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[Interview] Benjamin Lang, Country Manager France at Mollie: European online payment provider


"We want to become Europe's most beloved payment provider."

This is Mollie's mantra. Mollie's vocation is to facilitate online payment transactions. Like Anytime, Mollie aims to offer a tool that is less expensive than traditional banks, yet simpler and more intuitive. The platform is accessible to all online sales professionals, and offers a range of payment solutions on its website.

Benjamin Lang has been working for Mollie as Country Manager France since September 2018. He was a team manager in the Customer Service department of Bouygues Telecom, then helped an online advertising company launch on the French market. Alongside his work, he was a top rowing athlete for 12 years: he was twice runner-up in the world championship and twice took part in the Olympic Games. A sporting career that helps him in his professional life.

"High-level sport instills the ability to set goals for oneself and to be autonomous in the pursuit of these goals. You have to be able to organize and manage the stakeholders who help you to perform. It's pure project management, but it's also about learning the basic values that will be needed in the corporate world: tenacity, persistence, the ability to always want to reach your goal even if all the winds are against you."

Benjamin Lang, Country Manager France at MollieM

 

When he started rowing, Benjamin was told he was too small, too light to go to the Olympics. And yet, he succeeded. Today, he applies his sporting recipes to his professional life. He starts from the premise that nothing is impossible, by breaking down the problem into smaller ones, and setting himself simple steps to reach attainable goals. Little by little, goals that seemed unattainable are achieved because a rhythm of success has been created through small details.

"You know you're capable of achieving some pretty extraordinary things with training and tenacity. It's not so much the notion of talent or the notion of initial performance that counts. It's more the ability to keep going that makes the difference. In my career, I've lost a lot more than I've won in sport. It's not really the victories that count, but the ability to bounce back from defeats to build new victories. It's very similar in the corporate world. In the end, the recipes are the same. Being consistent in your investment, persistent, that's what makes the difference in the long term."

The key to Mollie's success is the commitment of its employees. Benjamin is looking for committed people to join his team, available for their customers. Each person's background is very different and sometimes atypical, like his own. For him, it's important to give his team autonomy, to avoid formatting and strict frameworks which, in his opinion, don't generate growth, either for their customer or for Mollie.

And apparently it's paying off: Benjamin has just seen his company achieve "unicorn" status, which means it's valued at over a billion dollars.

"We're extremely fortunate to have grown so much and to be expanding enormously in all markets. Digitalization has accelerated our expansion even more. A lot of companies are suffering, and we support them, trying to be the best partner in good times and bad."

The complete Mollie team

 

Taking care of their customers is Mollie's goal. Customer care is at the heart of their strategy. Through regular customer satisfaction questionnaires, the teams make sure that all their customers are happy, in order to attract more and more of them, which is clearly a winning strategy today.

"Mollie's goal today is to increase the playing field for entrepreneurs and ensure that as many people as possible can play online. When I say play online, I mean build online businesses. We want anyone to have simple access to entrepreneurship. Mollie is not just about online payment. We help our customers maximize the success they deserve. And of course, that means doing what we do best: simplifying online payment processes."

Mollie accompanies its customers in their growth, because this growth is also theirs. In addition to providing an eminently technological product, Mollie takes a close look at each country's market, so as to be able to offer sound advice. Benjamin explains that all the logistical, payment and legal constraints of each European country are carefully studied to help customers make the right choice of payment methods for their target clientele. It may be tempting to see Europe as a "whole", but each country has its own specific features.

"You have to have a specific local approach per country. If you have a relevant local approach, you'll improve your conversion in each of the countries you're targeting, so you'll improve your overall impact on the European continent. We rely on technological innovation, of course, but also on this in-depth knowledge of each country's specific payment requirements. "

With the health crisis, Benjamin saw a huge influx of new accounts opening at Mollie, up to 1,200 a day. Indeed, businesses have had to try and open other sales channels to promote their products and services. Multiplying sales channels helps to improve, or at least stabilize, the health of the business, always relying on physical sales but also on online sales. Accepting online payments on your site takes just 15 minutes with Mollie, and doesn't require a great deal of technical knowledge. Even for those who are a little nervous about the Internet.

