#81: Eyal Sivan (transcription)

Transcription: Eyal Sivan

This is Leaders in Finance, a podcast in which we look for the person behind the success. We are talking to the leaders from the present and the future about what drives them, both in their careers and at home. Why? Because in the financial sector, we should be more open. First, a great thank you from us to our partners in this podcast for their support. They are: Kayak, FG Lawyers, Odgers Berndtson executive search en Roland Berger. Our guest in this episode is the host of his own podcast, Mr. Open Banking. With his podcast, he inspires his listeners and in return they inspire him, too. “I think for me, what’s most exciting is how many other people are as into it as I am.” He started his own internet company back in 1992 from his parents’ garage with his father, who paid for his computer. “I’ll give you the $5000 to go buy the computer, but you have to promise to learn how to make websites.” Banks who are not into open banking will ultimately be swept away, he says. He quotes a colleague of him “Digital transformation is not a journey; it’s a race.” Banks are becoming technology companies is his firm belief. But will they be quick enough with that? Let’s talk to Eyal Sivan, your host is Jeroen Broekema!

Jeroen: Welcome to a new episode of the Leaders in Finance podcast! This week, I’m delighted to welcome an absolute expert when it comes to open finance or open banking, as it’s often called. His name is Eyal Sivan, the head of Open Banking at Axway. Welcome, Eyal, to the show!

Eyal: Great to be here!

Jeroen: Wonderful! It’s great you’re taking the time and this is one of the only few digital interviews I’ve done so far for Leaders in Finance, but it’s great to be here in The Netherlands and you are in Canada and having this conversation. As I said, Eyal is the head of Open Banking at Axway where he is responsible for positioning Axway as he puts it himself as the number one thought leader and integration solution provider in the open banking space. Eyal also hosts a show called Mr. Open Banking, a podcast. One of the reasons why I’ve asked you to join this conversation, because I love your podcast; it’s really great. In that podcast, he explores various topics under the open banking umbrella in each episode. Eyal is 44 years old, married and has two kids. He lives in Toronto, Canada. That gives us a little bit of an introduction, Eyal. I would love to start asking you about Axway. For those who don’t know the company, could you tell me a little bit more? Maybe we can start with a stakeholder approach, which I often do. The first stakeholder could be your clients, what kinds of clients are serving with Axway?

Eyal: We serve anyone who has integration challenges with their systems. They means they have to be running enough systems to actually need help tying them together and rationalizing them and governing them. What do I mean by systems and integration? You’re running all sorts of software applications, you’re running all sorts of digital apps and stuff and all those things need to talk to each other. I’ve been in the integration business myself for basically my entire career, more than 25 years. It’s great to join a company like Axway, whom I’ve only been with for the past year, who’s been at this as long as I have. They’ve been at this for over 20 years, they’ve seen it all. The kinds of clients we typically deal with are large enterprises because they have to deal with many of these challenges, having old systems, main frames, legacy, old MQ, all the way up to new innovative things like microservices and service mesh, everything in between. How do you bring all those systems together, how do you let them talk to each other, how do you keep track of them? That’s what Axway helps you do, govern, integrate your integration assets of your systems.

Jeroen: Great! You guys operate around the globe or just in a couple of countries?

Eyal: We’re a funny company, because we’re everywhere. We’re all over the world, we have a team of over 2000 employees, operating in every region, three of the four major credit cards, over 250 US banks, over 400 banks around the world. So, we are absolutely everywhere. But very few people know us, we often deal with systems that are in the back. Systems like file transfer that other people don’t really want to touch. So, we’re this secret operator making everything work in the background. But we do it absolutely all over the world.

Jeroen: That’s great. You guys work a lot for financial institutions, so to what kind of people do you normally talk as a company? Where in the bank are the people that you guys talk to?

Eyal: That’s a really interesting question. Historically, we’ve often held strong relationships at the engineering level. The folks who are really trying to get these pipes clean and get these systems talking to each other. Where the rubber hits the road, you might say. But increasingly, over the past couple of years, we’re trying to shift the conversations we’re having to more of the C-level and the business strategy side. In many ways that’s not really our decision, it’s just where our expertise led us. APIs have just grown in prominence; they have very much come to be part of an organization’s business strategy. That goes as much for banks as it does for technology companies. That’s sort of what Axway does, APIs, API-management. That means that we are almost pulled into these business level conversations around how to manage your APIs effectively and how to turn them into new kinds of business. So, we’re doing our best to have those conversations, help the C-level officers understand how to incorporate APIs into their business strategies and it’s been very well received so far. We’re really trying to turn into a different kind of Axway than we’ve been historically.

