Stiven joined Salv nearly a year ago, at a time when we were setting up our sales and business development teams. Back then, anti-money laundering (AML) was a whole brave new world for him. Like everything new, it was both exciting and a bit scary, but it proved to be a great adventure. There were many unknowns, and, looking back, Stiven was instrumental in getting us to where we are now.
A year later, we try to understand what helped Stiven find his way to Salv and how his past experience, his knowledge, skills and attitudes shaped him as a great colleague and an unconventional sales and business development professional.
What events in your life pointed you to a career in business development?
It all started when I got a summer job as a door-to-door salesman in the US, delivering educational materials for babies, toddlers and children up to their teens, as well as their parents. During five consecutive summers, I got to visit and work in Utah, Texas, Kentucky, and on my last summer job I worked in Alberta, Canada. The first weeks in this job were really hard. I spent every day on my feet, walking from door to door 12+ hours a day, 6 days a week. Even though it was quite taxing physically, it opened something in my mind, and the more I gave, the more I got back – in knowledge, inspiration, and professional insights.
In my third summer, I was elected a group leader. What does that mean? Suddenly, it wasn’t as much about selling as it was about setting up processes, organising everyone’s work, and leading people. I have been given a chance to grow as a person and as a sales professional. Now it was time for me to help others succeed as well. Through my experience as a group leader, I was able to find ways to reach – and go beyond – our goals and objectives, and improve my group’s KPIs. The results we delivered that summer were outstanding, and we were rewarded with a trip – something everyone dreamt of and aspired to.
After you made your way back to Estonia, you received quite a few offers. What made you choose Salv?
When I was ready to move on to a new challenge, I joined SolarStone in Estonia. It was a new interesting stage in my career. I was coming from a business-to-customer (B2C) background, now I had to operate in the business-to-business space, which was totally new to me. SolarStone replaces traditional roof tiles with integrated solar panels, and my job was to learn as much as possible about their technology, and sell solar roofs to customers and businesses across Europe. Gradually, I got to know more about business development, and could shift my focus to building partnerships and expanding our operations, which led to a significant increase in revenue.
I like challenging myself. At one point, I realised that to become better at what I do, I have to step out of my comfort zone and do something I have never done before. I started looking for a company that would give me the push to learn and grow. From the 10+ offers I received in that period, the offer from Salv really stood out. I had so many questions, my mind was spinning. Salv offers some of the best technology solutions in the anti-money laundering (AML) industry, including AML Bridge – a pioneer in fincrime intelligence sharing. It all sounds very good, but how do I sell it? How can I beat financial crime? How can I stop money laundering, if I can hardly understand what AML is? Those were the questions I was asking myself, those were the reasons I chose Salv.
Salv proved to be a really good challenge for me. You know, there are not many sales people in Estonia who can understand the importance of AML products and solutions, and sell them to others. To be good at sales, you have to believe in your pitch, and pitch passionately. People must see the spark in your eyes and let it ignite them. They may or may not notice the little things, like your body language or changing facial expressions, but they will notice your confidence, vigour, and honesty.
I want to thank Kairi Pauskar for reaching out to me, and helping me make up my mind. Kairi knows that a sustainable work environment is a key component of Salv’s company culture, and she shared her thoughts in this article.
All of us at Salv strongly believe in our mission and values. What resonates with you the most?
I strongly believe that what we do at Salv every day, no matter the role, really helps financial crime specialists and fincrime teams, because it actually saves them time and makes their work easier. I know for a fact that our all-in-one AML platform is easier to integrate, and from what I heard, it’s easy to use, too. Our customers create and test their own screening and monitoring rules in a flexible, customisable environment. Our AML compliance tools effectively reduce manual workload and protect compliance teams from sleepless nights and from burnout. We put crime-fighting first, which means that tackling fincrime and money laundering underpins everything we do.
To this day, 1-2% of global money laundering is detected and prevented in a year. This alone offers a huge potential for improving the AML industry performance. I’m not going to lie, we have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us. There is enough work for at least 100 years. Maybe then I can start thinking about what to do next.
Jeff once said that it’s good to choose a company with a meaningful mission, where you can make the world a better place. I totally agree with him.
Company culture is an important component of a workplace. What are your thoughts on Salv’s company culture?
Our culture is created by outstanding people, experts in their field. Our unique culture nurtures professional freedom and passion for discovery and knowledge. In that regard, most of us at Salv feel like early explorers and seafarers navigating uncharted waters. We are building something special, and we make sure we have the best of the best to help us along the way. We basically cherry-pick people. Not everyone will agree with this approach, but it helped us to build a strong team, which, to this day, remains one of our greatest assets.
We are in the stage where we constantly develop and test new processes. Nothing is set in stone, so you can get out of our comfort zone and try something new every day. No one is breathing down your neck waiting for you to get things done. At Salv, you have the freedom to choose what you want to work on and when, and if you can prove that something is worth a try, no one will stop you. Oh, and one more thing: we have a blameless postmortem culture, which helps us focus on getting things done, instead of pointing fingers and spreading negativity. At Salv, the sky is your only limit!
