Finalis is a fintech startup whose beginning maps almost precisely with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that began wreaking havoc all over the world, in early 2020. Founder Federico Baradello launched the company in April of that year, just as whole countries started shutting down from the viral scourge that began spreading a couple of months earlier.
A lot of thoughtful essays and articles have been written about how companies and their work culture have had to adjust to the normalization of remote work as a consequence of Covid-19; and then also about hybrid work, as the pandemic began easing up worldwide. But these narratives have been about established companies, for the most part. For Finalis and a few other tech other startups whose story arc began simultaneously with the advent of a historic plague the likes of which humanity hadn’t seen in over a century, the tale is a bit more interesting.
Challenges of generating a remote-first company
First of all, Finalis was from the start a 100% remote-work company, and that its workforce was intentionally designed to be global in nature, with employees in the U.S. and Latin America to start with, but eventually including those in Europe and Asia. These facts made the story of its culture-building—in a time of lockdowns and remote-work by default—a bit more textured and nuanced, than for previously established, and geographically homogenous firms. There were unique challenges and opportunities at hand for the startup (to be explored in Part 2 of this series).
In the bigger picture, the Finalis work-culture story isn’t that much different from any other company or enterprise that has had to quickly adjust to these fraught times. But in a few ways, it’s been somewhat different for our plucky young startup. Assuming from the get-go that we would all be working remotely, Finalists (as we call ourselves) take to our virtual work as the norm from whenever Day 1 is, for any given employee or team member—from the Founder/CEO on down throughout the company. The virtual work scaffolding is set from the start, with the flexibility (and yes, sometimes difficulty) that yields.
The exogenous, black-swan events of the past three years—from the Covid-19 pandemic, to Russia’s attempted annexation of Ukraine in early 2022, to the global recession and inflationary economics that year, to the financial tremors of Q1 2023 as a consequence of bank failures in the U.S.—have defined an era that is without precedent. And despite all that, the company’s steady growth, in an unsexy investment banking niche—regulatory compliance—that is under-appreciated and often overlooked, has belied this incredibly 'interesting’ and challenging era. It does beg a question: exactly what has Finalis done, and achieved, in terms of its company culture, that has allowed it to grow in such perilous times?
From 0 to 90: creating Finalis work culture
Part of the reason for that survival, and even thriving, has been the strength and dynamism of that work culture. While still not very large at some 90 employees to date, Finalists from all over the world work together with and towards a common purpose—even as the very variety of its teams poses a practical and daunting challenge to circling around that purpose: these include teams in Capital Markets, Compliance, Customer Success, Finance, Growth/Sales, Legal, Marketing, Operations/People, P&E. Finalis is now a product-driven company, but with a deep strand of human-in-the-loop functions through its compliance and legal teams.
What we call the “FinalisOS” is the product at the heart of client use and platform interaction, but in the core of that software heart is to be found the human experts and supervisors in our compliance supervision and ops teams. The delicate dance between human-mediated regulatory compliance supervision and a 21st-century, tech-enabled, cloud-based product, has defined the ground on which the culture of Finalis has taken root, and begun to grow.
Accountability in our work has been the sine qua non for success in it, over these past few years since launch. Firing on all cylinders, Finalis’ teams have been waging a pitched battle* in this bootstrapping effort to revolutionize investment banking as we know it—to genuinely democratize the industry by providing the sort of opportunities to middle markets investment bankers and financial professionals heretofore available only to those in bulge-bracket banks or large and established institutions.
For the story on exactly how we have done this, come back for Part 2 of this series. Stay tuned!