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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Lynda Strutton

Lynda Strutton, Chief Operating Officer at Tribe Payments, is a payments specialist with more than a decade of experience. She has held previous roles at key industry players, including Barclaycard, Elavon and Network International where she worked across Europe and the Middle East. Lynda has a proven track record in product commercialisation, notably introducing the first acquirer-owned Android-based POS application across the MEA region. Her expertise has earned her recognition as one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in Financial Technology in Europe for 2023.

  1. Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I’m currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer at Tribe Payments, a fintech company that’s all about pushing the boundaries of payments innovation. My role involves managing all aspects of the commercial, marketing, operational and product output.

I’ve spent more than a decade in the payments industry, with previous leadership positions at the likes of Elavon, Network International and Barclaycard. But before I dove into the payments world, I actually started out in recruitment. Fun fact: Barclaycard was one of my clients back then. When I started looking for something new, I found a role in its payments division. Fast forward a few years and I moved to Elavon which was fantastic – I was given the chance to build product teams and got my first taste of managing and working with colleagues in different countries.

Then came the golden opportunity to move to Dubai with Network International, the biggest issuer processor in the Middle East. This was an exciting role both personally and professionally. I learned huge amounts about growing a business, particularly as I supported the initial public offering (IPO) 18 months after arriving there, which was a great opportunity. My time in Network really opened my eyes to the payment market globally and not just in Europe. I also got to work with people from very different backgrounds which helped build my leadership approach. When it was time to return to the UK, I joined Tribe Payments where I’ve helped to support its growth from a start-up to a scale-up.

  • What’s the idea behind the company?

Tribe was founded in 2018 as an issuer and acquirer processor and has now grown into a digital payments and infrastructure orchestrator. We empower merchants, banks, fintechs, issuers and acquirers with an extensive ecosystem of products so that they can build, customise, and deliver innovative programmes at speed, without compromising quality.

Tribe was essentially a customer before it became the business it is today. It started after our founder struggled to get the payment services he needed (faced instead with traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ payments systems). He became very curious about why it was so difficult and how things could be done more efficiently, and so followed the transaction and built a modular paytech platform from scratch to counter this.

  • How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

This business growth is purely because we offer a strong solution that is needed. Remember, we were born from a genuine customer pain point, so there was a need for our services – and this hasn’t changed. We have a broad product set including issuer and acquirer processing, Core Banking, Digital Wallet and value-added services such as Risk Monitoring which means that Tribe can support customers in building additional value propositions quickly without large capex investments.

That’s why our rate of contract renewal and lower customer attrition stands out above our competitors. Our customers undergoing implementation now adopt an average of 5.67 products from Tribe, compared to 3.34 products from those already live, and both those figures have increased from 5.25 and 2.85 respectively 12 months ago, which speaks volumes about our growth and future trajectory.

A huge 96% of European brands saying they will offer some form of embedded finance in the next five years. But payment orchestration from the likes of Tribe takes embedded finance one step further, delivering a forward-thinking and customer-centric approach to payments and financial services. So, we don’t expect to slow down any time soon.

It’s also been important to us to focus on the right things. We’re not about breaking speed records – we’re focused on making paytech integrations as easy and as pain-free as possible for merchants and the businesses that work with them.

  • What are the key successes?

Our purpose has always been to solve payments challenges for customers by thinking differently and we’ve been able to reap the benefits of this. For example, we set ourselves apart from the competition by becoming the first issuer and acquirer processor to handle transactions for Visa, Mastercard, UnionPay, ​​American Express and Discover, further bolstered by JCB for acquiring. This is an unprecedented level of scheme connectivity that is unmatched by any other provider in the market.

We’re also one of the few providers who can easily help fintechs become both an issuer and acquirer through our proprietary API-led technology.

Our customers tell us that previous providers are nowhere near as proactive, which is one of the reasons why they come to us. We were pleased to score 8.9 out of 10 in our most recent NPS survey – a fantastic gauge of our clients’ happiness, and testament to how responsive we are to service ticket and SLA times and clients’ needs.

  • What are your plans now/for the future?

A big personal goal of mine is to spread the word of diversity, inclusion and equality, encouraging a more open and diverse fintech industry. You don’t have to be an economist to know that a drop of 34% in fintech funding and investment in 2023 will have consequences for a sector that in 2020 found renewed purpose during the pandemic, leading to a surge in recruitment, service innovation and global outreach. Amid an uncertain economic outlook, fintechs need to confront some uncomfortable truths – and double down on their diversity efforts if they want to attract the talent to keep them innovating.

In my role at Network International in Dubai, I was often the only women in the room, so I set out to change that by:

  • establishing a women’s business network, helping employees to advance their careers;
  • launching workshops for women to anonymously submit issues of being in male-dominated teams;
  • establishing career workshops to address gender/racial imbalances, growing to around 40 women and now running for five years.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to better support men whose partners are working, emphasising the need for flexibility to balance family life. I think this is something that we often forget about. We have certain expectations of men, but they should be able to have the same flexibility to enable them to have a family life and support their working partner.

  • Can you share your top tips for success?
  1. So many people forget to have a shared ‘why’ that is understood by everyone on a company’s journey, but it’s vital to bring employees together and help set the goals you’ll work towards. Ask yourself: do you understand why you do what you do? When I took on the COO role at Tribe, this is one of the first things I did. It improves people’s focus, motivation and communication significantly.
  • Be curious! This is one of our Tribe values, and it’s so important as fintech is such a fast-paced, ever-changing industry. My son is a great example of this in action – he is one of the most curious people I know, constantly asking questions and trying to understand things. It often drives me crazy, but I truly believe in the importance of curiosity. Kids get this right; they’re less afraid to ask the ‘silly’ questions. As we grow, we often assume we should already know the answer. Don’t be afraid to ask the question.
  • How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I love that saying, it reminds me to focus on the small 1% improvements every day. The compound interest you earn from these improvements will help you achieve big things. I’ve really tried to focus on this over the past few years. Instead of big, grand New Year’s resolutions, what are the daily things you can do to change behaviours each day? Having a hefty goal often seems much harder than the small things that lead you there.
  • Let every voice be heard in the company, regardless of level, gender or race. Create a safe environment where everyone’s ideas can be amplified. A good leader doesn’t have all the best ideas, but they know how to inspire those around them to speak up.
  • It is impossible to make everyone happy. I personally have struggled with this over the years, but I’ve learnt that sometimes you need to make sure you are doing the right thing, even if it doesn’t always suit every individual.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given in a leadership role is that you are not just responsible for the individuals you employ, but the people they support. Making sure the business is doing well sometimes means making tough choices. This is easier to do when you look at the bigger picture and consider your overall responsibilities.

  • Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

This is difficult because daily I see people who inspire me from those putting their lives on the line or facing really challenging situations with positivity. There are leaders that inspire me such as Steve Jobs and a list probably similar to many others. There are inspirational females change makers such as Malala Yousafzai and these individuals are extremely inspiring.

But if I look at those who inspire me on a daily basis my top four would be my children – they give me purpose and inspiration every day to take on challenges and push harder. They also give me different ways of thinking about situations. 

  • What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

I have a few! Firstly, I make everyone listen to Simon Sinek’s ‘How great leaders inspirer action’. It’s not a quote but it really lands with me: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en

Steve Jobs: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” – I like this as it is about trusting your gut and the path that you’re on.

Morgan Freeman: “The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.” – Simple and I guess obvious but it drives me to keep going.

  • What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?  

My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lynda-strutton-5b33a555/

Tribe’s website: https://www.tribepayments.com/

Tribe’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/tribepayments/