Introduction to the Toss Team by the Toss Team Leader
Hello, I am SG Lee, the Toss Team Leader. It’s been 11 years since I started my first business, and 6 years since Toss was launched.
Toss has a dream to create the most ideal workplace.
First, I would like to talk about the exciting dream of Toss. Toss is all about creating a fun work environment, where team members are excited to go to work, chat with colleagues, and create a better world. We also want team members to be recognized by their colleagues, and receive the appropriate level of compensation. At times, our unique culture leads to misunderstandings from the outside. However, we continue to work hard to create an amazing company.
The image of a promising new startup, where I’m in charge of decisions and execution
Toss also started as a small startup with 3-4 people. I always think back to the fun and exciting moments when we were first creating the easy money transfer service. So, startups are really special to me.
It’s really hard working in an early startup, but it’s very exciting, too. We don’t need to be afraid to report to a superior or spend time and effort convincing them. When we agree on something, we can execute immediately. We’re not just developers or designers, we are the CTO and CDO of the team. At times, we fail, and we take responsibility. However, being fully engaged, working towards a common goal, and succeeding together is such a thrilling experience. Also, when my service grows, I get the appropriate rewards based on my level of dedication.
Toss is just like that startup.
The Toss Community is now reaching 1200 people. It’s going to reach 2000 and 3000 in the future. However, the way we work at Toss is extremely similar to an early stage startup. All members solve problems they want to solve, and their decision becomes the final decision representing Toss.
Each silo consists of 6-8 people, including a PO, developers, designers, and data analysts – and they work just like a small startup. They don’t need to get approval from a superior or go through multiple reporting lines. If they form a consensus on an idea, the silo makes the final decision and proceeds to execution. I’ve actually had many POs who launched products that I didn’t like, and succeeded. Dozens of silos like this make up the Toss Community.
Another characteristic of an early stage startup is that team members greatly trust each other and work as One Team. There’s no competition between team members, and no one evaluates or manages other team members. They simply work together, towards a common goal. At Toss, we don’t have team/individual evaluations or differentiated rewards. Therefore, everyone cooperates, rather than competes. Toss is proof that it is possible to have a corporate culture where everyone helps each other succeed.
However, we don’t have the anxiety of an early stage startup.
By fear, I mean fear of failure. Early startups experience great anxiety when their product isn’t doing well, and they start to run out of money. When they’re unable to find a new opportunity, hardworking team members go their separate ways. However, at Toss, there’s always another opportunity after failure, because there are so many ideas that Toss can try. Of course, we close down services that users don’t like, but our team members grow through that experience of failure.
New companies have a hard time recruiting competent team members, and they can lack the system that large companies have. The members may not have lots of opportunities to directly learn from successful cases coming from the company. However, we have plenty of competent team members with a great attitude. We also have the world’s best, internally developed work tools and infrastructure, including the TDS (Toss Design System). There are many colleagues that can be a role model and set a good example for other colleagues.
Is this really possible? Would you believe what I say?
Our Toss Feed articles talk about the way we work, but many people still ask whether it’s true. I wish I could show them the town hall meeting we hold every Friday with the entire Toss Community. When you see 1000 people coming together to talk about major agendas, you’ll immediately understand.
The Toss Team is not a company for people who value a stable life. It’s a company for people who want to create meaningful change in the world. This is a place for proactive, self-learning, and courageous people who can make decisions on behalf of the company. There’s no giving orders and differentiated incentives, but we are gathered with people who want to work.
These are people who naturally think that they should be the problem-solvers, not their supervisor or HR team. These people can say no to things they think aren’t right. They believe that the company must succeed, at least to maintain the culture they love. If there’s people out there like this, I would be thrilled to work with them at Toss.
Work about work, unreasonable work, incompetent colleagues and leaders, rules and processes of distrust do NOT exist in Toss
We are creating a company where members can immerse themselves in work. We don’t have any unnecessary paperwork, nor unreasonable work. Leaders get honest feedback from team members. There’s no process that’s been created out of distrust. Team members don’t have to submit receipts for using their company card or report to a complicated reporting line. Anyone can freely use the company’s resources, and everyone has the same level of access to information. This is because proactive and competent team members can do amazing things when they can work freely, without any limitations.
If I had to write just one sentence in my resumé…
Steve Jobs said he would write ‘I created the personal computer.’ He probably doesn’t need more than that. For me, I would write, ‘The very first member of the team that created the financial platform, Toss.’ Lots of Toss team members made great achievements in their career after joining the team. Toss aims to create that impactful career for you.
Do you feel like you’ve reached a limit at your current job? Do you have the urge to grow through honest feedback? Have you ever tried desperately hard because you wanted to do great? Then I suggest you come to Toss.
“At Toss, we don’t tell you to buntWe tell you to go full swing– even if that ends up becoming a strikeKeep going, until you hit a home run.” – SG Lee
🎤 Q&A Session
Q. When Toss first launched its easy money transfer service, it probably needed to partner up with other financial institutions. I saw in the Toss Documentary that you even sent a hand-written letter to convince banks. What other ways did you use to convince them?
SG: When Toss was a small company, we didn’t have many options. For banks, it didn’t make sense to partner up with such a small and inexperienced company. I spent 3 years just to convince one of the 5 largest banks in Korea. I went to their headquarters and waited, so that I could have at least one more chance to explain. Some people would say, ‘That guy that used to be a dentist is going through so much trouble,’ and give me a chance to meet them. In the end, when the rise of fintech became inevitable, people came to us. I think our ultimate weapon was ‘sincerity.’
