(Listed below is an edited transcript of Trupti Natu's conversation with Dan Carmody)
Dan Carmody: Hi, my name is Dan Carmody and I'm the Executive Director of TreaSolution and in this episode of FinTech Intellects I have Trupti Natu with us today. Trupti is the Head of Disbursement Risk at Uber, and she has a lot of really interesting perspectives and thoughts when it comes to the fintech industry. So welcome, Trupti.
Trupti Natu: Thank you. Looking forward to it.
Dan Carmody: Trupti, you're the Head of Disbursement Risk at Uber. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Sure. I actually took over this title or this job function recently, last October. It's interesting because it's all things risk across Uber... We have multiple lines of business. We have Eats, we have Rides, we have Freight and so on. But on the Disbursement side is when the rubber really hits the road. This is when Uber's bank account money is going out of their bank account to all of our partners. The restaurant partners, equity partners, driver partners, small invoices, big invoices and so on. And as we know, there are always bad actors trying to game the system, exploit loopholes. So if you didn't earn the money on the platform, but we are dispersing that money, then that's a problem that directly hits our bottom line. And that's what we want to stop.
Dan Carmody: That's that's fascinating. Sounds like a really critical job that that Uber has you working on. You mentioned that you just started this job. Was it October? What what were you doing before you were with Uber?
Trupti Natu: That's a great question. I've been with over for over three years now. I started as a founding member of Uber Eats Risk. Eats was at the best state, in my opinion, when I started, which was nascent, still start-upy, very hustle-y. But Uber was stable enough, like the Ride business was stable enough. So it was like a nice startup nestled inside a known established stable home. I started with the risk for Uber Eats and I was doing that up until last October and then my scope expanded to across lines of businesses but more focus on disbursements.
Dan Carmody: It sounds just by your description that you really like the startup phase. Is that an accurate statement?
Trupti Natu: I think that's a good way to describe it. I like the Zero to One space. I like the challenge of building something new and being a little bit of hustle-y there and having that creative freedom to have your own stamp on it. So I thrive in that environment and that was perfect for me when I first started with Uber.
Dan Carmody: It's my understanding with with smaller organizations, especially on the startup side, you have to bring a lot of hats to the table, if you will. So not only are you bringing in this this risk management hat, but I presume that you were being asked to do other things from a strategy perspective. Is, is that true?
Trupti Natu: That is accurate. And I think that's what appeals to me, to be honest. When you ask me "Why you seem to gravitate towards startups like Zero to One" then yes. I think that's what a lot of people are really not comfortable, they want to know exactly their job description and what their boundaries are. I'm the opposite. I like the grey areas. There is room to play multiple roles. Absolutely right, starting up, I was playing multiple roles and wearing different hats. It wasn't necessarily analytic, it wasn't necessarily data science, sometimes you have to collaborate with Ops (operations) people, sit with stakeholders, collaborate with engineers a lot and figure out where the bugs are in our system and so on. Do your deliveries yourself, be the eater on one side and see what is going on. What drives you to ask for a refund? When you charge back what happens? What is your experience and so on. So it was it was interesting. But I learned a lot actually and the people that I was collaborating with were also great and the best at their job, so to speak. So that also makes you bring your A game to the table and everyone benefits from that. So it was just an incredible experience.
Dan Carmody: You're you're currently working at the Head of Disbursement Risk at Uber, which is a high strategy position. I'm sure it's very critical. How did you how did you get to this point? I know obviously through our discussions and your LinkedIn profile, you have a master's degree from Carnegie Mellon University in management information systems. So can you tell us a little bit about that path from Carnegie Mellon to where to where you are today?
Trupti Natu: I have been somehow my entire career has been in the fintech space. After CMU, I was at this boutique consulting firm called Argus Information. So they did credit card, they still do actually, card benchmarking and credit card data insight. So that's where I first, believe it or not, got hooked into (fintech), And this is a niche space, you know, yourself being so deep into this space. Either you like it or you don't. It could be very boring and mathematical and all that for some people. I just absolutely loved it. And somehow I'm grateful enough that my career kept of having those links in some in my future roles as well. So from credit cards, it was gift cards with Amazon and so on. Risk is kind of part of fintech. When you have money moving, there is a huge element of risk. I just had personally never worked in risk per se. So when Uber came to me with this opportunity, I like to always say "Uber took a risk on me and I took a risk with going into risk." But it just worked out because if you look at it today, with everything more digital, risk, privacy, security, trust and safety, PII data, cyber security and all that. It becomes so much critical to any business that I'm just lucky where I'm at. But there was no conscious effort. It's just like one thing led to another and somehow I found my way back into FinTech and got deeper into it.
