Interview with Qi Yan, Key Account Director at Ebury

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13 December 2018


One of our key account directors, Qi Yan, has been nominated for her contributions to technology at the 2018 Mulan Awards, which recognises and honours the achievements and successes of Chinese women in the UK and elsewhere.

n light of this achievement, we took a few minutes to speak to Qi to find out why she has been nominated for this award, why she moved into Fintech, and what she enjoys most about Ebury:

How did you get nominated for this award?

The award I have been nominated for focuses on Chinese women who specialise in the technology sector, and how they help their business improve efficiency. I was nominated by a contact at Grant Thornton, because they are aware of what I am doing in international technology and they know how we use it at Ebury to help our clients.

The event is focused on celebrating Chinese women. How have you found being a Chinese woman in Finance and Tech?

Our trading desk, for example, only has three girls, meaning it is a male-dominated environment. However, I do not think that being female is that much different to being male. The only difference I have noticed is in the way men and women communicate. I tend to communicate patiently with my clients, and I think that helps build stronger relationships. I listen to my clients, find out their problems and provide them with solutions. I want to encourage more women to join sales and trading desks, as I think that many women believe sales and trading are too high-pressure, but it is not as scary as you think.

What are the most important lessons you have learned over the years that you would pass on to any aspiring women in Fintech?

I learned that being a good salesperson is not just about how well and how profitably you close a deal. It is about how you face problems, and how you can change those difficulties into wins. Bad experiences have pushed me and due to that I have had to study hard in the FX industry. To know FX markets, you have to be the professional in the market, otherwise clients will not work with you—if you do not know what you are talking about, you will not get clients.

I have also learned how to provide a fantastic service to clients and how to be there for them at every step—in fact, the clients I had at my first company have always been my clients.

Did you always know you were going to go into Fintech?

No, in fact I got my Bachelor’s degree in Tourism and a Master’s in HR Management. At the time my dream was to become a recruiter, but I could not find a job that suited me and my aspirations.

I ended up working for a few years as a trader in traditional banks and brokers, and I enjoyed my time there. However, I found that there were some fundamental problems with large banks—especially in terms of how they were using their technology and how they supported their clients. I remember thinking at the time that Fintech was the future for the financial industry, and for me.

So what were the problems you faced with the traditional banks?

The problems I witnessed were due to the fact that traditional banks are extremely large. While they make a lot of money, their structures are highly complex, making inter-departmental communication difficult. Whenever I wanted to make a deal or make a trade, I needed to go to different departments to get different documents in order to secure different approvals. The processes were long, stifling and limited any efficiency I could offer my clients.

Even though Fintechs are small, they are more agile and can react to market movements faster. This benefits my clients greatly and makes international trading more reactive.

Was the reason you wanted to work in Fintech due to the fact you wanted to be more efficient for your clients?

That is one thing, yes, but the technology used in Fintechs also drew me in.

You have mentioned technology a lot and you are nominated for this award in tech. However, you have not had much tech background before—how did you develop this interest?

Even though I do not have much of a background in technology, I have always been interested in different types of tech. While I am not an engineer, I like to learn the theory and logic behind how specific technology works. I like to find out how it can help Ebury and how it can improve our performance with our clients.

Particularly for Ebury, as it is a highly data driven company, every product we launch is always driven by data. We analyse thousands and thousands of company profiles to determine their needs, so we know exactly what our clients’ problems and needs are. This means that when a product launches, it will be created specifically to solve problems that our clients are facing.

Is that what attracted you to Ebury at first?

It is certainly one factor, but the knowledge and leading capabilities Ebury holds are the main reason I wanted to join.

In my experience, most Chinese clients have limited knowledge on FX risk, and their financial education is at least 10 years behind a UK/European country. At Ebury, you can tell the management team really cares about and wants to help Chinese companies with these knowledge gaps.

When we do this job, it is not only me doing my job or Ebury doing its job—we are helping our clients do their jobs. I want to see Chinese SME firms grow exponentially. I want to help my clients as much as possible, and working at Ebury allows me to do just that. Their success is my success.

Is Ebury different in that way compared to other companies you have worked with?

Yes, I thoroughly agree with and identify with Ebury’s core belief: ‘What borders?’. We should not limit ourselves.

What would you say was your favourite thing about Ebury?

Everything. My team on the sales and trading desk make life interesting.

In regards to clients, many prospects I speak to have not had good experiences with different FX brokers. A lot of other companies charge higher prices, which is quite normal in the industry, but for me I don’t think you should approach business like that. I believe that if your clients do well, you do well.

While the people, atmosphere and clients here are good, the structure is also great. Even though I am on the sales and trading desk, Ebury gives you a lot of responsibility to run with a number of different projects across departments. They listen to what you say and give you a lot of responsibility—they trust you, which is something that is important to me. In the past whenever I have had an idea to expand on something or push the business in a different direction, hierarchies make it difficult to start new projects. But now, it seems everything is possible. If you have an idea, Ebury encourages you to go in that direction and just do it. They give you the freedom to act on your instincts and prove your worth.

If you are interested in Ebury’s services in international payments, FX risk management or trade finance, please contact us to speak to one of our advisors.