With over 25 years experience in financial sales and marketing, contract negotiation and establishing new business sales operations in new markets, Oliver Hugh-Jones joins Modex as European Head of Sales. We’ve asked Oliver what it takes to become a top sales management professional, what do you need in order to conclude a successful contract negotiation and which is the right mindset for young entrepreneurs.
Motivated by challenging circumstances such as start-up opportunities or turn-around situations within an existing business, Oliver joins Modex’s team of professionals based in London. Well-referenced, well connected, confident, articulate and with the ability to quickly establish peer level rapport and engagement with sophisticated buyers, Oliver has worked for some of the most important companies in the industry: most recently, Digital Asset and previously, FIS/SunGard, Fidessa, Tradeweb and other start-ups technology firms.
Let’s start with the early years. Which is the environment you grew up in and how did it shape your personality?
I was brought up in London with my father who was a doctor, my mother an anthropologist and my brother who went on to study medicine. I have always been taught to question and research information and not just accept what has been said.
Give us a few details about your career achievements, so far.
I graduated University with a degree in Estate Management and Finance and went into Real Estate as a Surveyor. After three years I realised that I wanted to get into the city and sales and was lucky enough to find a small French company that hired me as their first salesperson. Cold calling FX traders for the first 6 months was a baptism by fire. I didn’t know anything about FX and FX traders are about as tough as you can get!
That business was sold to Reuters and I joined Fidessa in 1998 and was shortly after, posted to New York to start their US sales operations. New York was amazing. Trading systems were still relatively immature and Fidessa didn’t have any clients in the US. We had to build the business from zero. I’m proud to say that when I left, Fidessa had become the dominant trading platform for equities.
Establishing new business sales operations in new markets. How hard is this to do, for a professional from this field, and which qualities he/she must have in order to succeed?
I have always believed that people buy from people and trust is a key element. If clients trust that you understand them and that you are working in their interests and you want them to succeed, then selling becomes much easier. Clearly you need the right software or service as well as great support, but understanding the client is essential.
How about contract negotiation? What do you need, as a professional, in order to succeed in this area?
Clients want to work with companies that can deliver a successful implementation of whatever they buy. Of course, clients have budgets, but success in implementing transformation projects that helps the clients differentiate themselves is key. If you take the approach of working as partners with a collective responsibility to deliver a successful project and not as just client / vendor, then I have always found contract negotiation to run more smoothly.
Why did you decide to join Modex? What do you appreciate the most about this company, its people and products?
I’ve learned a lot over the last 24 months about the DLT and the blockchain world. Like any new technology, there is a path to adoption, and we are still a way off blockchain being widely adopted and easy to implement. The Modex approach changes the way we have looked at blockchain in the past and fast tracks adoption.
By wrapping all of the great attributes of blockchain without requiring any blockchain specialists means that companies can quickly adopt key attributes like immutability, confidentiality and a shared single source of truth into their existing technology stack. That’s a massive boost to companies looking to enhance their existing systems.
Speaking about blockchain and blockchain-based solutions, where do you see the industry in 5 years time as compared to now?
It took many years from the inception of the Internet, main frames, the PC and other technologies that we now take for granted to become widely adopted. With innovations like Modex Blockchain Database (BCDB), the ability to simplify the technology will lead to greater adoption. I see elements of blockchain being used widely in 5 years from now, but it won’t be with the early tech companies who have struggled to show competitive advantage of blockchain over traditional tech. That’s where Modex has an edge.
How about FinTech? Where do you think this industry will be heading next?
I think it’s fair to say that almost every part of the financial markets is becoming more ‘fintech’. I don’t think we’ll see as much of a separation between financial and technology firms as banks and financials adapt to new technology and use technology to innovate. I see FinTech generally being pretty healthy as the world adapts to more online transactions and payments.
Do you believe in cashless societies? If yes, we – as consumers – will get there sooner or later? Or will cash always be around and won’t disappear?
There are so many advantages of a cashless society and to a large extent we are already there in most of the Western world and Asia. Research shows that the less cash there is in circulation, the less corruption there is, so the benefits for emerging countries are obvious.
If you look at payment technologies such as M-pesa you immediately see how millions have gone from being ‘unbanked’ to being able to transact online with the most basic of mobile devices. I don’t think we’ll see cash disappear for some time yet, but many Central Banks are already looking at how they will meet the needs of future digital economies, supporting cross-border payments and how to improve the availability and usability of central bank money.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to make their mark?
If you are sure of your idea or product, don’t let others put you down!
In your free time, what keeps you busy? Which are your hobbies?
I have two boys, 11 and 13 years old, so I have a pretty full time managing them, but I also have an amazing wife who juggles work and looking after the children as well. When I have time, I love to cycle, sail and kitesurf. I used to skydive and fly, but my family put an end to extreme sports.