Jeroen: Great. As I’ve mentioned in the introduction, you also have a podcast which I really enjoy, Mr. Open Banking. How come you started a podcast?

Eyal: I fell in love with the whole open banking idea when I first discovered it. I was still working for a major bank at the time, a major Canadian bank, CIBC. At a conference I attended I met the head of open banking from Nordea. A guy named Gunnar Berger. He first introduced me to open banking. It was like being struck by a bolt of lightning. I immediately understood that this was going to change banking forever, all over the world. The notion of introducing common standard for how banks talk to each other is incredibly powerful. So I went back to CIBC and I did my best to tell them they have to be bullish in the open banking space and “Please help me build something around open banking from within CIBC.” But at the end of the day, it didn’t seem like something that we could do together, so on very good terms, and I want to stress that it was a wonderful company to work for, I have nothing but good things to say about CIBC. But it wasn’t the right place to achieve what I wanted to achieve in terms of open banking. I decided that I wanted to part of that global community and help more people understand what open banking was and the potential it created for a better financial system and a better world. So the first thing I did after leaving CIBC was start the Mr. Open Banking podcast with that goal in mind to educate people as to the ability of open banking to make all of our lives better.

Jeroen: Because when we talk about open banking, people often refer to it as open finance here, in your podcast you mentioned something like “What is open banking? It really depends on who you ask.” But if you would give a kind of definition or a view on what open banking really is, what would you say?

Eyal: Of course I have to have an answer to this. What I would say is that it is an open shared standard for the secure exchange of financial data. And I’m very stuck on that definition because it mentions standards. It does not mention regulation or market consensus or even some notion of a customer owning their data or a person owning their data. These are important facets. I think what really ties all open banking initiatives together is this notion of a common shared standard that allows for the secure exchange of financial data.

Jeroen: And for you, what would you say is exciting about this topic?

Eyal: Oh, everything! It really fuels me every day to see how exciting the space is becoming. Aside from the incredible potential to revolutionize banking and all the wonderful things it’s bringing to consumers and the philosophical questions, I think for me, what’s most exciting is how many other people are as into it as I am. It’s a community. When I first started my podcast about a year ago, I could never have anticipated the kind of positive feedback I’ve received and the number and strength of other people out there who are trying to do the same thing, really get people to understand how revolutionary this idea can be.

Jeroen: What I took from your intro of your podcast is the following quote: “Make no mistake, the rise of open banking is going to change financial services forever and we’ll be covering that story every step of the way.” Why is it going to change the financial services forever?

Eyal: A big question. If you look at how financial services have historically been structured, and by ‘historically’ I mean going back hundreds of years, the general idea was to try and get as much business out of each of your customers as possible. It was sort of a zero-sum game. If you’re going to bank with me, then you’re not going to bank with them and I want you to do all of your banking with me. This is sometimes referred to as a wallet share strategy, products per customer strategy. This strategy is very much based on the notion of a walled garden where you’re trying to keep the customer inside your ecosystem. People often associate Apple with this walled garden idea, “Only use my products.” That’s largely how banks have operated for quite a long time. Open banking puts them in a position that they have to shift that unto its head, they have to change their mindset and instead think “Wait a minute, what would happen if I tore these walls down? And instead of trying to keep my customer with me and offer my customer everything that they could possibly want in the bank, what would happen if I put the customer first? Really put the customer first? And acknowledge that if I really put the customer first, can I really be all things to them, everything that they could possibly want in financial services I can provide inside my walls?” That’s not likely. Instead, why don’t I tear those walls down and find a way to participate in the customer’s life? Follow them around, integrate with others who are providing them services so I’m there when they need me but I disappear when they don’t need me. So I’m like a little banking buddy, following them around from one context to another. The object there is not to keep them in my walled garden, but it’s to actually help them live their life and be there to assist them when they need me, to help them travel in other people’s gardens. Now, why is this going to revolutionize banking? Because banks really don’t have a choice. So it would be one thing if those two options I was describing was really a choice. But increasingly, it isn’t a choice and the reason it’s not a choice is because people want these new digital experiences that they get when they order a taxi or when they book a hotel room or when they book a plane ticket. We’ve already come to expect integration between different service providers so I can see Google Maps inside my taxi app and my taxi app can talk to my PayPal that lets me pay. So, already consumers expect these kinds of relationships with their service providers. They expect their phone experiences, their digital life to be centered around them. And increasingly, they look at their banking experiences and go “This is sort of out of step. This isn’t the same level of experience I get when I’m doing these other things in my life. Is there someone, something, some app who can provide me? Something that’s a little closer to these digital expectations?” So, they look to the fintechs. Everyone knows about the rise of fintech in the last ten or fifteen years. But fintech apps are still very much powered by old integration technologies. They use mechanisms like screen scraping to pull bank data, a lot of the integrations have to be hand coded for them to talk to all these systems. Ultimately, that is because of a lack of standardization. So people want these apps, they’re even willing to use them in insecure ways to get these digital capabilities but there’s no good way to let them actually integrate with the banks and get to your financial data securely and use it to give you these experiences. That’s where open banking comes in. Open banking says you should have these experiences, banks should aspire to tear the walls of their garden down and to help their consumers travel in their digital life. But to do that, we need an open shared standard for the secure sharing of that data.

