Business: Episode Six
Founded in 2015
About the Business: Episode Six is creating fresh and innovative technology for financial uses and payments products that give consumers and businesses the best experiences possible.
About Chermaine Hu
Chermaine Hu entered the fintech realm after a 14-year career in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) banking at Morgan Stanley in London and New York. Though her stint at Morgan Stanley was fulfilling and successful, Hu knew she had to make the switch to fintech, a sector that includes any technology utilized in the financial services industry, if she wanted to have more ownership in the company she worked for and oversight into the results she helped produce.
When looking into the industry, Hu remembered John Mitchell and Futeh Kao, her former coworkers from a payments technology company. The trio had bonded over a mutual vision of redefining what’s possible in financial services and payments industries. So in 2015, with that inventive goal in mind, they decided to found Episode Six, a company that gives banks, fintechs and brands freedom to quickly design and bring payment propositions to market. They were going to change everything, and with Episode Six, Hu can confidently say they did just that.
According to Hu, the payments and banking industry had been burdened by outdated legacy systems for an unfortunately long time. So she and her co-founders have worked to open up opportunities to streamline payments and banking processes, and open the exchange and flow of value around the globe.
“[We] found it important and rewarding to address the gaps in the industry by incorporating modern and flexible technology,” Hu says. “Our mission now is to…bring innovative payment propositions to market that enable the transfer of value of any kind. Paper currency, crypto, reward points, gold, securities or anything else you can imagine.”
By leaving M&A banking and creating her own business, Hu fulfilled herself and her ambitions in ways that would have been impossible otherwise.
“As a co-founder and CFO at Episode Six, I enjoy having a hand in directing the company’s journey. We have scaled up our investments and global presence since launching in 2015,” she explains. “I find it rewarding to have made a clear impact on the business goals, alongside my co-founders John Mitchell (CEO) and Futeh Kao (CTO).
“I enjoy overseeing the different puzzle pieces that scale our company,” Hu continues. “Every business, operational and people decision has an impact on our financial performance and the future of our company. I love bringing all of those aspects together to find the optimal sweet spot and then working with my co-founders and our teams to make the right decisions for future success.”
Hu and her co-founders now operate their business across 23 countries and four continents. They have operations in most major cities including Austin, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.
“Our team couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve built and the company we keep,” she says.
A Scarcity of Women Founders
Despite Hu’s incredible success, she has had her fair share of setbacks, challenges and adversity.
A 2020 study conducted by the AnitaB.org Institute found women make up 28.8% of the tech workforce. Women founders in the tech sector are even less common, especially in fintech, says Hu. She steadfastly refused to let this hinder her. She is wholly unashamed of her femininity and welcomes diversity in the workplace.
“Born in Hong Kong, educated in the U.K. and now based in Austin, I myself have a pretty diverse background. Which is why I value diverse teams and want to uphold diversity and inclusion values in the fintech field,” Hu says. “I have embraced being a woman in fintech and aim to lead a path for others who choose this field. It is full of exciting opportunities. I want women to know we need their knowledge, skill sets and diverse perspectives in order to introduce even more innovation to the world.”
Hu offers mentorship and guidance to all her peers. But she makes sure to offer strong and specific advice for women employed in the technology and finance fields. She has helped to create and implement programs dedicated to mentorship, leadership and professional development. She works to give those who are less experienced the advice she would have wanted when she was in their shoes.
“[One thing] I wish someone would have shared much earlier in my career is to take time to build and nurture relationships, both personal and professional,” she says. “Don’t skip that lunch with an ex-colleague. Don’t forget to send a thank-you note to your co-worker in another department who helped you with something just because you are too busy with your ‘real’ work.”
Find out more about Chermaine Hu and Episode Six:
Business: Acumera Inc.
Founded in 2002
About the Business: Acumera works to manage security, network visibility and automation services for multiple industries. Their services, remote visibility dashboard, robust data security and simplified compliance services allow their clients to focus on growing their businesses.
About Robin Campana
While some teens struggled to budget or keep track of money, for Robin Campana, debits and credits have always come easy. Now, she is the only woman on the Acumera leadership team, leading the entire finance department of the company.
“From a very young age, I was always great with numbers,” Campana says. “My first job began in my early teens filing for my dad’s company in Houston, Texas. Over the years, into high school and college, I worked my way around full-cycle accounting. Experiencing full-cycle accounting while you are taking college courses was invaluable. I was able to apply what I was learning to real transactions.”
In July 2019, a San Francisco digital company bought the marketing company where Campana worked as VP of finance. While she could have stayed, she missed the autonomy of working as a senior financial executive. It was time for a new adventure.
The Move to Acumera
Then in October 2019, when Bill Morrow took on the role of CEO of Acumera, he looked for a senior financial executive to join him at the company. Having worked with Campana at CSIdentity in 2008, Morrow knew who to hire.
“Bill knew that I could handle the due diligence and present at the investor meetings that were on the horizon for Acumera,” Campana says. “I am very happy to be working with him again. He always motivates his teams to achieve their very best. The future is very bright at Acumera with Bill at the helm.”
Empowered women empower women.
In 2010, Kendel Martin, the then president of Financial Executives International (FEI), empowered Campana to keep going in finance. Martin invited her to sit at her table and introduced her to FEI board members and other key members and sponsors. Campana admits making connections in this way helped her find her way to even more opportunities in the finance world.
“If she had not reached out in such a welcoming way, I seriously doubt that I would have ended up joining the board in 2016 and then becoming the first VP of diversity and inclusion in 2018, creating a new board role for the chapter,” Campana reveals. “I used my experience being warmly welcomed by Kendel as an example of how to make all guests and new members feel [the same].”
Even in her first job out of college, Campana was the first woman in the senior executive meetings. She says her father influenced her work ethic and mindset, instilling in her the belief that she could do anything she set her mind to.
“I was certainly capable of doing anything a man can do,” Campana says. “My father told me that I should always make sure that I am able to take care of myself. He said it was absolutely fine to choose to have a partner in life but always be able to pay my own bills and keep a roof over my own head at all times.”
Look for Opportunities
At each of her early career transitions, Campana quickly rose to senior leadership levels because she was never intimidated by anyone, regardless of their gender. She attributes this mindset to her father, too, saying she learned her leadership skills from him.
“My father was and is my role model to this day,” Campana says. “I wanted to lead and manage teams just like I watched him do. I wanted to be a leader just like him.”
As someone who never wanted to specialize in one particular area or industry, Campana says working in finance allows for that flexibility. Over the years, she’s worked in many industries. From nonprofits, to setting gas prices in the marketing department at a fuel jobber. A couple of tours in advertising and marketing firms, to the managed network service provider where she works now.
She’s even expanded past finance to start writing. In July 2018, she received an invitation to join Forbes Finance Council as a published author, where she shares her financial experience and knowledge with others. Campana says she typically finds more time to join expert panels than writing full articles; she hopes to make more time in 2022 to write, as she finds it fulfilling.
When giving advice to someone looking to work in the industry, Campana says it’s crucial to practice presenting early and often. Getting this experience early makes the pressure less intense.
“Look for opportunities to get in front of colleagues,” she encourages. “If you can interview well and sell yourself with confidence, you will typically stand out from the competition.”