Jade Ong is a co-founder & COO of Elevate Money, a fintech that empowers trusted brands to offer relevant financial experiences; where and when customers need them.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’m the co-founder and COO of Elevate Money, a fintech that enables businesses to embed relevant financial products into their apps. We started out creating our own products – AtlasTrend funds and Elevate Super, to better understand and design the best customer experiences and to build connections to financial back-end systems. We’re now opening up our connections for third party financial products to be offered within our partners’ platforms.
My career in the finance industry started about 20 years ago, when I landed a role with Barclays Global Investors (now part of Blackrock) during my last 2 years of university.
I decided I really enjoyed the excitement of investing and joined the investments team at IAG Asset Management when I graduated. After a few years, I caught the travel bug and moved to London working at Macquarie. After a 9.5-year stint in the same role and having kids, I was ready for a change.
When the opportunity came up to start a fintech business, I decided to give it a go and never looked back. I think as a refugee, I’ve learnt at a very early age to take calculated risks and make the best of opportunities that life throws at you. I’m grateful to be working with an amazing team on a venture that can make a more direct and meaningful impact.
Managing your personal finances is such an important life skill that impacts everyone’s lifestyle, but isn’t something that is taught at school or people wake up thinking about. Elevate Money sets out to help people build their best financial life, by powering relevant products to be embedded in platforms used every day.
I also do some consulting work for the Pengana High Conviction Property Securities Fund. It lets me keep my pulse on the markets and I love the ESG focus.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
A typical day starts with a mad rush getting my kids ready for school and drop offs. Then a walk with my mum or jog and grabbing a morning coffee to help clear and energise the mind.
I always begin with prioritising my to do list, emails and checking-in or meeting with the team. The rest of the day is made up of more meetings, supporting my team and working through my to-do list.
It’s hectic but I enjoy the challenge, pace and fun that comes with it – bringing together my background in finance, interest in tech and love for creativity. I’m involved in everything from strategy, fundraising, partnerships, through to operations and product development.
Afternoons involve school pick-ups, then squeezing in another meeting or work task before preparing dinner and family time.
After the kids are in bed, I’d catch up on any urgent work otherwise some reading or TV/Netflix series to wind down.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, absolutely. Our team is spread across Australia and our CTO is in the U.S. so we’ve always been set up to work remotely. Most of the team also have young kids and family commitments so flexibility is part of our culture day 1. Not having to always commute for work frees up a lot of time, so I can fit more into a day and be more productive.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Ideal work-life balance would mean being able to fulfil my work goals while also being there for my family, plus some “me” time would be nice. I think it’s all really important for a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.
This was a big factor in my decision to leave corporate life. I loved the dynamic of the role but progressing a career in investment banking with young kids wasn’t for me. Something had to give.
Working on non-deal related tasks wasn’t challenging enough. But I had the terrible mum guilt when stuck on a deal and not seeing my kids for days – at work before they were up and home when they’re in bed. I felt I’d have to take a step back or change directions; and chose the latter.
Today I am more in control of my diary. Like any working parent, particularly as a founder, it’s definitely a struggle to fit everything in and striking a good balance. I’m lucky to be part of an awesome team culture and have supportive co-founders and husband so we can divide and conquer when needed.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve been making a conscious effort to build in more healthy habits – going for morning walks or run, regular sourdough baking, writing in a wellness journal to help track my habits and goals, and reflect on what I’m grateful for.
I’m big on lists. Just like to-do’s to manage work, we started family ones each school holiday where we all jot down things we want to do and make an effort to do them! As a family, we enjoy cycling and exploring new trails – so this always makes it on the list.
I also love creative art projects. I’ve been working on some with the kids and also finally made the time to paint again. My ideal “me” time is paintbrush in one hand, glass of wine in the other and Spotify in the background.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
What Matters Today daily newsletter from Ogilvy PR. It’s the one newsletter that I always skim through in the morning. It has a good mix of politics, business, sustainability, brands, pop culture, data and tech.
Life on our Planet by David Attenborough. It puts life and our daily grind into perspective, and is a reminder to appreciate what we have and that we need to do more to save it.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
- Definitely my Google Calendar! I’ve got a shared family calendar to manage all our family and kids’ activities. It helps with managing my work schedule too and I’d be lost without it.
- My phone and alarm to track sleep – I strive for 8 hours, although I don’t always achieve it.
- Spotify – we share a love for music in my household. It helps get through long family car rides and relaxes me at the end of the day while making dinner.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Melanie Silva, MD of Google Australia & NZ. It’s incredible to run a global tech company while being mum to young kids including a one-year old!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Life is short. Be honest with yourself and those around you about what you really want and what makes you happy.
I remember the dread of telling my managers when I was pregnant with my first child, that I wanted a year off and to go back part time. Back then, working in a team of predominantly young males in banking, part time was not a thing. I was relieved that they ended up being very supportive.
Almost all of my team now have young families and we are totally understanding and supportive of each other when it comes to personal or family commitments.
One good thing out of COVID is that people no longer have to feel the need to separate or conceal their personal life outside of work and can be more real about what they need. We’re not all superhumans and should be respected for that.
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