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Experts in the Room Podcast – Episode 4

The Experts in the Room podcast explores the evolving worlds of customer experience, retention and data with some of the leading minds in some of the fastest-growing and most competitive industries in the world.

 

To listen to episode four, Emerging Markets, featuring CEO of Fortuna Entertainment Group, Victor Corcoran, click here. Alternatively, you can read the full transcript below.



00:00:04:05 – 00:00:46:23

Will

I’m Will Hansen and welcome to the Experts in the Room podcast, brought to you by Xtremepush. In this series, we chat with some of the leading minds working in the customer experience, retention and data space in some of the most competitive and fastest-growing industries in the world. 

 

In this episode, Emerging Markets, I spoke to the CEO of Fortuna Entertainment Group, Victor Corcoran. Victor is one of the European sports betting and gaming industry’s senior executives with a broad background across multiple industries in fast-paced and emerging markets, we dive into a range of topics, including the ongoing opportunities and challenges facing the gaming industry now and into the future.

 

00:00:47:22 – 00:00:54:23

Will

Welcome to the Experts In The Room. I’m joined by Victor Corcoran from Fortuna Entertainment Group. Victor, welcome to the podcast.

 

00:00:55:03 – 00:00:59:17

Victor

Will, good to be with you today. Thank you for the invite. I’m looking forward to our chat.

 

00:00:59:17 – 00:01:26:12

Will

It’s awesome to have you on board with us today, Victor. As the title says in the podcast, what we’ll try to do today is dig into some of the expertise that you have in your career so far. Spanning multiple industries, I think is one of the most intriguing things to talk to you about. To get an understanding of what it’s like to act at that CEO level and that executive level in some of the kind of fastest growing companies, both in sports betting and gaming, but across different industries as well.

 

00:01:26:12 – 00:01:33:09

Will

So it’d be cool to get maybe a 30-second kind of pitch into how your career has progressed so far.

 

00:01:33:15 – 00:01:42:12

Victor

I’m happy, happy to do that. Well, before we start, the title of the podcast is Experts in the Room. So somebody dropped out at the last minute and you gave me a call or?

 

00:01:42:22 – 00:01:57:24

Will

Yeah, exactly. So we have a long list of people to get there, so we just kind of flick through the black book of our CEO Tommy and your name popped up. So that must be why you’ve got the call-up, a late call-up even. But usually, they tend to work out the best.

 

00:01:58:03 – 00:02:20:19

Victor

A lot of people must have declined in advance but good to be here. So my career and I never do this very briefly, but I, I’m an engineer by training. I started in construction, pouring concrete. I returned to Ireland after a couple of years working abroad, actually worked in France for two years, then London, that project returned to Ireland to find an Irish wife and met an Italian lady, she didn’t enjoy, Irish weather.

 

00:02:20:19 – 00:02:53:24

Victor

So I ended up travelling and I spent most of my career, the only common theme to my career has been trying to find a country we both like, which is surprisingly difficult. So, I got into telecommunications as an engineer because mobile telecommunications is fast growing. It was a global business, and I was able to go from project to project, and I’ve had the opportunity to work in some wonderful countries and cultures, spent four years in the Middle East, spent time in Pakistan, worked in Eastern Europe and Slovenia.

 

00:02:53:24 – 00:03:17:06

Victor

Not long after the Yugoslav civil war and spent a couple of years in Italy because like I said my wife’s Italian. So I tried that country out. So I’ve had quite an eclectic career in technical roles in mobile phone networks both deploying them and maintaining them from a CTO kind of role. I decided 15, 20 years ago that I want to get into general management.

 

00:03:17:09 – 00:03:35:20

Victor

I enjoyed being in technical management, but I thought that the fun side was the guys making the money. So I wanted to get into a more commercial role, there was an Irish-owned company called Digicel and they were expanding into the Pacific. And I knew telecoms and I knew Irish culture. So I applied for a job with them.

 

00:03:36:03 – 00:03:51:18

Victor

I took a step back in seniority, but I went in there on a promise that if I deliver for them they’d give me a chance to test my commercial skill. And so I went from being a CTO to being a country manager at Digicel. So I had a lot of fun working in some really interesting countries, and meeting some cool people.

 

00:03:51:18 – 00:04:02:03

Victor

But in Digicel, I ran a variety of consumer and telecoms businesses and starting in one country, the Cayman Islands, ending up running a hub of countries in the eastern Caribbean.

