Thomas Olszewski

Country: Poland, United States of America
Sector: Other Industries
Job title: Founder & CEO
Subject of study: Economics & Psychology
Year of graduation: 2009
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Koyo Loans

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I graduated in 2009 with a degree in Economics & Psychology. I moved to the United States and got a job at the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. I was trading commodities and currencies with my own savings and it became a passion of mine. I made this my profession and became a Trader & Analyst at Verition, a hedge fund in the New York area. After working for 4 years at Verition I packed my bags and moved to Germany. In Germany I landed a job in venture capital. I continued working in venture capital in London through 2018 when I started my own business. Moving around a lot I noticed financial services work very poorly for immigrants. My business Koyo (www.koyoloans.com) offers loans to people with short or no credit history at competitive rates, through a novel underwriting process that uses transactional bank data.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

Entrepreneurship offers incredible freedom and the attraction of boundless opportunity. I believe we have the power to change anything that want in this world. The thing I decided to change was consumer financial services for people who are new to the country or otherwise have a short credit history. Being able to lend a few thousand pounds to people who may not be able to get it elsewhere can be life changing.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

I was 1st team captain for Exeter lacrosse.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I signed up for psychology due to a genuine interest (rather than a financial interest) and I definitely found it to be a fascinating subject. I remember professors telling stories of treating real patients which I found really compelling. One account I remember is a professor from Wales being called by the police to do an evaluation after a man was arrested. The police called in the professor and said something to the effect of “this man is speaking gibberish”. The professor meets the patient and comes back after a few minutes, I am paraphrasing, as says “officers, this man is not speaking gibberish, he is speaking Welsh!”

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

I actually started my first business, reselling electronics online, while at Exeter. That coupled with the friends that I made and experience of living in the United Kingdom more generally made the Exeter experience a positive one for me.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

Coming from the United States, I flew over and visited 6-8 schools that were academically comparable. I met the Head of International Admissions who arranged for me to meet an Economics profession and I thought we really hit it off. That together with the scenic campus made it an easy decision.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

A core value of mine are is that risk taking and creativity are undervalued in our society. My view are those two things have lead to my most significant career gains. It’s not a matter of doing everything right or executing on plan of some sort, but staying flexible and jumping on interesting opportunities when they arise. When there are no opportunities, you have to create them.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Becoming an entrepreneur is the easiest job to get but perhaps one of the hardest in which to become successful. I would suggest working for 5-10 years prior to starting a business so you gain some perspective and experience but still have the energy to deal with the never ending challenges of running a business.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d like to build Koyo in a global business that operates in a number of countries offering a range of products. I think there is no limit as to what we can achieve and we have an incredible and experienced team at Koyo. You only live once and there is no benefit to “aiming for the middle”.

 

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