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From lobbying on behalf of SMEs with CBI to helping a startup disrupt the banking sector

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While the CBI was highly active in lobbying on behalf of small businesses, Nunn felt she could effect more change working at a FinTech company. She is of the belief that SMEs are hindered by the existing financial system. As such, we quizzed her on her transition to business exchange rate firm Money Mover and the current opportunities that await SMEs.

What is your role at Money Mover?

I am head of partnerships. I’m responsible for developing Money Mover’s partner network, particularly across professional services organisations. My aim is to expand the reach and depth of Money Mover’s network of partners among professional services companies, enabling us to provide fair and transparent international payments and currency exchange to a broader pool of SMEs.

What do Money Mover do?

Money Mover aims to make international money transfer an asset rather than an inhibitor for SME growth by empowering businesses to make global payments and international money transfers quickly, at pre-defined rates and with transparent pricing.

Your previous role included working with small businesses at the CBI – what are the biggest challenges small businesses face? And where do you see opportunities?

Current systems have been set up for big businesses rather than SMEs. Financing, exporting, taxation and HR, for example, are all geared towards making things easier for large organisations. While SMEs need to use the same framework, navigating these can be frustrating and tiresome. SMEs don’t have huge internal legal departments, or people who can spend several days at a time going through complex documentation. This relative lack of size, however, can be turned into an advantage.

SMEs’ size offers nimbleness and flexibility that large businesses can only dream of. Small business bosses don’t have the endless internal machinations that plague decision making faced by their counterparts in larger organisations, and if the decision proves to be incorrect, they are not bound by internal politics to stick with it.

Ultimately, it’s about not accepting the norm. Just because companies “have always done it like this” it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best way. For example, there’s an opportunity for collaboration between SMEs who want the same thing. A non-FinTech case in point is notonthehighstreet.com where a group of like-minded creative SMEs used technology to bring products to market outside the usual channels. In the US thesmallbusinessweb.com was formed as the trade association of cloud services vendors for small businesses. It used open APIs to create a network of products from many different vendors, all geared towards SMEs.

Technology is clearly changing business – but how much is the startup scene focused on the SME space?

Technology is putting control back in the hands of SMEs. While much of the technology developed by startups is, sensibly, aimed at the large corporate market SME bosses are using this technology in ways that are innovative and that benefit their business. Because of SMEs’ nimbleness, smaller firms are often first adopters of new technology and have a greater capacity to use this technology in ways that the developers had not imagined.

Cloud services is a good example. Originally most people saw cloud as a storage medium with a service like Dropbox being the most common application. Now we’re seeing entire software ecosystems and even computing power itself being delivered over the cloud. SMEs have been at the forefront of this technology both in its use and its development. SMEs can move quicker than large corporates, are not hamstrung by corporate decision making practices and aren’t afraid of making the wrong decision.

You’re now working for a FinTech startup – what attracted you to this sector?

FinTech is an attractive sector and seems to be ahead of the curve in meeting the demands of customers and clients, rather than trying to keep pace. My time at CBI has given me a useful overview of SMEs working in a range of sectors. It’s clear that SMEs have a specific pain point around international payments and money transfer and Money Mover addresses that pain in an open, affordable and transparent way.

What advice would you give anyone moving from a large, established company to a startup?

One of the biggest challenges (and benefits) is that no one’s done it before. The answers aren’t there so you have to work out the solution yourself. You have the opportunity to create something from the ground up, to create something sustainable. You also have to have complete faith in your own abilities and those of the people you work with but at the same time mistakes will be made and that’s ok.

It’s really about unlearning everything learned working in a large company. You don’t have that framework of support and processes any more – it’s important to be comfortable without a safety net.

Previously you’ve worked with Enterprising Women – are startups in the UK disrupting the traditionally male-dominated technology space and in what roles are we seeing the most change?

Startups don’t fit into the traditional business model. Small firms aren’t 9-to-5 corporations where certain people do certain things and that’s it. They’re a more inclusive place and tend to attract a different kind of person who isn’t necessarily bound by the traditional roles ascribed to men and women. This in itself creates a working environment that fosters success regardless of gender.

Notwithstanding this, education and society both need to be more supportive of women in business. Things are changing – girls are now as likely as boys to take separate science GCSEs, and they perform similarly in maths. A level entries by female students are rising, with 10,000 more girls studying STEM A-levels since 2010 – but there are relatively few role models for young women to aspire to in business. According to 2015’s “Female FTSE Board Report”, only 18 per cent of FTSE 250 companies have women board members.

Startups have the potential to change all this as bosses tend to offer a level playing field to everyone, not just women. The startups of today will be the FTSE 250 companies of tomorrow and very much in the same way small firms are disrupting the ways businesses operate, SMEs will disrupt the make-up of those businesses as well.

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