 

00:04:02:05 – 00:04:25:01

Will

I’d love to pull on that a bit, Victor, like a huge shift in what you were doing and a lot of planning or maybe there wasn’t much planning that went into it. You’re talking to another ex-pat that’s kind of been travelling around a bit, so I get the whole idea of ending up where you end up kind of by chance, but how much of you kind of put into mapping that career path out and going down that route to end up in technology as you have?

 

00:04:25:01 – 00:04:34:02

Will

Because I think that’s relatively unique from what I can tell with most of the senior management and most of the technology companies that are kicking around at the moment. That type of background.

 

00:04:34:07 – 00:04:54:14

Victor

Early on in my career, not an awful lot. When I left university in Dublin, which was the early nineties, 50 per cent of my class went abroad. So Ireland in the eighties wasn’t a particularly booming economy and for job opportunities in the early 90s like it was a very different country than today.

 

00:04:54:14 – 00:05:16:14

Victor

And so I got on a bus to London because- pre-cheap Ryanair flights within a week of graduating college, arrived in London, went through a phone book, and got my first job as a security guard. So it wasn’t the most strategic early career, but my first job I was. So I was in London, and I quickly moved from being a security guard to working on a construction site because I studied engineering.

 

00:05:16:14 – 00:05:41:16

Victor

So I knew how to handle a shovel, allegedly. And there was an ad in the Construction Times, in the UK, for bilingual engineers, a French company looking for a French and English speaking engineer, and I applied for it because, being in Ireland, we do languages up until leaving cert, and I spent summers in France. And they offered me a job and I went to France for two years and they did a grad programme and that’s when I started my career through graduate training.

 

00:05:41:16 – 00:05:52:05

Victor

But I was the only applicant because in the UK people specialize earlier in their careers, so there was no such thing as a bilingual graduate engineer in the UK. So my first job was because I was the only candidate.

 

00:05:52:12 – 00:06:10:01

Will

You’ve taken that to the next level. Now I’d love to get into what you’re doing with Fortuna Entertainment Group at the moment and the move to the Czech Republic, a huge opportunity, a massive growth company in sports, betting and gaming. And I know you’re only, what, three or four months in that role at the moment?

 

00:06:10:20 – 00:06:11:16

Victor

Ten or eleven weeks or thereabouts, yes.

 

00:06:11:16 – 00:06:23:14

Will

Yeah. Okay. So sure, it’s all new to you, but massive experience with your previous role with Paddy Power online too. So I’d love to hear about how you shifted from Digicel into that type of environment as well.

 

00:06:23:14 – 00:06:56:09

Victor

I’ll happily talk to you about that. But before we go on, I just think, yeah, one story. So the first four years of my career were working for a French company in France and then in London on the Heathrow Express rail link. But probably one of the most formative memories. I was a graduate engineer on-site in Paris and I was not even 12 months out of university, and I was there about three weeks and we started work at 8:00 in the morning because it’s a construction business and the senior engineer, senior project manager at the site called me into his office and goes, Victor, what time do you start work in the morning?

 

00:06:56:10 – 00:07:13:15

Victor

What time are you here? And I said I’m here every morning at 7:55. I’ve never been late. And he goes: you’re a graduate engineer. You’ve got all the experienced foremen, all the construction guys, they come in at seven, they have breakfast, they chat in the canteen. If you’re anyway seriously ambitious and want to learn, you should be here at seven. Learning from the experienced guys.

 

00:07:13:22 – 00:07:37:05

Victor

And he was right. And it was a work culture that stuck with me. And it’s like fundamentally when I approach any challenge in work, I try and be there, listen to people learn, be open to new ideas and just put in a bit of work. So when I got an opportunity 12 weeks ago to run a business based in Central Europe, the first thing I did was get on a plane and move to Prague. Because if I want to run a business in this part of the world, I believe it helps to be able to understand your customers and understand your colleagues.

 

00:07:37:05 – 00:07:39:02

Victor

So spend as much time with them as possible.

 

00:07:39:03 – 00:08:00:15

Will

I think that’s interesting. And as a GM and in that type of management role, how much has COVID and changing work environments affected that? And do you find that there’s a difference in, say, let’s call it traditional employment like engineering, where you’re working on a building site compared to the type of digital nomads that are particularly working in the sports betting and gaming space?

 

00:08:00:15 – 00:08:12:21

Will

The challenges around keeping your teams upskilled, keeping them relevant, and keeping them experts are like we’re talking about in this podcast today. So do you find that that’s an ongoing challenge or something that you kind of have to adapt to?