Dan Carmody: Sure. But you have you have experience with within large organizations and you've worked with American Express saying eBay and and Amazon prior to Uber. Is that's correct?
Trupti Natu: Amazon was in 2014. So actually, that was my first stint into the tech world, so to speak. So Amazon moved me from New York, which I still like. And it was a hard decision, but I think it was the right decision. I have a CS undergrad, so I guess I gravitated towards that anyways and I wanted to be with the like minded people. So I'm very grateful that I did that moved into tech with Amazon.
Dan Carmody: Nice. Have you have you noticed that your your leadership style has changed or evolved over the years? And if so, what do you think some of those main catalysts are for that evolution?
Trupti Natu: That's actually a great question. So I have managed before Uber, but it's so different. I feel like Uber, I always say is a very different (company). Maybe it's the times that we're in or it's the start-upy culture that we still have. It's great, though. I started with Uber as an IC and I'm grateful for that because when I had a team, I knew exactly how to coach them (having) live that life. And that's a good way to earn respect and trust from your team members as well. The kind of people that we attract at Uber have a great entrepreneurial spirit and the great Type-A and builders and Go-getters and things. Which is great. But it's also that means you need to earn their trust in order for them to fully be comfortable with you and respect you and so on. So I'm not like making a blanket statement, but I feel like that helped me a lot, getting my hands dirty and going into the weeds and then taking a step back to guide them. So in that way, to answer your question, I would say my leadership style has changed in the sense that I would rather like to get to know as much as possible how I would do it so I can better coach my team members. The other thing I would say is this is not just Uber, but in general, I feel like getting to know your team members and in general breaking that ice beyond just like offsites is when you're really going to understand what's in it for them and how you can better coach these folks to get to the next level and challenge them. Like like I always say, "If you always give what they want, that's one way to do it but you have to that may not be a challenging opportunity for them." So convincing them what they probably first came up to you saying "This is not what I wanted to do." is where your real skills come into (the) picture.
Dan Carmody: Sure. I mean, that sounds really similar to what you mentioned earlier in our in our talk here, where you said "You took a risk on Uber, but Uber took a risk on you." So you were both probably seeing something that each other hadn't seen and realized something bigger and greater because of that.
Trupti Natu: That's that's a good way you kind of summed it up.
Dan Carmody: So let's let's talk a little bit about politics in general within corporations. Do you have any tips or strategies on how to handle inner office politics?
Trupti Natu: My my advice is observe it and be mindful of it so you're not blindsided, but try to not get involved or don't be the Genesis it. Don't be that the start of it. That's one way to do it. And one of my mentors has always said which is 1.) Customer 2.) Company 3.) Team and the 4.) Self. If you go by that mantra, then no matter what decisions you are making, at least you know what framework you're using. And what happens most times in politics is people put themselves first, then their team, and it's always the "Us versus Them" factor. If you always drive your decisions and question your decisions as to "Is this good for the customer?", then "Is it good for their company?", then the team and the self last. Then I think you will continue making good decisions. And the other thing I would say is transparency. If you have a transparent and honest style, I think you people will gravitate towards that style and you will win regardless in the in the long game.
Dan Carmody: It sounds like really innovative advice. And you mentioned that your mentor taught that to you. Can you tell us a little bit about the roles that mentors have played throughout your career?
Trupti Natu: So I have one that I always followed, his advice I got at Amazon, who was just leaving the team, some of my managers or managers peers have been really good mentors that I still seek advice. But the best mentor / mentee relationship is what happens organically. You just see someone at a certain position and you're like, "I would love to be there" or "I love how this person conduct themselves in meetings" or what they have done with their career or how they've handled their team, so on. Whatever attracts you to that persona. And I think if (the mentorship) clicks then those are the mentors that you will have for life.
