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Factris CFO, Brice Laurent says “life is about catching opportunities when you see them”
Brice Laurent sees the world from an interesting perspective. On the one hand, Brice is “attracted to logic and numbers” and applies a structured approach to thinking through the outcome of every decision, and on the other, he thrives on new experiences and not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
“I feel much more balanced as a person”
Born in the French Alps and growing up in Paris, Brice’s life has been full of change. Reflecting on having moved at the age of 15 to the Netherlands, he’s happy that’s where life has led him, “I’ve always felt more French but now having lived as many years in both countries, I feel much more balanced as a person”. However, he is still adjusting to the culture. “I still don’t understand Dutch humour!” laughs Brice.
Brice’s hunger for change has no doubt shaped his professional life as well. He started his career in London at Investment Bank at Morgan Stanley, where he gained a deep insight into the financial world. After five years there, he was once again ready for a change- but this time, in a new direction that would turn out to shape both his future and Factris’.
An unexpected opportunity arises
Having decided that he was ready for a change from investment banking, Brice returned to the Netherlands, where he joined two partners to start a company called Cashly that allows customers to pay cash for online transactions. This was his first entrepreneurial experience and the beginning of his venture into building financial technology companies.
“Maurits van Rijckevorsel and I then met Marcel Meijer who introduced us to the world of factoring. At the time, I had no clue what it was. However, with Marcel’s factoring experience, my knowledge of the financial world and Maurits’ sales skills we started Crown Finance, the predecessor to Factris”, Recounts Brice. Certainly, they saw a golden opportunity and seized it.
When asked about what attracted Brice to factoring, Brice shows modesty and strength of vision. “I’m not a creative person, but I try to be creative in what I do. Life came at me with an opportunity in which I saw a future. I was familiar with lending instruments, had my knowledge of financial services, and I was familiar with loans”.
What I found so interesting about factoring is that you give loans to small companies, but you base your risk on their clients. It's an ideal solution to fund smaller companies that typically would not be granted a loan by a bank because they’re too small or too risky... Factoring is an old product, but we’re trying to redefine it. It was mostly offered to larger companies so what we’re doing is trying to solve the problem of lending to small companies.” Brice’s vision of adapting Factris in a modern, innovative way has, without a doubt played a significant role in the success of Factris. He reflects “it was the first time that I had the opportunity to shape a company, and it’s not always easy- the company goes through different phases”. They started with only five employees and now have 45. “At the beginning, you have to do the best you can with what you have in terms of money and resource. People have to do tasks that they weren't hired for.”
It’s clear that Brice does not only measure the success of Factris by the bottom line; he’s also attentive to the happiness of the people behind the scenes. “It’s been a great transition to grow from being a very small company to a larger one where we can allow people to focus. You need to listen as much as possible to the people that you hire and create an environment where they can focus. It's difficult to create a culture, but I think we’re getting there. You need to trust your gut feeling because each hire you make is for a reason.”
“By creating diversity, you create harmony”
Brice is a strong believer in embracing and promoting diversity. He says, “it was important for us to make sure everyone was listened to so that together we could create one commonly-chosen culture from all of our the different cultures in the company. I don’t know if it’s a motto, but by creating diversity, you create harmony. If you have nine Dutch guys and one Frenchman, the Frenchman feels lonely. But if you have one big melting pot, everyone is equal.”
Respect for people goes beyond their backgrounds. Recounting on the numerous changes and turns Factris has made, Brice recognizes the importance of teamwork and communication. He recalls, “I’m proud of working hard while listening to the ideas of everyone… it’s crucial to make sure that the communication lines are short and that you grow together.”
His hard work and entrepreneurial spirit have undoubtedly paid off. Factris continues to grow, sometimes faster than even he realizes. He recounts enthusiastically, “The first time something happens in the company that you have no clue about - that’s fantastic! Getting to a stage where even if people would like to micromanage, they cannot - that’s a great situation!”
“We are here to succeed”
It’s easy to see his dedication and passion for making Factris a success and changing how SMEs are funded. “We are here to succeed and growing fast, and I’m not alone in this conquest of solving the problem of providing capital to SMEs” he excitedly explains.
However, it’s clear that despite the success Brice has found so far with Factris, change is still in his future - or at least he hopes. When asked where he sees himself in ten years, he ponders the question, then candidly responds, “I don’t know… There are many more things to discover. I’m analytical and logical, but I really like to be surprised, and I think what’s important in life is to catch opportunities when you see them… ten years is a long time. A lot can happen.”
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