“Thanks to our technology, we are more flexible and fast than any other competitor”

In our interview series “PAIR Faces”, we ask team members questions about their role at PAIR Finance and get to know them personally. This time we talked to Henry Kobsch, Director Partnership Management at PAIR Finance.

To start with, we would like to know something about you and your background. Where are you from?

I was born in 1981 on the outskirts of Berlin, grew up there, studied in Berlin and am one of the few Berliners in the PAIR team.

How did you come to join us?

In 2018, I got in touch with Stephan (editor’s note: referring to Stephan Stricker, CEO and Founder of PAIR Finance) through an investor I knew from my previous employment at Klarna. PAIR Finance had just entered into a conversation with Klarna and my knowledge of Klarna was an advantage at that moment. PAIR had just reached the size where it made sense to bundle and unify all activities related to our principals, our clients, in one hand. 

What has your career with PAIR been like since then?

In the beginning, I was completely on my own. All issues that somehow looked like they had to do with clients came to me. I processed all of our clients’ transfers and sent out all of the monthly invoices – manually. In the beginning, the focus in development at PAIR was clearly on the core product, you could see that and in the early days it is also normal and totally important not to spend too many resources on automating things that rarely happen. Since then, we have developed enormously. Soon the partnership management consists of 10 people and we have now established a structure that is divided according to the sectors of our clients. Many things have been automated and we have consistently increased efficiency so that we can provide an ever better service to our clients.

What are your responsibilities as Director Partnership Management at PAIR Finance?

This has changed a lot over time as PAIR has grown. In 2018, I personally sent out all client invoices individually every month. Now this is fully automated – but that doesn’t mean we’re out of work. We act as a SPOC, a single point of contact for clients on all questions that are not related to individual files. These are questions about our platform, international growth, legal issues, product and integration, evaluations, statistics, escalation cases – a very colourful bouquet of topics. If we cannot help directly, it is up to us to find competent help from our colleagues and to answer everything quickly and reliably for the client. 

My role as a director today is almost entirely that of someone who manages a team of 10 people. Every client and every partnership manager has ideas and wishes; it’s a lot about prioritising, balancing, coordinating with product management. I coordinate this centrally – as well as coordination with the legal team. For example, I guide my staff professionally and answer their questions. I often go along to meetings with our important clients, show my face and listen to what is going well and, more importantly, what is not going so well. 

What makes a good business partnership? What are your expectations of partnership management at PAIR?

A few years ago we defined values at PAIR that I think are great (not only because I helped to develop them, but also because they describe very well what we do and want to do here). One of the values is transparency. I think that is something very central in a trusting partnership. Not everything can always work out, that’s human, even though we have automated a lot and developed a unique technology. Often in the startup and fintech world, people act as if they can do everything, that was never my style. I find it very confidence-building to stand up and say that it took longer, that it will take even longer, that unfortunately it wasn’t good. We learn from that, we become better and stronger, our attitude and our way of dealing with such challenges is crucial. Customer centricity is another of our values that I would like to highlight. As a debt collection company, we are a legal service provider, the word service is quite central to that, and for me that means that at PAIR we try to adapt to the client and not the other way round – which, thanks to technology we have developed ourselves, we can do better, more flexibly and faster than any of our competitors. But we all need the same client-first-mindset, from the partnership manager to the collection team colleagues (case processing) to the office dogs – it must be clear to all of us that our own wishes will only come true if the clients’ wishes do. 

What skills should someone who wants to work in your team have?

Curiosity and fun in facing a new, unprecedented challenge every day. It is also important to me that everyone in the team has good communication skills so that they can interact closely with our very international team and find the best solutions for our clients.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I want us all to have an eye for detail, but I don’t believe in micromanagement. Otherwise, I am very calm and businesslike and always have the goal in mind.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Watching PAIR Finance and our clients grow at the same time, and being able to provide advice and support to many of our clients from the digital world. I consider that a privilege.

And what is your life like outside the office?

Beautiful! I love to travel and it’s finally possible to do that again. I love being on the road, and I love France for example. For 25 years, I have been volunteering in a very active town twinning between my birthplace Rüdersdorf, a suburb of Berlin, and Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris. In doing so, I bring German and French musicians, athletes, schoolchildren and nurses closer to each other’s countries. I also write short stories under a pseudonym, read to audiences and host podcasts. But I keep that strictly separate from my working life.

What is your favourite place in Berlin?

Oh, there are so many. As a native Berliner, I’m naturally loyal to my roots and, if I had to choose, I’d say the stadium at the Alte Försterei with floodlights on or being on a boat on Müggelsee at sunset, that’s unbeatable. But there are also great places around our office, in the Tiergarten for example, I like the Café am Neuen See or, don’t laugh, the Memorial Hall of the Memorial Church. There I look at the Coventry Cross of Nails as often as I can, for me the strongest sign for the reconciliation of the peoples of Europe and peace. 

What is the best learning you have had so far in your time at PAIR?

You are the impact! It was one of the first things I learned and I always have the same feeling: At PAIR Finance you can make a difference, as they say today. The input you provide here is sometimes very quickly reflected in the product, which always inspires me.

Thank you, Henry, for the interview!

Ready to change the world of finance with us?

Would you like to work together with Henry on the future of the financial world? Then we are looking forward to getting to know you.