Jeroen: That’s a great answer, I love it! Very convincing as well. And if we shift gears a little bit, are you ultimately a tech or a finance guy? Because you’ve worked in banks, you have a lot of financial background. But equally, you love tech and tech seems to be also the driving force. So do you see yourself as one of them or do you see yourself as both?

Eyal: I see myself throughout my career as a bridge between those two worlds. I think a lot of tech entrepreneurs – I had a shop of my own in the 90s, and people who work in tech in general, especially those under the name ‘architect’, which is such an ambivalent term – see themselves as a bridge. My tenure at CIBC was as a member of the enterprise architecture team and I always described architects as a bridge between business and technology. Translators who could understand what the business was asking for and translate it into technology requirements that coders could understand and likewise listen to coders’ concerns around certain requirements not being clear enough or certain conditions not being provided and translate that back to business stakeholders in ways that they can understand. So when you ask if I am a finance guy or a technologist, I very much see myself as bridging those two worlds. And I love that open banking is trying to bridge those two worlds as well.

Jeroen: Yeah, that’s great. You’re definitely at the right spot if you like to do both things. Do you recall when you got interested maybe as a kid or later on as a student in both finance and technology?

Eyal: Sure. It was technology first, no question. That’s an easy answer, I got it from my dad. My dad was in IT before there was IT. He studied at Technion, a famous university in Israel in the first year that they offered a computer science program. And the computer science program back then, you got an hour in the building that is the computer and you have to walk over to your box of punch cards for your timeshare so that you could process your code. And of course, if you punched one hole in the wrong place in your punch card or if your punch cards were in the wrong order, your simple bit of code would not work. So he was really there at the dawn of computing. I have been a fan of his for my whole life and in the 90s, we actually started a small internet company together. So my love of technology really goes back to my childhood and my dad. As far as the finance side goes, I think that was more of an accident. I found myself, after closing the doors of my startup, joining CIBC. And as I mentioned, they were a great company, I learned a lot there, I got to do some amazing work and it was there that I learned about banking systems and the potential to make them better.

Jeroen: Could you share a little bit more about your childhood? You already mentioned a word, but how did you grow up?

Eyal: We traveled a lot. I was born in Israel, but I left when I was two years old. We ended up moving to a couple of different places, we ended up in Johannesburg, in South Africa, where my younger brother was born. We then traveled to Europe and lived in Europe a little bit, in Chicago for a little bit and eventually Toronto. But I really consider myself a Canadian, I’ve been here for over thirty years. Once we settled here, like every other kid, I suppose, I adjusted to the new place. I was lucky enough to meet some wonderful friends in high school. Some of them as addicted to technology as I am, even more so. And I’m very proud to say those very same friends I met in high school are still my friends today. We do a Zoom call every Friday. So I think I had a pretty great childhood with a lot of freedom to explore. I think that’s so important. When I was still in high school, in 1990-1991, and the internet showed up, my dad – who I mentioned – came into my room and said “This internet thing is going to be a big deal. What can we do about it?” I said “I guess we could build websites or something.” And he said “What would you need to build websites?” I said “I guess I need a computer.” At the time it would have been a Pentium or something like that. And then he said “How much money would you need to buy a computer?” I said “About $5000”, which was the cost of a high-end computer at that time, and he said “How would you get the $5000?” I said “I guess I could get a loan from the bank.” And he paused and then said “I’ll give you the $5000 and you go buy a computer but you have to promise to learn how to make websites.” And I said “Okay, deal”, because I wanted a new computer. So I made the deal and ended up starting a company in the basement, like a cliché. A company in my parents’ basement in 1992. And the rest is history. So that sums up my childhood as it relates to technology pretty well.

