Market like a fintech: Hiring and becoming a CMO at a fintech with Irina Chuchkina
Updated: Oct 17, 2021
Hosted by Araminta Robertson, 'Market like a fintech' is the new podcast for fintech marketing professionals and enthusiasts who want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry, and level up their marketing knowledge. Subscribe here to never miss an episode.
Hiring a fintech's first CMO can be scary. Becoming a first-time CMO can be daunting...
Often, you’re the only marketing person in the company. Often, you are hired to manage everything from content to paid, to PR and branding. Often, you are hired right when a company is in full growth mode.
We hear so many questions from fintech founders and even marketers in the fintech industry about CMOs, such as: When is the right time to hire a CMO? Where do I find one? How much should I pay them?
And for those who want to become CMOs: How do you know when you’re ready? What does a day-to-day look like? How do you balance short-term and long-term success? What should you prioritise?
In today’s episode, Araminta is looking for answers to those questions by chatting with the new CMO of Thunes, Irina Chuchkina. Earlier this year, Irina was also recognised as one of the 30 most influential fintech marketers of 2021 on our annual honorary list.
Thunes is a payment service provider that enables global payments via their payment network. They’re based in Singapore, and cater to banks, money transfer operators, e-wallets, and more. In May 2021, Thunes announced a $60m Series B growth round led by global private equity and venture capital firm Insight Partners, bringing the company's total funding to $130m in less than two years.
Listen to the show below to learn how Irina transitioned to CMO, what her first priorities were and her own feelings growing into this position.
"As a marketer, you want to join a company that has great stories"
Why Thunes? - As a marketer, you want to join a company that has great stories. After spending hours and meeting more than 10 people within the company, I realised that Thunes has such strong potential, it has a very strong product and beautiful technology. It has absolutely amazing mind blowing customers these days. But they've never had very strong marketing or very strong attention to marketing. And that's the reason why I joined. Because I felt that there is a very interesting and important role for me to play. And I love helping companies tell their stories.
How does the life of a marketer change after becoming a CMO? - Typically what happens to you is that you're not crafting things as much as you used to. You're not building those things, you're reviewing them a lot more so that a large chunk of your job is now reviewing more than creating. So you have to read, well absorb, react, identify gaps, provide opportunities, or look for opportunities to create synergies, connect all of the dots, analyse and sort of process, and digest information... and look more than anything else.
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Challenges of being a CMO - One of the biggest challenges for modern fintech CMOs is how to stay focussed and prioritise. So, my approach and what I have been trying to do so far is to look for shortcuts and try to kill multiple birds with one stone. This means trying to find initiatives that would actually be contributing to multiple objectives at the same time.
I'm sort of trying to be aware of not becoming reactive to some of the things that I've been throwing my way, I think that's one of the dangers that can happen, especially when you're in a marketing function because you are a resource to other people.
How to get ready for becoming a CMO - Find a mentor...throughout these past 16 years, my career strategy was to try to find the teams and the leaders that I would be looking up to, that would be better than me, and stronger than me.
How to stay focussed and ensure consistency - I'm having this spreadsheet with multiple tabs, and for myself, that actually coordinates and puts everything into, hopefully, a single picture. I've also another really interesting thing that I personally think is very important for a CMO or any marketing head. Having some sort of a Fact Sheet of the organisation that you can give to the media, send to the reporters, but also share with every single employee in the company, and tell them: "These are all Thune's facts, the things that we can brag about, go and brag about them, wherever you need to see someone, whenever you are speaking at a webinar, or whenever you're talking to a customer, these are the things that you can go and share, go ahead and share."
The importance of marketing and a CMO - I've seen marketing contributing actually really, really strongly to the valuation of the brand of the company. And I must say that it is probably one the core functions almost as important as technology and product that you need to focus on as a company. Marketing influences everything...it can influence your relationship with the dynamic of your conversation with your investors, it can influence your sales and growth. There are people who believe in being a product-led organisation or that organic growth happens because the product is just so good and the need is just so vast. But this can only work when marketing is also doing their job well enough. Look at Apple that has a pretty solid marketing team. They're obviously doing some really, really good products, but they still invest a lot of money in marketing and Apple is clearly a product-led organisation.
The power of simplicity - I do believe in the power of simplification. I think we all eventually are reacting to symbols and visuals much better. And there is almost always a simpler way to describe a thing...to describe a technology to describe within, you know, a solution. And that's what I will be hopefully trying to help teams and engineers do as well.
For more interesting insights, listen to Irina's complete interview below.