Alastair Lukies on the brave new web

09 October 2013 -


The CEO and co-founder of Monitise tells us about the power of Web 2.0, the value of Mobile Money – and the coaching benefits of rugby

Matt Packer

Entering the business world from the realm of rugby, Alastair Lukies is no stranger to highly competitive scrums – training he considers instrumental in steeling him for a rising, leading-edge area of the financial sector.

That area is Mobile Money, which Alastair believes is well on its way to becoming the platform of choice for financial transactions, and in the meantime is having a rapidly transformative effect on how financial organisations do business – along with the crucial turf of customer service.

Alastair spoke about the value of Web 2.0 at the CMI National Management and Leadership Conference on Thursday 10 October 2013. Here, he tells us more about his subject, and his background…

What does Monitise do?

Monitise is a leader in Mobile Money – and by that we mean banking, paying and buying with a mobile device. We work with hundreds of banks, payments companies, retailers and mobile networks to help them provide engaging and indispensible mobile services for their customers. We believe the potential for Mobile Money is vast. As a channel, it is transforming the way we bank and buy. Your smartphone or tablet is always on, you keep it in your bag or your pocket wherever you are. That opens an infinite number of opportunities for people to spend, shop, transfer funds, pay bills and do dozens of other activities around the clock at a time and place convenient to them.

Mobile is also the only channel that bridges the gap between the on and offline worlds: it allows you to be engaging in any type of online activity while still going about your daily life. Our strategic partner Visa Europe predicts that, by 2020, more than half of all Visa transactions in Europe will be made via a mobile device. We’re right at the beginning of a revolution when it comes to Mobile Money.

What is your professional background and how did it lead you to start your own company?

Monitise was founded after I retired from career in rugby due to injury. The initial idea was to link banks and mobile operators, and in doing so empower consumers to manage their finances or make payments directly from their mobile, regardless of where they are, or what time of day it is. I have held fast to that vision as our company has grown into a global business.

You can draw so many parallels between the rugby and sporting world and business. Trusting the rest of the team, targeting your specific area of expertise and having faith that your team members are focusing on theirs are all big areas of common ground. I also think that only you know how hard you train, so you shouldn’t look for other people to rub your back and say you did a great job today. Empathy and humility are critically important too. If you try to do and retain everything you will absolutely fail, so be prepared to share your load, and ultimately the upside.

Tell us about the topic you spoke about at the conference, and why you think it’s important

“Web 2.0”, or the digital age, has transformed our lives as consumers. We are more empowered now than ever before – the views of a single person online can have massive ramifications even for global giants. Greater accessibility to the wider world has led to us being more creative and more clued up. And with this, the world has become flatter, leading to a fundamental change in workplaces across the world. It’s now time for ”Management 2.0” – management styles have got to change and adapt to what’s taking place in the world they operate in. They should reflect the “up-to-the-minute, everything-at-your-fingertips” world that we live in, and harness the benefits it brings for the good of the team and the wider business. 

What single legislative change would you bring in to make managers’ lives easier?

Like most CEOs working in fast-moving industries at the forefront of new technology, I think that we cannot afford to rely heavily on a government actually making our lives easier. That’s a responsibility we must and do take upon ourselves on an hourly and daily basis. That said, making sure that channels of communication between government and the private sector are open and transparent amid the strides being made in technology is important. The government is increasingly paying more attention to the value of collaboration with the private sector, leveraging the power of networks to help businesses win on the global stage.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to be a business leader?

Being amenable to advice is important. You should accept and learn from criticisms from the people you trust and surround yourself with people smarter than you. Get as many good advisers as you can find. Flexibility is important: being able to be adapt an approach to each challenge, either from a business or management point of view, in order to ensure that you get the right outcome.

Who inspires you to achieve and why?

There are many people who are an inspiration to me. I have been supported for a number of years with sound advice from Monitise’s new Chairman, Peter Ayliffe. As the former President and CEO of Visa Europe he oversaw the implementation of a world-class European payments system which now operates across 37 countries and processes a massive 14 billion transactions per annum. I also admire Carphone Warehouse’s Charles Dunstone, Mike Harris of First Direct and Egg and ARM’s Warren East. If you look at Monitise’s advisors and non-executive boards, for a company of our size, we would be the envy of most FTSE 100s. They include Sir Stuart Rose, who has had an incredible career in retail for more than 40 years, Deanna Oppenheimer, former vice chair of Global Retail Banking at Barclays who is recognised globally as one of the decade’s most influential leaders in financial services, and mobile industry veteran Colin Tucker.

David Ogilvy’s view resonates well with me: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”

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