Anastasia Bikou is managing director of sales at Alpima and has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University so it seems like the perfect fit that she joined a fintech in May 2018 after a career in banking. Alpima is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform for investment management and product design.
Bikou explained that her job description is sales and in technology that usually means that after the client is signed, they are then passed on to someone else to look after. She said: “However, I changed the role as throughout my career I have been good at growing business and developing relationships with clients.”
Prior to Alpima, Bikou spent nine years at Goldman Sachs in London where she was responsible for foreign exchange distribution to institutional clients across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Bikou said her time in banking taught her about understanding the business and also about negotiating with internal and external stakeholders, seeing their viewpoints and reaching win-win outcomes wherever possible.
“The two Greek crises were a great school,” she added.
“I have taken that skillset and applied it onwards.”
Before Goldman, Bikou worked as a derivatives trader at the Treasury Division of National Bank of Greece, after starting her career as a financial analyst with Merrill Lynch in New York.
“There comes a point when you want to do something new and I always try to extend my knowledge,” said Bikou. “I owe a lot to my previous employers but at the beginning I was an engineer so I wanted to break into fintech and combine two passions.”
Bikou continued that she has always known everything about her clients – their wife, their kids, their hobbies, their business.
“That is very important because if people trust me, and view me as a friend, they open up and we can work together to solve their problems and pain points,” she added. “I genuinely love speaking to clients and that is at the heart of what I do.”
Bikou described Alpima as being on a mission to revolutionise the asset management industry as change is affecting clients’ top and bottom line, and they need to improve efficiency, transparency and scale. The industry needs to remain relevant and raise more assets by creating content that is engaging for the end-client on apps, mobile and the web.
“There is also a generational shift, as the way my parents interacted with private banks and asset managers and how my son is going to interact is completely different,” she said. “Firms also need to build tools to comply with regulations which are constantly changing.”
Alpima can help solve these issues with bespoke technology and Bikou is a hub between the firm’s clients and its internal developers. She said the most important thing she has learnt at Alpima is dealing with a very diverse team of developers and combining their knowledge with her understanding of business.
“For me, the most exciting thing is to transfer that expertise and liaise between the client and the team internally,” she added.
She has also learnt about the whole technology product development cycle.
Bikou said: “I was fortunate to come from Goldman Sachs where you could say ‘I need that button’ and it would appear, but now I am part of that flow and the entire value-creation journey – and that is exciting!”
Alpima plans to continue to grow its product suite and to enter geographies, while also doing more with the existing clients as their partner of choice.
“I am extremely proud of everything I’ve learned at Alpima and everything we have built for clients,” she added. “I’m particularly proud of the work we’re doing with one of my big clients who have been on a transformational journey with us for two years and the project is going from strength to strength.”
In December last year the fintech launched Alpima Notebooks 2.0, an enhanced module that enables quant and development teams to accelerate their product design by having a centralised, secure, web-based interface where they can perform all development steps and store their code, images, comments, formulae and plots.
“The future is exciting and we are believers in the value of industry collaboration to drive solutions – we recently hired a Chief Product Officer (CPO) for that reason,” said Bikou.
Karen Tierney joined as CPO last month from DWS, Deutsche Bank’s asset management business. She was previously at RBS, Barclays, Deloitte and The National Bank of New Zealand.
Bikou said Alpima now has two women in the management team of seven, which is rare for a technology company.
“Increasing diversity is not easy but Alpima is trying to make the right changes,” she added. “We care deeply about diversity and also have made a real effort to hire people from minority and underprivileged backgrounds.”
She stressed that firms have to make a conscious effort to improve diversity. “These things don’t just happen, and in the case of Alpima the focus on diversity comes all the way from the CEO, Pierre Mendelsohn,” Bikou added.
For example, before the Covid-19 pandemic forced people to work from home, everyone in Alpima’s London office had lunch together every Friday. “It’s important because it’s within office hours and no-one feels excluded,” said Bikou. “We did this when we were seven people and we do it now that we’re 50. It’s not something we’re going to give up.”
In addition to her Mechanical Engineering degree, Bikou also has an undergraduate degree in Business Economics from Brown University and an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School.
She puts her success down to a combination of her entire background, always finding ways to extend her knowledge and her interactions with people. “If you enjoy something and put your time and energy in it, you’re going to be good at it,” said Bikou.
Her advice to other women looking to go into finance or technology is to be assertive and bold. “You need to find your transferable skills and keep wanting to learn,’ said Bikou. “Don’t be afraid because the opportunities are there – we’re hiring all the time.”