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Paul Garibian of Nota: “Your culture is constant”

I can think of one particularly good one and it stems back to culture. Culture trumps strategies. And that’s because strategies and tactics change over time. Your culture is constant. To build a strong culture, you must hire people that align with your values and principles. Skills can be taught and acquired with the right […]

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I can think of one particularly good one and it stems back to culture. Culture trumps strategies. And that’s because strategies and tactics change over time. Your culture is constant. To build a strong culture, you must hire people that align with your values and principles. Skills can be taught and acquired with the right mindset. Values, however, are much harder to acquire.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Garibian, president, Nota.

Paul Garibian is a product and business development executive in fintech, payments and digital sectors. His career spans more than 18 years helping public, PE and VC backed companies drive product development and grow market-share. A servant-leader focused on unlocking customer value, Paul helps companies form strategic partnerships, drive revenue growth, create customer and shareholder value, develop and retain talent and build global cross-functional leadership.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve spent most of my career working with different financial institutions. From publicly traded companies and venture capital-backed organizations to founding three of my own startups, I’ve learned that fintech is all about the long-game. It takes at least ten years to build a successful fintech company.

All of my different experiences led me to Nota, a new fintech solution helping lawyers with trust account management, powered by M&T Bank. M&T Bank leads with integrity. Not only is it a reputable Fortune 500 bank, but it’s a mission-driven organization that puts the needs of its customers and communities first. This is something I believe in. It’s exciting to lead a startup that shares these values and can utilize bank resources to build a fintech brand.

I consider myself an “intrapreneur.” My experiences in fintech, paired with being an entrepreneur with three of my own ventures for the last 18 years, have led me to believe that a combination of the two is a winning pair. It allows you to mitigate risk, while leveraging key resources to build a long-term, sustainable brand.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

At Nota, we’re building “smart” financial products that do two things for our end user, a) add value via increased productivity and b) decrease compliance risk. Built primarily for small law firms and solo attorneys, Nota helps simplify trust account management, making it seamless and efficient for attorneys to adhere to accounting requirements.

Unlike many large law firms, small practices and solo attorneys typically don’t have extensive staff to manage their trust accounts. Still, they should complete a three-way reconciliation process and manually balance their books against their client ledgers and their bank statement — a process recommended by the American Bar Association. Making mistakes or oversights creates a risk of commingling funds, overdrafting the trust account and being out of compliance with state requirements — all of which can lead to inquiries, audits and possible disbarment.

Nota uses information directly from an attorney’s trust account to simplify this three-way reconciliation process, giving lawyers peace of mind and helping them increase productivity and efficiency.

As a startup organization powered by M&T Bank, we must adhere to all the same regulatory requirements of a Fortune 500 company. So, we’re bringing a best-in-class user experience to our customer, but also backing it with the security that comes with a reputable financial institution. Our secret sauce is giving our users a seat at the table to simplify an ambiguous, stressful process.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My biggest mentors are books. I’m an avid reader and I think one of the greatest wonders of the world is the audio book. My goal is to read one book a month and I usually read the best ones two to three times to make sure I retain the information.

At Nota, we have two books that we have all new employees read. The first is “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr and the second is “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffery Moore. For anyone who has a stake in high-tech industries or is helping to build an organization, these books are incredible resources.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think the word “disruptive” is overrated. It’s become a bit of a buzzword. Everything we do at Nota starts and ends with our culture. Our culture is our operating system and it’s how we stay true to our values and principles. We create disruption by putting our user’s and our partner’s needs ahead of our own. This is a long-term, value creation mindset. I’ve learned you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel to create value for your users and stakeholders.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I can think of one particularly good one and it stems back to culture. Culture trumps strategies. And that’s because strategies and tactics change over time. Your culture is constant. To build a strong culture, you must hire people that align with your values and principles. Skills can be taught and acquired with the right mindset. Values, however, are much harder to acquire.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Having the DNA of a successful bank puts Nota in a unique position. As a fintech solution, we’re focused on helping our users maintain and manage healthy finances. But, we’re also indirectly enabling them to scale their legal practices, which is where we see an opportunity to help the industry increase social justice.

There’s a large population of potential clients that go underserved and underrepresented because they don’t have access to legal representation or can’t afford legal costs. Nota is helping attorneys increase efficiency and productivity, which can reduce the cost of legal services over time and create more opportunities for attorneys to take on pro bono work that could benefit many underserved populations.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’d probably go back to the best advice I’ve ever received, “Culture trumps strategies.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I touched on the topic of social justice briefly, but it’s very important and relevant in today’s reality. We, as a country, are trying to solve many challenges — issues like racial equality and gender equality. Nota can play a small role in making attorneys more efficient, scalable and successful, so they can pass on real value to their clients and provide more legal representation to those in need.

To my knowledge, more than half of legal matters go unaddressed because of lack of access to effective legal representation. Most underserved communities cannot afford legal services to protect their constitutional rights. The practice areas Nota supports, such as immigration, family, and criminal law, are front and center among key issues impacting our country today. We hope to play a small role in enabling attorneys to scale their practices, so they can address these access issues, and promote social justice.

How can our readers follow you online?

Please follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulgaribian/.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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