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In Profile: Oli Cook, CEO at ekko

ekko, the London-based green fintech, has opened up its service to employers, banks and payment providers for the first time this month.

A provider of embedded sustainability, ekko offers real-time technology that can track carbon footprints, carbon offset impact and support reforestation among other impact initiatives.

Its API allows payment providers and banks to measure the impact of  purchases. For employers, the ‘ekko incentives’ offering is helping businesses to empower their employees to make purchases that have positive impact on the environment.

In this week’s In Profile, we meet Oli Cook, CEO & co-founder at ekko, to hear why he thinks 2023 is going to be big for the company.

Oli Cook, CEO & Co-Founder at ekko
Oli Cook, CEO & co-founder at ekko
Tell us more about your company and its purpose?

ekko is on a mission to empower millions of customers and businesses around the world to take on climate change. We have spent the last few years building a powerful platform that can be customised to offer financial tools that mobilise people from every walk of life to do good, by making it easier to live more sustainably.

Essentially, we are a technology platform that empowers retailers, employers, banks and any payment provider in the world to take on climate change, by utilising our award winning technology which enables any customer or employee to access real-time tracking of their carbon footprint as they make a purchase.

Fundamentally, the platform allows users to track and offset this spend and then utilises intelligent behavioural nudges to help customers make better, greener choices. All of this is available for any bank, payment provider or employer in the world to utilise, alongside our own award winning fintech app in the UK.

What are some of your recent achievements you’d like to highlight?

We’re excited to be partnering with some of the world’s leading sports brands and Champions League clubs around the world, with the aim of combining passion for sport with passion for climate.  Commercial sport alone contributes approximately 0.8 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. For context, this is equivalent to the overall emissions of countries like Poland, Thailand and Spain. It is estimated that football contributes around 0.3 to 0.4 per cent of global emissions.

Our exclusive sustainability tech partnership offers billions of football and sports fans globally the ability to fight climate change and support their favourite team at the same time, simply by tapping their card when they shop.

We are proud to have been awarded ‘Best Achievement in Sustainability’ at the The Card and Payments Awards 2023. We also spent a lot of Q4 2022 preparing for the launch of our new products, including ekko Incentives, and we can’t wait to share the rest, too.

How did you get into the fintech industry?

I’ve been in financial services my entire career, starting out in some of the bigger banks, such as running Savings and FX for HSBC Group. Gradually I progressed to smaller businesses in CCO roles at fintechs and insurtechs before founding ekko.

Over time it’s become clear to me that fintech has the capacity to do good in the world – across a spectrum of areas. With that increasingly becoming clear, so has my own interest in creating a business that combines the power of finance, tech and improved social and environmental impact.

What’s the best thing about working in the fintech industry?

The opportunity for improving the overall experience for customers and businesses is incredible with fintech running through virtually everything we now do in our lives, whether that be paying for your commute, holiday or Slack subscription. If you then add in the technological advances we’re making, it means we have endless opportunity to deliver real change whilst growing commercial businesses.

What frustrates you most about the fintech industry?

What used to frustrate me about the industry was the ‘us vs them’ mindset when it came to big banks and fintechs – we were rivals. Whereas now the industry feels to be shifting and I think we’re moving on from that place into the partnership and collaboration space. ekko is here to help banks deliver powerful and impactful profit with purpose for banks, not rival them.

How have your previous roles influenced your career?

The fundamentals of running commercially viable businesses and making profit has stuck with me from day one and my time leading the big businesses at HSBC. I’m focused on being capital efficient and making sure unit economics are positive throughout our business at ekko – that focus has put us in a good position to deliver on our customer promises and has become increasingly important as the market becomes more challenging for all tech startups.

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

I don’t really look at life in that way. If things go wrong then I learn from it, put it in the experience bank and then that helps me in the future. Almost every mistake I have made so far throughout my working life has ended up helping me later in my career or within the business I’ve been involved with. I’d say in pretty much every case we’ve grown from those decisions and are better for it.

What has the future got in store for your company?

2023 is going to be big for ekko. We have spent the last few years building and then launching a powerful technology platform that mobilises people and businesses from every walk of life to do good and to live more sustainably.

We’ve announced our enhanced product set and we have some incredible partnerships coming later this year which will allow us to deliver on our mission of empowering millions of customers and businesses with their journey toward greener choices. It’s an extremely exciting time ahead for us as we accelerate our commercial growth throughout the year with the aim of continuing to empower consumers and businesses to fight climate change one step at a time.

What are the next key talking points or challenges for your industry as a whole?

There are many challenges we are going to have to face as a collective, from the challenging economic climate impacting on the investment flowing into the sector to questions around tackling global issues with wider implications such as climate change. We see this topic as a major talking point that needs to continue to be addressed and partnerships will be incredibly important in helping to support this effort.

As we continue supporting businesses and consumers to tackle climate change head on, we understand that trying to navigate this challenge single-handedly would be impractical. It’s about working together as a community and in partnerships to create meaningful and commercially viable impacts at scale.

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