"The main obstacle is often the fear of taking the plunge, due to a lack of expertise in online tools or the possibility of fraud. These fears are very legitimate: that's why you need to surround yourself with the right players, financially stable, with high security certifications. This reassures both the end customer, who can pay with his card without risk, and the e-merchant, who can be sure of receiving his payments. And our teams are there to support e-merchants from A to Z: this human support, in addition to our technological capacity, will enable us to develop a lot of sales and stabilize the business."

Benjamin works with entrepreneurs every day. When asked if he'd like to be an entrepreneur and set up his own project, he says that's almost the case at Mollie.

"Entrepreneurship is something that's deeply in my DNA. When you're a top-level athlete, you're a bit of an entrepreneur at heart, since you manage your own project, you're at the head of a small business. At Mollie, I'm lucky enough to be an intrapreneur. I was given the keys to the French truck and told: "Benjamin, you drive as you like, you go where you like. We don't know how to do it. We trust you, make your plan and do it the way you want and we support you." I have a great deal of freedom by taking advantage of my company's financial health, without taking any risks. Why not launch my own business one day? But not today, I'm very happy where I am."

This capacity for intrapreneurship was a stumbling block for Benjamin on the French market when he was looking for a job. He had trouble finding recruiters who understood his profile, which didn't fit into the usual boxes.

"I arrived in France with some interesting job offers, but in the end they weren't very exciting, because most of the people I spoke to thought I'd done nothing during my sporting career, whereas I'd always had a full-time job. It took a lot of organization. People didn't trust me like they did in the Netherlands. I had two lives and French culture tends not to accept that so much, without generalizing."

Another thing not to be neglected when you're an entrepreneur, according to Benjamin, is to be well surrounded. Once again, this is something he learnt from playing high-level sport. There are always key people around us who will help us, or push us to the limit to improve and go further.

"I think being well surrounded is in every area of your life. If you read the biographies of the greats of this world, you see that they always had people around them. As for me, I'd never have got into top-level sport if I hadn't had a few people around me to help me, to tickle me when I needed it. I've had competitors with whom we've had big rivalries, but who have been enormous driving forces. Being alone at the top of your podium is boring. It's a lot more fun to have a group adventure with people who take you far. It's often said that you can go fast on your own, but you can go further with others."

Talking about your ideas is also important: for Benjamin, an idea needs to be shared and confronted in order to mature and refine properly. You have to get over the fear of having your idea stolen.

"You always have different ways of looking at the same problem. And no matter who you talk to about your idea, you can have people who don't know anything about it coming up with naive but pertinent remarks, because there's always a tendency to overcomplicate the problem. If someone picks up on this idea and is able to put it together at the same time as you, they'll already be a long way behind, since they'll never have had the capacity for exchange that you had before on this idea. We need to move forward, and to move forward we need to exchange ideas. We need to build together. In any case, that's what we're trying to do at Mollie. We're entrepreneurs who work very closely together."

Benjamin is currently recruiting 30 to 40 people a month. For him, everything moves very fast these days. You need partners around you, people who understand the constraints that this constant speed can put on an organization, and who have a strong capacity for agility. To be able to act fast, move fast, adapt fast and stick to the constraints of the entrepreneurs she works with. This applies to Mollie, but also to neobanks like Anytime.

"The ability to manage your business simply via an application, via an online dashboard, is a lot simpler than making a phone call to an account manager at a traditional bank who isn't trained in online banking and doesn't always understand the new trends in today's market. Without demonizing traditional banks, I think they're very strong in certain respects, but I think they're less agile than neobanks, which may be able to offer additional services that are more in tune with the times, and closer to the constraints of today's entrepreneurs. I think this is the number one value of neobanks today."

Benjamin advises entrepreneurs to understand their banking challenges, that a business needs to evolve quickly and that they need to surround themselves with people who can evolve as quickly as they can, so as not to be held back in their growth.

"I think that's one of the key elements of a company's success, its ability to move fast."

Learn more about Mollie and accept online payments simply

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