Product management: What it takes to launch a fintech company

Clim8 Careers Team
12 April 2021

What product management skills does it take to launch a fintech company? To celebrate the launch of Clim8 Invest we spoke to Senior Product Manager, William McGowan.

William has spent his career solving customer problems through product-ownership, data analytics and business analysis. Following the Business Sustainability Management course at Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership, he joined Clim8 Invest to help solve the biggest problem the world has ever faced.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career before Clim8?

I’ve worked in ‘product’ in some shape or form most of my career.

I fell into it by chance on a graduate scheme and then pursued roles in product management, mostly on consumer facing web and mobile products. I’ve worked in industries including banking, telecoms, tv streaming and international payments.  As I’ve progressed, I’ve been learning more and more about how to build products that solve real customer needs.

And I’ve worked out this is a lot easier when you really care about the problem you’re trying to solve.

How did you end up applying for your role at Clim8?

I was already following Clim8’s journey following their crowdfunding campaign and liked what they were doing. I’d connected with the Chief Product Officer on LinkedIn, so when the role came available I was quick to apply.

What was the biggest ‘pull’ for you to join?

Easy. The mission. I want to make an impact with the products I build and help solve the biggest challenge the world has ever faced.

Clim8 was a perfect opportunity to use my skill set as a product manager, with experience in fintech, to help be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

What makes a good product?

A good product solves a real user problem, and solves it in the easiest and most efficient way.

When we design our product here at Clim8, we always start by defining what user problem we’re trying to solve. Then we identify which problems we are placed to help with and come up with different solutions to them. At each step of the way we validate our thinking with real or prospective users of the product.

In our case, we’re trying to make it simple to invest in those things that will help solve the climate crisis, not add to it.

Does it take a different approach to build a product with a green mission?

Not really. The only challenge is that the problem you’re solving for can seem so big and a bit daunting. The trick is going back to basics, and working in small, manageable steps.

We won’t be able to solve the whole problem alone, but we can start with the bits that are most within our reach, and then iterate on those.

The other thing to be aware of is ‘how’ you build your product; making sure it’s aligned to the green mission (e.g. the tools and suppliers you use).

What's the most important thing you have learnt in your product management role so far?

Focus and breaking things down into smaller parts is always crucial when building a product, but even more so when you’re a start-up addressing such a chunky customer problem.

We won’t solve everything at once, but if you get the whole team laser focused on one problem at a time, you can achieve things remarkably quickly.

What areas of your profession did you feel you needed to upskill to get a job in sustainability?

I was fortunate to find a role that could combine a skill set I already had (building tech products) with something as impactful as sustainability.

But as I was looking more into sustainability in the 6 months or so before I joined Clim8, the link between technology and climate change really opened my eyes.

The rapid rise in cloud computing and the energy needed to enable it, for example, is making the problem worse. So it’s incumbent on people like us to question how we build our product without having unintended consequences.

How do you onboard new product managers at Clim8?

Autonomy is key. A product manager needs to be given the tools and space to do the job of solving customer problems.

Therefore onboarding focuses on providing that person with as much context as they need to hit the ground running and make decisions. That starts before the new product manager arrives by making sure as much as the insight we’ve gathered on the product and the market is documented in an easy to digest way when they arrive.

Once they’re here, it’s about setting them up to meet the right people they’ll need to work with and get information from - including our customers!

What would be your top tip for any product manager looking to take the leap and work for a purpose driven company?

Learn deeply about the area you want to move into. What are the different facets that need a solution built to address? Read, listen to podcasts, study; anything to get immersed in the issue.

And connect with people already in the field. Add them on LinkedIn, start a chat - whatever it takes. People are always keen to share ideas and knowledge with those eager to learn. And your network is often the best route into a new role.


Will can be reached on Linkedin.

Find out more about Clim8 Invest's work here.

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    Sustainability jobs: What qualifications are required?

    Clim8 Careers Team
    09 April 2021
    sustainability jobs

    Are qualifications becoming a prerequisite for C-Suite roles in sustainability jobs? Digesting the news over the past six months, you would think so.

    Understanding sustainability will be key in helping the transition to NetZero. But not everyone needs a Masters in Environmental Science to qualify. More, an understanding of how it fits into the wider picture. 

    Transitioning to sustainability

    Emma Kisby, Managing Director of CoGo, is a prime example. Emma has made the transition to a C-Suite role in a purpose-driven company without having sustainability qualifications.

    She has spent the majority of her career translating the value of customer data into commercial value; driving sales through greater personalisation and improving business performance. She gained a lot of experience setting up a data business for Sainsburys, i2c.