 

00:08:12:21 – 00:08:33:01

Victor

It’s something I’m grappling with at this moment in time. It’s something I presume every business leader is. So the business I took over went very much, very heavy into embracing flexible working, embracing remote working, embracing the Home Office. And one of the questions I’m asking myself, is did we go too far? During COVID I had the pleasure of running the Paddy Power business.

 

00:08:33:09 – 00:09:00:05

Victor

Paddy Power hopefully is a brand many of your listeners will be familiar with as it’s an iconic brand, the biggest brand in betting and gaming in Ireland and a very, very big successful business in the UK as well. When COVID hit, I was actually at Cheltenham racecourse the day that Ireland decided to shut down work. We were sponsoring the race that day there so I flew back to a very different Dublin that I’d left but like most businesses overnight we moved online and the team were incredibly strong, and reacted immediately.

 

00:09:00:05 – 00:09:34:20

Victor

All our trading functions all our customer operations functions that we historically thought people had to be together in a room overnight moved online and there was no customer impact. But I believe over time as a business we suffered because I believe Paddy Power was a brand-led business and it was a brand that business built on smart, creative people and those smart, creative people in particular fed off the energy of one another and the fact that suddenly these people were no longer in a room together, bouncing crazy ideas off each other, actually affected how Paddy Power’s brand evolved and some of the madness and some of the mischief which we could come up with.

 

00:09:35:00 – 00:09:54:06

Victor

So there’s a price to be paid for fully remote working. There are also massive benefits, so it’s trying to get that perfect balance right. I think it depends on the team, it depends on the skill set, but, for creative people and for teams to collaborate, I think it’s very important that people meet as much as possible for other roles, such as may be technical in the technology business

 

00:09:54:06 – 00:10:10:10

Victor

it’s maybe less important for our trading teams. Both in Paddy Power and now in my new job, they essentially watch sports and price. Do they need to be in the same room? Probably not, but I love being in a busy office. I love the energy of meeting people. I loved the random ideas you get at the water cooler.

 

00:10:10:10 – 00:10:27:18

Will

I must say that recording our podcast here today, I had to tell the office to keep it down while we were on, which is a bit rich coming from me because I’m like a gorilla stomping around in here. So yeah, I think some of our technical teams like being at home to stay away from the sales and marketing functions that are probably a little bit louder and doing things like this day to day.

 

00:10:27:18 – 00:10:29:05

Will

So yeah, interesting. Well.

 

00:10:29:12 – 00:10:43:02

Victor

We’ve seen it at least in Paddy Power. We saw it in creativity, we saw it in originality. And I also think you see it in that staff retention. I think if you don’t feel part of a team, you belong less. And then being part of a team is an important motivator for all of us.

 

00:10:43:02 – 00:11:07:05

Will

Do you – so shifting that away from internals? So internal teams, you said there was no impact on your customers at Paddy Power. Obviously, there’s been a lot written and a lot said about COVID, and the opportunities that came for certain industries. We’re seeing maybe a bit of blowback within definitely within the tech sector with some of the big companies struggling because they’ve over-indexed on what they thought was going to happen with trends that were kind of blown up by COVID.

 

00:11:07:09 – 00:11:18:04

Will

Do you think that the sports betting and gaming industry, in general, has come through that period, either better placed or has more opportunity to kind of take from it?

 

00:11:18:04 – 00:11:41:16

Victor

I think it depends on the company, my present employer, which I’m still learning about, would be a much more historic retail-based business. They’ve been operating in this region. The company is being assembled through mergers and acquisitions. But like most of the brands that have been here, a historic brand and strong legacy footprint and legacy businesses suffered massively during the COVID period.

 

00:11:41:16 – 00:12:09:04

Victor

So the Fortuna business suffered massively from having their shops closed and the business trying to keep staff while there’s no revenue coming in. And when you have a material part of your revenue coming from retail it’s not easy and that hampered the business. Paddy Power although strong retail in Ireland, in the UK, were fundamentally an online business with a small retail footprint because we were online only COVID was a boon for us because then customers who would have been the competitors in retail suddenly were looking for a home online.

 

00:12:09:04 – 00:12:30:00

Victor

And we were a great brand with a great product, with a great team. And so we did well from a COVID point of view because it accelerated retail to online adoption, it didn’t fundamentally grow the market, but it did accelerate online to retail probably five or seven years of migration in a brief period. So I think it depends on the business position.

 

00:12:30:00 – 00:12:46:24

Will

Do you see a value in having that mix of retail versus online? There are so many online competitors, particularly in the European market at the moment that are purely online. Do you think that there’s value, particularly around brand resonance to have the retail spaces as well? Or do you think it’s leaning more heavily towards going online?

