WIZZIT FOUNDER BRIAN RICHARDSON

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Brian Richardson WIZZIT International

WIZZIT was launched in South Africa in November 2004 and in providing affordable banking to the mass market was the first to launch as part of its offering, cell phone banking that works across all the networks and all phones and SIM cards.

 

WIZZIT solves not only an accessibility and affordability issue but from a convenience point of view offers 24/7 real time transactions and hence is “Your Bank in Your Pocket.” WIZZIT has taken its technology and branchless banking model to emerging markets in Africa, Central America and Eastern Europe.

 

The African Professional Magazine spoke to Co – Founding Director and CEO of WIZZIT International, a global pioneer in mobile banking and financial inclusion about his personal and professional journey thus far.

 

Brian is listed in the Who’s Who of South African Business as well as the International Biography of Distinguished Leaders. He is an Ashoka Globalizer Fellow – a global network of social entrepreneurs.

 

He has lectured and presented at seminars and conferences throughout the world:

  • was invited by the Clinton Global Initiative to present the WIZZIT model as a means to “Bank a Billion”;
  • he has presented at SIBOS in Osaka Japan
  • presented at SIBOS Africa – Hosted in Botswana
  • at the G20 Financial Inclusion Summit in Mexico;
  • at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI)
  • at the Banking Associations of Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Honduras, South Africa, Botswana and others
  • has been the invited guest speaker at the Central Banks of Nigeria, India, South Africa and others
  • He has presented at FATF and was invited to be part of the subcommittee on financial inclusion and regulation.
  • He has also been invited to present at Harvard Business School on several occasions where WIZZIT is featured as a case study
  • And is an invited key note speaker at many leading global conferences.

 

Tell us about your early life and how was your training?

 

I have a BCom degree and MBA; I started my career in the Banking industry; rose to position of AGM at age of 27; left and started my own consultancy business and then joined Charles Rowlinson, and got the rights for Thomas International – a personality profiling business which we built into a franchised operation in 37 countries; In 2002 with Charles founded WIZZIT in South Africa and went live in 2004. Today we are in three continents; 14 countries and impacted the lives of over 10 million previously unbanked people.

 

What does the role of being CEO at WIZZIT mean to you?

 

Being able to make difference in people’s lives – staff and customers.

Being able to inspire big banks to make a difference at the bottom of the Pyramid

 

What are you currently working on and what can we expect from you going forward?

 

We are working on expanding the model to different countries – I am responding to this interview from the Philippines where we are undertaking an exploratory visit. There is enormous opportunity here with 110 million people and 67% being unbanked with very high cell phone penetration. . We are working on expanding the product – new and innovative access channels and functionality. The technology is changing so fast we strive to be at the forefront and give our clients and potential clients the latest and most secure technology. Security and reputational risk of critical to our bank customers and they cannot afford to invest in technology that does not stand up to and exceed global standards. We are working on additional distribution channels – e.g.  North Africa, Reunion and SE Asia/ASEAN.

We are on a final short list of a major global deal which we are very excited about and will make a massive difference on global financial inclusion.

 

What initiative (if implemented) would leave the greatest impact for you and for Africa as a whole?

 

Making a significant impact on financial inclusion and giving people dignity and access to basic financial services. Being awarded the contract alluded to above which would be huge not only for SA but Africa and the emerging markets in the world.

 

What would you say are the most critical resources for your successful leadership?

 

Inspiration, innovation, people skills and getting things done

 

How would people describe you as a Leader?

 

Passionate and enthusiastic. Understanding of the differences that we all bring to the work place and using these differences to build a better environment

 

What is the legacy that you would want to leave by the time you retire?

 

I made a difference in the lives of the unbanked population globally

 

How do you strike the balance of career, business and interpersonal skills?

 

Not easily. I preach about balance all the time to my children and employees but in my own life struggle to get the balance right. I try and live what I talk and be honest in all my dealings – personal and business.

 

How has the company done in terms of business growth objectives?

 

We have tried to balance financial results with social results and the fact that we are around and growing after 15 years says that we must be getting something right.

 

How do you maintain ethics, integrity and professionalism?

 

I have never taken a bribe in my entire career. I have been offered a bribe once which I was so shocked about I could barely respond. Needless to say we walked away from the deal. I try and deliver what I say I will. I treat people with dignity and respect at all times yet we can still have fun at work.

 

How do you participate in mentorship, if you do?

 

Most people that I have employed in my life have been unemployed and I get immense satisfaction from seeing them grow and flourish. I have several personal mentors in my own life that I have benefited from.

 

How does the company contribute to the community?

We employ primarily unemployed people; we bank the unbanked; we give people financial empowerment with dignity.

 

How do you ensure the company is delivering quality customer service?

 

We continually ask our customers if they stop using our service, we want to know why. If they think that we can improve we would like to know how

 

What makes you tick or keeps you awake at night?

 

What could we do more of; what could we do less of; what could we do better.

 

What have been the highs and lows in your working career?

 

Low – Letting people down; high – exceeding expectations; Building a business from scratch that is today recognised as a global leader and pioneer in its field. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the previously unbanked people using electronic payments – making their lives simpler and safer.

When you not at work, what do you get up to, including family life? And where can people follow you online?

 

Spending time with my family and on the golf course with my sons. I am married to an equally entrepreneurial wife and have two daughters and twin boys. I am very private in my personal life but have a work profile on LinkedIn and Twitter!

 

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