CTO Interview: How product vision and team leadership powered YouLend’s growth

Our CTO Mark Ufland tells us about YouLend’s growth in recent years, after our nomination for the Technology and Analytics award by Credit Strategy.

Our CTO Mark Ufland tells us about YouLend’s growth in recent years and what it means to work for YouLend as an engineer, after being nominated as one of the finalists for The Business Leader of the Year - Technology & Analytics at the 2022 Business Leader Award, hosted by Credit Strategy.

We had a broad conversation with Mark about the start of the company, and how it grew from the vision of the founders in 2016 to the international embedded finance platform it is today. The products that Mark built himself from scratch have enabled growth across the UK, Europe and other parts of the world, and helped multiply the size and scale of business managed by the platform many times over during the last few years. Beyond the platform itself, however, it’s the leadership and strategic direction that Mark provides his employees that makes the real difference in the speed at which the business is scaling.

CTO Mark Ufland – YouLend Headquarter in London

You’ve been nominated in the category ‘Business Leader of the Year’ by the 2022 Business Leader Award. How do you lead your team?

The basis of our culture in the engineering team at YouLend is that you need to be able to have an opinion. And it’s hard to have one without a deep-rooted understanding of your tech stack and the industry you’re operating in.

The way I make sure that that happens is with individual training for everyone on the team. It’s a lot more involved than your typical engineering team, but it pays off: we’re a leader in our industry in terms of innovation, and the team keeps flourishing and creating.

Another internal operating principle that we have around team leadership is to always aim to increase talent density, meaning we don't only hire more talented people, but raise the level of existing talent as well. For example, we need engineers who are able to act independently at the team level to identify problems and solve them, and figure out how to best reach our strategic goals. So we try to hire great people and give them latitude to make decisions about how to reach company goals, take bets, and learn quickly from their own experiments.

What trends are you seeing as a leader in your space?

I think embedded finance technology is pushing the boundaries of SME funding to new frontiers. Over the past year, we noticed a significant rise in retailers offering lending services to consumers via BNPL offerings which is a parallel trend in the B2B space, with e-commerce platforms and payment service providers – not traditional lenders! - lending directly to their business customers. I see a lot of potential there; I think it will change the future of borrowing as we know it.

What is your biggest goal as a leader?

In a fast moving company, most leaders decide that after a certain point, it makes more sense to let other people train new hires. But training and mentoring the team is a big part of what I care about in my role, and the main reason, I think, for why the tech team at YouLend has such a high concentration of skills and talent. We make sure that most of the knowledge that exists in the org is passed on to new starters, so that they can have to best possible start on the team.

It makes hiring and training people more difficult, but it hasn’t slowed us down for growing as a business. We’re now up to 162 employees, 40+ more than end of last year, and we have plans to double again soon to keep up with our growth targets.

The nomination reflects both YouLend’s and Mark’s partner-centric approach to embedded finance: “We win if our partners win, and our partners win if their merchants win. And that comes from giving them cutting-edge technology, and real industry expertise. You can’t achieve that without outstanding talent on your team.

Being the Best FinTech Lender highlights that, through technology, we are enabling a market-leading way for our partners to help their merchants grow,” adds founder and co-CEO Mikkel Velin.

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