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Ep 72: The Story Of A Merger Between Two Top Teams with Andrea Linehan

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Introduction: Andrea Linehan is listed as one of the top 30 most influential Marketeers. She is a regular speaker at conferences and universities on subjects such as Marketing, Branding, Financial Inclusion, Social Entrepreneurship, Fintech start-ups/scale-ups and many more. After 10 years in Oman she returned to Ireland to join, as CMO, a FinTech start-up called GRID Finance. After 5 years she joined Currency Fair. Currency Fair Enterprises and Assembly Payments merged in April of 2021 to form the new company called Zai. Andrea holds a BSc(HONS)in Finance and is a Postgraduate of the Chartered Institute of Marketeers. She hold an MBA from Trinity College Dublin and is a Chartered Management Accountant.  


Podcast Episode Summary

This episode explores the Merger of two scale-up companies, Currency Fair Enterprises and Assembly Payments, and the work involved in bringing two top teams together. Conscious of the anaemic success rates of merged entities Andrea shares how her company and especially because of her CEO Paul Byrne, committed the time, multiple workshops across a diverse population of representatives to get aligned on the fundamentals: Purpose, Mission, Vision, Attributes and Personality. This work was completed against a backdrop of business as usual, Covid and the regulatory/legal machinations of combining two entities. Much of the work was completed over zoom. 


Points made over the episode

  • Andrea shares how she started her academic life studying computers but by year three discovered she needed to pivot to Finance and Accounting. 
  • Andrea initially figured she would join one of the big four but after exploring what these entities might mean she joined Aer Rianta and a role in the Middle East 
  • She moved to Oman without a job and quickly found her footing. She found herself too in Oman. She was shaped as a woman and learnt so much about different cultures 
  • Fintech found Andrea. When Andrea returned to Ireland, after 10 Years in the Middle East she was curious to know what direction to take her career. She chose to do an MBA at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. 
  • She was fortuitously introduced to the two founders of a FinTech start-up by her Professor, Eoin O Neill of TCD. 
  • She joined the FinTech company called GRID Finance and worked there for five  years
  • Andrea then shares the story of the merger of FinTech Currency Fair, where she joined as CMO and Assembly Payments, made in part possible by the investment of Standard Chartered Ventures. 
  • The Merger was announced in April 2021. 
  • Andrea describes how the Merger made two scale-ups slow down when so much else about the company was moving at pace. 
  • Two macro forces, The Merger process and Covid meant a lot of moving parts and added complexity. 
  • All of this work was happening over zoom 
  • The two top teams, the task force and many colleagues had to build trust over zoom
  • The success of this process was in large measure down to the willingness of the companies to take the time to form a task group and do the work necessary to peel back the layers to determine what really mattered for each entity in terms of values, mission, visions, attributes &personality 
  • The two companies, Currency Fair and Assembly Payments realised they were enormously aligned.  
  • A proposal made by Andrea to the Board to look at the Branding for the merged entities made these various conversations meaningful and possible. 
  • The process involved bringing the two top teams together along with representatives from both sides of the business from different parts of the business to form a task team. 
  • Importantly the two entities did not go at this work alone and instead brought in an independent expert from Human Dynamics to support the work. 
  • The new company name emerged as Zai. 
  • This first piece of tangible work completed by the two merged entities instilled a lot of confidence for the future. 
  • Andrea shares what the work entailed. 
    • The work to create a Minimum Viable Brand. Work was completed on creating a value set and company characteristics. The Human Dynamic expert, Adam, helped align the values set with a potential North Star or Purpose for the company. 
    • Multiple conversations and workshops were had to iron out inconsistencies, fears, concerns and areas of mistrust.  
    • The members had to be willing to refine their work several times over many workshops and this process, where people showed up and were vulnerable sharing their concerns helped people understand each other’s drivers/motivations, personalities and thinking and helped forge a team identity. 
    • Laughter was a big factor and contributed to the success of the project on zoom. 
    • Time for these workshop was preserved by respecting some non-negotiables included blocking out time, the “Golden Hours” of 7am to 10am in the morning. 
  • After two years of working together via Zoom, Travel to Australia served to foster relationships further. 
  • The Zai Leadership team met in London last week. Despite the obvious distractions of needing to work on a strategy and road map, the team was disciplined enough to spend the majority of time getting to know each other. 
  • The Human Dynamic Expert flew to London to join the team for the week. 
  • The team revisited the Mission, Purpose, Values, work of the previous year to assess it for its currency and fit for purpose. 
  • The team used Hogan Psychometrics to get to understand each other better, to appreciate the gaps in personalities and needs each person had and to consider what that might mean for the team. 
  • Two things stood out as making this work possible. 
  1. The CEO Paul Byrne wholly believes in the work of establishing Vision, Mission, Purpose and Values to build a foundation from which to operate. 
  2. The team itself was hand-picked by Paul for their commitment, passion and interest in working together as a team. 
  • Andrea loves the work of professional development and did not expect to go on a transformational journey of her own. Over the week she was with the top team. she discovered, surprisingly, that she had a trust barrier she did not know existed. 
  • Andrea believes the trust factor on teams unlocks so much. Finding a way to be in conversation with your colleagues about Trust is important. 
  • Andrea did not envisage she would be so proud of the culture that Zai is creating and she is excited to embark on the next piece of work to bring an Employee Brand to life. 
  • The company will certainly be busy in the near future. Zai expects to enter 7/10 new markets. It also expects to develop several new products and to grow its employee base from 200 to 450
  • A busy few years ahead. 

Resources shared 

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