies with the services they need to grow.
What’s your go-to place for Australian coffee?
One of the greatest hardships for any Australian living abroad is learning to settle for less-than-great coffee. There are few trailblazers locally who offer the “flat white” Australia knows and loves, and that’s a great place to start. Bakers & Roasters is my own pick (a New Zealand run place that does exceptional coffee, great breakfast and an outstanding Blood Mary). Aside from that, there’s a place called The Drover’s Dog (a bit on the nose name-wise but a pretty decent coffee all the same).
What do you miss most about Australia?
Surprisingly the accent slowly comes back to haunt you! After making fun of my own accent for so long (amidst the more culturally refined European set), there comes a point where nothing makes you feel more at home than finding an episode of the latest homegrown DIY renovation reality TV show or a quality Netflix series produced on home soil. I say this because I feel like it’s only stating the obvious that being away from family and friends (and the warmer weather) is predictably hard. And we covered coffee already!