Stepping in to a new era of credit, more demand from customers outside of finance, and new leadership: 5 questions with Marqeta CEO Simon Khalaf

  • Simon Khalaf took over the CEO role at Marqeta at the beginning of the economic downturn.
  • But he's positive, sees opportunity on the horizon, and believes a market like this rewards good, basic leadership.

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Stepping in to a new era of credit, more demand from customers outside of finance, and new leadership: 5 questions with Marqeta CEO Simon Khalaf

With Marqeta's founder Jason Gardner stepping down, head of product Simon Khalaf was named CEO. With spoke with Simon on our podcast recently about what the new changes in the C-suite mean for the issuer processor, how customer needs are evolving, and what the firm's recent acquisition of Power means for its product portfolio.

Here are 5 questions with Marqeta CEO Simon Khalaf

What new things are you seeing on the prospect/customer front?

Simon Khalaf: I think what we're seeing right now is a very interesting trend, which is that very well established companies that are non fintechs are looking at what fintech has done and the innovation that fintech has done to make money accessible early to the constituents. They want to embed those into their own workflows. So whether it's a marketplace, retail or digital; whether it's a payroll company or labor marketplaces; whether it's retailers that want to have point of sale lending. So everybody's looking at what fintech has built and said, I want one of these.

How are you positioning Marqeta in the payments stack?

Simon Khalaf: Think of Marqeta as kind of the operating system that allows them not to worry about this complexity. Do what you do phenomenally – which is innovate – and we'll take care of the rest. So from an issuing perspective, we work with issuing banks, we work with regulatory environments to make sure that everything you're dreaming of is actually safe and compliant. 

With the Power acquisition, you're getting deeper into credit. Why?

Simon Khalaf: The great thing about Marqeta is when we talk to our customers, they want more from us. And you sit down and you say, Hey, what are your plans and how can we support you? Credit was top of mind. A lot of people came to us and said, look, you've done a great job on debit and prepaid, we want to get credit from you. 

Why buy Power? What was special about the program manager?

Simon Khalaf: We set out looking at companies like Power, who were great program managers, but at the same time, built a very strong tech stack that allowed for flexibility in the integration with any workflow. And the good thing about Power is that they're effectively the exact opposite of us so the duplication is almost non existent. So we were just a processor, and they were a program manager. So putting those together, you’ve got the complete solution that allows our customers to do all these great things they want to do.

The market is tough, really tough. Who makes it through on top?

Simon Khalaf: I think we have been spoiled as an industry in general. Literally, right? You look at 15 or 16 years of prosperity -- it encourages bad behavior. So once you look at where we are today, and the focus that every company, not only fintech, is being focused on what I call ‘back to basics’, you have to deliver sustainable, profitable growth. That's how companies survive. You don't survive by borrowing or increasing your valuation. You thrive when you start delivering value to customers and growing your EBITDA.

I hate to call it the flight to quality – it's the flight to basic principles, and that will happen, and that will create much stronger companies, much more durable use cases, and much better leadership. I think the generation of leadership that will graduate from this downturn is going to be a much stronger leadership to take us into the future. So I'm extremely bullish about our industry.

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