    However, a trigger moment was her move to Virgin Management. Here, she learnt about putting purpose at the heart of business. And how in a meaningful way this could intrinsically lead to commercial success.

    Why did you move to CoGo?

    Having seen first hand the immense value that customer insights delivers to business, I have been on a personal mission to empower consumers with their own data. To provide them with  insights to help make better informed decisions about their own spend. This is at the heart of CoGo’s mission and why I was so inspired to join.

    CoGo is all about helping consumers express their values through their everyday spend. Users link their bank accounts and share their social and environmental values. And we show them the impact of their spend. What’s more, we can also give them little ethical nudges to help them change the way they spend.

    For example, it was a pretty big moment of truth when I first saw my own personalised carbon footprint. This was in relation to my monthly spend. I was shown a great alternative: switching my fashion clothing spend to vintage fashion brands like Beyond Retro could reduce my footprint.

    As a senior management member, have you noticed any differences in your role from previous senior management roles at non-purpose driven companies?

    There is a very natural inclination towards collaboration and easy cultural alignment of values.

    At a purpose first business like CoGo, everyone is super motivated. We have the greater mission of  changing the world for good. And therefore, naturally very value-aligned (although some are more extreme than others). We are all driven by the same thing - it’s both a job and a passion.

    As a result, my Slack is always full of people sharing new amazing innovative business and solutions. The team are constantly trying to work out how we can collaborate with these businesses to highlight what they are doing. 

    The most revealing around the difference, is even with our competitors, our founder Ben is constantly reaching out to look for opportunities to collaborate and share ideas around methodologies on carbon footprinting to create standardised reporting and evolve the sophistication of this area.

    There is so much news on C-Suite members not having enough sustainability knowledge. Do you see this a lot? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

    I think the focus should be on how many businesses and C-Suite executives are coming out and making public statements around committing to building back greener. From Alison Rose NatWest Group CEO putting driving the UK to a low carbon economy as central to their strategy,  to James Watt at Brewdog with his Fxck Carbon campaign. It is brilliant to see this leadership from the top and we are increasingly seeing businesses building their understanding and knowledge in sustainability. 

    Look at how many UK banks are sending their employees through the Business Sustainability Management course at Cambridge.  One senior executive who is a climate lead in a big UK corporate, told me that this year was the first year he had finally been able to remove 4 slides from his deck which explained that there was a climate crisis. So we are seeing genuine growth in everyone’s understanding of sustainability and there is so much to learn.  

    Did you need sustainability knowledge or experience when applying for your role? If yes, what kind?

    I have always had a passion for sustainability and driving business for good, but I’m not an expert in sustainability.  We have lots of these at CoGo. Ben - our founder is a climate economist and we have a wealth of amazing sustainability experts we work with; Mike Berners-Lee the UK’s leading carbon expert; Owain Service - ethical nudge specialist who set up the nudge unit for the cabinet; Mike Barry - just a sustainability guru.

    CoGo didn’t recruit me for my sustainability expertise. But to bring a different dynamic and focus around how we scale our proposition: maximising customer data and establishing commercial partnerships.

    That being said, I obviously had to get up-to-speed pretty quickly. For example, things like the science and methodologies behind our carbon footprinting model. And how we translate the SDGs into customer values. But I have been very lucky to be surrounded by amazing experts. And also I have read a lot, and listened to a lot of podcasts. 

    What do you think is the most impactful thing a C-Suite member can do/lead within a purpose-driven company?

    Engage their employees.  We are seeing some amazing silo-ed climate programmes of work, but they need to be integrated into the core of the business across all departments.


    Equally, there is an amazing opportunity to engage employees to find measurable solutions within the workplace and this in turn makes the company very attractive notably for graduates who are coming into the market actively seeking out purpose-first businesses. 

    What has been your biggest learning at CoGo?

    I am a busy working mum – I am always so time-starved. In the past it’s been hard to carve out time or effort to think differently about the habitual spending patterns of my family. 

    The benefit of CoGo, is it has opened my eyes both professionally and personally to all these amazing businesses where their core purpose has grown from looking to solve the climate crisis. 

    I’m about to get my daughter her first phone and it would be easy to pop to the Apple Store, but of course I’m very aware that E-Waste is one of the biggest waste issues today. 

    Businesses like Fairphone and Reconome provide a great alternative. Mud Jeans is another one - one of the most polluting items in our wardrobes and we all wear denim in our family.  Knowing about businesses like Mud Jeans - who are all about circular denim helps me to be a more conscious consumer and makes it easy to seek alternatives. 