Describe your typical work day at Salv.
We work with companies that are already in the pipeline, most of them come from referrals. Then we use LinkedIn to identify and reach out to our potential prospects: payment service providers (PSPs), money service businesses (MSBs), neobanks, and blockchain companies. We connect directly with decision makers. In the AML space, we are dealing mostly with heads of compliance, money laundering reporting officers (MLROs), CEOs, and COOs. After initial contact, we schedule qualification calls and conduct a company demo. If everything goes well, we move on to a pricing call and, eventually, to contract negotiations. We are constantly on the lookout for conferences and forums for AML and compliance experts, where we can meet potential clients and enrich our pipeline. We have weekly business development meetings where we go over our goals and work out a detailed plan of action.
How do you maintain a work-life balance? Do you find it difficult?
We work either in the office or remotely, so it’s good to set up clear, reasonable boundaries. I know exactly when my work day starts and when it ends, and I follow a strict routine. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I love paddle tennis – it’s a mix between tennis and squash. It’s fun, gets my mind off work, and keeps me in shape. Every one of us needs a change of scenery once in a while, to look at things from a different angle. At Salv, you can take a long weekend to charge your batteries and come back refreshed, or you can travel and work from another country. In January I worked from Spain, last week I returned from Stockholm. Of course, every time I take time off, I make sure that my teammates are not away at the same time, and that our work continues as usual. Other than that, it doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you take responsibility and deliver positive results.
What are your key principles in business development and sales?
One thing we agreed on straightaway is that we are honest with our prospects and ourselves. We trust each other, and this environment of trust makes it easier to work as a team. We learn from each other, and there is a lot of growth and dynamism in everything we do, because our product is growing and developing all the time. It makes me think of Alice in Wonderland: “Here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
We don’t overpromise, but we pursue our goals and strive to deliver more value. When I look back at everything we have achieved as a team, I realise that we did the impossible. We work hard, but we know how to have fun.
Thank you for your answers! Now let’s see what kind of person you are outside work. 🙃
Tell us about your childhood. Was there anything in your childhood that indicated that you would be a good salesperson?
In sales, it’s very important to have a good memory. You should be able to remember everything you see and hear. When I was a kid, memory matching games were my favourite. I quickly memorised all the cards and won all rounds. Soon enough, no one wanted to play memory games with me because I was unbeatable. A week ago I had a call with 12 people, and I still remember their names. People like that – it means you care enough to remember them. But how did I get to this point? When I think about it, I probably inherited it from my dad, who has worked as a car salesman for over 20 years. He is my absolute role model.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love investing. I look up stock market data, try to analyse and understand investing trends. It’s interesting to see connections between what’s going on in the world and how it affects the stock markets. I invest through EstateGuru – it’s a marketplace where you can give and receive house loans from private persons.
Many of us at Salv are real geeks when it comes to anti-money laundering (AML) and financial crime. Can you say that you are one of them?
I really try. I like watching documentaries about money laundering and drug trafficking, to see the other side of things and understand how we can help at Salv. But the good thing is that our new joiners don’t need an extensive knowledge of AML. We don’t expect them to be natural-born crime-fighters either. It’s okay if you just learned about money laundering the other day, as long as you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know much about AML until I joined Salv. But it didn’t scare me away, in the end, it gave me a push to grow my skills and expertise and finally move up.
A year ago, Jeff explained why we couldn’t ignore AML. If you want to learn more about AML, this article is a good place to start.
What is your favourite book?
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. I’m not going to spoil it for you, you should go ahead and read it. But it boils down to the fact that if you want to achieve change in any area of your life, you must work on it, and eventually you will get results. It will not be instant. If you make small changes in your daily routines, do a little more than what you think you are capable of, over time, it will compound into bigger things, and it will change your life entirely. The book was a complete revelation, and, in a way, it changed my life. It’s my life philosophy, and I wish more people would follow the same path.
If Salv were a food, what food would it be?
It’s hard to say, but the first thing that comes to my mind is bacon and eggs! Eggs are easy to digest, and people at Salv are friendly and easy-going. Bacon is a processed meat, it can be hard on your stomach, and just like bacon, the topics we face in our work, such as money laundering and sanctions violations, take a lot of time to understand. I hope it doesn’t sound too weird!
Pineapple on pizza: yea or nay?
It was a great chat. Thank you, Stiven!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to join your team?
We don’t yet have strict procedures or manuals in place, so we expect you to be proactive, and we hope you take action, like all of us. There is a lot of freedom, we don’t have managers breathing down our necks, so in order to stay on track, you have to develop your inner manager. I’m not talking about Kuato from Total Recall (remember that baby-like mutant from Mars?), but I can definitely quote him: you are what you do. Your actions, your work attitude, your ability to learn and feel “at home” in a radically new environment is what matters the most.
If you want to learn more about open positions in Salv’s sales and business development teams, have a look at our Careers page.