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Meet our new Chief Operating Officer, Derek Joyce

COO Derek

Back in March, we welcomed our new COO, Derek Joyce. Derek joins us with valuable experience helping fintech companies scale, most recently as the President at Bread. I caught up with Derek to get to know him and find out what he'll be working on at Alloy.

Hi, Derek! Welcome to the team. We're all really excited that you've joined Alloy. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in Australia, and lived in London for 5 years before calling New York home for the past 11 years. I have worked in the financial industry my entire career, but in a variety of different roles from marketing to project management, product management, account management and sales. I’m passionate about helping high-growth companies meet their potential.

When I am not working, I love spending time with my wife and two boys — Seven months and three years — and my dog. Traveling is a big passion of mine as well which is tricky with two kids, but we are starting to get more adventurous with them and just returned from a trip to Ireland.

You’ve worked at AmEx, Klarna and, most recently, one of our clients, Bread. What led you to a career in the industry?

I worked at American Express for nearly ten years. In my time there, I had four roles that spanned multiple different business units, functions and geographies. In my last position, my team managed some of the largest online technology companies. We focused on figuring out how we can leverage the cross-company assets that we have to enhance the relationship and drive revenue. That was a cool step into ecommerce, which was still new in many ways, despite the fact that it was already booming at the time. After ten years, I felt like it was time for a new challenge, so I was open to other opportunities.

Klarna, at the time, was primarily a northern European company and had a limited presence in the US. They had just moved into the market. My wife actually made me go to Sweden before I joined to make sure they were a "real company" [laughs]. I thought they had a really good mission, and being in the industry, I was familiar with them. I went there to help them scale globally. It was a whirlwind. We completely changed the company while I was there. They were a $2B company when I joined and a $10B when I left and are now a $45B company, all within a matter of years. It was amazing to be part of a transformation that changed the operating model from a more traditional operating model to starting 35 mini "startups" within Klarna — one of which I ran — that decentralized the company and pushed accountability down and ultimately allowed us to move faster and accomplish more things.

After three and a half years at Klarna, I was looking for a job with less travel so that I would be able to spend more time with my family. Bread was similar to Klarna in some ways but had a different, white-labeled approach to financing products. While I was there, Bread went from a single product on the platform to a multi-product platform and developed an extensive partner network. My role there was focused on how we push into enterprise and scale the business in a really effective way. When Bread got acquired, I led the integration into Alliance Data Systems after the acquisition. As that was wrapping up, my wife gave birth to my second son, so I decided to take some time off and enjoy fatherhood.

Why did you decide to join Alloy?

When I was taking some time to think about what was next for me, I arrived at three things that were important to me in my next role: people, scale and impact — Alloy hit on all those across the board.

For the people side, I've been fortunate enough to work at great companies with great people, like Bread when I joined the company, for example. I've also worked in not-so-great of cultures with not so-great-of people. I learned that the people I work with are the most important thing to me because I will give so much of myself and my time to growing my company, so I want to be doing it with people that I genuinely enjoy. Every single person that I met at Alloy during the interview process just reinforced that it was something I wanted to do. Company culture is usually founder-led. The founders at Alloy are incredibly intelligent and incredibly humble, and that trickles down to every other part of the business.

On the point of scale, I look at that in two dimensions. One is, from a people perspective, how ambitious are they? How much do they actually want to knock this out of the park? There's a big difference between wanting to grow 2x or 3x and wanting to grow 40 or 50x. There are big ambitions at Alloy, which I love. The second piece of scale is, do we have the right technology to be able to do that? I've been in two instances where we've had to re-platform because our aspirations for growth outgrew our technology. That was really disruptive to the business and to the culture. I reached out to Alloy's new Head of Product, Parilee Wang, who I previously worked with at Bread. She gave me an emphatic thumbs up for Alloy's technology and its ability to scale to what we're looking at now and assured me that it's future-proofed and built with scalability in mind in a way that it can go well beyond that. So, Alloy has ambitious people and the technology to achieve its ambitious goals.

The third thing is, where can I add value and make the most impact? I like when that inflection point of complexity is really kicking off, and scale is what the company is focused on. And that's where Alloy is at now.

What have you learned from your time at Klarna and Bread that will help us here at Alloy?

You can't just keep doing the things that you've always done and think you're going to effectively scale. You can keep your core values and your DNA the same without doing the same thing. An example would be how we communicate and collaborate. When there were only 38 people in a room pre-COVID, if you wanted to see what someone else on the team was doing, you could probably just roll a chair over and ask them. We will be 400+ people by the end of the year, so we can’t communicate in the same way that you used to. We want to keep the same level of transparency, but we have to develop new tools and new ways of working together at scale.

What do you think about how the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) space has blown up over the past few years?

BNPL is no longer just BNPL. It's the convergence of BNPL, affiliate marketing, and rewards marketing. The primary distribution method is no longer just merchants; it's direct to consumer. The merchants helped build the consumer base. BNPL companies are taking these consumers and changing the start of their shopping journey to their own app, instead of the merchants' website or app. Now that they have these massive customer bases going directly to them, more merchants want to work with them. This trend is creating a flywheel for BNPL platforms to grow their customer base and the number of merchants who want to work with them at the same time. It's a brilliant business model.

As the BNPL space becomes more D2C, BNPL platforms are starting to offer more products, like savings accounts or other payment options. BNPL is also beginning to converge with traditional credit and disrupting the shopping journey. Klarna, for example, went from wanting to disrupt payments, to wanting to disrupt banking, to wanting to disrupt shopping. That's a very different goal for each of those and a very different set of characteristics you need to build in order to reach those goals.

How have you seen the fintech market evolve over your career?

The market has matured so much. If I think back to even when I jumped into fintech, fintech was this small, new thing. Now fintech is mainstream. There's a considerable difference in the awareness of fintech companies and the operational maturity of them. Some of these fintechs have grown up and become massive corporations. Think of Klarna; when I joined there, it was a small northern European company, and now it's a global beast with more customers than AmEx. Look at Paypal. It was an early fintech, and it is now a part of core financial services. The importance of fintech has become larger and more prominent.

What fintech trends are you keeping your eye on right now?

I would say two main things. The first is that infrastructure is becoming sexy. A company like Alloy is positioned to be core infrastructure for the entire fintech ecosystem. The second is that the definitions of scale and speed are changing. If I think back to American Express, it took them probably 100 years to get to one million customers — and one million customers was amazing at the time. It took Instagram two and a half months to get to one million. And they weren't aiming for one million customers. They were aiming for one billion.

Fintech has caused a mindset shift around redefining what it means to be fast, redefining what it means to be big, and thinking differently. It's no coincidence that the world's top 100 companies have changed so much over the past few years. Because people are thinking differently, and fintech is a big driver of that.

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