As CEO of the Atlanta-based global payments and financial service provider, Brightwell, Larry Hipp brings nearly 20 years of experience in finance, software engineering, and product development to lead a team in solving the world’s most seemingly unsolvable problems. On top of that, he also brings an almost indescribable determination to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives. This rare intersection of skill, drive, passion, and empathy is where transformation is born.
In March 2020, Larry was closing his fourth year as chief operating officer for Brightwell, which holds among their accolades five awards for Top Places to Work by Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For over a decade the company had thrived in managing the global payroll distribution for some of the biggest names in the cruise industry. Then the propellers stopped—and so did the revenue. This is the story of a remarkable company that, amid a global pandemic, refused to abandon those they served and the leader who transformed them into a purpose-driven, passionately user-centric firm on a mission to deliver products that serve real people.
A People-First Company on a Mission to Do Good in the World
Today, with Larry at the helm, Brightwell is grounded in the core value of “Users First,” and living out their mission to create products that help people and businesses send money securely across the globe with a suite of cross-border payment solutions that are simple to use, easy to integrate with, and enable customers achieve measurable results. From startups to Fortune 500s Brightwell processes and secures billions of dollars each year. Their innovative products—ReadyRemit and Arden—provide access to securely send money to over 90% of the world’s population across 140 countries, while proactively preventing fraud to mitigate risk and protect the bottom line for businesses.
“Our ‘purpose driven’ change was driven by empathy for and understanding of the humans that use our product. Many of them are selfless and hardworking people who have made the ultimate sacrifice to leave their home country in the hopes of greater financial opportunities,” Larry says. “Turning our focus on solving their problems was truly a transformation in our company, and that human-centric element is now incorporated into everything we do.”
We spoke with Larry to learn more about Brightwell, their human-centered culture, and the passionate team driven to positively impact lives around the world.
While many companies gave up during the pandemic, you led the awe-inspiring transformation of Brightwell and the development of new products that are making a real difference in people’s lives. Will you share this story with us?
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was appointed the CEO. At the time, Brightwell had only one product that served one industry—cruise lines—and we suddenly had no revenue. But as a team, we banded together and asked ourselves what we were best in class at. At Brightwell we have profound empathy for the people who we serve that work on those cruise ships, and we wanted to make a difference for more people like them around the world. They became our “why,” our North Star. We dove into R&D with the core value of “Users First” and the renewed mission to connect people to financial services through frictionless user experiences. Again, when we looked at what we were best at, it was clear, global remittances and fraud monitoring rose to the top, and we launched two new products, ReadyRemit and Arden. Our motivation to make payments more accessible and secure has everyone in the company pulling together for the benefit of our users—program managers, fintechs, Fortune 500s, and the thousands of hardworking individuals working to support their families across the globe. In turn, the trust we’ve created with them has helped Brightwell’s suite to become leading products in the market.
You’ve been guided your entire career by the desire to serve people, not profits. How is that philosophy reflected in Brightwell’s culture and your team?
Most people in my seat start with “let’s make a product that will make us money.” You can be successful that way, no doubt. But I see the pyramid as upside down, led by what we want to do and why we want to do it, and then hiring people deeply connected to that mission and vision. Those people are going to build a better product. Our entire team is passionate about helping people, and they believe in our culture and our core value—to put our users first. They don’t see their job as just a paycheck; they see it as a purpose.
One of my favorite quotes is from Patrick Lencioni: “If you could get all the people in the organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” These words have always been a core part of my strategy and inspired me to push my teams to be stronger than the competition with more people, money, and advantage through a shared vision and drive to make a difference in the world. The level of sacrifice and commitment from our team here to not only hold the line during the shutdown, but also build for the future, will always be a special moment in time for Brightwell. I have never been so proud of a group of people.
What do you enjoy most about your work, Larry? What drives you?
I love a challenge, and I love setting a marker out into the future, and seeing that vision realized. This is what drove me as a software engineer early in my career, and EVP of technology and operations at a prominent digital product development agency, and now as CEO here. When you can see the impact of your work on people, there is nothing more fulfilling. With Brightwell, we saw the impact we made on the employees of cruise ships for years, and now we’re seeing the impact of our bigger mission here. This is my greatest joy.