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The big comeback: How Brett van Aswegen saved Wonga

Brett van Aswegen



“What I’m good at is I’m a builder. I’m not a maintenance person,” says Brett van Aswegen, CEO of Wonga. The proof is there for all to see. When Brett took over, Wonga was in troubled waters. An early pioneer in the fintech space, Wonga’s reputation in the UK had gone into disrepute. “The business was made up mostly of people out of the gaming industry who didn’t understand credit that well,” says Brett, reflecting on some of the things that went wrong

In the latest Business Unusual Podcast, Brett shares the fascinating story of how they turned the business around in South Africa, going from payday lenders to short term lenders, repairing a damaged reputation, abandoning a ‘churn and burn’ strategy and pivoting to a digital marketing approach. Brett also shares the lessons he’s learnt, the power of purpose and explains what he means when he calls himself a ‘conscious capitalist’.

Key takeaways to listen out for in this podcast:


  1. “What makes a turnaround easier is when you’re dealing with a crisis”
  2. When you’re going through a turnaround, it's as important to look at the good that was done in the past as it is to look at the bad
  3. You need to sell sustainably - a ‘churn and burn’ strategy only works if there are enough consumers in the marketplace
  4. “The value of having regulation in place [is that] it gives you certainty
  5. “Don’t take your eye off what makes your revenue tick over every month” - focus on the business of your business
  6. As a CEO, you need someone else who is focused on the day-to-day operations of the business
  7. “Within a fintech ecosystem, you can’t be good at everything”
  8. Partner with organisations that are good at the things that you’re not good at
  9. In the age of digital marketing, personalisation is the name of the game

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