Purpose — Have something that drives you and something to work for. It doesn’t always have to be some grandiose goal. Many times we take pride in the purpose of helping the back office personnel who are stressed and struggling to get that small peace of mind.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Fischer.
Justin Fischer is CEO and Co-Founder of RiskScout, a leading company helping financial institutions bank higher risk businesses such as Hemp, CBD, Cannabis, MSB, Private ATMs, Crypto, and many more. Small to medium-sized businesses in higher-risk and specialty markets are not able to access financial services because many providers lack the resources, expertise, or infrastructure to expand their business portfolio into higher-risk markets. This compliance barrier leaves many hard-working entrepreneurs and community businesses without the financial services they need to grow. By helping financial institutions solve complex compliance with technology solutions, RiskScout helps local businesses in higher-risk markets find a community partner that they can trust.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
My family is from a small town in South Texas and we have a lot of Texas history. One side of my family was farmers for generations until the mid-90s, and the other side was traced back to the original settlers with Stephen F. Austin and part of the Texas Revolution as scouts.
For me, I split time between Austin and in South Texas, getting the best of both worlds. South Texas offered me small-town culture, outdoors, ranch, and farm life. Austin offered me a great education and high-tech opportunities as the town has gone on to become “Silicon Hills.”
I spent 20 years working in FinTech helping “Main Street” financial institutions improve their services and offerings to stay competitive with the dominant “Wall Street” institutions. Community financial institutions play a key role in our economy.
I met so many community businesses that were positively impacted by their local community financial institutions. I also met the people in these FIs who were hyper-motivated to help but also struggling with technological change and regulations.
I’ve always been someone who understands a problem and translates it into a technology or process solution. Anytime I can use this to help people or organizations, I’m going to do it.
It’s very rewarding to see the impact our work has made. When I see a small business able to get the financial services to pay their people and make a living, it’s really rewarding.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Most financial institutions (FIs) won’t venture into new markets because they are unknown and can be daunting. We help these FIs learn and deploy solutions to help underbanked, higher-margin businesses that most banks won’t service. Many of these businesses are considered taboo or higher risk like Cannabis-Related, Money Service Businesses, Independent ATMs, and Crypto. It’s all about understanding the requirements, having a proper plan, and then leveraging technology to execute.
Not only is this new and different but it’s very opportunistic as the demand is greatly outstripping the supply of FIs. After the pandemic, FIs need new markets and growth opportunities while leveraging existing teams and resources. The pandemic has also proven that FIs need to find more ways to offer online services and not depend so heavily on the physical branch.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is on one of those lists of manners and gentlemen actions.
Always DRY your hands.
I relentlessly wash my hands throughout the day. During a conference, I emerged from the restroom and hadn’t thoroughly dried my hands when a new prospect came up and reached out to shake hands. We both gritted through a very awkward shake as it was obvious that I just came from the restroom.
So, along with Always Make Eye Contact and Stand During Introductions, you should always Dry Your Hands before exiting the restroom. A breath mint doesn’t hurt either 😉
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I was barely 18 and doing Oracle consulting for a local firm, and the head of IT, our boss, asked me to come to his office. I thought I was in trouble but he actually asked for advice on new web technology. Then he said, “One day I’ll work for you and it will be great.” He was one of my best mentors, always helping me to learn business dynamics and technology.
I’d also say my mom was a big inspiration as she showed me that being an entrepreneur was possible. She worked hard to help us have opportunities even though we were a low-income household.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
In our disruption, the positive impact is helping businesses get banking services and the FI to grow. But some disruptors working in these industries are using technology to enable illicit behavior and this creates problems for the whole industry. For instance, processing Cannabis THC transactions in the US is illegal, but some are offering payment options that bounce transactions internationally or mask the seller and goods. This just plays into the potential risks with Cannabis THC fraud, and a similar thing is happening in Crypto.
As disruptors, we need to create innovative solutions and also be an advocate for doing things the right way. Break the status quo, not the law.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
I’m a fan of Daniel Pink’s studies and books. I believe the key to fostering a positive and productive company culture is to listen and help employees explore their interests and develop them. You have to provide 3 key needs once you have satisfied the base comp and benefits:
- Autonomy — Hire great people and get out of their way. There’s no time or place for micromanagement. I also encourage everyone to have disagreements in open discourse. As we say, 100% agreement is not expected, 100% commitment is. Everyone’s perspective has merit.
- Mastery — Everyone has something they want to get better at. Managers need to help their staff find pathways to learn and improve. Many times this changes and a good reason managers should have a regular cadence of this dialogue.
- Purpose — Have something that drives you and something to work for. It doesn’t always have to be some grandiose goal. Many times we take pride in the purpose of helping the back office personnel who are stressed and struggling to get that small peace of mind.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We are just getting started helping these financial institutions and the businesses they serve. There are so many things we can do within the worlds of services and technology.
You’ll see us innovating the compliance requirements in ways no one else has done and for additional FI types such as lenders, insurance, and merchant processors. We will leverage technology to make more real-time decisions and automation to reduce overhead on both parties.
Our goal is to get compliance to work at the speed of innovative businesses.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
I’m a business and psychology junkie so there are so many like ‘Nudge,’ and ‘Thinking Fast and Slow,’ and I’m loving books from TechStars authors like Levers.
However, there is one book and concept that has completely changed my life and business perspectives. It’s called The Anatomy of Peace, or the sister book, Leadership, and Self-Deception.
The simple story is that many of us are competitive and thrive in a meritocracy, but this can create internal competition within companies. In doing so, people, such as your co-workers, can become obstacles instead of teammates. This book talks about these concepts in a fun fictional narrative and drives you to think about how you can humanize every interaction over short-term “wins.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is from my Dad. It’s “Never do anything half-assed.”
In a multi-tasking world, it’s hard to give something your full attention, whether it’s a task, a project, or even bigger. I think it’s important to do your homework but then fully commit to what you need to accomplish. Anything less is dishonest to the initiative.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement, I think I would want people to commit one random act of kindness and then reflect in their hearts how it makes them feel. We go through life assuming everything is an obstacle and we miss the part where people are human.
- Did something happen at work that negatively impacted you? Someone probably had a bad day or an impossible deadline.
- Did the person at the cash register charge you too much? An honest mistake.
- Did someone treat you negatively without cause? It’s almost always due to something happening in their life.
I think we would be surprised if everyone took a moment to be kind, listen to the other person, and pass it on. It could spread like a wildfire.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can visit our official website, www.riskscout.com, to find out about our solutions for higher-risk commercial markets and what we are up to.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!