- I had the pleasure of interviewing Ray Peloso, CEO of Katabat. Ray has spent 25 years in consumer lending and technology and has been part of some great growth companies. He has expertise across the entire lending lifecycle, from product and marketing through to operations and technology. Ray is now leading a fast-growing FinTech software company at the nexus of several key trends in the industry: digital customer journey management, machine learning automation, and a new era of technology architecture containerization, enabling decoupling of individual components or features from a broader platform or solution (not unlike selecting individual options during the purchase of a new car
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Middle class kid from New York lucky enough to marry the girl of his dreams, an early lesson how a little good luck plus a lot of hard work can go a long way. And that good luck needs to be nurtured and respected. My mother is an immigrant to the United States (she grew up in terrible conditions in London during WWII bombings), and so I am deeply wired around a few core concepts like self-reliance, no whining, being bold in life (leaving your family behind to start a new life in a faraway land….), and the golden rules (be humble, treat others with respect, pay it forward, tell the truth and always give your best). In addition, my time at Georgetown University deeply influenced my career direction and leadership approach through Cura Personalis — caring for the whole person: mind, body, and spirit.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
A simple and timeless story. The internal narrative of our employees was fundamentally different from the external narrative of our clients and needed to be aligned. This was most pronounced as we migrated to an agile methodology. Agile involves frequent collaboration and feedback with our clients, and initially we were too self-critical and lacked sufficient pride in what we were delivering and tended to be too apologetic or deferential. The funny part is, our clients appreciated the collaboration and frequent feedback — they felt engaged and together we delivered high-quality results with process-driven speed. Our clients believed in our products and of course were always challenging us to do better, and we were internalizing those messages as a lack of confidence in us. I still tend to focus on ensuring our team members are always respectful of our client relationships but confident in who we are and what we do, which is actually what our clients expect from us.
What do you think makes your company stand out during these disruptive times? Can you share a story?
We provide Customer Experience Management (CXM) software to global lenders, and the critical buyer decision often hinges on the intangibles associated with product expertise and personal skills. All of the documentation in the world does not replace the social dynamics and confidence-building of a client being provided assistance by the technology provider in a moment of truth. A genuine act of assistance or support is priceless. We hire genuine, bright and innovative people with specific product and sector expertise who have walked in the client’s shoes, and so we have empathy and understanding of their business challenges and how to solve them. We believe that this expertise expedites our ability to deliver solutions that efficiently address our customers’ needs, especially consumer lenders challenged by antiquated and siloed collections and debt management infrastructures.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Winston Churchill has a famous quote, “Never, never, never give up”. Our team works hard every day of the week to earn client trust and win business, we do not take it for granted. Some days we are on top of the world with big wins, while other days it feels like a relentless uphill climb. We’re small enough that there’s no place to hide yet big enough for a sense of community and purpose. If you handle yourself with grace and professionalism — even in the face of an initial “no” — there tends to be a lot of boomerang opportunities. “We went with the other guy but things didn’t work out……”. We always think about the longer relationship aspect of working with our clients.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story or example?
I have a very long list of people to whom I owe appreciation, and so I focus on a “pay it forward” philosophy given how generous others have been to me. One leader stands out. We were in consumer lending during the Great Financial Recession back in 2008, when the bottom fell out of credit and consumer delinquencies soared. My employer — a big global bank — was in an absolute tailspin, just like every other bank. The stress/anxiety was enormous and simply surviving the business trauma of that period was a huge accomplishment. This leader knew that I needed tons of air cover to deliver an extraordinarily challenging, high-profile agenda. My manager attracted and took bullets and deflected a lot of real distractions for an extended period so that we could go deliver. And along the way he supported and rewarded the key players. It took a lot of selflessness to go through that, I learned a lot about how to build loyalty and he never sought any credit but he really knew what he was doing in a subtle but effective way.
Can you share what you believe will be the “Top 5 Fintech and Banking Trends Over the Next 3 Years” (Please share a story or example for each)
1. AI differentiates service
Expect substantial customer experience optimization triggered by AI breakthroughs such as Natural Language Processing (NLP). NLP will enable machine agents to solve customer problems efficiently and drive exciting innovations as advanced AI agents increasingly anticipate and resolve customer needs on routine tasks. While the obvious examples are Netflix, Hulu, and Waze, we’re responding to this trend by preparing to roll out a product that would help clients determine the best communications treatment for individual customers at various stages of delinquency, learning from their specific responses and reading broader patterns. Our plan is to quickly expand across all phases of the consumer lifecycle, including marketing, servicing, and cross-sell.
2. Blockchain reduce fraud, friction, costs
Blockchain innovation will dramatically reduce “costs” among global parties and intermediaries. Already deployed in categories such as global procurement, blockchain will be “internet 2.0” solving major security and data-sharing limitations associated with the current internet. WalMart is already using blockchain for something like 10 percent of its supply chain.
3. A recession will separate winners and losers
A 2020 recession following the second longest economic expansion in history will shake out winners and losers among the latest generation of FinTechs, all of whom claim special lending secret sauce. Check out the Great Financial Recession in 2008 — credit lessons tend to repeat themselves!
4. Mobile-centric customers controlling their journey
The mobile genie is out of the bottle as mobility dominates life. Omni-channel drives a more fragmented and complex purchasing journey, with low patience for poor experience. Delivering a consistent and seamless experience across and between channels will differentiate winners.
5. Mobile heightens security risk
Cybersecurity drives most tech investment for consumer businesses. Banks will continue to invest heavily to fortify systems architecture, seeking accessibility and safety. Just this week the Department of Homeland Security announced a new Cybersecurity Division. (https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/cyber-security-division)
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“There are no traffic jams on the road to mastery”: I like sports metaphors in general for the lessons they provide, and the all-time greats are almost always the hardest workers in their pursuit of mastery (e.g., Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Michael Phelps). In a big, robust economy like we have in the United States, it can be pretty easy to be mediocre and ride along inside a big organization. I love the tenacity, grit, and perseverance shown by those seeking to be the best in whatever they do. It’s usually about how you react to adversity that defines you.
Originally published at medium.com