Growing from the first client to unicorn status with the VP of Growth at OakNorth

Valentina Kristensen’s grew up with a hardworking entrepreneurial parent. Watching her mother grow her business — and run her family at the same time — gave Kristensen a level of respect for entrepreneurs that she could not shake.

While she studied Business at university and watched her friends go off to big companies, she couldn’t help. So she feels enticed to join a small company, starts early, having a tangible impact on the growth of the company.

That’s why she was attracted to working for Oaknorth. A company that was not only built by fantastic examples of entrepreneurs but that also helps other entrepreneurs to achieve their ambitions.

On this week’s episode of the ScaleUp Valley podcast, Kristensen, the VP of Growth at Oaknorth, opens up about watching the company grow. She was there when they won their first client. She’s been thrilled to be there as it’s scaled into one of UK FinTech’s unicorns.

Driving growth at Oaknorth

As the VP of Growth at a rapidly growing company, Kristensen had a lot to reflect back to watching and helping, the company move through the scaleup process. The big question is: what drives the growth at OakNorth?

This comes from the machine learning tech that the company is built on. The idea was if they could build a fantastic bank in the UK, in its highly competitive and regulated market, then they could take a different approach to a lot of the other FinTechs out there.

FinTechs usually try to get a banking license in various marketing. This is what makes OakNorth different. Instead, they license their technology to other companies in other countries. This way they can replicate OakNorth’s success in their own geographies.

This brilliant model for growth has brought them to lending over 3 billion pounds to companies of all descriptions: brands you would find on the high street in London, the hotel you might stay in, the nursery where you bring your kids, and more. Thus, securing them the coveted unicorn status.

Looking at more than just their success model, how else has OakNorth managed to grow at this rate?

From 40 to 300

OakNorth has now grown to about 300 employees across all markets. Kristensen noted this number was quite lean for their size and scale. But the trick for them has been using their technology to speed up the process in the necessary places. Ate the same time they are keeping face to face decision making intact.

What does this mean? While their technology generates a credit paper with all of the necessary documentation that they would need to understand the market and industry of their prospective clients, they have a USP where all companies are brought in to meet the decision makers in person.

This allows OakNorth to transact loans much more quickly. But they still, rely on a human to enter the space and tell them about their business.

Of course, this isn’t all of the amazing information that we learned about OakNorth. Check out the whole episode to learn more! Then, keep listening and keep scaling. If you want to know more about ScaleUp Valley initiatives and purpose join our community. Subscribe the ScaleUp Valley newsletter.