Jeroen: Were there particular values in your family that your parents found extremely important?

Eyal: Freedom. They always believed in our right, almost, to choose our own path, to choose how we wanted to spend our time and to encourage us to explore the things that we found interesting.

Jeroen: And other things that they found important for you? Were they for example very much focused on education or on entrepreneurship? Were they pushing you or were they actually leaving it up to you what to do?

Eyal: I would say the latter. They would leave it up to us. But they did consistently stress what you might consider an entrepreneurial leaning towards individualism and not necessarily listening to the status quo, but instead looking for opportunities to do something different, to do something better. And I look back and I think that definitely influenced the way that I view technology and view opportunities.

Jeroen: Do you have particular people that have greatly influenced you? After you left your parents and lived on your own during your student time up until now, are there particular people – whether you name them or not doesn’t really matter – that have greatly influenced you?

Eyal: What a great question. You don’t often reflect on that enough. I think my first boss at CIBC was very much an influence. A gentleman named Frank Post. And he would almost be the stereotype of a seasoned technologist who’s clearly been at this from the beginning of computers, very soft-spoken, white haired, older guy, constantly calm. And I think it was him who kept me with the bank. When I joined CIBC, I had just finished being an entrepreneur and I didn’t really think I would stay with them for very long. But working for Frank and learning from him, seeing someone who had been at this for so long, knew the industry, I found that to be incredibly attractive, in a way. It was such a different perspective from my own, being a young kid only knowing technology through the internet, being overly idealistic about what large enterprises could and should do. I learned very quickly under Frank that there were real limitations and a lot of them had to do with people. At the end of the day, it made me a better architect and a better technologist.

Jeroen: You mentioned a couple of times that you had this business yourself, you were an entrepreneur. And then you moved into a large bank. Was it hard to adjust?

Eyal: Yes, absolutely. At first, I was running around, guns blazing, trying to move the aircraft carrier on my own. But you very quickly realize that an organization of hundreds or thousands is very very different than an organization of a dozen. The dynamics don’t work the same way, there are rules and systems in place and sometimes that can be very frustrating. So there was definitely a period of adjustment. Large enterprises do not and cannot operate the way startups do, despite your best efforts. I learned that early, but I think a lot of folks who haven’t been inside that environment perhaps think it is a lost cause. I didn’t find that to be the case; you can always find allies, you can always find people who are also trying to move the aircraft carrier. You just have to make smart choices and do what needs to be done and look for the right leaders who will help you along the way.

Jeroen: Because I could imagine that those first years you may have thought many times “I want to be an entrepreneur again”, given freedom was extremely important in your childhood as you mentioned. Was that the case or is that a wrong assumption?

Eyal: Wow, this is like a psychiatry session! I think the pull of entrepreneurship was always there, but for me at least, work isn’t everything. I knew for a long time that I wanted to start a family and one of the nice things about working for a large company versus founding your own startup is that you can breathe a little bit. At the end of the day, it was a job that afforded me a lot more freedom than I had when I was running my own shop. And I took advantage of that freedom on the personal side to ultimately meet my wife and start a family.  So while the pull of entrepreneurship was there, other pulls were there as well. But since you mention the entrepreneurial pull, I would love to tell you a couple of things I did end up doing. Even though I was with CIBC, I couldn’t let go of this entrepreneurial side. So I ended up launching a blog at one point, under the name The Connective, which ended up racking up a good number of hits and I was invited to a couple of conferences. I also launched an app that took these graphic guides to philosophy and ethics, called ‘introducing’. You may have seen them in your local bookshop. I did a deal with the publishing house to convert their books into apps for both Apple and Android. So I ended up dipping my toe in the waters of app development with these book conversions which were a lot of fun to do as well. So even though I was at CIBC, to your point, I couldn’t quite let the entrepreneurial spirit go.

