HuB Spotlight: Avani Ajmera Shares How Passion Meets Vocation in Her Role as Finance Director
Who would have thought that an introvert with a degree in AB Psychology and a BSC in Marketing; who is very passionate about the arts, and almost pursued a professional career in Dance would end up to be the power house closer that Brankas is very proud of.
This month, we feature Krizelle Lazatin, our go-getter Human of Brankas (HuB) who is responsible for leading and pushing our Sales and Business Development efforts to new heights.
Krizelle is the youngest and the only girl of 3 kids. Her dad was a banker and her mom was a professional folk dancer before taking on the Real Estate industry as an independent broker.
Kich grew up with a love for the arts, especially dance. She was exposed to dancing quite early on and has always had it in her life, in fact, her partner is a professional dancer too! These days, She tries to catch as many dance shows and classes as she can and spends a lot of virtual time with a community of dancer friends. When she’s not busy closing deals for Brankas, Kich tries to experience other cultures through travel.
Before dominating Tech and Startup, Kich established her career as a B2B Sales Specialist for the Fast-moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Petroleum industries. In this article, Kich talks about the important lessons she has unlocked, her life at Brankas, and the valuable open banking services that are emerging for the Philippine Fintech industry.
Background and career
Did you have any childhood inkling or experience that gave you a peek at what your career would be?
Honestly, I never imagined I would actually pursue a sales career; for a time, I considered pursuing a medical or law degree since these were major interests for me when I was younger (I soon realized otherwise). I think the first indicator of a potential career in sales was when I became a batch representative in school for my senior year– it brought out the extrovert in me and allowed me to be comfortable engaging with people. In college, I also pursued Psychology because I was also very interested in observing and studying behavior, and pursued Marketing since it involved studying consumer behavior from the business side. However, I ended up pursuing Sales because I realized that being in the field was the place I could be exposed to as many people & circumstances and immediately apply my learnings.
How do you think your background has prepared you for success today?
I think my sales exposure to different industries allowed me to have a broader perspective and meet different people, allowing me to adapt to different kinds of environments and circumstances. Because I interact with people everyday as part of the job, I’m able to observe and listen to requirements and respond uniquely to each customer, allowing me to enhance my stakeholder management skills. It also allowed me to build and work on my soft skills.
Additionally, despite being the youngest and an only girl, I was raised to become independent and to be a quick thinker. Being immersed in the arts and sports growing up also exposed me to different circumstances/people, allowing me to learn quickly and creatively–a skill which I’m still able to maximize today. My undergraduate studies also contributed in helping me build the right mindset for approaching different situations.
What is the most interesting job you have had so far?
Honestly, every job has been interesting! While I’ve been doing Sales/Business Development/Account Management/Territory Management for the last decade, each industry has always something unique to offer because the role always demands something new of me, and every industry requires a different perspective. I’m always selling, but I’m always selling something new so it’s always challenging and interesting.
On B2B Sales and Selling Pioneering Open Banking Technology
What do you think is the best thing about being a woman who can close a deal?
I think the best thing is being able to show how we can make things happen and deliver results despite being stereotyped as emotional, indecisive, weak, dependent,etc. I’m proud to show that these things are not always true, and if they do apply on some occasions, they are never blockers for women to achieve success.
What are the challenges you face as a Sales Manager in Tech?
I think misconceptions about technology remain the biggest challenges. Sometimes clients associate technology with complexity, expecting extremely innovative features, but technology can simply mean enhancing existing processes and innovation can mean further simplifying something for better results. There are also some clients/industries that get overwhelmed by the concept of technology and often worry about the implications, especially on usage, on security, on risk, and even on how that impacts their roles so there’s a tendency to avoid it altogether, for as long as they can. Occasionally, there are also clients that are way ahead of their time and want to enable things but remain to have limited options because of regulations/dependencies on current market infrastructure. As a Sales Manager in FinTech, there’s a lot of educating that needs to happen on your end so that your clients can appreciate the value proposition of the specific technology.
What advice and essential skills would you give to others looking to break into the field of Fintech sales?
Like with any industry, you must be willing to learn and research about the trends and familiarize yourself with what would be relevant to your target market in relation to the products you are selling. Sometimes, the demand for learning requires “unlearning” as well— in my case, my prior sales experience in the commodity sector usually meant probing for what they need, but in Fintech that may not always be the case because technology is always evolving, and sometimes clients don’t know what is out there/what they actually need. If you also don’t have any experience in Fintech, don’t fret! Experience is always an advantage but sometimes entering with a blank slate can be equally favorable since the Fintech industry is an evolving and innovative sector where fresh perspectives are always welcome.