    What do you think will be the most important priorities for C-Suite in the coming few years in purpose-driven companies?

    There are three things:

    1. Measurement & Reporting - all these brilliant ambitious commitments need to be supported by initiatives that can be measured and reported. The investment cases that underpin them need to evolve beyond the traditional approaches to consider longer term benefits.
    2. Thinking beyond creating silo-ed programmes of work around climate and sustainability and looking at how they can be embedded across the organisation. 
    3. Looking for opportunities to engage suppliers and customers and look beyond just their operations. 

    What is your top tip for someone looking to work in a senior management role in a purpose-driven company?

    I would think very much about Impact. Both yours and the company.

    Do you believe that the company and their initiatives can make an impact that you can stand behind and equally can you personally make an impact to the company through the skills you have?


    Emma can be reached on Linkedin.

    Learn more about CoGo's work here.

    Subscribe for our newsletter

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      Lucy Squires, Rubies in the Rubble: Finding purpose at board level

      Clim8 Careers Team
      03 March 2021

      Lucy Squires, Head of Marketing at Rubies in the Rubble


      New responsibility

      Up until very recently, board members have had the traditional responsibilities of establishing vision, mission and values, setting strategies and structures, delegating to management and in larger firms exercising accountability to shareholders.

      However they now need to get to grips with the ‘purpose-driven’ movement that is picking up speed as more and more companies adopt the model. 

      Disconnect at board level

      Purpose driven culture is meant to start with the board yet only 41% of companies have purpose embedded at board level. Research suggests that even companies that prioritise purpose often do not have it fully integrated into their systems, processes and culture.

      This can cause a disconnect with employees and customers. We wanted to know what differs in a company that has successfully embedded purpose throughout. What would you need to know if you were planning to make the jump in your career to a purpose-driven board.

      We brought onboard Lucy Squires to help us understand.

      Lucy Squires is the Head of Marketing at Rubies in the Rubble; a company that makes award-winning condiments that are packed with flavour and packed with purpose. Prior to this board role, she had spent five years at the world’s largest food and drinks business, Nestlé, in a variety of roles before she decided she needed more from her career.

      Were there noticeable changes in the way you worked when you moved over to a purpose driven company?

      The passion from the people is remarkable. That was definitely the biggest change. Everyone who works at Rubies in the Rubble works here because they want to play their part in stopping climate change. 

      The size of the business was also a huge change. I went from a global conglomerate to a start-up of 10 people.

      Why did you choose to apply for a job at Rubies in the Rubble?

      I wanted to take what I had learnt at Nestlé and apply it to a purpose driven business whose mission was to have a positive impact on the planet.

      Have you seen a change in the way strategies are formulated moving to a purpose driven company?

      Sustainable projects aren’t ‘nice-to-haves’ or some marketing campaign at Rubies in the Rubble. They are critical and intrinsic to the way we do business. There have been a number of times that we have turned down commercial opportunities if we can’t find a sustainable solution.

      The sachet away campaign, created to stop plastic sample sachets, is a prime example of something we have stood for this year.

      Although there was a large commercial opportunity to produce sachets of our products for the hospitality sector, we decided it was against our values to use anything with plastic despite the revenue it would have created.

      Have you seen a difference in the juniors coming up through your teams in comparison to when you were younger?

      Well I am the youngest person at Rubies in the Rubble, yet attend Board Meetings with our founder & CEO - so I think that says a lot!

      Looking at the more junior roles in our team, it’s a similar story. We have had people join who have also worked for larger companies and not felt fulfilled in their roles. We have also had interns who know they want to work in changing the food system but don’t know where they can add the most value. 

      As a board, how do you all inspire your employees to work towards your purpose?

      We talk about our impact a lot. Our values are clear and we have company behaviours that embed our values.

      Here are some of our people initiatives:

      • Lolager: We love a portmanteau. LOL + Manager = Lolager. This role gives the ownership of “fun” to a different team member each month. What we love about this is the variety of activities we’ve had as a result. There’s been beach cleans & dance classes (pre-Covid), to virtual cook-alongs and murder mysteries (Covid). There’s a token budget of £50 each month to cover basic expenses (or a round of drinks) – small enough that it doesn’t blow the bank and encourages everyone to be creative! 
      • Feelback: We really love a portmanteau. Feeling + Feedback = Feelback. This is our pulse barometer, an anonymous survey that goes out to the team. There’s a short monthly survey and a deeper quarterly survey. We track the team’s mental and physical wellbeing, their happiness at Rubies, workload and how supported they feel. We then discuss the results as a team and make appropriate changes. 
      • Team sessions: We’ve started having team sessions across the year, whether it’s diving into our values, or more recently an MBTI workshop to understand our preferences and working styles.
      • Fri-yay: Ultimately we have to hit targets, so if we hit our monthly budget we get the last Friday of the month off. This is in addition to our holiday allowance. A Friday treat to unwind and have fun after all the effort that has been given in that month.

