Can you build a world-class fintech and payments group without a strong culture driving its performance?

Not according to Paul Kent, CEO at Adumo, who believes a strong and purposeful culture is what leads companies to greatness.

“Culture is not a set of values on a wall or a few catchy phrases. A strong culture is based on shared attitudes, beliefs and formal and informal rules that have been developed over time and have been adopted by the entire organisation.”

Adumo is South Africa’s largest independent payments processor with a presence in 14 African countries. The company aims to displace cash by making digital payments systems more affordable and accessible to smaller businesses.

Recruiting for ‘cultural fit’

“For us to truly achieve our goal of helping retailers and their customers access new and convenient forms of digital payments, we need every person in the business to strive toward a common purpose,” explains Kent. “For us, it comes down to a simple and clear vision, a focused strategy, and the right culture to support both.”

Kent says culture-fit forms an important part of the recruitment process at Adumo to ensure that every team member is aligned to the company’s vision and values.

“Every candidate applying to join our team undergoes a values interview in addition to a skills and experience interview. We seek top performers that share our values of collaboration, courage, initiative, fairness, and personal responsibility. This ensures our culture is cultivated and strengthened by every new person joining our team.”

Culture drives impact

One such top performer is Sales & Account Manager Darran Nadas, who has worked for Kent for more than ten years. He says that, from a culture perspective, Adumo is seen as a bit of a game-changer in the industry.

“We form part of the system but also work tirelessly to build products that fix problems in that same system. It’s the reason I get up in the morning and why I often think about our work – it has meaning and purpose.”

South African SMEs have had a nightmarishly difficult two years since the start of the pandemic. A study by the UN Development Programme and the Department of Small Business Development found that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had a severe impact on SMEs and informal businesses, with more than three million jobs affected.

Nadas believes the difficulties facing business owners makes Adumo’s work more important than ever before. “I have no doubt that we have the tools and expertise across our group to change the fortunes of a floundering business within six to twelve months.”

Alicia de Jager, Finance Manager at Adumo says she is motivated by everyone in the Adumo group working toward common goals and sharing a common purpose. “The Adumo team is amazing, and it is so energising to have our teams back at the office and collaborating on how to make a real difference in the lives of retailers and their customers.”

Kent adds that embedding this sense of purpose and unity across the group is central to its growth plans. “The work we do helps unlock savings that enable business owners to invest more into their companies, which encourages growth and job creation. I always tell our teams to remember that we’re making a real difference in people’s lives.”

Nurturing talent builds stronger teams

That difference extends beyond only the work Adumo does for SMEs and retailers.

For Phumudzo Makwarela, a chance encounter with an Adumo staffer paved the way for an exciting and fulfilling career change.

“I was working as a cleaner at a Woolworths in Johannesburg and a customer needed help. I’ve always been someone who jumps in to help where needed, and the customer happened to be someone from Adumo. They asked about my qualifications, and I said I had started studying financial management but never finished it due to lack of funds. They offered that I joined the company, and I’ve never looked back.”

She started out in the call centre but her work ethic and willingness to always help and learn soon unlocked new opportunities. “I now work in the fraud prevention department, monitoring transactions on a day-to-day basis and flagging suspicious or potentially fraudulent transactions.”

Makwarela has lived with a chronic illness for 27 years and says the support she receives from her colleagues has been invaluable. “Sitting at home during the lockdowns was hard. As soon as we received a notification from our HR team that we could return to the office, I spoke to my doctor to make sure it was safe for me to do so. The consensus was that the mental strain of working alone at home was affecting my health, and a return to the office could be good for me. For me, that’s been 100% the case.”

Kent adds that it is the spirit of people like Darran, Alicia and Phumudzo that makes the business such a success. “It’s this culture of dedication, positivity and helpfulness that cascades down throughout our business and to the companies and business owners we strive to help. And it’s one of the main reasons why I love getting up and going to the office – to be surrounded by amazing people doing important work that has a real impact.”