CFO Series: Sanjay Bowry (Black Sheep Coffee) on Personal Financial Management

The CFO series to date has provided a lot of negative feedback around the use of finance technology for their personal finances. The most prominent insight is that the CFO community would rather use a spreadsheet over new apps & companies out there due to the limitations in their technological capability.

One of the few consistent mentions is Monzo; their prepaid cards have been recommended as an FX card, due to the lack of ATM fees or transaction fees (with the transfer to their current accounts, this will be maintained for a limited period of time).

Sanjay Bowry, however, provides an insight into the financial technology he has embraced, and used in his every day life. 

Sanjay has had a glorious career to date. From starting his training on the Tesco finance graduate programme, his career so far has involved heading up finance at Sainsbury's for South Asia to being CFO at the award winning mobile app, which rewarded users to take control of their data. He is now the Head of Strategy at Black Sheep Coffee, one of the fastest growing coffee chains in the UK. He is an active advisor and mentor for early stage start-ups and sits on the Board of Trustees for the charity, a grant giving organisation supporting the development of young people in the UK and Africa.


Sanjay, what is fintech to you? which personal finance technology do you use, (if any) and why?

I have totally embraced the fintech industry and have used a variety of the difference mobile applications and online tools; some have worked and some haven’t.


As a frequent traveller I live by Revolut, a secure, mobile-based current account that allows you to hold, exchange and transfer in 25 different currencies, without any fees. I spent the whole of December travelling around 3 continents and 6 countries and only needed the one card to take with me. I've never used a Travelex card, so cannot draw a direct comparison, however, typically Revolut will give you the best exchange rates, free ATM withdrawals and the ability to see purchases as soon as you make them. All of this is accessible through the app, rather than having to wait and check a bank statement. The app allowed me, while travelling, to see all my spending patterns, budget my finances and transfer my currency to different currencies from the push button. I didn't use Monzo during this process so I cannot compare with Revolut, but I did find Revolut invaluable while travelling. 

Seedrs and Crowdcube

The key fintech sites that I'm waiting to see the full potential of, are the crowdfunding websites. I have invested in around 5 different companies, through both Seedrs and Crowdcube. The most successful of these is Brewdog. I am still waiting to see if real returns can be made, and if it is actually as useful to low level investors as they make out. Seedrs and Crowdcube are hugely similar, however Seedrs are now playing around with a secondary market allowing you to sell your investments before the company that you have invested in does a trade sale or IPO. It allows you to see returns on your investments earlier. 

(Wee Scot Finance here: a secondary market is a an area on Seedr's websites where you can sell the shares that you have purchased in a company. Typically, if you invest in a company, you have to hold onto those shares until the company sells to another company, floats on the stock market (IPO) or goes bankrupt (where you don't see any money back). If you can sell your shares earlier to another investor you can get your money back (and maybe some more), sooner). 

Back to Sanjay...

Money Supermarket and Money Saving Expert

Although it's not new or revolutionary in recent times, and are great resources to make sure you can easily cut down on bills and understand the markets. I recently saved £’000s a year on my BT subscription package, by being able to easily see the better offers and leverage that knowledge when renegotiating my terms with them.


Outside of personal financial management, tell me about your favourite piece of technology in your life.

Apps: as a big embracer of tech, I use a variety of apps. All the obvious ones jump out, being Uber and Devileroo. Two of my favourites, however, are a little left field, being:

Sweatcoin: this is a mobile app that pays you for every outside step you take. The current exchange is 1000 steps for .95 ‘sweatcoins’; these coins can then be used to pay for items (I recently purchased a smart weighing scale) and they are soon to be introducing there own cryptocurrency and playing with the ability to pay your taxes.

I read a lot of tech journals and attend a lot of events; Sweatcoin was one from there. Im a big believer of immersing yourself in the industry you are in. Working in tech i must have gone to over 1,000 events so you find a lot of useless and useful information; Sweatcoin was a winner

Podcasts/Audiobooks: podcasts have changed the way I learn, I exercise and I relax. I currently subscribe to a variety of podcasts, from news, to entrepreneurship to sport. I love the ability to just listen and learn whilst getting on with my daily life. My top 3 podcasts to listen to are: 


Did you always want to be in finance, or work in technology?

I actually didn't know what I wanted to do leaving university; I went line by line through the Times Top 100 Places to Work and applied to anybody with a grad scheme. I got rejected from a few, changing my application each time. Eventually, this led to a number of interviews; I was blown away by Tesco. £1 in £8 at the time was spent there. Tesco had the ability to affect consumer decisions, store locations etc. I was sold and went into Finance.


What finance tips have you learned from your job that apply to your personal financial management?

Most of my professional life revolves around using data to enable us to make smarter business decisions, whether that is to change the price of a product or to increase/decrease opening hours. In my personal life the same attitude can be taken, data can come along in many forms but by doing your research you can make smarter and better informed financial decisions. Whether this is in investing or saving.

Another key skill that is easily transferable is goal setting. A famous Harvard study shows that those in the class who had written goals were making twice as much as those who hadn’t. Decide what you want to achieve in your personal finances and write them down. Make sure you judge yourself on them very much like a performance review.


We should always be learning; tell me what your favourite read was (book, blog, newsletter or otherwise), and why?

As I mentioned before I have recently got into podcasts and the one I am enjoying at the moment is Reid Hoffmann’s (founder of Linkedin) Masters of Scale; it shows how companies grow from zero. The podcast is set out like a detective story,  interviewing founders and business leaders. It is also the first American media programme to commit to a 50-50 gender balance for guests.


Any final comments for Wee Scot Finance readers?

Love what you do, and do what you love. Nothing is out of reach in this day and age. Set your goals and make a plan to reach them.

If you are looking for further CFO blogs, check them out here.