The intricacies and depth of true business leadership can only be measured when one steps into the shoes of a leader. One has to witness firsthand, how vital it is to be preemptively decisive, to calculate every move considering the risks involved, and along the way planting seeds of success and excellence within the consciousness of every subordinate.
Individuals who possess and avidly exhibit such traits, possess the capabilities to drive a business to zeniths. Taking the same into consideration, this edition titled The Most Inspirational CEOs to Watch in 2020, brings to you stories of influential leadership and entrepreneurship.
One such story is that of Rob Leslie, the founder and CEO of Sedicii. Being an Electronics Engineer by profession and having graduated from Dublin City University in Ireland, Rob founded Sedicii in 2013.
Prior to Sedicii, Rob co-founded Kyckr (ASX:KYK) which is now listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The company provides organisational identity verification services for compliance with KYC and AML regulations to banks and other financial institutions across the globe.
Previously he spent 20 years in Japan where he was a part of the original management team in Dell Japan that established and grew the business to almost 300 employees and $300M turnover in its first 4 years.
Sedicii possesses operational and academic expertise in the fields of FinTech, Cyber Security, Compliance, Fraud Detection, Identity Management, and security. The company has developed and patented a zero knowledge proof protocol which uses advanced cryptography to help people and businesses prove their identities in real-time without compromising their right to privacy.
Rob believes that artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to transform how data is used in order to take tasks that were previously done by humans and transform them into automated processes. Pertaining to this, he states that Sedicii is using machine learning and AI in its use of data to help identify fraud and money laundering in the financial system as early as possible.
Sedicii has won over 20 technology and innovation awards including the BBVA Open Innovation ‘Fintech for Future’ Award. BBVA is the oldest and largest Fintech Innovation Program in the world and has highlighted Sedicii as “the start-up with the greatest potential to transform the financial sector in the next 10 years!”
Sedicii is currently a team of 15 people and it is multi-locational in Ireland, Belgium, United Kingdom and the Canary Island of Tenerife. Rob believes it is vital for the development of the company that he ensures inclusivity of everyone at the company’s development phase.
To this end, Rob insists on regular weekly meetings where everyone is encouraged to participate and make suggestions and also encouraged to “think outside the box”. The entire team is well aware that Rob always promotes an open-door policy.
When asked about the challenges he faced and overcame, in his role of founder and CEO, Rob expresses, “Like all start-up companies, the last six years have seen many challenges. Initially, I spent time experimenting with the technology and gaining an in-depth knowledge and understanding of its possible applications.”
With the introduction of GDPR in May 2018, Rob saw accelerated interest and need for ZKP. To take advantage of this opportunity the biggest challenge for him was finding like-minded investors who saw the potential and benefits of what Sedicii is trying to achieve.
The continuing challenge for Rob and Sedicii is finding government bodies, financial institutions and professional bodies who can see and believe in the seismic mind-change needed when it comes to data privacy. “20 years ago, no one could have foreseen the advances in information technology, ZKP has the potential to bring technology to an even higher level,” says Rob.
To elucidate on this challenge, Rob regularly uses the analogy of the empty swimming pool. He states that empty swimming pools cause an initial reaction of fear in peoples’ minds; there must be something wrong with the pool because no-one is in it. However, as soon as there are a couple of people in it, everyone is happy to get in. “What we are doing with identity, personal data and privacy engenders the exact same reaction – initially fear of the unknown but once the first few have jumped into the pool, everyone is willing to follow,” explains Rob.
Speaking about his achievements Rob expresses, “My proudest accomplishments to date was being named a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for our work on the zero-knowledge proof protocol and getting the opportunity to speak at Davos on cybersecurity, digital identity and other technology issues affecting the world’s economies.”
Passing on the Keys to Success
Upholding his responsibility as an inspirational leader Rob provides guidance and advice to the budding and aspiring entrepreneurs. In his words, “To anyone with an idea and an entrepreneurial spirit, I say try it and don’t give up at the first hurdle you fail to get over – persist and persevere! If you
believe in a product, service or idea, tease it out with others; find other, more seasoned entrepreneurs and mentors who have been through the same process and question, question, question.”
“There is no such thing as a wrong question – sometimes it’s the most simple thing that causes us to slip up along the way. Refine your thoughts and have a good sounding board for those whom you trust. As you go along the journey there are sure to be bumps and challenges, however look at these as opportunities rather than obstacles,” he adds.
“Believe in yourself. Listen to your colleagues and always be prepared to work ‘in’ as well as ‘on’ your business. After all, in the words of former US President Truman “the buck stops here” (with the CEO),” Rob concludes.
Beholding the Future
Rob and his team’s plan for Sedicii is to grow the company’s customer base, alliances and clients. “The aspiration is to have a global network which can harness digital identity and allow it to enable the services we all want, while at the same time protecting our right to privacy and confidentiality,” says Rob.
Sedicii aims to deliver a customer centric experience that future-proofs an individual’s right to privacy while, at the same time, being GDPR compliant, enabling businesses to do what they need to do to provide their customers with services.
“In three years time, our plan is that we will have grown the company to scale and be well on our way to fulfilling the BBVA prediction that Sedicii will transform the financial sector in the next 10 years,” concludes Rob, exhibiting his and his team’s determination and confidence.