Richard Ambrose

Former CEO, Azimo

Richard is the former CEO of Azimo, a VC-backed European fintech focused on cross-border payments, which he led for three years before it was sold to Papaya Global in July 2022.  He has worked in consumer digital businesses for almost 25 years, including senior executive roles at eBay and also at PayPal, where he was part of the EMEA management team for three years.

1. What values are most important to you as a leader? 

I place a very high value on transparency. That can mean being transparent with your team – for example,
explaining to them why the company strategy is what it is, or how the business is performing against its
targets. It can also mean being transparent with your customers: telling them honestly what they’ll get from your product or service, what your pricing is, or quickly letting them know if anything goes wrong. I believe that people who commit years of their careers to a company, or customers who choose you over your competitors, deserve the appreciation and respect that’s implicit in transparency.

2. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

I’m very inspired by the idea of historical legacy and responsibility: that everything of value in the world – our infrastructure, our societies, our technology, you name it – is the result of the hard work and sacrifice of previous generations, going back many centuries. It’s a lucky inheritance that we, in turn, have an obligation to build on by making things better in all the ways we can for the generations after us.

3. Best piece of advice you have been given?

To ask for help with things you’re not good at or don’t know much about. There’s a premium during most
people’s early careers on demonstrating mastery or ‘knowing the answer’, but as the span of control in your role increases, there tend to be more and more areas in your working life where you don’t have deep knowledge or expertise. It could be technology, branding, restructuring, legal affairs, overseas expansion or whatever. When I took on my first general management role, leading about a hundred people across several different functions, my former boss urged me not to be shy about asking for help. And thank goodness, because I needed a lot.

4. What would you tell your younger self?

Like a lot of people, during the first decade of my career I was focused on advancement: getting more
responsibility, more senior titles, more money and so on. But with the benefit of hindsight, what really
mattered during that time were the opportunities I had to learn, by working (sometimes) in very good
companies surrounded by very good people. The positive experience I got from that has been a vital resource that I’ve drawn on throughout the rest of my career. So I’d tell my younger self to maximise learning over everything else.

5. What has been your most important or profound lesson as a leader?

The enormous role that luck plays in a career. Of course, hard work, experience and behaviour all matter a lot. But when I look back on the jobs I’ve had and the things I was able to achieve, I’m struck by the moments when I had great luck: to meet a particular person, to be involved in a particular project, or simply to be in the right place at the right time. And, of course, the luck I had to have a stable family and a good education at the start of it all. I’m not saying that leaders should rely on luck, but I think it should be acknowledged more than it is, to help us all remain appropriately humble and grateful.