 

00:12:47:03 – 00:13:07:13

Victor

I think they’re very different businesses, you know, the product, may be similar and why do I say that? Like, when a customer chooses to bet in a retail environment, they tend to choose it for location and quality of staff. So they’ll know the person behind the counter or they know the other friend they’ll meet in there so there is a social element to retail

 

00:13:07:13 – 00:13:26:13

Victor

that doesn’t exist online. There’s a physical location element to retail that doesn’t exist online and there is a cash element to retail that doesn’t and people actually like the tangible feel of cash. And so I do think they’re very different businesses. And while retail is accessible, it’s always on its range, a broad range of products. It’s simplistic, it’s fast.

 

00:13:26:13 – 00:13:46:18

Victor

And I do think and this is a question we’re asking myself, when we’re looking at it with my leadership team at present is it worth investing in retail to online journeys and simplifying that journey and a normal channel product post-COVID? Or have the customers who are going to go online already gone online? And that’s the question we’re asking ourselves.

 

00:13:46:18 – 00:14:09:20

Victor

That’s a question I don’t have the answer to today. My gut tells me that all the low-hanging fruit is gone. So investing and trying to build a retail, what we call an omnichannel wallet or seamless experience, trying to build technology that helps retail customers go online. That ship has sailed. And your retail for the benefits that it gives to customers, which are location, service and social interaction with other customers.

 

00:14:09:20 – 00:14:20:13

Victor

And you accept the fact that retail will never grow in our sector, at least, and you obsess about building capabilities online that helps you compete online, which is fundamentally a simple product it’s easy to use and fast.

 

00:14:20:13 – 00:14:47:03

Will

Great segue there into and before I go, obviously being an Australian that resonates with me talking about the retail element and the social part of it. I think one of the big challenges for me moving to Ireland and the UK was not being able to put on a bet while I was having a beer in the pub, which is so relevant to the Australian market, particularly with the tab being part of the pubs, probably for the best I think in some ways, particularly when you’re chasing your tail, maybe after a few schooners watching the Melbourne Cup.

 

00:14:47:11 – 00:15:06:15

Will

But we’ve all been there. I think that’s a really good transition point to move on to the way that you guys as a business or the way that you’re seeing best practices from a technology and online standpoint. I think a really good point you made there around simplicity, ease of use online, a range of products and being kind of customer-led.

 

00:15:07:02 – 00:15:18:04

Will

How are you envisaging that playing out in the future for the Fortuna Entertainment Group, but maybe from some of your experiences as well within that space, like what are you seeing as best in class at the moment?

 

00:15:18:04 – 00:15:44:09

Victor

So I think it’s a challenge for all companies in our industry. Fortuna would be no exception. I think if you look at how this industry evolved like betting gambling was a retail product where you’d go into retail and you’d have printed out of pages, basically coupons with lots of a lot of range of bets. So like in the UK, people would have played the pool and so there would have been like sort of pick which team would win and they’d go down the page and they’d sum it up.

 

00:15:44:16 – 00:16:19:08

Victor

And because when online exploded, it was existing customers who understood the product, who migrated online and online products were built complex based on retail coupons and they were not built for the new sector. So across the industry, with limited exceptions, there are complex products and Fortuna would be a fine example of that where we have products built for people who understand betting rather than products built for very recreational gambling.

 

00:16:19:11 – 00:16:43:14

Victor

Now I think that has to change because I think my thesis is that retail to online migration has happened and now it’s, if you’re going to grow, you grow through either attracting a different kind of customer over a simpler product. Easier said than done though. I’m watching with interest the US because the US is exploding. After all, PASPA was repealed a few years ago, so gambling suddenly became legal in lots of states and online gambling became legal.

 

00:16:43:14 – 00:17:07:06

Victor

in lots of states before it was non-existent. Now, interestingly, the two brands that are winning are both legacies. Well, they both had fantasy sports brands, the strong brands pre-legislation, DraftKings and FanDuel, but they also both have European, while DraftKings doesn’t. But FanDuel in particular is number one and has expertise coming from European sports betting. So they’ve brought a European approach to sports betting, this complex product.

 

00:17:07:14 – 00:17:26:02

Victor

And while some startups in the US are trying to build a simpler recreational product and watching how they perform will be interesting, but not easy because it’s a small screen. But I do think thinking about how we obsess about every step of the customer journey and a few of the early changes I’ve made them ten weeks, ten weeks the in the business.

