Why executives from SAS and Fidelity left the corporate world for a Durham fintech

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A pair of seasoned Triangle executives have jumped ship – leaving for a fintech startup after decades of corporate stability.

Durham-based Spreedly, a payments orchestration software firm, just snagged Jillian Munro, a former North Carolina site lead at Fidelity Investments, and Randy Guard, who up until January was the chief marketing officer at analytics giant SAS in Cary. Munro and Guard are now CTO and CMO, respectively, at Spreedly – a complete turnaround from how they’ve spent their decades-long careers.

In an exclusive interview, they called the startup space a new challenge, and one they were both eager to take on.

“The fintech digital payments space is super dynamic,” Munro said. “It’s very complex. There’s a lot going on, a ton of innovation, and Spreedly sits as a core component in the ecosystem.”

Munro first connected to Spreedly CEO Justin Benson through American Underground, Guard through serial entrepreneur and ChannelAdvisor cofounder Scot Wingo. And both said they were interested in how different Spreedly is from their previous roles.

“I come from over 25 years at large companies,” Munro said. “It is the ability to be part of everything that’s going on with the company, being able to really connect on levels you may not be able to connect on in a big firm, and the ability to really move quickly, be flexible and adaptable and just really be a part of the direction of the company.”

Similarly Guard, who took over for Jim Davis at SAS back in 2015, said the culture was enticing, as was the new-ness of the technology.

“Spreedly’s premise is to simplify this very complex world and to provide a unified way so that the merchant and the end customer can actually accelerate their business,” he said, calling it “massively appealing.”

“I also saw personal growth,” he adds. “I came out of an enterprise company, for sure, but payments was not a domain of speciality there. … Working at a growing company and at a smaller company that is growing was the perfect opportunity because Spreedly is at this inflection point with the funding from late last year.”

For Spreedly, which also announced the hire of Dana Calder to lead human resources, the new hires are a signal of its scale. The company announced a $75 million investment last year from Spectrum Equity, and Benson said at the time the cash would take the firm to the next level.

Both Guard and Munro have advice for others pondering a leap off the corporate cliff and into a startup. Guard said it starts with self-reflection.

“What do you want to do next?” he said, noting that startups could be 10 people or a growth organization like Spreedly that’s scaling. “I very much looked at the latter one.”

Guard recommends leaping “out of your comfort zone.”

“Growth really happens when you’re outside of your comfort zone, when you can meet somebody and have that first conversation,” he said. “If the person is looking for and ready for the growth opportunity, and they’re willing to hop out of their comfort zone, it’s such a great learning opportunity as well.”

Munro said a startup is a good risk for someone looking to make a bigger difference within an organization. A smaller company gives you a bigger opportunity to help craft solutions.

For Munro, whose career evolved by utilizing contacts in the same network, Spreedy was a huge step out of that comfort zone, she said.

“For me, stepping out into Spreedly, it really is a lot about stopping that pattern and being thoughtful about what it is I want to do,” she said.

Original Article Source: Triangle Business Journal