May 13, 2024

The Talent Behind The Tech – Dirk Cavens

In our fourth edition of 'The Talent Behind The Tech' we spoke with our Chief Product Officer, Dirk Cavens. Dirk has over 25 years' experience in settlement, payment and central clearing institutions. Over that time he has built up a wealth of knowledge on how to build and lead a team. 

How would you describe your approach to leadership?

When working at the startup level, leadership implies guidance and steering a team of people in the right direction. This collaborative approach suits me perfectly; I provide guidance when needed, and I let people get on with their job wherever possible. Given the nature of the organisation – and with a team of highly experienced individuals – there isn’t much need for handholding.

In this environment, leadership really just means making sure that things move along at a good pace, ensuring constant focus, and allocating the right resources for the right tasks. We have no hierarchy, and my approach is simple: put the right person in the right role, give them all the responsibility they need, and make sure their contributions are recognised.

For me, good leadership also means where relevant throwing my experience into the mix and making sure any insights I might have are shared widely, whilst at the same time providing a platform for people to ask any questions that might help them to progress where possible.

What have been the key learnings from your career to date that you have brought into your current role at

I spent what looks like a lifetime at CLS, witnessing the journey from its conceptual phase, through design, to the big ‘go live’ date and the rollout over the next few years. It was a hugely formative experience – a big undertaking with a massive impact on the market that still resonates today. We had the benefit of a strong tailwind – the G7 and the regulators mandated for the biggest banks in the seven original jurisdictions to join. The go-live in 2002 was a big bang approach, and my experience at CLS - and how it reshaped the market – and the feeling of achievement that brought is definitely something I want to replicate at

Markets are constantly moving, and the make-up of the FX market has changed considerably since the beginnings of CLS. Now, at, our aim is to fill the gap in the FX settlement landscape. Technology has moved on as well, the move to Cloud technology to name one, while in in the late 90s everything was very mainframe based, plus, there is a set of currencies and economies that weren't exactly on the radar back then. For example, at the time nobody was talking about Chinese Yuan or the Turkish Lira. These currencies, now crying out for a solution that adds to their internationalisation, have often a very distinct market profile, adding another layer of complexity.

What I bring to the table is a lot of FMI experience, and an understanding of what is key in setting up a market infrastructure. Been there, done that and got the t-shirt (although it actually came in the form of a paperweight), from launch to participant onboarding; this is the insight I bring to my role.

What advice would you give to growing fintechs?

The best piece of advice I ever got came from my time at LME Clear.  I clearly remember arriving on day one and being given the task of building out the entire back-office business functionality and product. It was a big move for LME away from using LCH and the cut-over was a major undertaking, involving the transfer of open positions and vast amounts of collateral.  The CEO at the time gave me one very clear instruction: "You have absolute freedom to do whatever you want, but we've set a launch date two years and a few months from now. So, anything you bring to me, the first question I'm going to ask is: 'Do we need that on day one?' If the answer's no, I'm going to tell you not to bother me. You decide what's essential for launch, that's your call and it’s all that matters."

That focus on core functionality has stuck with me ever since and it’s what I’d strongly advise all growing fintechs to adopt themselves; a clear focus on one well-defined key objective.

I’ve seen so much effort and money invested in ‘future proofing’ a business – but more often than not, these features never get used and turn out to be a complete waste of money and resource. We cannot predict the future, and anyone who suggests differently is just lying. The best approach is to prioritise what's absolutely necessary for your project and build the whole organisation strategy around delivering that. You obviously can't be too blind and short sighted, but if it's not needed in those first few weeks, certainly don’t label it as ‘urgent’.

In your opinion, what makes a high-performance culture?

In my experience, high-performing cultures depend on a few things: full alignment, lots of enthusiasm, and preparedness to address issues as and when they arise. Like I said before, knowing the strategy and expectations is crucial. If the goal is to launch by a specific date or with a specific service, anything beyond that is considered extra and therefore not essential. 

It's about making sure everyone feels involved and understands the purpose behind the company they are a part of and how it relates to their role. Recognition is important – people need to be acknowledged for their contributions and unique strengths. Within startups especially, everything is pretty visible, so recognition should come naturally, but it is crucial to celebrate those little or big wins.  The last thing you want to do in a startup is carry people; they might be really talented individuals but have just lost interest along the way or feel their role is not going the way they wanted or expected it to. So keeping an eye out for that as well and addressing it at the earliest occasion is important for a high-performance culture.

What piece of technology do you see having the greatest impact on the fintech/banking world in the next 1,2,3 and 5 years?

I believe there's a lot more to be gained from the Cloud. While is fully cloud-native, we'll see more and more financial institutions move their operations and infrastructure to the cloud to achieve scalability, efficiency, and innovation. The key foundation of all this will be proven ledger technology and how developments like API and standardisation widely extend the accessibility of market infrastructures and other tools vastly improving financial inclusion by directly matching ownership with (being in) control. And of course, the underlying element will the ability this creates to offer true instant transactions.

What does the future of look like?

In the next six months we expect to see more evidence of traction and the emergence of Pilots in some currency corridors that will be strategic to build out our regional hubs (in the phase to be inter-connected to create a true global service). What we will see is getting more central banks directly engaged and commercial banks coming on board. We do pursue a strategy whereby we are looking for traction across a wide range of jurisdictions, which will remain key. Right now, we have a good level of governance in place, and so the next step is putting that model into action. This involves central banks directly feeding into the system and working directly with us. Once we have a validated system with strong governance, we can then grow from there.

The APAC region will be a major focus. Making a big splash there, supporting a significant number of banks, will be a game-changer for the future of If we can roll out one or two key currency corridors early in the Pilot, which we believe will take place just after the summer, and get the right banks involved, we'll be ready to scale up rapidly.

You can read more about Dirk and the rest of the team here. 


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