      Have your KPIs changed as a board member in a purpose driven company from previous roles?

      Yes. Since becoming BCorp certified, we now ensure our environmental impact is reported as well as our revenue and profit. 

      What are your top tips for someone looking to make the jump to a board role in a purpose driven company?

      Research. Research. Research. 

      There is also such a broad range of companies out there, make sure you write down what you want from the company and role before you start searching.


      Lucy can be reached on Linkedin.

      Learn more about Rubies in the Rubble's work here.

      Subscribe for our newsletter

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        Bruno Caballero, BLANC: It’s all in the figures

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        Bruno Caballero, CFO at BLANC


        All roads lead to finance

        If you ask anyone in business the question “who has the final say on major decisions in a company?”, we guarantee that 90% of respondents will reply with CFO (Chief Financial Officer). The proof is in the research.

        The role of the CFO has shifted enormously in the last decade with 75% of CFOs now spending over 50% of their time on strategic business. 

        2025: the year of environmental reporting

        A government announcement recently declared that by 2025 it will be mandatory that all big UK companies report on their environmental impact.

        Whatever happens initially, the net will eventually be widened to encompass all company sizes.

        What strings will CFOs need to add to their bows in order to make this transition?

        Irresistibly attracted to sustainability

        Finance doyen, Bruno Caballero, is the CFO of BLANC; the first tech-enabled aftercare specialist, offering an expert non-toxic alternative to conventional dry cleaning alongside tailoring and laundry services.

        Having worked in a variety of industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical and construction prior to BLANC, he was drawn to the company’s sustainable nature firstly as a shareholder and then as an active employee. 

        What was BLANC looking for in a CFO? 

        Having been a shareholder prior to getting the job, the BLANC founders knew that I was already onboard with the company’s ethos and values. This was really important to them.

        Regarding the position, I was hired to create a Finance department! Nothing existed before me. There is a lot to do.

        Has your reporting methodology changed in comparison to previous jobs?

        There is no difference in reporting however all functions in the company have a focus on sustainability. For finance, we have transitioned over to a fully digital world to avoid any unnecessary printing.

        Has BLANC’s environmental focus changed the way you choose suppliers?

        Yes. We will obviously look for the most profitable solutions initially but we may end up choosing a slightly more expensive supplier if they are environmentally conscious.

        Has the way you make strategic business decisions changed?

        Very similar to the supplier process. We start with putting all potential solutions on the table, encompassing both cost and environment. Only then do we make decisions based on these elements.

        How does finance need to change in order to fit with the new focus on sustainability?

        Getting a B Corp status is a good start. B Corp highlights the key areas that companies need to address in order to become sustainable - governance, people and environment (We are just in the process of getting B Corp certified). Finance sits within the larger structural change. 

        As for accounting processes, finance departments need to move towards fully digitalised operations (bookkeeping, expenses, claims, tax returns…).

        What is the most notable thing you have learnt in this role?

        A bit early to answer. I would say though that making a company sustainable depends wholly on the employees - who ultimately make it happen!

        What are your top tips for someone in finance looking to move to an environmentally focused company? 

        Look at the financial role in detail. They vary so much these days and with it the different kinds of qualifications required. Although my title is CFO, I am actually in charge of people as well. 


        Bruno can be reached on Linkedin.

        Learn more about BLANC's work here.

        Subscribe for our newsletter

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          Tom Sadan, ClimatePartner: “Selling something you genuinely believe in is infinitely easier”

          Clim8 Careers Team
          15 January 2021

          Tom Sadan, Sales Manager at Climate Partner UK


          The sales job pitch: tired narrative?

          If you type ‘working in sales’ or ‘sales strategy’ or even ‘a career in sales’ into Google, you will get bombarded with article after article on ‘7 cold hard truths about what it’s really like to work in sales’ or ‘What to know about Sales before taking the job’.

          Firstly, these are hardly inspiring titles and secondly in essence they only capture one aspect of this role; the one that pertains to monstrous revenue targets and numerous phone calls. 

          No wonder then that despite sales being one of the most popular career paths for those coming fresh out of university or college, many end up leaving this career and moving elsewhere. This is often largely due to lack of work-life balance, little flexibility, burn out and more recently a lack of purpose

          Finding that missing piece in your sales career

          But is there a way that salespeople can stay in their role whilst bringing purpose into their lives?

