Spotlight Series: Melissa Beckett, Chief Marketing & Growth Officer, Kani Payments

Melissa Beckett


Meet Melissa Beckett, Chief Marketing & Growth Officer at Kani Payments. Melissa chats to us about her route into the tech industry, her role models and her advice for other women in tech.

As Chief Marketing and Growth Officer at Kani Payments, Melissa focuses on setting and leading the company marketing strategy and growth initiatives.

Prior to joining Kani Payments in August 2020, Melissa ran the NatWest Business Accelerator Hub, coaching hundreds of companies in the North of England, where she met and coached Aaron Holmes, Chief Executive Officer at Kani Payments. Melissa is passionate about culture, mentoring, supporting others and of course, fintech.

How did you land your current role? Was it planned? 

I started my current role as Chief Marketing Officer at Kani Payments, where I focus on company growth as well as setting and driving our marketing strategy, in August 2020. Prior to this, I actually ran the NatWest Business Accelerator hub for hundreds of companies in the North where I met and coached Aaron Holmes, our Kani Payments CEO. I strongly believe that this background in supporting and coaching companies and entrepreneurs, gave me the solid foundation that now influences how I work, think and deal with situations on a day-to-day basis.

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What are the key roles in your field of work, and why did you choose your current expertise? 

The fintech and payments industry require lots of different types of roles and expertise. Having experience in the financial space is advantageous but a growing fintech business still requires the more traditional company roles and functions, such as HR, Project Management, IT, Sales, Operations and Marketing – knowing how to adapt them for the fintech market is key though, the space moves very quickly with new innovations and regulations coming through all the time.

Within the Kani team specifically, we work with vast amounts of payments data with a lot of complexity. This results in our team being made up of data scientists, BI and reporting experts, and generally people who have expertise and experience working in payments. It’s this payments knowledge that differentiates Kani from other reconciliation and reporting tools – our team have personally experienced the day-to-day problems that our clients are facing, so we know exactly how to solve them.

Personally, my background is in software marketing – prior to running the NatWest Business Accelerator I spent 7 years in the marketing team of global software company, Sage, where I learnt a huge amount about product marketing, campaign planning and execution, loyalty marketing and strategy.

Did you (or do you) have a role model in tech or business in general?

My role models are all the women I have previously worked with and continue to work with in my career. There are inspirational women all around us, and it is our responsibility to recognise and highlight them – especially in my position as a senior female leader.

It is also important to me that, as a senior member of the Kani Payments team, I can be an inspiring leader to other females who are just starting their careers in technology and fintech. I am hugely passionate about mentoring and supporting others, and currently serve as a mentor for the Girls Network, an organisation whose mission is to inspire and empower girls from the least advantaged communities by connecting them with a mentor and a network of professional women role models. As a company, Kani Payments has also signed up to be a mentor for the Youth Group, a youth-first business that provides young people with the tools they really need to get ahead and grow in work, as well as helping the enterprise, government and education industries to engage, recruit and support youth.

Kani Payments is passionate about promoting the fundamental contribution that women are making within the industry. I personally wish we didn’t need to talk about this or focus on it as a company, but unfortunately, women are still hugely underrepresented with the fintech space. From the outset, Kani Payments has built a team of people who all see the value of championing women in tech, across all skill sets and levels of the business – and that’s a large part of my motivation for joining the company.

What are you most proud of in your career, so far? 

Working with the inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders within the Entrepreneurial Spark and NatWest Business Accelerator, supporting them to grow and scale, was a huge privilege and probably a pivotal point in my career. Teaching, discussing, and learning about how our mindset impacts everything that we do was at the forefront within the Accelerator. This thinking and way of working was at the core and was the foundation of coaching each business leader. Seeing the changes and progress in each person and business because of this was profound and life changing.

After coaching Kani CEO, Aaron, for around 18 months I was asked to join the Kani team. Leaving a secure corporate job I loved, mid-pandemic might have been seen as a risk for some but even at that early stage of Kani’s journey, I had no doubts about the problem the team were solving, their product-market fit and the team themselves. It was a no-brainer and definitely one of the highlights of my career.

