Interview with Christoph Iwaniez, Chief Financial Officer at Bitwala GmbH
Earlier this month we welcomed a new executive to the Bitwala team. Christoph Iwaniez joins us as our first CFO. Bringing with him over 10 years of experience in traditional banking, mergers and acquisition, we are excited to have Christoph join our growing team and write financial history with us!
Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do at Bitwala?
Hi, I´m Christoph. I just recently joined Bitwala as the Chief Financial Officer and my responsibilities revolve around our financial and risk management topics. This means that I cover all aspects of business planning, financial reporting, accounting and ensuring that the funding for our operations is running smoothly and sufficiently.
With the all-new Bitwala launching soon, I will also be in charge of the trading and treasury operations. I am super excited to ensure that our customers will have the safest and most convenient way to trade between crypto and traditional currencies.
You made the switch from the world of conventional banking to working in a startup environment - dealing in crypto, nonetheless. What did you find challenging?
As many can imagine, there are huge differences between the two worlds. Many things in startups move at top speed, which affects the speed at which decisions are made. As CFO, I like (and am expected) to be thorough in the different processes that take place in the company. My role enables me to provide a different perspective, a second view, on the different structures and consequences before finalizing decisions.
What does your typical day look like?
The cliché of “every day is different” is used all too often - but in all honesty, I’m not sure how else to describe it. I personally don’t think I’ve had a typical day and I love the fact that each day is never the same. I can tell you one thing though - how a perfect working day ends: with either my colleagues, friends or family. Oh, and wine. A good glass of wine, for sure.
What is keeping you busy at the moment?
Aside from my responsibilities in our daily financials, I spend most of my time in building and providing all the necessary financial processes for our crypto banking experience, that’s launching soon. Since we are the first in the world to build a full crypto banking experience, I have to make sure that everything that revolves around our banking product is built with the highest degree of stability and reliability.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for the banking industry currently?
Like many other industries, the banking industry is poised to experience major changes as it moves towards a digital industry and customers will be at the forefront of that change. On one hand, the industry suffers from stiff competition resulting in very low margins. On the other hand, costs for traditional banking are high. With a crypto-based banking product, there are no competitors in the market offering the same product as we do. So in terms of challenges, Bitwala has a huge opportunity to completely revamp how banks are built in a new and efficient way without all the legacy costs.
What kinds of qualities do you think make an awesome CFO?
The first thing that immediately springs to mind - always having one eye open for long-term strategic consequences of financial decisions. Any awesome CFO should not only focus on today´s cost savings and accuracy that the numbers “are right”. Startups, particularly companies dwelling in financial technology, have always been associated with being a fast-paced environment. Change is constant, so scanning the environment to anticipate what changes are coming, ranging from requirements to regulations, and how to position the company are also vitally important.
Where do you see banking going in the next 5 years?
Just as I mentioned earlier about how the change in the banking industry is constant, I see that the industry will have more facets. As the banking industry digitizes, the gap between traditional banks and how they offer their products to their more elderly customers will widen. On the other side, more modern digital banks, with sleek user interfaces and convenient frontends, will continue to offer more diverse products to keep ahead of the competition. Like Bitwala.
How do you keep a healthy work-life balance?
One of the things I really like about the Bitwala team is that it’s such a fun and enthusiastic environment. From company yoga to TGIF drinks, the “Work hard, play hard” lifestyle is real here at Bitwala, and is done responsibly.
Outside of work, I really enjoy spending as much time in nature and wilderness as possible. I always look after my psychological well-being and there’s nothing quite like being deep in the forest, embodying harmony and balance. Mountain hiking in the Alps or trekking through Norway’s rough valleys clears my thoughts and enables me to focus on coming challenges.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself...
I could very well be Germany’s most hardcore CFO. Looking at my picture, you probably wouldn’t guess that I am a metalhead! My favorite listens range from System of a Down to Heaven Shall Burn from good ol’ Thüringen, Germany!
If you weren’t at Bitwala, what would you be doing?
Interesting question. For me personally, Bitwala stands out from the competition. Thus, since I personally haven’t seen another fintech company that is at par in terms of awesomeness, the only alternative I can imagine is either to invest and run a successful winery in Burgundy or to simply be a lone guardian on a mountain.