Whether you are an employee with years of experience working with large organizations or a freshman just starting out the career, the end goal is often reaching the top rung of the corporate ladder. But only a few will fulfill their dream of becoming the leader of corporations. While it’s true that the opportunities are open to everybody who has the ability to outperform its peers, it can’t necessarily be the only factor that validates the success of an individual as a leader of an organization.
From having the ability to empower, collaborate and innovate to nurturing an outstanding team and fostering an innovative culture, there are a host of traits that define a successful leader. Erik Brieva, CEO of Strands, is one such leader that has instilled all these traits in his leadership style. Today, Erik Brieva has become truly inspirational for budding entrepreneurs and senior executives across the country.
In his career spanning over decades, Erik Brieva has co-founded and spearheaded different companies. After co-founding intelligent software components, he— along with his partner—scaled the company from five to one hundred and eighty employees in two years, and sold it to B2B factory ventures (Santander Bank) in 2002. Then, he went on founding Polymita technologies starting his journey as a CEO and pioneering the Business Project Management software industry by selling its solutions in over thirty-two countries. Recognized as a visionary by Gartner and Major Player by IDC, Polymita technologies was acquired by Red Hat Inc. in 2012.
Having sold two successful companies to large organizations, Erik Brieva and his ability to lead organizations spiked into popularity. In 2014, Erik got a call from Strands to help turn the company around. He took the position when the company only had thirty-six employees and five banking clients. Today, as a FinTech service provider, Strands has over 120 employees and its technology has been implemented for more than 650 financial institutions worldwide. When asked about the qualities he value in a leader, Erik says, “Leading by example followed by passion and the ability to engage the team are the traits I value in a leader.”
Positive Work Culture at Strands
Innovation and the recruitment and retention of talent are undoubtedly the biggest challenges a CEO faces in today’s ecosystem. While, under a CEO, the speed at which a company innovates is critical in positioning a technological company as an industry leader, it is also important that he finds and keeps the best talent to develop and deliver that innovation. With his visionary leadership and years of experience as a leader, Erik has been successful in retaining the best talent and fostering a culture of innovation in his organization. “At Strands, we promote innovation in every area. The R&D department, also known as our Machine Learning Lab, is the team in charge of creating new algorithms and data models that are then transferred to Product Engineering,” explains Erik Brieva.
Putting customers’ first and innovating best-in-class solutions for them has always been the key priority for the team at Strands. To this end, the team at Strands continuously listens to clients needs and holds in-house innovation workshops with customers to develop the best financial technology in the market. “These sessions benefit both the client and us, generating ideas to consolidate digital banking software into convenient, intuitive and contextual experiences,” adds Erik Brieva. Also, all these feedback from financial institutions and R&D proposals are integrated into the product roadmap, building a framework for driving Strands’ strategic innovation plan.
Under the leadership of Erik Brieva, Strands has grown steadily and quickly and has carved a niche in the FinTech space. For instance, BBVA—one of the most innovative banks in the world—implemented the first Personal Financial Management (PFM) solution in Europe, powered by Strands. Today, 10 years later, the BBVA app is still positioned at the top of the best mobile banking apps around the globe, according to Forrester. While the mission of Strands has always been to enable banks and merchants to anticipate customer needs and proactively suggest next-best-actions to increase long-term value for customers, the company’s vision is to empower people to better manage their lives and make smarter decisions with their money.
Today over 650 financial institutions use Strands products worldwide, however, this doesn’t stop the team at Strands from innovating new products for its consumers. The next in line is its Business financial management (BFM) that can help banks to improve their SMEs’ liquidity and cash flow while managing their business better and grow. “We also complement the development of money management technologies with a strong personalization and recommendation techniques. We recently launched a new business model named Customer-Linked Offers with Swiss bank post Finance, allowing merchants to target their end-customers more directly and with greater impact,” explains Erik Brieva.
The reason behind the success of Strands is the Vision and its positive company culture created by Erik Brieva. The team at Strands sets a vision for a new solution by listening to the market, clients, and by creating a minimum viable product (MVP) for each of the proposed solutions. Moreover, the company only develops the complete set of features after considering the feedback from the product's end-users. For that purpose, the company nurtures a community of about 20,000 end-users to test every new feature and improve them according to the outputs. According to Erik Brieva, the budding entrepreneurs who are trying out new product ideas should listen to the market, talk directly to its potential consumers, co-create with them and use them as beta testers.
To measure the success of the company, Erik has set up strategic goals and ensures everyone in the organization knows them. “It is important that everybody understands that, beyond their everyday tasks, and beyond personal goals and project objectives, they are all contributing to a more global and strategic goal,” affirms Erik Brieva.
This process starts with defining objectives for every department of the company, for every project, and finally, the personal goals. Although there are some effective metrics to track and analyze periodically —including Achievement, Helpfulness, Efficiency, Initiative, and Quality as traits—, the main motto is to hold everyone accountable and make sure all contribute for overall success of the company.
When asked how fulfilling has the leadership journey been, Erik says, “My leadership journey at Strands has been truly, genuinely fulfilling so far. We are enjoying the ride together and believing in something bigger than us,”
Under the leadership of Erik Brieva, the company has already passed several milestones such as reaching more than 650 banks and 100 million digital banking users worldwide (powered by Strands), recognition of Strands as market leader in Money Management Technologies by Forrester, the partnership with Mastercard to empower small-to-medium enterprise banking with AI and cutting-edge payment technology.
As for Polymita, major milestones include having the company recognized as a Visionary by Gartner (Magic Quadrant 2009 & 2010) and Major Player by IDC (MarketScape 2011) in the Business Process Management (BPM) software industry, as well as the merger within Red Hat Inc. in 2012.
“In 2019, Strands will continue scaling up worldwide and consolidating our position in the market with cutting-edge technologies and solutions that will keep disrupting the financial industry,” concludes Erik Brieva.
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