Technically minded

Introducing successful York alumna Guste Sadaunykaite

The PPE grad shares her journey from York student to becoming Head of Brand and Communication for TransferGo, the fastest growing fintech company in Europe, at the age of 24.

You grew up in Lithuania yet went to university in York, England and San Diego. Is this approach to ‘world studies’ one you would recommend for others?

In short – yes, absolutely! At the same time, I understand that studying or living abroad is not for everyone. It requires a certain level of maturity and confidence. Moving to the University of York was my first visit to the UK. I didn’t know what to expect and everything was new and exciting.

All those experiences broadened my horizons. I now understand cultural references in Hollywood films and hip-hop songs and learned valuable life lessons that helped form my character. I think it’s important to live in cosmopolitan societies where everyone feels welcome and can play an equal part in the fabric of social living. As cheesy as it sounds, I now consider myself a citizen of the world!

Your early professional career was in politics. What led you to focus on technology and FinTech in particular?

I worked in a public sector for one year. It was a very challenging and interesting year and helped me understand where my efforts could bring the most value. I was responsible for creating the Women Entrepreneurship Academy which aimed to increase female entrepreneurship and engagement, particularly in the technology sector. Working on this project showed me how under-represented women are in this area.

The Baltic region has really embraced technology when it comes to multiple industries. Why do you believe this is the case?

I believe that it has something to do with the long years of occupation and the Soviet regime. After being oppressed and stagnated for years the Baltic States declared independence and made huge efforts to become modern and forward thinking. Technology,  alongside hard working people and great quality higher education in science, became a driving force for progress. The support for technology can be felt on many levels, from policy making to NGOs and schools.

What led to your interest in TransferGo instead of a traditional banking career?

TransferGo is a young company and one thing that appealed to me was that I could define my own role within the company. I have been able to apply my diverse experience to the needs of the company. Working for a start-up also allowed me to be more flexible with my time. Finally, the people and the way of thinking at TransferGo pulled me in. We see opportunities, rather than obstacles.

Another appealing thing about TransferGo is that the company actually solves a very important problem and helps people to save up to 90% on their international money transfers. After working in a public sector one always looks for some kind of career that helps serve a ‘greater good’.

What does your role at TransferGo entail?

TransferGo – the fastest growing fintech company in Europe – is a young company. I’m the Head of Brand and Communication. TransferGo is a pure-play digital remittance service that enables international money transfers amongst 40+ countries worldwide for just 99p with a same-day money delivery guarantee. A big part of my role is relationship management with journalists, industry experts, organizations, charities and other companies that we partner with for various events, campaigns or advertising opportunities. I believe effective communications and the ability to maintain valuable relationships is very important for any young business, trying to establish itself in the market.

As a Head of Brand, I am responsible for the way TransferGo is seen within the team and how that translates into the perception of the company in the eyes of the users as well as industry experts. Branding is a complex area of business. Branding is not only about the logo or the colour pallet.  Facilitating a real brand is delivering brand promises while assuring an aligned brand voice, identity, and experience. It’s not easy; that’s why it is important to start from owning and cultivating the brand within your own team first.

TransferGo was one of the original members of Level39 and has grown hand-in-hand with the organisation. What has this experience been like and would you recommend this experience to other start-up companies?

Indeed, TransferGo has grown hand-in-hand with Level39. We started from one hot desk and now we’re based in the High Growth Space: 42 with two private meeting rooms. That shows not only the growth of TransferGo as a company, but also the opportunities that Level39 provides for its members. Most importantly, it’s the great community where we’re encouraged to cooperate, learn from each other and share our expertise. Networking is a major advantage of Level39. During our time here we had many great opportunities to meet interesting, influential and respected industry people, VCs and journalists. That’s very valuable for any young company and we’re very happy and proud to one of the first members of Level39.

International remittance has become a hot spot for fintech. What makes TransferGo unique as compared to companies such as TranfersWise for example?

TransferGo uses a digital account-to-account business model. Funds are paid in locally and then paid out locally. This innovative system means TransferGo does not have to send money across borders. The sender makes a local payment to TransferGo, which then makes a local payment to the recipient. That’s very a unique value proposition in the industry. To facilitate such a system, we needed to build more than 30 banking partnerships and ensure institutional grade security for our systems.

Our unique infrastructure allows us to ensure the lowest cost, speed, highest security and guaranteed destination amounts. We’ve managed to grow a 100,000 user base and save £7m for our customers on their money transfers. I believe it’s quite a significant achievement given that we’ve just raised a seed round and up until mid-2015 had just 15 people on board.

The article you authored, “Be Your Own Champion” is quite insightful and telling of the current FinTech environment. What motivated you to publish the piece?

It all started while working as a consultant at the Enterprise Lithuania. My work focused on the need to engage more women in the technological sector, science degrees and coding courses. The greatest difficulty I encountered was that the Ministry of Economy found it difficult to accept that the lack of women in entrepreneurial roles was even a problem.

To convince them to take action I carried out extensive local research to demonstrate that as well as being a feminist issue, it was also a wider economic issue with widespread societal ramifications. In other words, I demonstrated that smart, well-educated women are an untapped economic potential. By looking towards global models both in the UK and the US I was able to show that there are solutions to such gender gaps and that their results – women flourishing in their communities – could be radical for society and the economy.

I am always the one tweeting about the ratio of women on stage during Fintech conferences or events. I believe people need reminding that gender issues still exist; many people are not aware of the fact that there are more CEOs named John than female CEOs in the world. That’s just one example among many.