Jeroen: That’s great to hear! Given you’ve done a lot of different things both as an entrepreneur and in the bank and now as Mr. Open Banking, running your podcast, what is ultimately the thing that you’re most proud of?

Eyal: The podcast, for sure. On a professional level, leaving the personal aside, it’s been just wonderful. I could never have expected the kind of reception that I’ve gotten. People seem to be really responding to what we’re trying to do with the show and the message that we’re sending. It just fuels me every day, every time I get a message on LinkedIn or I get an e-mail or a Tweet that says “This is great”, “This is awesome”, Keep it up”, “You’re changing banking”, etc, it’s is incredibly rewarding, I couldn’t be more proud of what me and my team producing the show have achieved.

Jeroen: That’s great to hear! It’s a podcast and we’re recording a podcast right now. Does it also mean for you that you want to run more podcast shows or run other things around getting this topic of open banking across?

Eyal: I don’t know to what degree we’ll end up diversifying the channel, if we end up to other formats like video, for example, or live interviews through the new tools that have come out. Clubhouse comes to mind. But the message will stay the same. I’m going to continue to do whatever I can to get the word out on open banking, help it move in what I feel to be the right direction. It seems like there’s a large community alongside me, trying to achieve the same thing. If that means continuing with the podcast, that’s what we’ll do. If that means diversifying into other kinds of media, that’s what we’ll do. If I have to write a book, then that’s what I’ll do. And if I have to get my hands dirty and help standards bodies around the world and banks around the world, implement it for real, then that’s what I’ll do. Where that will take me, it still remains to be seen. I can tell you that I’m incredibly busy every day and doing the best I can on all fronts.

Jeroen: That’s great. I obviously love to hear that your podcast is doing so well and is so well-received. I can totally understand, as I mentioned, I love to listen to it as well. Maybe it’s a good bridge to talk a little bit more about banks and open banking and how banks are dealing with a new environment, a changing environment. As you know, we have a pleaser and a teaser. The teaser I wrote down is as follows: Banks should be more concerned about open finance and open banking than they currently are.

Eyal: That is very much the case. There was a colleague from Axway, Kay Lummitsch, the digital journeyman, and he likes to say that digital transformation, which is of course wrapped up in this whole notion of open banking, is not a journey, it’s a race. And I think he’s absolutely right. There’s almost this casual approach to digital transformation in general in banks and that carries over into their view of open banking. They think it’s like an option, like “Yeah, yeah. This is the same as other changes we’ve had to go through. We’ll just run some seminars and do some innovation theater and we’ll make it through with the banks. What’s really going to happen?” I don’t think it’s quite sunk in, with the exception of some very good smart organizations out there. What is happening to banking is disruption. It’s the same thing that’s happened to travel, that’s happened to photography, that’s happened to music, that’s happened to taxis. It’s happening to them. And there’s really not a heck of a lot they can do to stop it because it’s the tide of history. What I like to say is, when it comes to banks who are still nervous about open banking, squabbling about how to approach it, they’re like a bunch of stowaways on a beach, arguing with each other about what kind of shelter to build and meanwhile there’s this massive tidal wave coming to crash upon them from the ocean. That is the situation they find themselves in and if they don’t just get on with it and build that shelter, that wave is going to sweep them away.

Jeroen: What’s the strategy you should tell bankers, what their strategy should be in response? In other words, if you are the CEO of one of the major banks in Canada or here in The Netherlands or wherever, what are the main points you would say they should focus on to deal with this wave, as you’ve mentioned it?

Eyal: Start to think about what your bank looks like in the context of the larger digital ecosystem. Where can you imbed your capabilities into other parts of the customer’s life so that you’re there when they need you? But they don’t necessarily have to come to you when they need you, they don’t have to go to your app or go to your branch. You should just be there wherever they are when they need you. That will lead to a different kind of thinking about the products that you offer and how you offer them. Eventually, you end up focusing on making it easy to imbed those products, typically by APIs inside other kinds of digital experiences, and actually treating those APIs like products. The next step from APIs to products – and this is really the real challenge – is treating developers like genuine customers, the way you would treat someone who is buying a mortgage or buying a credit card. And this is a trick that most banks have yet to learn. Many have gotten to APIs or products but few have gotten to developers or customers. You have to get there and you have to try and cater to them so that you can pull them towards your banking platform, get them to leverage your APIs to imbed your products in their experiences and become part of this coming world of imbedded finance.

