Riding the FinTech wave, working with the best

Riding the FinTech wave, working with the best

Jake Nielen is revelling in his role within an industry enjoying explosive growth and operating at the forefront of a technological revolution.

Jake (OE 2004–2011) is a London-based account manager with Amazon Web Services, helping financial technology (FinTech) startups rapidly achieve global scale and huge customer growth through applying artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

On graduating from Cambridge, he joined Egon Zehnder, a top-three executive search firm focused on board-level appointments for FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 customers.

“After two years working across various industrial and financial services clients, I moved to do the same role at Amazon, ultimately specialising in finding and convincing some of the best technical minds around the world to build some of the largest distributed technical systems in the world, and solve some of the hardest AI/ML challenges across Amazon Retail, Amazon Prime Video, Alexa, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and even Amazon’s Operations business.

“Whilst in that role it became obvious that AWS was exploding in terms of growth. It currently stands at $36bn revenue globally, growing at 36% year-on-year, which has never been done before in the history of technology services. (We have 19k in the sales team with 12k open roles for next year!).

“In addition to that, we are adding a new feature or product every three hours (2500-plus last year alone), and the pace of change and ability to work in an industry that is revolutionising and democratising how millions of customers around the world consume and process data was too good to pass up.

“I’ve since joined the Startups team, focusing on helping FinTech customers (Monzo, Transferwise, Nutmeg, etc.) get the best out of our services and support those types of customers as they scale globally and offer new services to millions of new customers around the world.”

Among highlights from earlier in his career he would include working on the process to appoint the new Chairman of the Government-owned Royal Bank of Scotland. Another was rebuilding the Prime Video technical leadership team, which last year launched live-streaming of the Premiership in the UK.

“More recently, it has been helping two of my customers win deals with FTSE 100 businesses and supporting [banking start-up] Tide to grow to over 100k small-business users in the UK as well as [helping them towards] international expansion in the near future.”

At School, Jake was a notable sportsman, playing for the First XV and also involved in athletics, water-polo and cross-country.

He vividly recalls “the trials and tribulations of the U16 Sevens and XV rugby teams – the wins and losses and the team-building that came about as a result of an ‘aggressive’ fitness regime based on a strategy that if we couldn’t run through or round our opponents, we would just have to run further and work harder”.

“More generally, I’ve got good memories of constantly being flagged down in the corridor for having my top button undone, the pain of the ‘elephant dip’, the relentless number of A3 grids in Geography.” He confesses to having occasionally been guilty of putting off difficult homework – “deferring it all to an hour before and having to work in the atrium on top of the lockers”.

“But,” he says, “most of all, I have good memories of the dedicated teaching staff who worked above and beyond to provide a top-tier education to anyone, regardless of background, for free.”

He especially praises current Headmaster Neil Enright, who taught him Geography, and his form teacher, Tahmer Mahmoud. Jake, who went on to take a First in Geography at St Catharine’s College, continues to apply Mr Enright’s “organisational capabilities and standards” to this day. “I still colour-code and underline headings on my work.”

“Mr Mahmoud…taught me to intellectually stretch myself to think bigger during form time (‘If you drop a ball, how can you be sure it will always fall to the ground? On what basis do you think the colour red looks the same for you as it is for me?’).”

At Cambridge, his dissertation was on community perceptions of volunteer ‘gap year tourists’ in Ethiopia (“which I loved”).

He remains close friends with a group of OEs – “essentially everyone you see in this picture” [right], taken at Allianz Park, home of Saracens, for the QE First XV’s match against Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in 2017. Old Elizabethans pictured are top row, left, to bottom right: Alex Grethe, Jake, Anton Bridge, Ioannis Loupas (all 2004-2011); Anoop Raghaven and Max Hassell, (both 2002–2009); Alvin Bombo (2002–2007); Gideon Levitt (2004–2011); Aaron Levitt (2002–2009); Matteo Yoon, Adam Kuo, Alex Goring (all 2003–2010), and Francis Vu (2000–2008).

“The other photos show us all wearing our QE First XV tops in Japan when we went to visit for the Rugby World Cup.”

Jake’s ambition is, he says, “to continue to learn and always be curious, to push myself out of my comfort zone every day, and to continue to do the hard things well. I’ll probably stay at AWS until I come across a Fintech that seems interesting enough to leap in to (in the interests of being curious).”