What are some key differences between selling a Fintech product compared to selling FMCG products? (from your experience at Kimberly-Clark)
Working as B2B sales in the Commodity industry is great because there’s a high demand for it. As basic goods, there will always be a need for it; there’s enough product knowledge in terms of what they’re going to be used for. That being said, it’s also harder to differentiate between commodities (i.e. why I should get Brand A or Brand B, or what makes Product A better than Product B) because they lean towards basic functionality and there’s only so much you can innovate with these types of goods. The industry is also very price-sensitive so even with great sales, achieving great margins can be challenging.
With selling Fintech products, it’s easier to customize and tailor a product towards a specific need and create more value with features. Of course, the key difference is that many people don’t always know what they need in terms of innovation or might be intimidated by these solutions. Some are more conventional and choose to stay within their comfort zones to avoid being overwhelmed by technology, so it really requires aiding them with how a fintech product would support them, not compete with them. Depending on the target industry as well, some see “Fintech products” as a luxury rather than a need so they tend to park opportunities unless a specific requirement arises or forces them into it, such as the pandemic.
Open Banking being a new technology and a completely new way of accessing financial services, how do you manage to educate customers?
I always aim to educate by focusing on the value behind the technology. While there will always be technical terminologies that will not be easy to explain, I think it’s critical to demonstrate how these tech products work as tools to ultimately benefit the business–what pain points are addressed, what results are delivered and what things are made easier or simpler at the end of the day. I also try to provide real-world scenarios to help decision makers visualize how open banking technology would change their internal process flows or their end-user’s journey.
Working at Brankas
How did you learn about Brankas and what made you decide to join?
After joining the Fintech industry in 2017, I came to learn about the different challenges and limitations of the current industry. It seemed that despite the rise and availability of new technology in this sector and banks being willing to explore synergies, there were always challenges to integration or implementations on both sides. When someone referred me to the Brankas opportunity and I came to learn more about Brankas, I was drawn to the open banking concept because I saw how Brankas aimed to support across the supply side (bank ) and the demand side (third party/Fintech providers) to address many of the concerns in the industry. I appreciated the Brankas vision of being an enabler in building that financial ecosystem to make these synergies happen. Additionally, I felt that the Brankas product portfolio was very dynamic and applicable to several industries.
What was your first signed deal?
My first signed deal was with a renowned payment gateway last July. It was such a sweet win because I received the signed deal on the last day of the month, which for any salesperson is always exhilarating! I’m also particularly proud of it because the turnaround time for that deal was relatively short at about a month, which is relatively quick for selling fintech products.
What is your favorite Brankas product and why?
My favorite product is Direct because it’s a simple product that provides so many benefits across many industries. It’s a straightforward product but addresses the most common pain points of companies in payments. It’s also a huge stand out to what exists in the market (payment gateway model), so it’s easier to highlight the benefits and value.
As a remote-first company with employees spread across the globe, how are you able to foster collaboration and efficiency at Brankas?
I do my best to foster collaboration and efficiency by maximizing my available communication channels such as Slack, emails and conference calls. I try to remain open and approachable for questions and am willing to share my experiences and insights to colleagues. I also try to seek out and learn from the team as much as I can since many of them have great insights. Occasionally, I join and participate in the online social activities hosted by Human Resources so that I can get to know the people beyond their respective roles/expertise.
What do you think sets Brankas apart from previous organizations you have been a part of?
I think the remote-first company approach is definitely a standout, not just because of the flexibility but because it indicates the results-oriented outlook of the company, rather than the usual corporate set up. By being a remote-first company, Brankas also demonstrates the trust to their employees to find the best way to contribute value to the team and be creative in pursuing collaboration in the “virtual/remote” workplace.
Where will you be leading the Brankas team in the next 12 months?
I hope to continue leading the Brankas team towards more engagements with different types of clients– from banks, to wallets, e-commerce, and other industries–and provide avenues to develop and innovate our existing portfolio. I’m happy to have the opportunity to tap into different sectors and hope to continue contributing in making Brankas a respected leader in Open Banking in SEA.
Are you interested in a career in fintech? Join the Brankas team
Brankas is bringing Open Banking to Southeast Asia. Our vision is to make modern financial services available to everyone.