Jeroen: That’s a great answer. Do you have examples of banks or other financial institutions that are in your view at the forefront of dealing with this?

Eyal: There are a few big names out there that have done a great job leaning into this world. In The Netherlands, Tikkie is a wonderful example of a bank doing something different and introducing a very fintech-approach to payments. DBS comes to mind; they’ve done a fabulous job of really transforming themselves into an API-driven organization. It’s no surprise that they come from South-East Asia, a region that has really embraced this notion of embedded finance and building out this API economy, often around the super-apps idea. And if you look at South-East Asia, there is a great bank, an Axway client from there, Pramada Bank. Not the largest bank in the world but they did something really amazing. They embraced the API economy as well, ended up catering developers, offering them the ability to create accounts and get loans. And the next thing you know, an app developer who had created a marriage planning app decides to use the Pramada backend because their API was so strong. Next thing you know, Pramada has upped the number of accounts by over 400% thanks to this marriage app that goes viral. The next thing you know, everybody who’s using this app to plan their wedding is opening Pramada bank accounts in the background. A perfect example of how embedded finance can be used to strengthen a bank’s position.

Jeroen: That’s a great example, the wedding example. On the pleasing side, because that was still part of the teaser, which wasn’t really a pleaser for you because you just fully agreed. But on the pleasing side, are there particular books that you give to people or that have inspired you throughout your life?

Eyal: Absolutely, there are many. The 90’s, when I really grew up with technology, I saw the publications of loads of wonderful business and technology books. One of my favorites was Leading Change by John Kotter, published in 1996. A classic, it has now been republished several times. If you read it, it is more applicable today than it ever was. How do you take an organization that is really set in its ways and carry it through large scale organization change? Every bit of advice in there by Mister Kotter is as true today as it was back then.

Jeroen: Great. One thing I’ve asked around 80 leaders in finance in this podcast and what I’ll also ask you is: Do you have particular tips for people that start a career in finance, in their first years of their careers?

Eyal: Keep an open mind. Finance is being disrupted, so if you’re looking for the finance of old where you’ll have a nice stable job with a big firm that is completely safe and you’re going to get gradual salary increases every year, I would be careful. Finance is changing. But if you want to be part of an industry that is going through a major change and you want to be part of that change, then step into finance with that attitude and I think good things will happen.

Jeroen: That’s great. Do you think that ultimately you need to be at least trained at some basic level in tech if you want to be successful in finance if you start today?

Eyal: Yes, absolutely. I am a firm believer that banks are becoming technology companies. And that goes for all of finance.

Jeroen: To what extent do you think that is? If you are currently a board member of a major bank, you should also be trained to at least know some basics about coding, for example?

Eyal: I don’t know if you necessarily need to know coding, but you should have an understanding of how systems work, what an API is and how digital distribution channels work. If you’re looking at the landscape right now and you accept that the large techs, the GAFAs, the Amazons and Googles and Facebooks are entering finance, which they clearly are, ask yourself “Do the heads of those companies understand technology?” I think they do. If they understand technology, then shouldn’t you as the leader of a company who’s trying to compete with them also understand technology? So I think the answer is almost an unavoidable yes.

Jeroen: Yeah, that’s interesting. Would you currently say that the young professionals you see in financial institutions, that there are examples where they actually get more tech training? Or do you still think there is a huge cultural shift to be made?

Eyal: I don’t think that cultural shift is as drastic as it may initially seem. If you look at the training floors around the world, they don’t look the same as they did a couple of decades ago. There aren’t people screaming at each other, waving paper. They’re all in their offices with their algorithms doing trades on computers. Computers have become a part of our lives. The internet has become a part of our lives in all respects. So, this divorce between financial training and technology training I don’t think really exists. Financial products themselves have become algorithmic, more and more of the products offered by banks are driven by AI and other kinds of technologies. So, there is no getting away from that training and technology you’re going to need to work in finance. Even if you never code, even if you’re not part of the technology team, you have to understand how technology works because that’s how you’re building your products now.

