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CTO interview: TransferGo’s Edgardo Savoy discusses skills and product innovation

Improved user experience has opened up tech to many people, but ease of use distances young people from the tech going on under the hood

Edgardo Savoy, CTO of money transfer service TransferGo, admits he repeats himself a lot at work. “I spend a lot of time thinking about things in my head,” he says. “I sometimes omit details that are essential.”

Repetition is very important for Savoy, in helping people to understand what he is thinking about. “It’s like a drum beat – to reinforce and connect dots,” he says, which allows people to understand his strategy on a daily basis. “You forget very quickly that people are not on the same page,” he adds.

Savoy started programming when he was just 14 and was drawn in by the idea of the logic patterns in code, which could be written down and turned into something that could be run on a computer. “C programming is like the Latin of computer programming languages,” he says. Not only has C been the code behind operating systems programming, but it has also spawned a number of modern alternatives.

Savoy has two daughters, and admits: “Fourteen was a very young age to be that nerdy.”

Nevertheless, he feels there is a desperate need to change young people’s perception of tech. For a 14-year-old, he says, “it’s a very different line to saying you are a musician”.

Savoy says that throughout his career, which has included working as tech head at Lastminute.com and Paddy Power, and CIO at The Restaurant Group, “I have managed to get exposed to very different things, and apply new tech to solve problems”.

He adds: “I think people are comfortable sharing videos on TikTok, which works so seamlessly. But very few people think about what’s under the hood. We need to connect the dots because technology is everywhere.”

The fact that technology is becoming so seamless means people don’t think about computers running in the background to do all the wonderful things that are possible today with smart devices and messaging platforms, he says. “It’s important to make the tech accessible and make it look friendly, like the fact that I can talk to my mum on WhatsApp.”

“It’s important to make the tech accessible and make it look friendly”

Edgardo Savoy, TransferGo

But, as an industry, he says: “We need to be more active in helping the younger generation understand what’s underneath to enable them take part in the tech journey.”

But getting young people excited about IT is not necessarily just about the technology. “In its purest form, tech is very limited,” says Savoy.

Although logic and programming may have attracted Savoy to the technology sector, it is not where he has taken his career. “I am lucky to have a vice-president of engineering who is very talented,” he says. “Today my head is more of a product mindset than actual tech.”

Savoy joined TransferGo in February 2020 and, for him, working at a fintech that has been around for a few years makes it quite an interesting place to be. “The company is evolving,” he says. “You have games with certain rules – you try to win or try to change the rules to win.”

You might assume that young, ambitious companies would have this culture impregnated in their DNA, but Savoy believes it is something that is far harder to achieve. “People say they want to move fast and create a product-oriented mindset. The ambition is there, but there is no ambition to make sacrifices,” he says.

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Often, companies understand the importance of using technology to make a difference, but in Savoy’s experience, many businesses struggle with the culture change required to iterate product releases and move quickly. This is the goal he hopes to achieve at TransferGo.

“Digital companies do iterate a lot, but completion is not always a valid metric,” he says. “You need to understand the outcomes, which requires a mindset change.”

What Savoy hopes to do at TransferGo is to shift the culture to one where there is constant experimenting. “We need to take risks, put ourselves out there and try out new things with  customers,” he says.

He hopes to move the company to an ambitious roadmap, which is focused on products to support customers. “By next year, on our tech stack, we should have a very open architecture to allow third parties to connect to us,” he says. “This will enable the business to scale to the B2B sector.”

On the consumer front, he says there are opportunities to support migrants beyond the ability to send money home. “I want to be able to say that we are moving from a pure remittance business to a more holistic business,” he adds.

This is about becoming part of a wider ecosystem to support customers better, says Savoy. “I worked in a business where the brands didn’t have a clear customer segment. They were trying to sell everything. I don’t believe a product can solve multiple things.”

He says smart companies identify connected products and have a good understanding of how these connections can make people’s lives a little easier.

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