 

00:17:26:10 – 00:17:50:23

Victor

My predecessor had brought in a new chief product officer during the summer, so he’d already started this journey. But I like the new head of sports, the product starting in two or three days. So I’m trying to focus on bringing a culture of obsessing about how the customer interacts with our product, not trying to build a product for like really experienced customers who want complex things but build really simple journeys.

 

00:17:50:23 – 00:18:08:09

Victor

For a punter like me, who would place a few bets on the World Cup, who’ll place a bet on my local team? And if there’s a big race on, we’ll have a bit of a recreational, simple, easy-to-use because fundamentally our customers are using apps like Revolut, so we need to have that kind of simplicity as well.

 

00:18:08:13 – 00:18:32:11

Will

Yeah, I love the word obsession there, Victor. I think it’s massively important. It’s something that we see in the market, particularly with brands that are succeeding from here, from the Xtremepush perspective. And obviously, we’re fortunate enough to be working with Fortuna as well. I’d love to get a perspective from when you talk about obsessing and obsessing over the customer, how do you guys drive internally?

 

00:18:32:11 – 00:18:53:10

Will

How do you drive your internal teams? The kind of being obsessive around agility? How do you drive key partnerships both internally and with your external stakeholders through technology as well? Are you guys looking at kind of a self-build methodology or you’re looking at bringing on experts to be able to come in and help with certain areas of the business?

 

00:18:53:10 – 00:18:57:12

Will

Like what’s your kind of ethos with that of building a kind of world-leading product?

 

00:18:57:12 – 00:19:05:05

Victor

Well, before I answer that question, Will, I did my brief homework on you, and if I was correct, you would need two clients you work with SBG.

 

00:19:05:05 – 00:19:06:24

Will

Yeah, they are a big customer of ours.

 

00:19:06:24 – 00:19:19:18

Victor

You know, SPG would probably be a great example of a company, I think, that did this well, I’ve never had the pleasure of working for them, but when I was in Paddy Power Flutter merged with them. Yeah, yeah. There were colleagues of mine for several years, so I’ve had a chance to see under the hood.

 

00:19:19:18 – 00:19:43:01

Victor

But they’re a company that is obsessed with getting customers involved in every step of the journey. They had a thing called The Clubhouse where they invited customers to sign up to provide feedback, and they would get from memory several thousand, maybe five, 6000 customers who would be at all times engaged in the clubhouse. Yeah. And they would give them prizes but they didn’t like they weren’t paying them.

 

00:19:43:01 – 00:20:03:06

Victor

They were customers who were delighted to have their opinion, asked and to see their opinion listened to but the secret to what they did very, very well is they mapped the customers in the clubhouse with the customer behaviour. So if Will in the clubhouse said something, they’d know that Will was a very recreational punter who only punted on Australian football.

 

00:20:03:15 – 00:20:35:07

Victor

And then when they’re taking your insights and building the product, they would put you in a persona. There’d build a product for that so in my extensive career, they’re the best I’ve seen at really bringing to life customer insights and involving the customer in all the decision-making products they were, they delivered some of the biggest innovations in gambling in the recent years like the request to bet in the UK now my ex-colleagues in Betfair will tell me off they’ll claim they had the cash app which is probably a bigger invention but anyway. So what Skybet did is they came up with ideas and they would test them in the clubhouse.

 

00:20:35:12 – 00:20:52:05

Victor

They wouldn’t, really bravely, they wouldn’t spend lots of time building complex technology, they build front end user experience of an Excel model behind it, push it out in front of customers and if it was working they’d invest in it. And it’s one of the reasons they were so successful, in my opinion. They nailed that by being close to the customer and listening to the customer.

 

00:20:52:09 – 00:21:12:23

Victor

So I’d be a great believer in that something I’m trying to drive here in Fortuna and I’m adding like it’s a difficult moment with economic uncertainty to be spending lots of money. But like I am strengthening our product team and I am adding bodies to our insights team whereby trying to slice and dice our customer data and expand our customer research as well.

 

00:21:12:23 – 00:21:16:01

Victor

Fundamentally, if you get that right, I think you make better decisions. Yeah.

 

00:21:16:10 – 00:21:36:22

Will

It’s funny. I think it’s interesting. I’ve seen a lot of talks this year at the various events around the industry, talking about getting your team thinking always from that customer-first perspective and singing from the same song sheet, whether it’s your product, your product side, your technical side, the sports book versus the marketing team and making sure that everyone’s pointing in the right direction for success.

