Making strides in Fintech: An interview with JCU graduate Jonathan Siew

Are you curious about how you can begin a successful career in Financial Technology?

Well, wonder no more! We spoke to James Cook University alumnus Jonathan Siew, who is currently the Regional Director (Payments & Partnerships) of B2B MarTech start-up, STASH, to find out about his time in university and how it led to his career in Fintech.

Finding a holistic education in JCU

Jonathan was drawn to James Cook University (JCU) after a brief time with a local autonomous university.

“I looked only at the [former degree’s] title and thought it was my dream course,” Jonathan confesses candidly, before cautioning university applicants to do ample research so that they wouldn’t make the same mistake.

After realising that his former degree did not have the management focus he sought, Jonathan withdrew to search for a degree that would better meet his aims. Thankfully, JCU had just what he needed and more, with core subjects such as Introduction to Management Concepts and Application and majors with a heavy management focus.

Jonathan was taught by ‘an amazing faculty team’ at JCU—he keeps in touch with Associate Professor Adrian Kuah to this day—and he shares that the university’s nurturing environment challenged him to continuously be a better version of himself. Lessons were interactive and stimulated creative thinking, providing Jonathan endless opportunities to learn.

“[My] robust education [at JCU] served as the bedrock which eventually propelled me into achieving fast-track success in my career. With polished business acumen from the extensive case studies and theory applications, I was able to go full throttle in my pursuit for progression despite the steep learning curves of today’s digital age.”

Beginning a thriving career in a dynamic industry

Hungry for knowledge, Jonathan pursued not one but two majors during his time with JCU! Spurred by a dream of integrating the sports and tourism industries together, Jonathan specialised in Sports and Events Management* as well as Hospitality and Tourism Management.

His subsequent move to Financial Technology may thus seem unexpected—but the transition was pretty natural, as it turns out!

“Upon completion of my internship during the last semester (part of JCU’s Work Integrated Learning Capstone Subjects), I was offered a full-time position to champion the digitization efforts of a market-leading paper-based payment business,” Jonathan shares. “With a forward-thinking spirit towards technology advancement and digital innovation, I supported the company’s digital transformation mission and successfully drove the market development of cutting-edge digital payment solutions.”

During Jonathan’s stint, he took on instrumental roles in several high-profile greenfield FinTech projects in Singapore. This was when he caught the eye of John Jess, the CEO of STASH.

John Jess recounts how Jonathan left a lasting impression on him—so much so that he had to have the latter on his team.

Jonathan with John Jess

John Jess first met Jonathan two years ago, while Jonathan was still with his previous organisation, and ‘[Jonathan’s] business manner, polish and sharp suit’ had won John Jess over. The CEO of STASH appreciates Jonathan’s sincerity and foresight and is full of praise for his subordinate.

“Jonathan demonstrated a deep understanding of the incentive industry and a clear passion for innovation. While still relatively early in his career, he was commercially astute, confident and engaging,” John Jess shares.

“Fast forward to mid-2020, I was looking to build out the STASH team…As a start-up with a very lean team, the [Regional Director, Payments & Partnerships] position required a broad set of commercial, operational and management skills, but most importantly a desire to embark on the challenging task of breaking new ground and developing a product set from the ground up.”

“I immediately knew Jonathan would be the right fit, and didn’t entertain the idea of looking for alternative candidates”, he continues.

“While Jonathan was not looking for a new position at the time, I proposed the opportunity to him.”

The duo shares a strong rapport, and John Jess tells us that they have an excellent professional relationship. This became evident when the two naturally launched into an animated work discussion in front of our camera, complete with gestures and intense focus.

Quick-witted and well-liked

Today, Jonathan is responsible for defining, building, and deploying scalable programs and geo-specific go-to-market strategies for next frontier digital payment solutions.

Despite being with STASH for less than a year, Jonathan has already made a lasting impact, as John Jess would attest. He gladly shares with us about an especially memorable moment that occurred when Jonathan first entered the company. The latter had made ‘a bold move’ just six weeks into his new role ‘after a swift and thorough assessment’ when most would still be easing into a new environment and scope.

“[Jonathan had] the incomplete task of delivering our first payments product with immediate effect. Having looked at the situation, he saw an immediate risk with our then-partner due to some shifting circumstances with our business needs… [and] made the difficult decision to change suppliers and start again. [His move] has paid off immensely for the business”.

Jonathan’s moves are a reflection of his time at JCU, where ‘… [he] learned to permanently position [himself] for success and [to] always have the courage to pursue new chances with change’.

“Truth be told,” Jonathan shares, “I was taking a leap of faith and did not have a clear reason to ‘why JCU’”.

That leap has made all the difference, however, and his life has been greatly enriched for it. We wish him all the best in his pursuits, and look forward to seeing him achieve even greater things in the future!

This article was written with the help of the Singapore campus of James Cook University. Interested to learn more about JCU and the scholarships they offer? Visit their scholarships page.

*Currently not offered

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