          We want to discuss this further with Tom Sadan, who recently joined ClimatePartner as a Sales Manager.

          He was furloughed during the Summer at his previous role as an Events Sales Manager at a 5* hotel so decided to take the plunge and apply for his current role at ClimatePartner; a solution provider that helps companies calculate and reduce carbon emissions, as well as offset unavoidable emissions, enabling them to become climate neutral. 

          Being in sales in previous jobs prior to this one, would you say your role has changed coming to ClimatePartner?

          Yes, it has in most ways. In my previous role, we were one luxury hotel of many who had to fight off competition for every piece of business. However,  we were well-known with a great reputation internationally which always helped. 

          At ClimatePartner, the reputation exists all over mainland Europe, so it’s about translating that to the UK market which is a totally different ‘pitch’ to the one I’d give at the hotel. The biggest difference at ClimatePartner is that there is no other product/service that offers exactly what we do in the UK. So as soon as we speak with UK companies who also have sustainability at their core, we stand out.

          Are different sales methods required to bring leads on board in comparison to previous sales roles?

          ClimatePartner is less of a ‘hard’ sell. The whole point of ClimatePartner is that companies come to us to enable impactful climate action, and we do so in a number of ways, so the visions always align. 

          It’s a very simple process here - if a company wants to label themselves, their products or both as ‘climate neutral’, we assist for the entire process, from carbon footprint measurements, to emissions reduction and offsetting, right the way through to communicating climate neutrality to their customers. 

          Does your monthly / annual sales strategy vary enormously to previous sales roles?

          In a sales role, strategy will always revolve around revenue. However at ClimatePartner the vision is crystal clear: we want to see at least one climate neutral product in every shopping basket. So the key aim for us is being as visible as possible, and the revenue will follow.

          Have your KPIs changed, in terms of how they define success?

          My role now is almost opposite to my previous one in this way. In my old role, we would have happily had only 50 or so events a year that were all ‘exclusive use’ and extremely high revenue.

          At ClimatePartner, of course revenue is vital, but we want thousands of new clients a year! The bigger our portfolio of existing clients, the better, because it means more companies are acting now to tackle their carbon footprint. And there really is no time to waste!

          Why did you choose to apply for a role with ClimatePartner?

          From my days as a volunteer youth leader, ‘repairing the world’ was one of our four core pillars. I have had a strong sense of environmental justice since then, and especially since gaining a qualification in Permaculture and Sustainable Design, I’ve always wanted to move into the ‘Green’ sphere professionally.

          When I saw ClimatePartner advertising the new role for the UK team, the chance to join a rapidly expanding company with a purpose that completely aligns with my own values was one I would never have turned down.

          Did you need any qualifications to get your current role?

          A university degree in any discipline and a minimum of one year B2B sales experience. Aside from this, the interview process was heavily based on whether I would personally be a good fit for the company. 

          I like to think this will become the norm for all companies moving forward, because with an expansion into a new market, a degree and experience will of course be helpful, but it’s drive and persistence that will ultimately determine your success. 

          Have you learnt a lot in your new role? 

          How to make sustainability transparent, credible, and accessible. Greenwashing is an irritating but sadly predictable side effect of the green recovery. So it’s vital for a company like ClimatePartner to be 100% transparent in every aspect of our processes, and maintain this approach with every single one of our clients.

          With ClimatePartner helping companies sort out their carbon plans, have you noticed a huge increase in work? If so, why do you think that is?

          It genuinely feels like we’re getting busier every day. This has been the most successful year in the company’s history, and I think it is for two related reasons.

          The first is that the first lockdown gave lots of companies time to reassess their core values and principles, and I think it is actually irresponsible to ignore the climate crisis when you look at the increasing droughts, floods, bushfires etc. across the world; this meant companies have started to prioritise sustainability. 

          The second is that the whole world saw pollution levels drop dramatically during lockdown, and this means that the everyday consumer has seen how changes in the way we live can have an absolutely massive impact on climate change. If the consumer demands it, companies must supply it or risk missing out to their competitors; this applies to companies addressing climate action vs those who don’t now more than ever.

          What would be your top tip for any sales manager wanting to move over to a purpose driven company?

          Don’t wait for a global pandemic to give you a nudge! Selling something you genuinely believe in is infinitely easier, more successful, and more fun than selling something just because it’s your job.


          Tom Sadan can be reached on Linkedin.

          Learn more about ClimatePartner's work here.

          Subscribe for our newsletter

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