 

00:21:36:22 – 00:21:52:05

Will

So I think that that’s a really interesting point that you’re making there around the brands that are doing it right are being agile, but they’re pointing in the right direction, they’re testing, they’re understanding, their customers, they’re understanding, the limitations of their product and being able to kind of chase that. So yeah, it’s really interesting.

 

00:21:52:05 – 00:22:10:09

Victor

When I look at my new employer Fortuna, we have lots of competitors online because of the nature of an online business, but we have a massive advantage. So we have an office with smart people in each of our markets. So like we have several hundred people here in Prague, and we have several hundred people in our office in Bucharest.

 

00:22:10:09 – 00:22:31:07

Victor

We have two offices in Poland, one in Warsaw. So like we have bodies on the ground which allows us to be closer to customers and allows us to understand our customers. And it’s for me that the knowledge is there. It’s just really making sure as an organization we surface that knowledge and we listen to these people and we allow them to drive decisions because there is a risk.

 

00:22:31:07 – 00:22:49:10

Victor

We have a central technical platform, we have a central product team like lots of business across multiple jurisdictions and multiple brands, and just making sure that these people in the centre are listening to our customer support and our customer insights, people on the ground in our markets. For me it’ll be, if I get that right, I will make an already great business even better.

 

00:22:49:10 – 00:23:10:06

Will

I was about to ask you about the need for localization and you bring up America. I think that obviously, you’ve got early adopters over there. I think that that’s something that doesn’t get talked about within that market enough. How important is localization from a European perspective for brands across the spectrum of Europe, central Europe is very different to the more mature Western European markets like the UK.

 

00:23:10:12 – 00:23:26:08

Will

It’s of massive importance for you with people on the ground and learning. Is that something that you think for businesses that are going to be successful moving forward? They’ve got to double down on that. Yeah. Or can there be a one size fits all product that is just given to those who want to use it?

 

00:23:26:08 – 00:23:29:18

Will

You use it wherever you are. If you’re in the Philippines betting or whatever.

 

00:23:29:22 – 00:23:55:23

Victor

Again, looking at our sector, there are probably two models. There’s a bet365. Yeah, which have built a very simple product that is the same everywhere. And they compete and win on product and price and they’ll be a strong player across many global markets and they don’t obsess about localization at all. They obsess about making sure what they do to do very, very well and consistently.

 

00:23:56:04 – 00:24:00:15

Victor

And then you have businesses like Sportsbet in Australia. I think it’s if that’s the right name, yeah.

 

00:24:00:15 – 00:24:00:22

Will

That’s.

 

00:24:01:08 – 00:24:22:10

Victor

Paddy Power in Ireland would obsess about being really on the button local in humour, brand, presence, product, just understanding our customers and being and being close to our customers and being as relevant and localized as possible. Now I think both models can work, but I think you need to go all in on one model or the other.

 

00:24:22:10 – 00:24:44:22

Victor

And I think the risk is you get stuck somewhere in between. And depending on where like Bet365 interestingly didn’t have success in Australia, they’ve had success in most countries in the world, but in Australia, strong local execution with local knowledge and probably slightly different like soccer is not as strong. So like they didn’t have that Australian sports, they didn’t have the, the strength in rugby, Aussie Rules, cricket.

 

00:24:45:09 – 00:25:02:10

Victor

They probably didn’t have the strength in Australian horse racing so it didn’t work there because they didn’t have the localization. So I think you need to depend on the market, it’s important. In Fortuna, again, I’m only here 12 weeks, I’m pushing, I’m pushing a vision whereby we look to be as close and as local as possible.

 

00:25:02:15 – 00:25:23:01

Victor

So in Czech, we obsess about having the best product proposition and brand connection in the Czech Republic and Romania we do the same thing and that causes tensions. But if you don’t do that, my fear is you end up building the lowest common denominator. And I’d rather build less but localised well than have okay for lots of stuff.

 

00:25:23:01 – 00:25:24:03

Victor

If that makes sense.

 

00:25:24:03 – 00:25:39:10

Will

Yeah, a really interesting perspective and I think it’s the type of decisions obviously that sit that the core of what businesses do and I tend to agree the guys that seem to straddle are the ones that typically struggle with trying to be the best of everything but not quite hitting either of those tunes.

 

00:25:39:12 – 00:25:55:04

Victor

My new job is quite interesting because each one of our markets is regulatory, quite different and that’s something in the sector in particular, which means you can’t have one product for all. So it does force you, at least from a regulatory point of view, to localize. Yeah. And then if you go to localize, why not localize as much as possible?

