Fintech Companies: Secure a Smooth IPO Transition With Personal Branding

Few financial technology (fintech) companies realize just how big of an impact going public will have on their overall brand. Fewer still realize that their CEO’s personal brand can have a powerful effect on keeping the company outlook favorable after an IPO.

Our current economy is ripe for disruptive financial services - the global fintech market size reached a whopping $111.8 billion in 2018. Many financial tech companies are now turning to public trading to expand their market share. But somewhere down the line, these companies’ efforts often tend to shift from a customer-centric model to a profit-centric one. This approach might be good for business in the short term but can have devastating effects on the company’s bottom line if it’s sustained. 

Let’s take a look at the current trends of public trading within a fintech perspective and how to avoid the largest pitfall many fintech companies tend to stumble into after their stock market launch - decreased brand approval. Outlined below are examples of why a focus on fintech CEO’s personal brands can have a positive effect on keeping the company’s brand favorable after an IPO.

When Change Becomes a Problem

It’s no secret that those who decide to go public face a lot of challenges, but none more so than those in the fintech industry. For those working in Fintech, however, these challenges can compound due to increased competition and demand bottlenecks.

Of course, despite all those impediments, the world’s technological and economic ecosystems are ideal for new fintechs to enter the market. The prospect of going public is still a favorable move for many fintech companies. Which is why the burgeoning fintech sector is seeing such widespread growth.

Despite the positives, going public puts a lot of pressure on companies to show positive short-term growth. This can have an unhealthy impact on business activities due to shifted priorities within the company’s directorate. It’s a case of what is commonly referred to as shareholder primacy. This shift, while normal to a marginal degree, can become disruptive enough to its core brand to influence sales and user opinion.

How Fintech Companies Can Leverage The CEO’s Personal Brand

There’s nothing wrong with shifting focus to keep investors happy and attract more potential investors. It’s part of the public trading cycle and many companies have succeeded in balancing this new demand with their established brand virtues. In many cases, while some consumer perspectives falter during this time period, these companies have succeeded in leveraging the faith established in their leaders’ personal brands to push through any negative sentiment that would have otherwise developed.

One perfect example of this is LendingTree’s founder Doug Lebda, who has managed to keep his publicly-traded company profitable for 21 years - through a dot-com crash and two financial crises. Not only did this work because they kept their main focus on the product, but the hits their reputation would have taken due to the inevitable small shift in priority to a profit-based model was curtailed thanks to Lebda’s impeccable reputation. A reputation that is still going strong to this day.

Now, let’s look at some examples of flourishing fintech companies that have expressed intent to go public soon. They all have leaders with a strong personal brand, which they can utilize to ensure a smooth transition and to maintain public approval.

Credit Karma

The CEO of Credit Karma, Ken Lin, hasn’t expressly said that they’re planning to go public anytime soon, but there’s been lots of speculation, and the company’s efforts certainly seem to be gearing up towards an IPO. 

For his part, Ken Lin has been steadily building a solid personal brand through his various business ventures that should help him carry Credit Karma through any potential hiccups. Should the company decide to turn to public trading within the next few months, Ken will likely focus on the trust that he has built up with the public. His dedication to keeping the focus on the deliverable will also be a big determining factor of the IPO’s success.

Robinhood

This California-based company is run by co-founders Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt. In 2018, they announced plans to take their investment platform public, with a projected market value of $5.6 billion.

Robinhood has only been up and running for a few years, but it’s founders are already working hard to make a name for themselves in the industry. What’s interesting about Tenev and Bhatt is that most of their personal brand building has been a joint effort that focuses on their partnership. Their efforts should pay off when they take the company public later this year or early 2020.

Key Takeaways

No corporate brand can exist separately from its CEO’s brand. A strong brand strategy becomes vital as a company grows and scales, to make sure that the initial brand of the company flows throughout the organization from top to bottom, and to consumers and investors.

This strategy needs to ensure that the brand stays consistent with what made it successful in the first place. Especially as the company looks to go public and takes on the responsibility of its shareholders’ expectations. It will be interesting to see which fintech brands will succeed in building on their CEO’s personal brand to dominate the market moving forward in such a newly budding marketplace. 

What is the Future of Work?

