The man fuelling a financial rocket
By Nicky Sullivan
Who is iamMoney’s founder and CEO, Lee Travers? Well, he’s a man ever on the move. The Irishman — Waterford-born, Limerick-reared, Cork-polished up — doesn’t believe in sitting down for too long.
But when he does take a seat, he has a lot to say; especially when it comes to banking and the swirl of ideas and ambitions fizzing in his brain.
You’ll have discovered some of those ideas already on his blog. But we were curious about what kind of a man he is - where do those ideas come from?
Turns out that Lee has been racing out of the traps ever since he was released from school; hurtling at the world, buzzing with ideas for tearing it down and building it better. It’s a compulsion that has taken him far ahead of his peers several times and knocked him back on his rear on a few others.
“I had this cascade of huge ambitions in my 20s,” he says. “I didn’t know exactly what it was directed towards, I just knew I wanted to do more and every time I looked at something, I could see a smarter way of doing it. The problem then was that I didn’t have the skills, experience or maturity to deliver on that ambition.” There’s a certain rueful smile that survivors have.
One of his earliest ventures did come through - a mobile wallet system. In 2002, while the rest of us thought being able to play Snake on our phones was the electrifying height of technology, Lee was looking at ways of using them to buy concert tickets, go to the movies and much more. Things we take for granted now but were unheard of back then.
It worked too. After a year, he sold the company for a tidy sum and in 2003 ploughed it all into his next big venture: Data storage.
“It was what we call cloud storage now, but without the telecoms network or infrastructure to support it. So, I took all that money I had made and I threw it away,” he says with a wince and another smile. “It was part of the process of growing up enough to know that you don’t know everything. I remember that day very well.” Well, you live and learn.
He has learned. A 20-year career in finance technology in countries all over the world has given Lee a unique perspective on what works and the power of technology to transform people’s lives; whether a tech entrepreneur in Chicago, property owner in London, or a small farmer in Nigeria. He has met and worked with them all, facilitating change and creating the systems that improve lives and help people to build the futures they want.
It was while working in this domain that the seeds for iamMoney were planted in his brain. Even with the kind of fastidious planning that Lee puts into organising his own financial wellbeing, the economic crisis in 2008 took its toll. But witnessing the fall-out hit friends was particularly hard, especially when a few of them found they simply couldn’t cope with the stress of losing businesses, homes, or families.
Lee lost friends who took the most definitive way out of their predicaments and he couldn’t help wondering if things might have been different, if they’d had a bank that listened rather than judged, that worked with them to keep them out of trouble and was creative and flexible enough to generate solutions that worked for each unique situation.
So, four years ago, he went back to basics and set about reverse engineering the kind of bank he thought his friends needed.
It’s important that while he has adapted, learned and mellowed over the years — he’s learned to resolve rather than tear bull-headed at a problem — the scale of his ambitions has never changed. Shooting as high as he possibly can is simply part of his nature.
“I’m much calmer now, steadier. The difference between me now and in my 20s is that I’m better at building my scaffolding. I design my rockets better and have better contingency planning.” These are the essential skills that the father-of-three wants to pass on through iamMoney.
“Education is so important, but our schools are failing people, especially when it comes to financial literacy. You need to look at yourself and your family as essentially a business. You need to step back from it all and ask yourself, ‘what have I got and where is it taking me? Are my assets increasing and liabilities decreasing? How do my world and my future look? How do my children’s futures look?’”
That's why a financial education portal will be one of the first things created by iamMoney and is set to launch even before the first accounts go live. Financial control makes control over every other element in your life easier and less stressful.
So, in these “quieter years”, he is still racing around the planet getting stuff done. It’s still difficult to get him to sit down. And his brain is still fizzing with ideas and ways of doing things better that just won’t leave him alone.
“I take a much more stable and steady approach to the world now. My grandfather was a joiner and lived by the rule: ‘Measure twice, cut once’. It’s a good rule I’ve found.
“This is the core of iamMoney. Let people strive for themselves, but let them do it wisely so they can create the best outcomes for themselves and their families. That way, their rockets can take them to the moon if that’s what they want.”