 

00:25:55:07 – 00:26:18:15

Will

Yeah. Really interesting perspective and I think for people listening to the podcast, I think that’s a huge thing that we probably don’t touch on enough within sports betting and gaming these types of conversations, is that a very different regulatory environment across what is happening? It’s so different to say e-commerce or other tech-led ventures. I’d love to get your kind of take, Victor, on what you are predicting for 2023.

 

00:26:18:15 – 00:26:38:06

Will

That’s and that could be anything. Maybe we’re going to land on the moon or something. I think that’s not till 2024 with Artemis but predictions potentially for the industry moving forward. You’ve mentioned America is the big one to watch is maybe the canary, I think kind of best in practice. Lots of headwinds, I think, particularly in the tech sector in general.

 

00:26:38:14 – 00:26:53:24

Will

Do you think it’s going to be a challenging year? There are opportunities now with the World Cup on at a very strange time of year, but probably beneficial in some ways, but also maybe eating into normal markets what’s your prediction for the sports betting and gaming industry generally moving into 2023? 

 

00:26:53:24 – 00:27:02:00

Victor

Well, to be honest, I’m less than three months in a new country and a new business, so I haven’t been thinking an awful lot about global trends.

 

00:27:02:01 – 00:27:02:24

Will

Eyes on the Wheel.

 

00:27:03:06 – 00:27:22:07

Victor

So I haven’t been following the US as closely as I would have three months ago. So obviously the first thing for me is moving to Prague. I’m like, I run a business in Romania, in Poland, Czech, in Slovakia, in Croatia, like Ukraine. Ukraine is touching many of these markets. Ukraine and the uncertainty there and the ongoing horrendous war that’s happening there.

 

00:27:22:07 – 00:27:51:01

Victor

And that has a massive impact on the economies, on confidence level in these countries. And that uncertainty and hopefully that uncertainty will come to an end and the Ukrainians will successfully repulse the invasion. But that has an impact here. And so we’re in a very strange winter and people are nervous. People are nervous about the cost of living across the world, particularly here, because we’re very dependent on gas from Russia, very dependent on the German economy because of the economics of the area.

 

00:27:51:01 – 00:28:15:24

Victor

And we have huge inflation here and costs are going up faster than salary. So there’s going to be short-term, potentially difficult few months. I would be optimistic in the medium term because again, I’ve joined a business whereby we have strong local teams, and strong local brands that think we can make product improvements. And that’s what I’ve been focusing on if we focus next year properly, we have a significant opportunity to take share in our chosen markets.

 

00:28:16:05 – 00:28:38:19

Victor

So I’m optimistic and excited about the business, but I’m cautious in the short term. I would be cautious about investment, cautious about spending money, just because it’s highly likely that particularly if it’s a cold winter that our customers will have less money to spend. Yeah, because we are an entertainment product and disposable incomes will be squeezed because inflation and costs are going up faster than salaries and therefore real wages are declining.

 

00:28:38:19 – 00:28:43:05

Victor

And so very focused on the near rather than on the global picture, I’m afraid.

 

00:28:43:05 – 00:29:04:18

Will

Really good answer I think. And there’s, there’s so much at play there within that space. What about you’re much of football fan predictions for the World Cup? I think it’s probably important to cover that. And you’ll hear this first from the Fortuna Entertainment Group CEO as well. So let’s make sure we note these predictions. Hopefully, the podcast will come out after the World Cup and we’ll be able to say, you were right or wrong.

 

00:29:04:18 – 00:29:06:12

Victor

Then can we record five answers to this question?

 

00:29:07:05 – 00:29:09:05

Will

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We can let’s do that.

 

00:29:10:06 – 00:29:31:08

Victor

You heard it here first. Money in the bank. It’s been an interesting start. Like, I didn’t get to see the Argentina game, but I wasn’t expecting that. Strange as a bookmaker. And I don’t know I don’t know where your customers understand this offering prices on sport sucks the life out of the sport because a good result for the bookmakers is a nil-all draw.

 

00:29:31:08 – 00:29:50:23

Victor

Yeah so so we’re sitting cheering on like a business in Poland and a nil-all draw for Poland. We had a generous offer on the game we had them and we were funding all bets if Poland won. Like a nil-all draw was good. It was good in my opinion. It was not good in the medium term because we’re an entertainment business.