What does an average work day look like for you? 

Working in a fast-paced scale-up company with a growing team means that no two days are ever the same. As part of the leadership team at Kani, my days usually involve working with the team to juggle multiple priorities to ensure we are accountable for our business areas, hire people into the right roles and continue through the scale-up phase of the company’s growth. We’ve also had to find new ways of working with our respective teams, and remain connected as we grow.

Has anyone ever tried to stop you from learning and developing in your professional life, or have you found the tech sector supportive? 

I am very lucky to have found the tech sector incredibly supportive, but I know that this is not always the case and that more needs to be done to make our industry more inclusive. Ultimately, to support and encourage a more diverse workplace, fintech companies need to create a business culture that champions the sharing of knowledge and insight as well as open communication between people – this is something we’re focused on at Kani as we continue to grow the team – we’re still learning and building on our culture, it’s an evolving process through feedback from team members and adapting communication approaches where we need to. Employees from all backgrounds and from all levels of the organisation should have a forum to share their experiences, the details of how they got into the industry and how they see the company developing. Whether this is in a group meeting or a one-on-one mentor pairing, it will ensure that team members feel lifted, supported, motivated and that there are people around them willing them to grow and develop.

Companies should also champion strong diverse leadership to ensure that people can see other people like them in these roles, and help them understand options, pathways and the experience/skills required to develop in their field. For example, Kani regularly shares the accomplishments of its senior female leaders and aspiring leaders – including my colleagues Alina Ciocan, our industry-recognised Head of Finance and Reconciliation who made it into ‘The Most Influential Women in Payments’ list by PaymentsSource, and Dr Sophie Harbisher, our Data Science Lead who is driving Kani’s data science efforts and recently spoke at the FinTech North Newcastle Conference 2023 on ‘Smart Data and the Future of Payments’. This extends to my own accomplishments, as I proudly made TechRound’s ‘Top Women in Startups and Tech’ list, which is also great recognition.

Have you ever faced insecurities and anxieties during your career, and how did you overcome them?

I’ve personally been quite fortunate in that I haven’t directly felt insecure or anxious about my career as a woman in the tech and finance industry – which is unfortunately a common issue in our male-dominated sector. Based on PWC research with over 2,000 A-Level and university students, unfortunately the gender gap in technology starts at school and carries on through every stage of girls’ and women’s lives. Over a quarter of female students say they’ve been put off a career in technology as it’s too male-dominated and 78% of students can’t name a famous female working in technology.

I have now made it my mission at Kani to lead and build our culture with the team, set our values and raise awareness of issues within society, such as the gender gap in technology and other areas within equality, inclusion and diversity. Although the gender gap is improving and awareness is growing, we’re still living in a society where women are hugely underrepresented right across many industries, at all levels.

Kani Payments is different to other fintechs when it comes to championing women because by nature it is a very progressive and inclusive company, your gender isn’t a factor, we simply focus on the skills, experience and competencies of the person. However, we are on a mission to shout about the women within our industry, and encourage more to get involved in technology roles, which starts with mentoring young people, hiring apprentices, providing them with the skills they need to succeed, and shining a light on the amazing women in our team who are leading the way in this field.

What advice would you give other women wanting to reach their career goals in technology? 

It’s so important to surround yourself with people who lift you, support you, motivate you and ultimately help you grow. It would have been really useful for me to know the importance of this at a young age as it really can have a huge impact on everything in your life. Seek these people out, be curious and learn from them at every opportunity. It’s also OK not to know something! We all have that fear of looking stupid when we don’t know something, especially in front of peers or colleagues. If you can embrace this fear and know that it’s OK not to know everything, it’s a game-changer. To be the person to say, ‘I don’t know the answer to that’, or ‘I’m not sure how to do that, but I’d love to learn’ is sometimes tricky to do at first but shows great self-awareness and openness. Another important piece of advice: understand the power of your own mindset, and what it means to develop a growth mindset. For this I’d recommend reading Dr. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset. Try new things often when you’re young and keep as many doors open for as long as possible until you’ve found the things that really excite you and do more of those.



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