Meet the Masters: Michael Rouse

Michael Rouse, Chief Commercial Officer at Klarna, won the Excellence in Commercial Management trophy at the 2017 Digital Masters Awards. Our Nordic Director, Rupert Lion caught up with Michael to hear more about his team’s continued success.


In the past twelve months, Klarna has secured numerous new clients, including Nike and Adidas, increasing their transaction volumes by 45% in 2016. What has been key to this momentum?

The growth has been driven by having a more acute, targeted go-to-market strategies in each region, and making sure everything is tailored to the relevant markets. We have become highly disciplined on what defines success within the broader organisation and thought carefully about how to drive the right behaviour and efficiency in our teams – as a result we now have clearer focus on our markets with the right people doing the right things.

What has been key to signing on some of your flagship clients?

The key is that we don’t rely on flagship clients. We have so many great clients, whether big or small, and we approach all our clients in the same way. In the last year we have on-boarded over 10,000 merchants through our partner distribution platform. We recognise it is not just about a small amount of clients when creating a sustainable business.

What have been the biggest challenges during this phenomenal period of growth?

People – and finding the right talent. In recent history the company had doubled its employees every two years, but people’s capabilities don’t necessarily double in the same way. Also as we are growing internationally it becomes increasingly difficult to find the right experience and bandwidth for a given region.

In the past 18 months, you restructured Klarna’s commercial function. What was the rationale behind this?

This was predominantly to create more international balance. With markets outside the Nordics growing fast, we needed local knowledge and expertise. We also needed more general managers in each market – not just sales people – who can lead cross functional teams.

What does winning the Green Cube for Excellence in Commercial Management mean to you?

My daughters were very proud to see recognition of all the hard work that goes into my job.

You’ve built out a world-class commercial team. How does Klarna attract and retain top talent?

We’re a company in growth that offers significant opportunities beyond purely the scope of the work. This is not the most comfortable place to work, but if you want to grow, we’re growing and can guarantee you’ll grow with us.

What qualities do you most prize in a potential hire?

Directness, honesty, humbleness and commitment.

What are you most excited about for the future of payments?

The death of the credit card excites me, but what’s even more exciting is what happens in markets where cash is still prevalent. In India, for example, we may see cheques and credit cards being skipped altogether in favour of mobile. This provides exciting opportunities to cater for these markets with completely new propositions.

What is your career highlight to date?

I don’t necessarily have a single career highlight but it has afforded me the opportunity to meet my wife, travel the world and experience different cultures, and build great friendships.

If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing instead?

Teaching science. I’m a scientist by degree having studied pharmacy and biochemistry – I love the logic and structure of it all.