What makes humans different from robots? Our sense of humanity is what will prevent many aspects of work from transitioning to robots and artificial intelligence. Humans are not machines, and that’s a good thing. However, humanity can only be effective if it’s properly harnessed — and that means embracing a sense of vulnerability and empathy that many of us would rather leave behind at the office.

You need to be vulnerable to connect with another human being in a way that artificial intelligence never can. Social media has conditioned us to only put forward the most perfect versions of ourselves in the name of a good personal brand, but I argue this approach is misguided. If you can open up, even a little bit, you’ll find that others are going through the same things you are. The resulting bonds and shared emotional intelligence are essential for every organization.


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About Dr.Talaya Waller

Dr. Talaya Waller is an international personal branding consultant and professor. In 2014, she founded Waller & Company to provide a research-based, data-driven methodology to help CEOs, top-level executives, and industry leaders position their expertise to increase visibility and profitability. From Fortune 500 companies to royal dignitaries, she’s had the privilege to work with a diverse range of clients to develop personal brands that target the audience they want to reach.

Dr. Waller also delivers personal branding keynotes, lectures, and workshops to organizations around the world. She helps leaders understand how to use personal branding to reach their target audience, gain competitive advantage, and achieve business goals.

Dr. Talaya Waller shares her expertise on personal branding at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Top Personal Branding Tips for Aspiring Actors

As is the case with most professions, finding success as an actor requires self-promotion, strategic marketing, and personal brand development. Gone are the days of open casting calls and scouting malls in L.A. and New York. Instead, casting agents today are scouring social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter for new talent. Even more than talent, what agents are looking for is engagement; they’re looking to see what kind of following you have and what your other interests are. A recent study found that talent only accounts for roughly 7% of casting decisions. Clearly, with this new casting climate, it is crucial that aspiring actors have a consistent presence on social media. An aspiring actor cannot afford to disregard the leg up that social media provides towards getting discovered; actors need to use these platforms to establish their personal brand and showcase their talent.   

Your first order of business should be to create an authentic brand that will attract a following and stand out to casting agents. Although the goal of this endeavor is ultimately self-promotional, you should strive to be genuine when creating an online presence. Don’t be afraid to show your real personality. Use YouTube videos, photos on Snapchat or Instagram, and frequent posts on Facebook and Twitter to create an authentic online persona. Demonstrate what makes you unique as an actor and as a human being.  

Think of social media is an easy way to self-publish. With some effort and ingenuity, you can showcase your talent, putting your brand in front of an infinite online audience. Find a way to create content around your skills that demonstrate your interests and abilities. For example, try creating a short film that highlights your acting and directing talents and posting it on your YouTube channel, then advertise it on Facebook and Twitter. Make sure you create content that is unique and authentic to your personal brand.

Consistency is key. The nature of social media dramatically levels the playing field; while in many ways this can be advantageous to you, it also increases the competition. Take the long view and remember that stardom doesn’t happen overnight. You need to put your efforts towards curating a large following and, to do that, you have to consistently generate high quality, engaging content on select platforms. Don’t overextend; you don’t need to be everywhere. Choose which platforms you intend to focus on and show up.

Don’t forget that social media platforms are not just a one-sided conversation. Engage with your audience and tailor your message to speak to their interests. If you are using multiple platforms, adjust your content accordingly. Each platform is geared towards a slightly different audience and application. Your content should be enticing and relevant. Use your platforms to reach out to other aspiring actors as well. Each aspiring actor on social media has their own network of connections. Find someone whose work you admire and seek them out. Collaborate on a project to stimulate creativity, build professional connections, gain experience, and increase traffic to your social media sites.  

Personal Branding for Real Estate Agents


The rise of the internet has effectively leveled the business playing field and in no industry is this more true than in real estate. The omnipresent online universe including the prevalence of smartphones and social media sites means that you can, theoretically, connect with anyone anywhere. And in order to be competitive in an industry founded on personal reputation, trust, and word-of-mouth, that is exactly what you have to do! Real estate has never been more competitive than it is now. If you want to find new clients, close deals, and expand your business, you’re going to need a strong personal brand to help you stand out from the competition.

Real estate is an industry that thrives on name recognition. It is virtually impossible to attract new clients without a strong reputation within your local community, supported by genuine testimonials from happy clients. If nobody in your community knows your name, you will be unable to grow your business. Period. You have to be proactive about establishing and enhancing your personal brand; a strong personal brand is crucial. So, the obvious question is, how do you make a name for yourself?  