Jeroen: One other thing I love to ask is how you manage all the things you do. You said you are incredibly busy, you are very busy with your daily work, you’re busy with the podcast. You have your family. So how do you keep a work-life-balance that you are looking for? How do you do that?

Eyal: I make it up as I go along. Sure, there are different productivity techniques and so on. I think you have to take breaks and make sure you don’t burn yourself out, give yourself those little five-minute breaks where you go and have a coffee. It may sound a little silly, but I will actually set a five-minute timer on my phone, put it away and say “No matter how many meetings I have, these five minutes I’m not checking my e-mail, I’m not even looking at my phone. I need a break.” So take breaks to keep yourself sane and make time for the family. Another cliché. I try and spend time with my daughters at least a half hour a day, an hour a day. Even if we’re just sitting around and watching TV together. But I find that to help a lot. And also, if you’re lucky enough to have a dog like me, hug the dog. That helps too.

Jeroen: That’s great advice! During the Covid pandemic a lot of people got dogs, so I think a lot of people who listen will have a dog to do that. What do you do to stay fit, both physically and mentally? What are your tricks and tips?

Eyal: In terms of mentally, make sure that you’re getting some kind of diversification of the things going into your brain. It can’t be open banking all of the time. Read a book, I like audiobooks. Make it about something trivial, like science fiction for me. So give yourself that mental break but still stimulation with something different. In terms of physically, I like to get outside, take walks. I also got one of these fancy new smart exercise devices with the live classes and stuff. I got to confess I got on that wagon. And it works, it’s helping me stay in shape.

Jeroen: To wrap up, if we look into the future a little bit, maybe not the next few years because you will be busy with the podcast, you’re probably still doing the podcast in ten years’ time. But let’s say in ten years, are there particular things from a professional perspective you would love to be doing or you would love to explore or would you for example at some point start your own business again?

Eyal: I don’t know. I really love the podcast as I mentioned before. And I’d love to continue to be a voice, I think, more than necessarily start my own firm. I mentioned already I’d love to write a book on the subject, I’ll probably do that at some point. But I’d also like to continue to push the envelope on the guests that we have. I have an aspirational guest, a fellow Canadian, Mark Carney. He’s sort of my target of one day. So if anyone out there listening knows Mark Carney and wants to tell him to be a guest on Mr. Open Banking, I would love that. All that to say, the more decision makers that I can influence, the more people who are in positions where they can actually set the pace of the global economy, the happier I’ll be. So where would I like to be in ten years? Speaking to folks like Mark Carney, speaking to people like the UN and saying “Look, this is what we’ve got to do to make financial services better.”

Jeroen: Is that ultimately driving you?

Eyal: Yes. I find it enormously frustrating that I can’t see all my accounts in one place and that I can’t easily and instantly move money from one institution to another. That I can’t quickly switch from one bank to another if I wanted to. None of that stuff should exist, it’s about time that we put the platform of financial services in place so that we can get on with it and build the future. And that is what drives me.

Jeroen: That’s great. Before I thank you for your time and a great openness, I would love to ask you if there’s something that you would have loved to share with us or where you say “Jeroen, you should have asked this or that”? If that’s the case, please use the opportunity to share with us now.

Eyal: You pretty much covered it. I think you went places that I wasn’t even expecting you to go. I think I’m good.

Jeroen: That’s great! As I said, thank you so much for sharing all of this with us. As I told you before, I always ask something about you personally and I did and I was very happy that you were willing to share all these things with us. Eyal, thanks so much and I’m really looking forward to meet you in person at some point. Whether that’s Canada or in The Netherlands or anywhere else, I’m looking forward to meet in person and have a drink. Thank you so much for your time!

Eyal: Thank you for having me on the show, it was great! I also look forward to have a drink in person.

You’ve been listening to Leaders in Finance. We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and we do appreciate very much any feedback you might have. What’s keeping you busy and whom would you like us to talk to in the future? Please let us know through an Apple or Google review. You can also contact us through social media platforms or directly by sending an e-mail. We would very much appreciate it if you reach out to us. We would also like to thank our partners for their ongoing support in making this podcast possible. They are: Kayak, FG Lawyers, Odgers Berndtson executive search en Roland Berger.

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