 

00:29:50:23 – 00:30:12:15

Victor

You want customers to enjoy our products. Yeah. So from a bookmaking point of view, the favourites going out early is probably not good for longer-term involvement in government. Does that make Germany at risk or Argentina at risk already? But probably the smart teams don’t try too early because it’s a hot tournament. I think Italy likes to lose the first game and then win World Cups they haven’t qualified this time around so.

 

00:30:14:05 – 00:30:28:05

Victor

Maybe I shouldn’t read too much into early results. Looking forward to watching Brazil tonight. I’m going to my local pub and drinking some good Czech beer. Not sure there’ll be a European winner based on the form so far. It’s not in Europe. And maybe it’s Brazil’s year again.

 

00:30:28:06 – 00:30:52:00

Will

Yeah. We can safely say that the Socceroos are probably not going to challenge for it this year. Unfortunately, after the way we were, we were panned by the French. But yeah, I think yeah, massively, massively interesting. And I’m sure for you guys as a business like a fun time but a challenging time when the World Cups are on like this as well, your teams are probably well into it, but you’ll be watching the P&L very closely for some of these upsets. And whatnot.

 

00:30:52:00 – 00:31:08:02

Victor

A lot of fun with like, fortunately, having a business in Poland and Croatia, both are involved. Yeah. Both were nil-all draws though so great for the P&L short term, but not good for entertainment value. If I still had my Paddy Power hat on. The question is is it coming home? But I’m not quite sure it is.

 

00:31:08:06 – 00:31:32:24

Will

Yeah, yeah. With half our people based in the UK, there are certainly some suggestions that it is coming home, but it’s to be advised yet. Wait and see until they play some of the harder games. I’d love to get your perspective on this. How much does a global competition like this in key markets, particularly from a European context does it provide opportunities for acquisition for you guys?

 

00:31:33:10 – 00:31:51:01

Will

Are you doing anything? And this might be too deep into the weeds, but are you doing anything specifically around, you know, free-to-play marketing campaigns to drive acquisition that these types of tournaments do? I imagine in the countries that are involved, like Poland and Croatia, that that’s probably something you’re leaning into or-

 

00:31:51:01 – 00:32:16:17

Victor

It’s a strange tournament because it’s in winter and December, so there’s less football this December than there would be normally because like all the domestic leagues, leagues are closed. So we’ll we’re expecting a softer December this year than last year because of the World Cup and fewer fixtures. That said, it’s a mass market event, like, it transcends core sports fans.

 

00:32:17:02 – 00:32:48:22

Victor

So we typically see big engagement but less frequency. So very, very recreational customer. So yes, we see it as an opportunity to engage with new customers. We see it as an opportunity to expand our brand. We have free-to-play products, live in four of our markets that our Polish business decided not to because they felt they had enough on with Poland in the World Cup, we have a free-to-play simple football kicks game in most of our markets you come in take some penalties and you can win some free credits.

 

00:32:48:22 – 00:32:55:00

Victor

We have a free-to-play type last-man-standing game. So yeah it’s a way to engage your customers in a novel way.

 

00:32:55:06 – 00:33:10:16

Will

Yeah. And I think the brands that double down on then retaining those new customers and understanding that they’re new is super important coming out of this. And that tends to be where the drop-off usually is for most brands, whether or not we’re not making sure that they’re doubling down on that retention piece as well.

 

00:33:10:17 – 00:33:30:13

Victor

As part of our onboarding journey. Now, we will send out very simple videos to explain betting to customers like that, explaining some of our products in a very visual and simple way. So I’ll be watching carefully to see how they perform and see what impact they have. But bang in line with your advice there, they’re a different customer and you need to where possible tailor their journey accordingly.

 

00:33:30:13 – 00:33:52:11

Will

Yeah, excellent. Victor entertaining and I think like we’ve touched on a thousand different things there we’ll get some real nuggets out of that I think, which is great. I want to take the time from our perspective at Xtremepush to thank you for coming on. We wish the Fortuna Entertainment Group nothing but success and you personally as well will be watching the space very closely to see how you go.

 

00:33:52:18 – 00:34:01:10

Will

We’ll check back in on those World Cup predictions and let you know how close to the money you were, and then we’ll go from there. But Victor, thanks for the time and for joining us on the podcast today.

 

00:34:01:17 – 00:34:05:14

Victor

Will, really enjoyed the chat looking forward to doing it properly over beer in Dublin, thank you.

 

00:34:05:16 – 00:34:19:20

Will

Always welcome. Cheers, Victor. Awesome. 

 

Thanks for joining us. For the Experts in the Room podcast brought to you by Xtremepush, subscribe now for more episodes in our series. This podcast was produced by Record Media.




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