Podcast - Interview with Clay Wilkes, CEO, Galileo
Part of our special series of episodes that we're recording in partnership with the European PR Agency, Tyto, and their own Without Borders podcast, this interview is with Clay Wilkes, CEO, Galileo
Clay Wilkes, CEO of the global payments processing platform Galileo joined Russell Goldsmith and Tyto's founder, Brendon Craigie online from Utah in the US, to record an interview for the csuite podcast’s special series on unicorn companies, in partnership with Tyto PR.
Brendon Craigie (top left) and Russell Goldsmith (top right) chat online to Clay Wilkes
Clay explained that Galileo provides API access to a robust core banking technology, which allows their clients to run and manage enterprise grade banking offerings. They support 70 out of the top 100 most valuable fintech companies around the globe including companies such Chime, RobinHood, Transfer Wise, Varo, Monzo, Revolut, Remitly, SoFi and many others.
He said they’re providing the technology stack behind it all and in terms of the direction of the company, the combination with SoFi has allowed them to bring the two companies together.
When asked about Galileo’s acquisition by SoFi for $1.2 billion in April, Clay said the discussions that were going on between Galileo and SoFi were occurring in March 2020 and the markets were in meltdown.
He explained that the public equities markets had hit 30 percent deceleration and it was a time of uncertainty so to be able to consummate the transaction was an important milestone for Galileo, but more importantly, for their clients and for SoFi.
Clay explained that in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic there were quite a few changes. He explained that Galileo has grown dramatically and just being able to manage the internal component of that growth in terms of bringing on new employees has been interesting and challenging. However, he said they've been able to adapt and do it successfully.
Clay explained that from an offerings’ perspective, Galileo powers, at least in North America, 95 percent of all digital banking. He said digital banking, during the pandemic has seen unbelievable growth and Galileo has been powering that and been a big part of it, he said that's been the most exciting thing specific to the pandemic.
Galileo have recently brought on board a new CTO, Jeff Currier, and Clay said it's tremendous to have him aboard. He explained that Jeff was actually at SoFi and SoFi was a client of Galileo before the combination and that he brings a lot of maturity, also deep and rich technical understanding and knowledge which has been a great addition to the management team.
In terms of raising awareness of Galileo and differentiating themselves, Clay explained they focused on guerrilla tactics, such as having the individuals in the company interact with the market in a one-on-one sort of way.
He said that early on they were going through growth and they needed to be able to get the message out about who Galileo is and what they do. He explained that it wasn’t easy in start-up mode and trying to make a name for themselves was a matter of persistence, they took a slow, deliberate approach to their growth and fortunately, it paid off.
Clay explained that in terms of building the company culture, it was key for them to define the Galileo core values and to really focus their company and its mission around what they believed in. He said leadership plays a key part of it and has been a big part of what they’ve done culturally.
Clay added that the Galileo Foundation is another key part and it's just an affirmation of their core values. He said the inspiration behind the Galileo Foundation was allowing employees, clients and other contacts or associates of the company to get out into the world and to do something for somebody else.
He explained that in addition to standard paid time off, they provide humanitarian paid time off and over the 12 plus years, they’ve done approaching 100 different expeditions into different countries which has helped them learn about the world and focus on something more important than themselves or our immediate community.
In terms of internal communications during the pandemic, Clay explained that there was certainly a shift in moving to an at home environment for Galileo. He said the office environment was key to the way they communicated previously, particularly his style of communication.
He added that it's key to continue to have one on one and he encourages that not only between the members of the management team, but their employees at all levels of the company.
Being an external spokesperson and representative of the business didn’t come naturally to Clay. He said as a CEO it's very important that you're communicating externally, it’s your role to be the chief communicator, he said he’s had to learn to do that, and would say he is still learning and growing in that role.
Clay explained that one of the things that was challenging for Galileo, was achieving that validation going through the $1.2 billion acquisition. He said they hadn't taken private equity, and this means you get overlooked by the analysts.
He said it’s hard to achieve that and then communicate effectively in a world where it's not set up to do that, especially in that bootstrapped environment. He added that it's hard for a company to go down a 20-year journey and not make mistakes.
Clay explained that where advice wasn’t specifically given to him, the amount of reading that he was doing really benefited him over the years. He said one of the things that he noted and read about Bill Gates early on, was the amount of reading that he did, and he described that as the single greatest factor in his success. Clay said that was true in their journey as well and because of that, it affected their culture.
Clay added that pre pandemic as a CEO, he was traveling a lot and would use some of that travel time to read and catch up. He said it's harder to find that time now because it feels like they’re working constantly, he said you lose track of the days, so, the media diet has definitely changed for him during the pandemic. It's harder to find that personal reflection and reading time, you have to force it.
Clay said that specifically related to communications, his journey at Galileo is marked by personal growth. He added that what he would say to his younger self is to challenge yourself to get out and do the communications more clearly, succinctly, and specifically. He said especially starting a new young business, being able to articulate the company's strategy is really important.