When you set out to build your brand, don’t forget who you’re talking to. In other words, before you turn your focus towards yourself, take a good look at your prospective audience. Take some time to identify your ideal client base, their needs, problems, and concerns, what pushes them to purchase and, most importantly, where they spend their time both online and offline. You need to put yourself and your message in front of their faces, or you’ll be talking to an empty room. If you take the time to identify your target audience, then you can tailor your personal brand to help people solve their problems and connect with them wherever they are. Never forget that your business is building relationships. 

Once you have identified your client prospects, turn your attention to what makes you different from your competitors. Think about your passions and areas of expertise, why you became a real estate agent and who you most enjoy helping. Consider talking with past clients to learn more about their experience working with you. Why did they choose you over another agent? What was most helpful or important in your interactions? Would they refer you to a friend or family member and, most importantly, what could you do better in the future? 

Now that you are starting to develop a clear sense of your client base and yourself, it’s time to make yourself visually recognizable. You should hire a designer. A strong personal brand comes with a distinct kit of branding visuals that will accompany your name wherever you choose to market yourself. This is not a time to be frugal. Hire a professional designer to help you develop a logo, color scheme, and graphics for your digital platforms. Now is the time to cultivate brand consistency. You should be equally recognizable in person, on Twitter, and on a billboard. 

Your personal brand is tailored to your ideal customer, rooted in your strengths and individuality, and primed for brand recognition. You are ready to build your blog, generate content, and share your brand with your prospective clients. 

How to Protect Your Personal Brand: Terms You Should Know as a Plaintiff

Most business owners know that at some point in your career, you will likely need the help of a lawyer. Dealing with legal matters can be tricky even for the most practiced of people, so it’s important to go into legal situations feeling well-prepared and knowledgeable so you can make informed choices with your team. If you are the plaintiff in a lawsuit, or if you are planning to file a lawsuit in the future, there are several legal terms with which you should be familiar. This is especially true if this is your first lawsuit. Even if you have heard many “legal” terms before, you may not be completely sure what they mean, and how they apply to your case. Here are a few basic legal terms that you may encounter:

* Complaint: A complaint is a legal document that a plaintiff submits to the court and sends to the defendant, stating why the plaintiff believes he or she has been wronged by the defendant. Some courts use a word other than “complaint” to describe this legal document, so make sure to check with the clerk of your court or with an attorney in your area to make sure that both the name and the format of your “complaint” will meet the court’s requirements to get your lawsuit started.

* Deposition: After you file your complaint, you and your attorney will begin preparing to make your case to the court. Part of your case will likely involve witness testimony offered at trial. A “deposition” is chance for your attorney to ask questions of witnesses before trial, so that you are prepared for what kind of testimony they will offer to the court. Depositions are scheduled prior to trial and are typically held at an attorney’s office, or other place agreed upon by both the defendant, plaintiff, and witness. The witness will take an oath to tell the truth, and there will normally be a court reporter present to record everything the witness says. Plaintiffs and defendants are almost always deposed as part of a lawsuit. Depositions prevent surprises at trial and can be used to “impeach” a witness if his or her story changes over time.

* Settlement: A settlement is an agreement reached between the plaintiff and defendant prior to the verdict in a trial. The agreement is often for the defendant to pay the plaintiff an amount of money to stop pursuing or “drop” the lawsuit against the defendant. In exchange for money, the plaintiff will usually sign a document called a “settlement agreement” or “release” promising that he or she will never sue the defendant again on the issues in the lawsuit. After receiving the settlement amount, the plaintiff will dismiss his or her lawsuit from the court. Settlements are often efficient ways to resolve lawsuits because they normally cost less money than going to trial. Additionally, trials can take several weeks and may not be scheduled with the court until many months after the lawsuit is originally filed. Lawsuits can also be delayed by many factors. Settlements, however, can often be negotiated quickly, saving time and money.

Remember, that the best way to prepare for your lawsuit is to consult with and hire a qualified attorney with significant experience with your type of case. A personal injury lawyer Washington D.C. residents trust can help you understand any difficulties you face.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C., for their insight into legal terminology.