Dan Carmody: It's great. So let's talk about younger professionals, maybe students that are an undergrad or in graduate school that are looking to enter into the fintech field. What advice would you have for them if they wanted to get more involved in fintech company?
Trupti Natu: There's a lot of disruptive fintechs and opportunities out there. But if it doesn't speak to you.. Like math or stats or CS or something like economics. Don't force yourself just because fintech is hot right now and every other startup is getting funded. That's good. But you won't go that far if it just doesn't speak to. But if it does, don't shy away and think oh I want to do something else because this looks very back end-y and it just stats and P&L. Just give it a try. It takes a while. But once you try it, if you like it, stick with it and you'll be successful.
Dan Carmody: And one of the observations that I've seen in the industry is it's not just purely technical. There's a lot of creative minded people in fintech, whether it be from the marketing side or business development side. So not all finance oriented people or CS oriented people behind the scenes doing the all of the coding. You have a lot of front end and creative minds that are in the industry also pushing it forward. That's at least been my observation.
Trupti Natu: Well said. I think that's a great observation. So you're absolutely right. I think you can be working for something like Venmo think about what they did with just emojis and it became such a big (thing). So you could be a designer there and it's still part of fintech and you're still trying to create that awareness. But it has nothing to do with the math or what we kind of associate with it (fintech). So, yeah, that's a great observation. There's something for everybody in there.
Dan Carmody: Yeah, it's definitely an ecosystem in the sense that it's greater than just finance and technology, even though that's the genesis of the fintech name, if you will. So let's talk about that a little bit more. I'd love to hear your opinions about the current state of fintech. What do you think is exciting now? Where do you think the greatest innovations are happening now in FinTech?
Trupti Natu: I might be slightly biased, now that I'm into disbursements, but I feel like disbursement hasn't been disrupted as much as the acceptance side of things. Now, this might sound like jargons, but if you think about a market place, initially, all the disruption or the focus was "How do I get the money from my end customers?" So there was a lot of like, oh, we accept credit cards or we accept one touch, we accept ApplePay, now we also have added GooglePay, Amazon was trying to get into that space and so on. So there's enough there. And obviously I can see why. But now, as things are going more global, there's the gig economy side of things. And you could have a startup or even a medium sized business where you have a designer sitting somewhere in Korea. You have your engineering team is somewhere in, say, Philippines or different places basically. So you have to pay them someway. So that's where the disbursements side of things comes (into play). So global invoices and things like that. So that part of things hasn't been disruptive enough as much as (payment) acceptance. So that's one area I feel like there will be a lot of innovation coming, especially as we are going more and more global and having gig and short work and so on.
Dan Carmody: Yeah, I, I think the payment space is terribly innovative now and there is a lot of competitors trying to look at a bunch of different payment rails in addition to the whole crypto space. If you bring that on board, there's just a ton of innovation happening across the system. So I agree with you. I think on the disbursement side, there is a lot of innovation happening there and a lot of disruption that that will be happening in the near future.
Trupti Natu: There is definitely opportunity to make it more regulated... invoicing, reporting and the gamut of things. So there's a lot happening there.
Dan Carmody: So let's be a little bit more forward focused now. We were just talking about sort of the current fintech space. Let's look into the future 5 and 10, maybe 15 years out. What does that environment look like to you? Are there are the big macro areas that you would focus on or that you personally are interested in pursuing. Can you speak to that to any degree?
Trupti Natu: I know Crypto and all that comes a lot to mind, but that was also, if you think about it, a few years back and maybe now is it's time to shine. So that might happen. We might start paying a lot more with Crypto So that might become mainstream.
Dan Carmody: That's one of the areas why I like the space and I know you like this spaces because of the innovations that are consistently happening here. This has been a really great conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time to sort of walk us through your career path and your opinions on fintech and where it is and where it might be going. I know that you're a speaker at the upcoming US Fintech Symposium. If this is any preview of the content and quality of the knowledge that you're bringing to the table, I really can't wait to see that presentation in person. So Trupti thank you so much for your time and joining me today in this conversation and I hope you have a great day. Thanks so much.
Trupti Natu: Thank you for the great questions. And thank you for the opportunity. Thanks.
Dan Carmody: My pleasure. Take care.
Trupti Natu: Take care.
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