Q&A with Airwallex’s new Australia and New Zealand GM
Meet Airwallex’s new GM for Australia and New Zealand, Luke Latham.
Luke joins Airwallex following roles with Amazon, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and most recently as Chief Operating Officer for MILKRUN.
We sat down with him to learn more about his vision for Airwallex and his top priorities.
Q: What drew you to Airwallex in the first place?
A: Airwallex has always been on my radar given the magnitude of the story. It’s one of the few hyper-growth revolutionary products coming out of Australia.
Companies like Airwallex didn’t exist when I first started out - global tech businesses built out of Australia. Having worked for a number of multinationals during my career, I know how rare of an opportunity this job was.
I was very fortunate to join Amazon at the time that I did, just as it was about to embark on the most prolific rate of growth that just about any company has ever experienced. Amazon gave me a front-row seat in building and growing scalable organisations. But at that time, it was already a public company and headquartered out of the US.
Airwallex is the perfect combination of what I’ve been looking for - a scale-up business where Australia and New Zealand are at the centre of global operations.
It was always my intent to get back into a business that has a very strong philosophy with its products, and a clear mandate to be a market leader and a disrupter. Airwallex ticks all of those boxes.
Q: You’re new to the payments space. How are you getting up to speed with the requirements of this complex sector?
A: I’ve made the jump into new sectors before, and more often than not without the support, resources, or infrastructure that Airwallex already has. Having strong foundations already in place is half the battle.
If anything, I’m excited by how much blue sky there is for Airwallex to keep growing. There’s a massive opportunity ahead of us.
Q: How will you bring your experience into heading up the Australia and New Zealand operations?
A: I have been involved in triple-digit growth companies as they scale a number of times over, across a number of different business models, including for Amazon, Amazon Web Services, and most recently at MILKRUN.
The skills you learn in that type of environment are hard to come by in other types of business. I’m well-versed in the growing pains that come with scaling a business, the ability to troubleshoot at pace with sophisticated and evolving products, and comfort in navigating ambiguity at high speed.
We have a big task ahead of us, but I’m confident that we have the right marketplace, customer base, and team to lean into this next period of growth.
Q: What are your top priorities in your first 12 months?
A: My top priority is building out a team and capabilities that mean Australia isn’t just the Airwallex origin story, but it remains fundamental to the company’s global growth as we continue to build out our tech and products. That really starts with hiring, developing and retaining the best people - that will take us much further than any other investment in the next year.
I’m also obsessed with the customer experience. I’m spending a lot of my time learning from our customers, their pain points and strategic priorities, and how we can help. If we continue to start from the customer and work backwards, I’m sure we will continue to build an offering that adds real value.
Q: How has Australia’s tech scene changed during your career?
A: It’s a really exciting time to work in tech in Australia. As I said before, opportunities like this didn’t exist even 5-10 years ago.
It’s a real badge of pride and honour at how quickly Australia’s tech scene has evolved and matured. Now you’ve got the likes of Airwallex, Canva and Atlassian, Culture Amp, Go1 to name a few - heavyweights holding their own on the world stage and transforming their sectors.
Australian businesses have always had a global mindset - and now Australians have the career opportunities to match. It’s great news for our homegrown tech talent.
Those seeking an ambitious tech career don’t need to move abroad anymore like previous generations - the opportunities are there in front of them. Here in Australia, we’re actively hiring around 90 roles across our product, engineering and design teams, as well as our commercial team.
People join companies like Airwallex because they know it's going to be a career-defining experience, one where they're going to develop at an accelerated rate. I’m hyper-focused on ensuring Airwallex is able to attract, retain, nourish, and enrich the best talent in the market.
Q: What is your message to Airwallex customers during this difficult period of economic uncertainty?
A: There’s no doubt about it - it’s a difficult time to be in business. There is a lot of pessimism and hopelessness out there, especially amongst the traditional finance players, that things are the way they are and businesses need to grin and bear it, through the good times and the bad.
We aren’t taking that view at Airwallex. We’re not naive - we know our customers are facing a lot of internal pressures to manage and reduce their costs. But the good news is that this is exactly what Airwallex was built to do - remove the unnecessary friction and cost to help everyday Aussie businesses meet their ambitions.
There are so many opportunities for businesses to unlock value and productivity. Now is the time to take the opportunity to explore new ways of doing business. With the right partner, businesses can realise huge commercial, administrative, and productivity benefits.
Nick is the Director of Corporate Affairs for Airwallex in Australia and New Zealand. He helps media, government and stakeholders understand the power of Airwallex's financial infrastructure.