A Day in the Life of Chet Shah
We're back again with this week's 'Wirex Day in the Life', and this week we've spoken to Chet Shah, the Chief Risk Officer:
How long have you been with Wirex?
I joined Wirex in February 2022
Why did you join Wirex?
Initially I was approached to create and lead an Internal Audit function. However, during the interview process it was clear to me that Wirex needed to enhance its 1st and 2nd line risk capabilities before considering the need for an internal 3rd line. The CEOs and I discussed how I would do this and the impact I would make on Wirex, and they offered me the CRO role. I accepted because the opportunity to influence the sustainable growth of an exciting fintech was too good to miss and it ticked all my requirements, especially my desire to work in a dynamic environment with innovation at its center.
What is your background?
I have been working in banking and payments for longer than I care to comment and am qualified in a variety of risk disciplines including financial crime risk. I have a broad range of experience in a variety of roles including senior roles with global banks in Internal Audit and more recently, 1st and 2nd line senior risk roles with challenger banks and fintechs.
What is your job now and how long have you been doing this job?
I am the global CRO and that is the role I started when I joined in February 2022. In summary, I am accountable for the oversight and reporting of the effectiveness of risk management in Wirex. I also lead several operational areas that manage our back-office processes relating to financial crime, fraud management and customer service. The role is broad and varied but very satisfying. I am surrounded by great people and together, we continue to make a huge positive impact on Wirex and its customers.
When you left School or University what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be somehow involved in film – more specifically, screenplays and directing. I have always loved the cinema from an early age when my parents used to take me to watch Indian cinema and then with my friends to watch the latest releases. However, as with such dreams, life got too busy with the need to work and live, and I never did progress my dream. However, my son who is also an avid fan of cinema is living the dream – he has been acting from an early age (with some screen credits to his name on IMDB) and is now at university studying theater and cinema design. I like to think that through him, my dream will be a reality one day and that makes me incredibly happy and very proud.
What industry's does your job apply to?
Risk is prevalent in all industries. All industries need to manage their risks no matter what they do and if they do not, they fail. Most notable examples of this are when the big banks had to bailed out by governments costing taxpayers billions; and when energy firms (BP for example) caused environmental disasters causing untold damage to our world – all of which could have been avoided by good risk management and mitigation. The problem is that those at the very top of organizations do not always see commercial value in risk management and so do not invest. However, in Wirex, my Vision is simple in that my department ‘creates and preserves value’ and with that Vision, I get the support needed – if I deliver of course! Good risk management is a competitive advantage – after all, who wants to do business with a firm that cannot be trusted to do the right thing?
What kind of education and/or training did your career require?
You will see many roles in the senior risk management space that require advanced education and a host of industry qualifications – which is great, but the best training is experience: learning the job, the dependencies, the interlocks between 1st, 2nd and 3rd lines of defenses, how to manage stakeholders and keeping pace with changes and thinking strategically. Whilst advanced education and industry certificates may look great on the CV and impress the interviewer, a good senior candidate can demonstrate the value they bring through experience and learning from the past. When I joined Wirex, I demonstrated my value with other firms and the impact I made. I think that more than anything else persuaded the CEOs they should hire me. Put it this way, do you trust a police officer because they have a degree in Marine Biology or because they know your neighborhood and know the crime hotspots?
What skills are required in your daily work?
You need patience because sometimes, life is slower than you want it to be; you need integrity because it should matter to you and the people around you; you need humor because you need to have some fun; you need focus because you need to deliver; you need passion because that’s why you come to work every day; you need stubbornness because not everyone will be on your side; and you need humility because you are never that important and you should know that.
Please describe a typical day of work:
I know it is a cliché but there is no typical day! Yes, I go through the usual rigmarole (as we all do) of clearing emails and Teams messages and having meetings, but each day is dictated by my priorities which change every day. For example, one day those priorities could focus on staff development and the next, the focus will be on an unexpected and material challenge that needs addressing. However, each day I set some goals and if I meet those goals then I am happy that my day has gone well.
Do you mostly work alone or with others?
I mostly work with others, and I am glad that I do – without my team, there is not a hope in hell that I will succeed. I surround myself with great people who share my vision and my work ethic and each day I am thankful for their support. I have a one team ethos and regardless of what you do, your level of seniority or where in the world you are based, we act as one team.
How has Wirex helped you get to develop your skills and career?
It is still very early days but working in Wirex has made me appreciate that irrelevant if the firm is a small fintech or a large global bank, the issues are the same albeit with varied levels of materiality. This has helped develop my style of leadership and my style of management.
What do you wish you would have known about your job before starting?
I wished I knew how easy it was for silo working to build-up and how important it was to break them down as quickly as possible. When I joined, the risk and compliance team were not a team – they were all working independently without regards to each other. I have changed that but like all firms, there are still other pockets that work in silos – had I known this in advance then I would have prioritized with the CEOs the need to get this changed. Silo working kills businesses as it fosters empire building and selfishness.
What do you love the most about your job at Wirex?
Getting things done! The best feeling ever is to stand back and see the benefit of what you have done – from improving how customers are treated to being told by the regulator that they have closed their file. We can all get far too down a rabbit hole, and it is vital we remain focused on outcomes. I believe in striving for positive outcomes – the journey to get there may be challenging but once you are there, it’s amazing!
How would you describe working at Wirex?
It is fast paced and challenging. It’s defiantly not for the faint hearted or those that want to be anonymous. We are building something amazing and either you are part of it, or you are not – there is no in-between.
If you could give one piece of career advice, what would it be?
Take accountability for your own success. Do not rely on others to do what you have the gift to do – own your career. Set yourself targets and surround yourself with positive people who can help you and above all, never give time to negativity.