HeForShe: Matthew Cheung | CEO of Ipushpull & Co-Founder, Work In Fintech

Matthew CheungMatthew is a CEO of ipushpull, an enterprise real-time data sharing and workflow platform, and co-founder of Work in Fintech, an edtech inspiring young people to build careers and companies in fintech and web3.

Previously, Matthew co-founded RANsquawk, a ground-breaking real-time audio news service for institutional traders. Matthew has nearly 20 years of fintech experience and an alumni of Imperial College and City University.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I currently have two roles: one as CEO of ipushpull, a no-code data sharing and workflow platform, and the other as co-founder of Work in Fintech, a social project that aims to increase diversity and opportunity in the fintech industry.

I’ve been working in the city since I was 21 and working in fintech since I was 25. After cutting my teeth in investment management and later in trading, I co-founded my first business in 2005, RANsquawk (now known as newsquawk), creating the world’s leading financial audio news service for traders.  Fast forward a decade, I decided to get more deeply involved in the tech side of fintech and co-founded ipushpull.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak which likely comes from my parents who were immigrants and both ran their own businesses. My mother was an Irish nurse and built a retirement home and my father, from Hong Kong, ran his own optician practice. I was the first in both families to go to university.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In a way. In my early years, I wanted to be a palaeontologist, then an astronaut, a graphic designer and later an accountant. However, after watching the movies ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Trading Places’, the allure of trading jumped out at me. I was always fascinated – and still am – about the financial market which  to me is a living, fluid, self-organising system and inter-connected web of economics, politics and ideas.

I took A-levels in Accounting, Economics and Statistics and then did a degree in Investment & Financial Risk Management – so I certainly tooled up in the right areas to become a trader.

I always wanted to run my own business, but my first company was not planned at all – it happened out of necessity, i.e. I needed a job.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

It turned out that I was an average trader but an excellent research analyst. So, after a stint at trading, I became a financial market analyst and excelled in that role utilising my natural curiosity and foundation in economics and analysis.

Unfortunately, after a year or so working as an analyst, the company I worked for shut down. At this point, my co-worker and I decided to set up our own business, providing real-time financial market analysis. We were quickly profitable and went from zero to £2m+ revenue in a couple of years. However, we were less experienced with the operational side of running a business and made quite a few mistakes. We learned through trial and error. All of the great resources that are now available online just didn’t exist back then.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Refocussing my perspective and giving back.

After starting my career thinking I could become rich quickly through trading, then later achieving success quickly in my first business, I look back now and realise how short sighted I was by not investing for the long term.

My perspective changed when I left my first business and went into the second. There was a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, I was having a child. I have a 5-year-old daughter and the day she was born, my perception of life, meaning, purpose and responsibility literally changed overnight.  Secondly, the older you get, the more you realise the less you know. Finally, moving away from a business which literally was open from 6pm on Sunday night to 9pm on Friday night without ever closing meant that I was switched on all the time. Now that my schedule is more balanced, I have more time for self-improvement. I’ve learnt so much in recent years and feel that I have only just scratched the surface.

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What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

There’s not one thing. It’s a combination of hard work, resilience and having a thirst for knowledge. Also not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone gives you an edge, that’s something everyone can attain, but few do. Lastly, resilience means you can always bounce back and, provided you learn from your mistakes, you can improve and become better and stronger.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’ve been mentoring high school and university students for the last 2 years.

When I was growing up, even though my parents were entrepreneurial, they weren’t wealthy and we didn’t have any family, or network, or any one to lean on for advice. My high school was also unhelpful when it came to career advice.

Because of the lack of guidance, mentoring and network, I felt that I could offer this to students at my old school, so that they would not have to learn the hard way like I did. It turns out that offering my expertise and network just before Covid was good timing.

I found out quickly that, because of the pandemic, 14–16-year-old students didn’t have any work experience in 2020 and 2021. Businesses just weren’t equipped to do it, either virtually or face-to-face. Work experience for me was a big deal and eventually led me to my first job in the city so it was important to me that these young students have the opportunity to do this too.

This was one of the reasons why I started Work in Fintech.

What can businesses/government/allies do to help diversity and inclusion?

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela once said. By generally raising the standard of education in schools and making a conscious effort to educate the younger generation about diversity and inclusion, you can help form people’s minds, attitudes, perceptions and ambitions in a highly positive way.

Also, people, governments and businesses must take it upon themselves to change for the better. People should maintain a bias for positive action even when it’s uncomfortable and hard work. One person can make an impact on the world. So, imagine if every person made a small change…

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

I think it’s vital.

Having a daughter and seeing first-hand the experiences my wife had when she went back to work after maternity leave, opened my eyes to the way women are treated, and the assumptions people make, when returning back to work. The lack of support and consideration for working mothers became even more apparent during lockdown where it was generally ‘accepted’ that women would take the brunt of childcare. Furthermore, the cost of childcare in the UK is one of the highest in the world – the government must subsidise it further.

If you have more than one child, childcare is so expensive that it often forces one parent to stay at home to bring up young children, and more often than not, it’s the mother. That means that a huge talent pool of hard working, educated women are taken out of the employment pool. I’ve no doubt that the collective output of that demographic would be worth substantially more than the subsidies!

We need more gender equality in the workplace. A more diverse and inclusive work environment means better decision making and a better culture.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

It would be a few things: take the long view, take more risk with your career when you’re young, mix with people you admire and look up to.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My current challenge is building and scaling a team to take ipushpull to the next level and becoming the de-facto tool for data sharing and workflow, replacing emails, file sharing and manual processes.

My next challenge is providing fulfilling and meaningful lives to people through education, enrichment and learning. This will start with Work in Fintech, a decentralised community, where we’ll help people from all backgrounds build careers and companies in fintech and web3.