Interview with Peny Rizou, Etraveli Group Chief Fintech Officer.

Etraveli Group_Interview with Peny Rizou, Etraveli Group Chief Fintech Officer.

Hi Peny and congratulations on your promotion! First of all, could you give us a small overview regarding your journey to Chief Fintech Officer and member of the executive leadership team of the Etraveli Group (ETG)?

My career path has been mainly within tech/telco ecosystems, while traveltech has been the last stop for the past 13 years. While being initially engaged with traditional finance roles, I have always taken a different approach by assuming more business-driven responsibilities that were key to strategic company initiatives. Financial technology was one of the ecosystems that proved to be significantly important for ETG’s scaling, hence I was inspired to engage myself in-depth. Embedding fintech to travel and creating additional value by ensuring superior competitiveness in relevant areas has been both exciting and my core aim during the last several years.

That sounds exciting! How does this new role connect with Etraveli Group’s mission and core competencies? What exactly is your area of responsibility now?

My new role connects with the company's strategy to combine financial services and traveltech technology in order to expand its offering, create deeper customer value, and support aspiring growth plans ahead. Despite the pandemic, the company's performance remained spectacular. Important milestones, such as strengthening our partnerships, including that with Booking.com and new ones that have been added, have contributed to ETG’s success story as the best traveltech platform in the world. The fintech division focuses on enabling customer payments across all ETG’s markets, in a safe and frictionless way while supporting real-time B2B payments across a large network of suppliers. We develop in-house technology, embed fintech into traveltech, create tailor-made solutions to continuously optimize our competitiveness, and return those benefits to our customers in the form of the best price. That is ETG’s DNA across all areas. Going forward we will focus on onboarding products that will efficiently solve well-known problems in the travel industry, mainly linked with the uncertainty and the payment needs of the ever-evolving airline industry.

From your words, I understand fintech is mostly about “disrupting” traditional financial services and empowering customers. In what ways do you encourage continuous innovation within your team to achieve that?

Fintech is a highly trending buzzword that, depending on the context, can mean many different things. Echoing ETG being the best traveltech platform in the world, it’s all about providing our customers with the most relevant flight combinations at the best price. Competitiveness and flight product enablement are amongst other factors highly dependent on financial technology as market enablement, risk management, and B2B payments require both sophistication and innovation, to secure highly efficient unit economics. The travel industry comes with many challenges, and how we solve them makes the difference when compared to other OTAs. Entering and being successful in markets like Brazil, solving FX pain points, and optimizing the cost of payments across the entire funnel are only a few of the areas financial technology is addressing within ETG. As a team we need to innovate, so we provide solutions to our customers while retaining our competitiveness. That can only happen when we approach problems as something to solve, rather than questioning a solution’s feasibility. Good is never good enough and great can be greater, so solving a problem is a one-way road, and eventually what drives creativity and inspiration. After all, that combined with swift execution have always been part of our DNA as a company and integral parts of our success story.

They say that the tech ecosystem is a “boys club”. What is your opinion on this and do you see this happening in Etraveli Group as well?

It is true that there are certain labels attached to different ecosystems including tech, mainly because certain industries have been traditionally attracting specific profiles for certain social, cultural or other reasons. This is changing rapidly, so we see more and more women involved in tech across different roles. At ETG, we already have a balanced mix of many female leaders taking responsibility of key areas. At the same time, we consider gender irrelevant when selecting candidates across any role. I consider myself lucky to be working for a company that embraces diversity and focuses on creating a common corporate culture.

You are also a mother of two. How do you prioritize work-life balance, and what strategies or habits have helped you manage your professional and personal life effectively?

Juggling a family and a professional life is not an easy task as both require time, effort and devotion. I always try to prioritize and focus on the important things, aiming for quality over quantity, but always striving for excellence. Harnessing each moment of the day is also paying off as it allows me to stay up-to-date and connected. Listening to news or podcasts during car time, connecting with friends on the way back home, catching up with colleagues during lunchtime or walking down the corridor, helping the kids with homework while preparing dinner. There are periods where I might need to focus more on one area over the other, but having a great team both at home and at work is key to ensure things move like clockwork!

What advice would you give to other aspiring leaders who are looking to break through barriers and succeed in their careers?

Leadership is about inspiring and motivating others. Find a role model you admire and observe how they influence people around them. Adopt strategies to fit your leadership style. Grow your team by trust, offering guidance and support so you also evolve as a leader. Be the best at what you do, and don’t take no for an answer. Always challenge the status quo and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone to claim your opinion. Hear more, talk less and get in the details. The devil hides in the details, and this is how you will become best at what you do. By knowing what you are talking about, having an opinion that matters and leading by example.

Are there any special resources that helped you throughout your career that you would recommend?

Most of my professional knowledge has been obtained through a self-teaching basis. This is because I have always been involved in challenging initiatives from roles that required a high degree of self-guidance, autonomy and exploration. I was also lucky to have mentors who inspired me to find my own leadership style and professional orientation as part of my next steps. So the biggest learnings? Strive for excellence and don’t settle with good enough as long as it is in a balanced way. Get out of your box and let your curiosity grow your knowledge by continuously seeking context. Even if it does not look relevant now, it will at some point. Read books and grow your hard and soft skills by continuously educating yourself and finally, find a mentor that will inspire you to grow as a person and professional.

Thank you Peny for your time, this has been very inspiring. Congratulations again on your promotion and looking forward to see what’s coming next for this successful team during the next months!

About Etraveli Group

Etraveli Group is a leading global technology provider for flights focused on offering the best possible flight content delivered through flexible tech solutions to the consumer and any company facing the consumer. Through our own consumer brands like Gotogate, Mytrip, Flightnetwork and through our global partnerships with the likes of Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kayak, Booking.com and others we provide search, book and fulfilment services of Flights and related products. The Group also operates the airline integration company TripStack and the leading price comparison site in Sweden; Flygresor.se. The headquarters are located in Uppsala, and the group also has offices in Athens, Toronto, Stockholm, Gothenburg, two cities in India, Krakow and Montevideo, as well as outsourced operations in India and China. Since 2017, private-equity firm CVC Capital Partners owns Etraveli Group.