From a 25-Strong Startup to an MNC: The CFO who has Witnessed the Growth

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Editor’s Note: Ingo Uytdehaage is the CFO at payment company Adyen. When he first joined the firm, it was a three-year old payment service provider. In this first part of the interview, he shared with CFO Innovation how his role as the CFO has changed as the company grows. Next week, we’ll feature our conversation with Uytdehaage about digital transformation and the challenges facing the CFO today.

Can you share with us your professional background?

IU: I was trained as a Certified Public Accountant and studied Economics. Before I joined Adyen, I used to work for two large corporations and I’ve always been in operations and finance. I think those experiences are crucial to my role at Adyen because operation is an important part of a payment company.

While working in the large corporations, I missed the entrepreneurial way of working. I always said to myself if there’s a moment in my life that I meet a team I really like and see lots of potential in it, I’ll make the switch to an entrepreneurial setting and that’s what happened.

I met Pieter, the CEO of Adyen, through a mutual friend. Right from the start, we had a similar vision of what needed to be done in the company, which was just three years old with 25 employees at that time.

When you first started working at Adyen in 2011, what was the company like and how was it different from the company it is today?

IU: It was completely different because back then we had €8 million in revenue and just 25 employees. In the first half of this year, we had a net revenue of €156 million. Now there are about 800 employees. This shows that we’ve gone through many different growth phases.

The key difference is that we’ve become a global company with 16 offices around the world. One thing that we've tried to keep consistent from the start is to know each other—with 800 employees this is more difficult now. 

We put a lot of effort in making sure that this continues. We do this through exchange programs and our annual company event where employees from all over the world fly to Amsterdam.

The advice I give to candidates who want to work at Adyen is to take time to build your internal network because you'd have an easier time working together with people if you know them. 

As the CFO, how involved are you in helping your team get to know people from other time zones?

IU: I am very involved in this. As a member of the management board, I am part of the interview process. Even if we hire a technical support engineer here in the Singapore office, they would have to meet with one of the six management board members at their final interview.

This interview process immediately expands your network as you cultivate a relationship with at least six to seven people before you join the company, including someone from the board. I think that helps us build connections throughout the company and I like to play a role in that as the CFO.

CaptionIngo Uytdehaage, CFO, Adyen

How has the role of CFO changed since you joined Adyen?

IU: When there were only 25 employees, I worked on everything from operational problems to finding new office space to analyzing yearly staff turnover.

As we grew and hit new milestones like obtaining our banking license in Europe and listing on the Amsterdam stock exchange, I took on a more traditional CFO role. I focus on the financial part of the business—this is important for working in a payment company.

Still, I try to see at least three to four merchants per week so I am not only working on finance-related matters.

In my first few years here, I spent quite some time on the development calendar, setting the priorities, action plans and liaising with various teams to set goals and targets.

These are things that I do not have time for anymore because I am focused on closing and making sure that we build the treasury operations globally. 

Now as we're a global company, we have treasuries in multiple parts of the world. I make sure that we always have funds in the right currencies and the right places.

How large is your finance team now?

IU: We split the finance team into two groups. One team with about 15 to 16 people focuses on group finance—accounting of all our entities around the globe.

We also have a treasury team that looks after the money flow that goes to our customers. For example, if you take an Uber ride, we collect money from your credit card and make payment to Uber. That is managed by our treasury team.

The treasury team is about the same size as the group finance team. In total, there are about 30 to 40 people in finance.

Given the size of our operations, we’re an efficient group of individuals and the finance function is fully centralized in Amsterdam.

Since you mentioned the finance team is efficient, can you tell me how you measure efficiency?

IU: We’re slightly different compared to other companies that have millions of Euros in revenue: we only have one global PNL (profit and loss). There are no revenue targets for the APAC region or a country office because we don’t think that’s meaningful.

We want to operate as one company and therefore we also need to measure performance on one level.

When it comes to the efficiency of our regional offices, we look at growth in terms of customers and processing volume. “Are we doing the right thing for customers?”—that’s the question we ask.

Our regional offices need to know which merchants are in the pipeline, who our customers are and how we can help them grow, the new functionalities we need to build on our platform, and where we need to improve.

It looks to me you always try to expand your experience. Are you preparing for becoming the CEO one day? What’s the next step in your career?

IU: No, I don't have the desire to become a CEO. I really like being in the background rather than becoming a more public-facing executive such as the CEO.