Q. What enabled Toss to become such an exceptional fintech app?
SG: This could be rather abstract, but I think it was thanks to the trust our team members have for each other. We work based on mutual trust, rather than a clear, established process. We’re able to raise issues anytime, because we trust that our team members will help solve those issues. And when I’m wrong, someone always comes forward to point it out. Thanks to this culture of trust, Toss is able to achieve remarkable results.
Q. Why is Toss recruiting nonstop?
SG: Because Toss’ dream is getting bigger. 3 years ago, we decided to create an ‘internet bank,’ because we had a money transfer limit, and not having a bank would cause inconveniences to customers. Having our own bank could solve this. So now, following Toss Securities, Toss Payments, Toss Insurance, and Toss CX, Toss Bank is soon to be launched. As we fulfill one dream after another to solve the problems of users, our Team will continue to expand.
Q. How do you make your team members happy in the workplace?
SG: As Team Leader, I focus most on making team members feel happy at work. People tend to feel miserable when they don’t have ownership over their work, when they’re forced to work, and when they can’t speak up. I want to remove all of those experiences. When a person I respect becomes the leader, when I’m recognized for my work, when my career is meaningful, and when I am proud of my career – people feel happy in the workplace.
Q. If there’s no performance review, how do you measure performance?
SG: The PO of each silo talks to their silo members and sets a goal consisting of various indicators and numbers. Each silo determines the most important indicators, such as MAU, growth, revenue, etc. Of course, when they’re not sure whether they’re appropriate indicators, other POs and I offer help.
Q. Toss is growing increasingly fast – does the company have any concerns regarding work policy?
SG: Yes, as you mentioned, Toss has grown to a mature stage where the size of the company represents its success. We’re now reaching over 1000 members, and we’re thinking of different ways to become an amazing company. Already, team members are free to decide where to work, when to work, and when to take the day off. We’re going to further increase that freedom so that members can determine their workload.
Q. You mentioned that ‘one sentence’ in your resumé, but it’s difficult for those kinds of people to build a career.
SG: I would like to tell a story. Two years ago, there was a silo consisting of 4 people, including a PO with 2-3 years of experience, developer, and designer. Their goal was to create epic growth – but they failed for over 1.5 years. But no one criticized them, because everyone knew that they were doing their very best in order to reach ambitious goals. Back then, they executed funds worth half our company budget, but did not need to get approval from the company.
In the end, this silo increased Toss’ MAU from 5 million to 10 million. Their achievement can be explained in a single sentence: ‘I doubled every figure for Toss.’ Toss doesn’t want people with a long and fancy resumé. Toss will provide you with the opportunity to create that one impactful sentence in your resumé.
Q. What does the job grade system look like at Toss? How is the ‘Chapter Lead’ at Toss different from the ‘Head of Department’ of other companies?
SG: We don’t have ‘ranks’ at Toss. Normally, companies have that kind of system, but Toss doesn’t. But we do have roles. My role is being the Toss Team Leader, and people with different roles – from Product Owner, Server Developer, Product Designer, and many more – make up our team.
Even if your roles are the same, your influence within the team can change according to the level of trust and respect you’ve earned from other team members. The Chapter Lead is that example. The Frontend Developer that shows the highest level of competence and execution, thus receiving the most trust from team members, becomes the Frontend Chapter Lead.
Q. It seems that Toss is mostly recruiting experienced talent – do you think a junior level member with no experience can pass the 3 month review?
SG: Definitely. Thanks to the ‘NEXT Developer’ recruitment last year, we recruited 20 developers with less than 3 years of experience, including those with absolutely no experience. They are fitting in just well and enjoying work. They have earned trust and have shown remarkable growth. So, they can pass the review. I wish people could challenge themselves. Regardless of the result, I promise you – it will be an unforgettable experience.
The 3 month review is not only a period to assess the newcomer’s competence, but also a time to see if they are a colleague we can trust. If that person is self-motivated, and continues to grow without the need to be managed, that person is more than welcome.
Q. I heard there’s a strike system – did you ever let someone go through this system?
SG: Yes, there is a strike system at Toss. A strike can be given to team members who cause a critically negative impact on the team, and when they are unable to improve despite direct feedback. However, only 0.5% have left the team after receiving 3 strikes.
This is a rare occurrence, but Toss has been transparent in sharing that such a process exists. We have a culture where we work based on mutual trust, not regular performance reviews. Therefore, such a system exists so that anyone can raise an issue regarding a team member that is demotivating others. It’s like giving the HR authority of normal companies to all members of the team.
*Note: As of Nov. 2021, Toss abolished its strike and 3MR process.
Q. What kind of plans do you have for Toss’ future growth? What will Toss look like in 10 years?
SG: Toss has two dreams. The first one is to shift every financial experience to the mobile platform, in order to increase access to financial services. Second, we want to create more competitive financial products so that customers can enjoy more benefits.
When the world that the Toss Team dreams of comes, a person living in a rural area won’t have to go all the way into the city to visit a bank and transfer money. People will no longer have to prepare the many complicated documents to get a loan, but end up with a higher interest rate compared to other banks. My assets will be taken care of for the rest of my life. Until all Koreans say “Finance = Toss,” we will keep pushing forward.
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