Interview with Daniel Marovitz
SVP of Fintech at Booking.com
What is your biggest day-to-day motivator?
Improving connectivity and simplicity are my day-to-day motivators. At Booking.com we’re driven as a team to make it easier for everyone to experience the world. I believe in the power of travel to connect: travel, culture and language are areas that bring us all closer together. Payments are a big part of enabling the connective experiences of travel.
So much of travel is subjected to complex financial friction. Travel is really hard from an e-commerce perspective because it’s cross-border and across currencies. There are unfamiliar payment methods. It’s just different from other categories of e-commerce and we’re talking bigger ticket items than simple merchandise too.
There’s more emotion and anxiety around it as a topic. I’m driven by that challenge: to make payments easier and through this to make planning travel easier. Booking.com’s FinTech unit sits alongside the company’s two main units: trips and accommodation. We’re in the thick of the innovative solutions and investments that make it as easy as possible for our customers and partners to connect.
As a truly global e-commerce company with business operations in nearly every country and city on the planet, the vision behind this business unit is to make buying and selling travel-related products and services through millions of cross-border, cross-currency transactions taking place daily, truly easier for everyone.
How has your career path taken you to SVP of FinTech at Booking.com?
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in technology businesses at every stage: from start-up to mid-cap, to Fortune 100. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to work in a large global bank, to work in embedded finance and e-commerce companies as well as listed and known pure-play FinTech companies.
I think all of those experiences have helped me to understand the enormous scale of this industry and I’ve certainly learned many lessons along the way. I think sometimes we forget what the word ‘FinTech’ means. Financial means the financial services world, regulation, banks, etc. And tech is tech.
We don’t always embrace the fact that it's two vastly different worlds and different cultures. My experience has really enabled me to thread the needle to put the pieces together between financial services and technology.
The Booking.com business is the most complex I’ve ever worked in by an order of magnitude. Booking travel may sound simple, but it’s devilishly complicated. A challenge I enjoy for all the reasons I’ve outlined above. I joined Booking.com in 2017, becoming Senior Vice President of Booking.com's FinTech unit in 2021.
Our 700+ strong cross-functional team operates in Amsterdam, London, and Bangalore and goes end-to-end from ERP to payment platforms, compliance, PSP relationships, FX, and payments experience for both sides of the global marketplace. We have plans to expand to around 900.
How can you see the payments industry for travel booking evolve over the next few years?
Across the travel industry as a whole, there will be a bigger focus than ever on customer experience. All kinds of policies and flexibilities are built into the travel industry, which affects both the supply side and the traveller.
Improved customer experience sits at the heart of Booking.com’s vision for future travel. Many of the things that we can do help add more flexibility, decrease risk and add more comfort.
Our objective in payments is to help both sides of the marketplace with financial products and our vision of the ‘connected trip’ - enabling our customers to book every aspect of their travel experience - from package trips to flights and attractions - stress-free through our familiar, easy-to-use website or mobile app.
Becoming a one-stop shop for all travel needs: reducing financial friction is one of the key elements to make this a reality. Every day we explore ways to make it easier for travellers to pay the way they want, at the time they want, and for partners to grow their businesses.
What is the biggest workplace challenge you have to face regularly?
I think the biggest challenge that we face is probably competing priorities. We are fortunate to have an incredible amount of resources across Booking.com however we’re always forced into the position of having to make difficult choices about what we do and don’t do as we focus, prioritise and re-prioritise.
That can be very painful - particularly in an area that is scaling fast. It’s also about getting the balance right between operational excellence and resilience topics which can be expensive and time-consuming. The benefit is invisible to customers until the moment that they need it, right? It's an insurance policy so I think getting that balance right is tricky.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Early on in my career, I ended up becoming a manager in my first 100 days. My boss at the time was an interesting guy and said to me: “There are two characteristics of people that you want reporting to you. Someone who wants your job, and probably somebody capable of taking your job.”
So I’ve learned that when building a leadership team, it’s important to have people who are smart, challenging, creative, and have no obvious power gap. You have more robust conversations. It’s critical to have the strongest, most powerful people you can around your table, even if they make you nervous. That’s key.
If you were stranded on a desert island with 3 other people, who would they be and why?
That’s tough. In a sticky situation, it’s about who are the people you want on your team to help you deal with something, so really about characteristics.
I would want people who are clever and creative and think on their feet. And people who have an exceptional understanding of science because they are practical and crafty. I would also want a spectacular artist to keep everyone inspired and entertained.
What was your dream job as a child? How far away is what you do now from that initial childhood dream?
It was very clear to me when I was 5 years old that I wanted to become an ambulance driver. I grew up in New York City. And of course, traffic is terrible in Manhattan.
Ambulance drivers could turn on the sirens, turn on the lights, and then they got to go speeding through the streets of Manhattan. And everybody moved out of their way. Nobody moved out of the way for anybody else. And I just thought that was just so cool. It was like they had superpowers. So, when I was 5 years old, my Halloween costume was an ambulance driver!
Describe yourself in 3 words
Energetic, Inventive, Forward-thinking - is that three words?!
What would your last meal be if you had to choose?
Something Indian, spicy, and vegetarian. Tarka Dahl?
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