HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Marcus Waterreus, Chief People & Culture Officer at Openpay

Marcus Waterreus is the Chief People & Culture Officer at Openpay, a Melbourne-based ‘buy now, pay later” provider, available in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My career in HR was almost accidental. I was lucky to have been given an opportunity after someone saw some potential and took a chance. Thankfully, I had the support of an amazing team and the opportunity to learn from strong role models which made the steep learning curve far less daunting.

I’m grateful to have learned my craft through several different People and Culture roles in a company that was recognised by Hewitt/AON as the Best Employer ANZ for several consecutive years. The workplace philosophy was based on building an environment for the team.

Placing people front and centre broke the mould from traditional strategies and created a magic formula that led to happy and supported team members. This translated directly to excellent customer outcomes and improved bottom-line performance.

I still apply learnings from my early career to my current role, how I develop my team and influence my stakeholders.

With almost 20 years in the field and having gained experience across various sectors in companies ranging from 100 to 100,000 team members, I have found that I love working in organisations where you know each person by name.

I feel very privileged to be in a position that can positively impact the lives of my team members. Contributing in some way to their journey of finding the ‘perfect role’ and aligning people initiatives to financial outcomes are the best aspects of my position.

Today, I am the Chief People and Culture Officer at Melbourne born ‘buy now, pay later’ provider, Openpay, and lead their People function globally.

It’s an exciting place to work, with fintech an innovative space to be in, particularly in Australia as we have led the charge within the sector. While we are seven years old, the company still feels like a startup due to the growth and ambitions for the future.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Each day is usually very different; however, most days begin with the morning commute of a 30-minute walk, which allows me to start planning my day as I would if driving into the city. Living in Windsor has its perks, with no shortage of good coffee resulting in a daily pit-stop before getting into work.

The workday often starts with a virtual team stand up so we can talk through the day’s plans, discuss any upcoming initiatives or events, and have a general check-in on my team’s welfare during the Melbourne lockdown.

This week I had a two-hour meeting with our Head of Innovation to work through details on a new and exciting project we are launching. During the afternoon, I like to block out time to concentrate on our strategic initiatives. My current focus is on developing an organisational culture program and building out our current reward and recognition offering.

I also met with my Learning Specialist to walk through some eLearning modules which are in development for our team. As we are growing rapidly, I often have calls with our recruitment lead for progress updates and to talk through any challenges or opportunities for targeting specific candidates.

One initiative we introduced at the beginning of the first lockdown was regular Wellbeing Calls. Both myself and my team will spend time touching base with employees from across the business for a virtual check-in – now the weather is warming up we use these calls as an opportunity for a Wellbeing Walk. It’s a nice way to encourage the team to take a break and enjoy some fresh air.

To end the day on a high note, I usually like to do something positive – today that was calling a team member who’s been with us for two years to offer her the role she applied for. It’s important that we can provide our team with opportunities for growth and to develop new skills, so we advertise each role internally and have recently set targets around internal mobility.

As we have a global team, most nights involve meetings with our UK office. However, when possible, my evenings are spent with a glass of Pinot and the company of my husband and our two Daschunds, Baxter and Finn.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

While there has always been the element of flexibility, we made the switch to 100% remote working in March as COVID-19 hit Victoria.

We have found that our team can work very effectively in a remote setting and have made the decisions as a business to provide our team members with the option to continue working remotely following the easing of current restrictions.

Being an extrovert, I love having people around me so while working from home has been great; I’m looking forward to being able to balance that with some time back in the office.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I see work-life balance as dedicating suitable time to endeavours outside of work whilst retaining a healthy presence of work and work activities when at home.

I’m lucky that while there is often the need to work odd hours, there is an understanding that we can work at times suitable to us and our personal circumstances. We place trust in our team to do the right thing, and it often results in stronger outputs.

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Sadly, the closure of gyms has resulted in a few extra COVID kilos. However, my team has introduced a range of wellness activities which I have seen the benefit of.

I’ve increased the amount of meditation that I practice and now do a guided meditation at least once a day. I’ve also resorted to going for a walk or jog as an activity; it’s helping compensate for the extra visits to the fridge and not being able to get a gym work out in.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek and have recently finished his book, Leaders Eat Last.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

The Calm app is excellent for guided meditation. Google Home keeps me on track, dressed for the weather and helps get the lighting at home just right! I’ve also fallen in love with Binaural beats to clear the mind and assist with a good night’s sleep after a busy day.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Yvon Chouinard – American Rock climber, environmentalist and founder of outdoor brand Patagonia. He came from humble beginnings and has successfully built a global empire through challenging capitalism and mixing environmentalism with business.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Work-life balance has become somewhat of a catchphrase in recent years and is a difficult thing to define, let alone stick to in these crazy times. It’s important to remember, even when working remotely, that taking time out is essential even on days when you think you can’t because of your workload.

A refreshed mind can lead to greater productivity, so I make a point of blocking out time to think, exercise or even eat. The key is having the discipline to stick to it!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.