Career Conversations - Nick Cousins
Career Conversations - Nick Cousins, Exizent
We caught up with Nick Cousins, the CEO of Exizent, to discuss his career, servant leadership and building a business. Nick will be presenting a seminar on Evolving Legal Processes for a Digital World at LegalEx's upcoming Spotlight on the 31st March.
Nick Cousins is Co-Founder and CEO of Exizent, a legaltech business seeking to make the estate administration process far simpler for both clients and law firms. Nick has over 20 years of experience across the financial and service sector, having previously been Chief Product Owner at Barclays.
Nick is determined to bring real benefits to people at the hardest of times, with his own personal experience leading him to tackle the problems around estate administration.
Hi Nick, can you introduce yourself and your current job role?
Hi, my name is Nick Cousins, and I am the CEO of Exizent. We are a legal tech scale up business making the bereavement process easier for everyone.
How did you find yourself in this position? Did you always aim to pursue a career in law?
Good question! My background is actually in financial services. I spent 20 years working in banking designing and launching new products and services. When I left Barclays in 2018, I wanted to start an ambitious business that would solve a significant problem. Having experienced it, the bereavement administration process was a problem I thought needed to be tackled. Legal services firms are such an integral part of the landscape that it was natural we start our journey here. I’m hoping that all the scar tissue accumulated through 20 years in the corporate world can be put to good use as we build Exizent.
What role does your current position play in the functioning of the rest of your business and why is so crucial?
As a (relatively) new CEO I’m still learning the job, but as a believer in the concept of servant leadership I see my key role as an enabler that creates the right environment for the rest of the team to flourish. That means I set and communicate our purpose and strategy so that everyone has clarity about where we are going and why, make prioritisation calls on our roadmap, remove blockers to progress and demonstrate the behaviours that set our culture.
Can you give us some insight into the tasks that make up a regular working day for you, and what legal considerations need to go into these tasks?
As CEO of a scale up business, I’m not sure I have a regular working day. Each day is varied and interesting (and very very quick!). It’s easy to sit down in the morning and lose yourself in the work, especially when we are all working from home. So, I try and make sure I get outside every day and snatch five minutes every now and again to continue my quest to learn guitar.
Legally, we spend a lot of time on customer contracts, supplier contracts and partnerships, as well as the legal compliance and risk elements of our platform business. It’s rarely far from mind.
Can you fill us in on any challenges you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame these?
In 23 years of working there have been many of those. I’ve been made redundant twice. In my late 20s I had my first attempt at a start-up, which failed. I’ve taken on multi-year change programmes in big banks (never easy). I spent nine years travelling up and down from Glasgow to London every week, while my wife and I juggled two careers and tried to be as present as possible for our two girls.
Some of these things were difficult to deal with at the time, but you build resilience and always try and learn something to take into the next phase of your life and career. Only after 20 years did I finally feel I knew enough to build a business. I fully admire anyone who gets there earlier.
If you had to give some advice to your younger self or a mentee looking to enter your career, what would you say?
It took me a long time to realise how much working somewhere with a clear purpose matters to me. So, I would have liked to have figured that out earlier in my working life. Oh, and I’m not sure the pin-striped three-piece suit was ever the right look!
In your opinion, what are the most exciting developments within your role or the law sector at present?
Like other sectors, I see the move towards collaborative partnerships between innovators in the quest to solve bigger systemic problems as an exciting development. Competition is critical and healthy, but sometimes building partnerships is a quicker, better, and more efficient use of scarce resources than trying to build everything yourself.
What do you see the future of the law sector being like? Does this excite or scare you?
As a company looking to innovate in the law sector, I think the future is extremely exciting. There are many problems that we can solve and the increasing adoption of cloud native, API first technologies means we will get there at an ever-quicker rate. Like the financial sector, I firmly believe that the best outcomes for consumers will be when we reach the right blend of human centred services (people talking to people) and digitised infrastructure and process that can eliminate points of friction.
What should the audience expect at your upcoming talk with us at LegalEx?
They'll learn about the impact that outdated systems are having on the legal industry as a whole, and how pervasive the issue is in executry and estates administration in particular. Research we conducted towards the end of last year found that only 1 in 7 legal professionals think the probate process is fit for purpose, which really contextualises the extent of the problem and the urgent need for change. In this digital era, with evolving consumer expectations, we believe the industry has a duty to ensure the probate process is optimised to meet the needs of all parties. Luckily, technology is a solution to creating a simpler, and crucially, less stressful experience for the bereaved, and the financial institutions and legal firms involved.
Why do you think legal exhibitions and conferences are important for the development of individuals and the industry?
They are always an opportunity to get a new perspective on things. No-one has a monopoly on good ideas or insight. Go with an open mind and you will always hear something that will make you reflect on what you or your business is doing.