‘Just smile and wave, smile and wave’


Justina Tartilaite Adsum

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Justina Tartilaite, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Adsum.

Prior to founding Adsum she was a Director in Private Credit at Deutsche Bank in London and previously worked in London, Hong Kong and Amsterdam for ABN AMRO Bank in various capital markets roles.

Justina is the winner of multiple maths olympiads, holds a first class Masters degree from CASS and is an alumnus of Harvard Business School.

What brought you into financial services?

(Laughing) Bonuses in 2007! I am perfectly proud to say that financial rewards were and remain a strong consideration for my career.

Maths was my forte and so banking and finance was a natural fit. I got offered a fantastic graduate training contract at ABN Amro, a Dutch Bank.

The job took me to Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Moscow and NY. I later joined Deutsche Bank and very much enjoyed my 8 years in London in their Capital Markets team.

What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?

In life and at work, empathy, tenacity and a good sense of humour goes a long way. Research shows that well balanced and diverse teams tend to perform best.

At Adsum we have women in senior tech and finance roles and so the working environment is good.

What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?

Stereotyping is a tough one. I have a framework to avoid my own bias, so when hiring I ask for CV’s with personal details redacted.

We ask software developers to do technical tests and for origination candidates to prepare a sales presentation to ensure that offers are made based on merit.

For many women I think the biggest obstacles to overcome in the workplace are the ones in our own minds – self-doubt, fear of not being taken seriously or failure and so on, but once we get over the barriers in our minds, the sky is the limit.

If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be? 

Go faster and take more risks. I am naturally on the introverted side and tend to over-think things.

In our business we are paving the way to a new type of short-term financing based on monetising business’ tax receivables – VAT and corporation tax refunds primarily – leveraging technology to facilitate speedy processing and turnaround times.

So, the best advice I could give my younger self is to trust your gut instinct, surround yourself with good people and place yourself in the path of opportunity.

What’s your own personal mantra?

“Just smile and wave, smile and wave” from the film Madagascar.

What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?

I truly enjoy what most people call ‘work’.  Building and scaling a FinTech business is fascinating, and I count myself lucky to have a job which I enjoy.

My work compliments my life and is a source of joy and fun for me. Listening to different podcasts or reading blogs is my way to chill.

I like long runs and skiing of any type- I tend to go to Oxford to water-ski most weekends which helps me un-wind.

I love nature and animals.

A neighbouring business has a dog who often wanders round to Adsum’s office.  We love having him around and it’s a reminder that we spend too long in life working to not enjoy the time that we spend doing it.

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions? 

Leadership, the job of your dreams or an entry level job- just go for it!

Do your best and aim high. It is a numbers game, keep on going and it will happen. If you love what you do you will succeed, and the rewards will follow.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

As a modern woman I believe that anything is possible.

Today there is positive action to open doors which were previously men only, and a positivity around women’s contribution in the workplace more generally have made a real difference.

Anything can be possible; I was one of the youngest Directors at Deutsche Bank and it was a fun journey to get there.

If I had stayed who knows what would have happened but I am proud of myself for making the decision to say ‘thank you, goodbye’ to a great position.

It wasn’t easy but I was clear in my mind that it was the right decision for me. As Chief Executive of Adsum I can shape the company, what direction we take our technology and what products we can offer our customers.

FinTech world is a great challenge, and I am privileged to be working with incredibly smart and talented people here. There are no glass ceilings at Adsum!

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

I think it is a positive step in the right direction, but it needs more promotion and championing, so more people are aware of, and buy into its goals and objectives.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

Finance is a great career choice and with flexi-work, work from home or work from anywhere options, it has become an incredibly sustainable career path for women, which has not always been the case.

Finance, banking and tech lends itself well to women. It is intellectually challenging work, fast paced and rewarding. I like the flexibility it offers.

The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?

The gender pay gap is a consequence of many variables including an outdated maternity/paternity policy.

It kicks in when both women and men enter their prime earnings potential between the age of 30-50. Women tend to take career breaks and hence start lagging in pay.

I know many guys who would love to be prime care givers, but often current policy does not accommodate it.

Many firms have adjusted their terms of employment to address this discrimination but ultimately both men and women are disadvantaged but with women footing the bill.

Organisations are slowly starting to address this imbalance.

What is your biggest achievement in your career to date?

I am a CEO of Adsum and that’s pretty cool. We are doing some really exciting stuff, building an end-to-end lending platform which is going to be a game changer for the UK SME short term finance market.

We lend against all tax receivables- no one else is doing – starting with UK tax receivables such as VAT, R&D, video games and movie tax credits.

We are expanding into import VAT and other product verticals in the coming months.

On a personal level Adsum is my biggest achievement. I am very proud of our superstar team, and I am excited what the future holds for us.