Ken Serdons, chief commercial officer at Dutch payments scaleup Mollie, says he can “easily get bored” and is “quite an impatient person”.
As an example of his impatience, he cites his three years working at consulting giant McKinsey where he worked until 2013, diplomatically saying he found working on long projects a “bit more challenging”.
At Mollie, founded in 2004, Serdons is unlikely to be bored: scaleup life is rarely boring, particularly in the booming, highly competitive payments sector in which Mollie slugs it out against some big-name rivals like PayPal, Stripe and Adyen and legacy players like JP Morgan in the $2 trillion payments market.
Adding to the excitement, Mollie is flourishing its wings beyond payments, into potentially lucrative new financial services, such as cash advancements.
Mollie’s moneyman also does not have a run-of-the-mill deskbound job but gets to hotfoot it around Mollie's European offices as he looks to grow Mollie’s customer and partnership base.
And Belgium-born Serdons is not one for inertia outside of work either, preferring hiking and swimming to putting his feet up.
Serdons, 40, says:
“Startup life is not for everybody. You go through some highs and, of course, there are some difficult times. I like a bit of a chaos every now and again. Every six months at Mollie has been completely different.”
Facts and figures
Today, Amsterdam-based Mollie is a payment unicorn, boasting over 750 employees. Its last public valuation was around $6.5 billion in 2021, amid a buoyant fintech market which has since depressed.
It focuses primarily on the European SME market and has over 200,000 merchant customers including fitness brand Gymshark, online bike brand Veloretti and Amsterdam-based theatre The Royal Theater Carré.
It processes tens of billions of Euros in transaction volumes each year.
It is present in five markets — the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and the UK and has offices in eight cities: Amsterdam, Ghent, Munich, Paris, London, Milan, Lisbon, and Maastricht.
Its annual revenues are growing at around $135 million, but are dwarfed by rivals like Stripe ($14 billion), PayPal ($27.5 billion), and Adyen (€1.3 billion).
Mollie has raised around $930 million to date in funding, including a whopping $880m fundraise in 2021, headed up by Blackstone Growth, Blackstone’s growth equity investing business, with investment also from EQT Growth, General Atlantic Capital, Alkeon Capital and TCV.
Payments is highly competitive, contested by new and legacy players, but Serdons says Mollie has a point of difference.
“We really differentiate because we are mainly focused on Europe and we offer a hyperlocal service. Support, the website, the dashboard and the integration we have are in the local language.”
He says its payment tech is “super simple” compared to spaghetti legacy systems.
And it might sound corny, but Serdons says he wants Mollie to be the most loved payment processor — as an example he points to Mollie’s human-fronted customer service operation.
He says, “I worked for six years in payments in the UK and people really hated their PSPs,” pointing to clunky systems, opaque pricing, and hard-to-reach customer services.
New customers at Mollie, he says, come via in-bounds sales, outbound sales and via its existing partners.
Like Stripe and Adyen, Mollie doesn’t want to be a one-trick pony payment firm, but a broader business bank.
In 2022, it moved into cash advancing courtesy of Mollie Capital, which now has more than 5,000 SME customers, financing over €50 million, Serdons says, who points out cash advances can be green-lighted within 24 hours.
Another new venture is Mollie Terminal, its physical payment terminals, helping its retail customers who have a website and a physical store.
Another piece of recent news emanating out of Mollie late last year was getting a UK Payment Institution licence, underscoring its commitment to the UK, a platform allowing it to launch further business services.
“There is definitely a really important space for Mollie in the UK market, which is still driven by a lot of the old skool players which don’t put the customer first.”
Mollie might even try and go for a UK banking licence in the future, Serdons adds.
“A banking licence comes with a lot of requirements. That is a path that we could take but there are still other options that would explore as well.”
Profitability has been a key theme in fintech in recent times, as startups switch gears from growth at all costs to being in the black.
“I am comfortable that we will be profitable next year."
One indicator of Mollie’s relative health could be the unfreezing of its recruitment freeze (in place during 2022), with the Mollie website now boasting “a lot” of job opportunities.
That said, there have been redundancies at Mollie last year, albeit “not major redundancies”, Serdons adds.
The commercial man
Serdons’ route to joining Mollie was a circuitous one: he got to know about Mollie through one of its first investors (whose twin brother worked with Serdons at McKinsey), subsequently met Mollie founder Adriaan Mol, became a Mollie board member, helped with its Series A funding round, invested in Mollie, then joined full time.
He has been at Mollie now for four and a half years, having previously worked at Paymentsense, Worldpay, and McKinsey.
He is multi-lingual, speaking Flemish, Dutch, English, and French (albeit the latter is not as good as his English), his language skills were honed by his time studying in the US (Harvard Business School) and working in the UK before joining Mollie.
On Mollie founder Mol (the entrepreneur, whose nickname is Mollie, hence the company name, and who is also the brains behind unicorn communications platform MesageBird), he says:
“I think a lot of his vision for simplicity, for great design, still lives through today, he continues to inspire us.”
Typical working day
Describing a typical working day, Serdons says it spans leadership meetings, meeting partners and customers which he cites as the “most enjoyable part of what I do”, managing staff, and getting a handle on product challenges.
“We spend a lot of time building great integrations with partners, for example, the e-commerce platforms like Magento and Shopify.
“And also the local accounting software to really make sure that when you are a business and you use some of these softwares that you can use Mollie because we plug in our data directly into these platforms.
“We have quite a lot of meetings with these partners to establish the partnership but also to make sure the existing partnerships are working as they should.”
With a busy diary, it is hard find to time to take stock, but Serdons says quiet time is key, adding:
“I think it’s really important as a leader that you carve out time in your diary to reflect.”
Lead image: Ken Serdons. Photo: Alexander Sporre.