Q&A with Johnny Kollin, Founder of Várri Consultancy

13 December 2022 Consultancy-me.com 5 min. read
More news on

Two years after founding Várri Consultancy, Founder and Managing Director Johnny Kollin has manged to carve a successful niche in the risk management consulting segment.

To start with, who is Johnny Kollin?

I was born and raised in the Swedish countryside in the small village of Grödby, south of Stockholm, together with my parents and three older brothers. At an early age, I had an urge to explore the world. I was around 12 years old when I began begging my parents to allow me to go alone on a student exchange program abroad.

Eventually, at the age of 16, they let me go to the US for a one-year High School program. Since then, I’ve studied and worked in five countries on three continents.

Q&A with Johnny Kollin, Founder of Várri Consultancy

Johnny Kollin in front of the Burj Khalifa

In 2010, I moved to Dubai. As for many of my fellow expatriates, it was meant to be for a year or two, but I fell in love with the city and lifestyle. Today, most of my time is dedicated to my boutique consulting firm Várri Consultancy and my law degree studies.

About two years ago, you launched Várri Consultancy. How has the journey been?

It has been a varied and enlightening journey. I took the leap and resigned from my previous employer after being referred to two prospective clients. After establishing the company’s formalities, I involved my network of friends and former colleagues, clients, and suppliers in developing the brand and business model.

I have been fortunate to work with some very talented individuals. I have particularly enjoyed working closely with several successful and driven start-up founders and their teams to build their organisations.

Coming from a strong banking background with over 15 years of experience, it must have been a big step to start your own business?

It was a decision that had been evolving over some time. After spending ten years at global banks, I was part of the team to establish a neo-bank in Abu Dhabi. That experience gave me a taste of start-up life and validated my knowledge and experience. And, as a salaried employee, it was, in some way, a soft-landing into the world of entrepreneurship.

From that base, the step to establishing my own business was within reach.

What skills were you glad you had from that time to use during this process?

Self-motivation and perseverance have certainly helped. I began my post-graduate banking career at a top-tier global investment bank in a skyscraper in London. The credit risk department had a whole floor. In 2010, two years into my career, I was offered to move to Dubai on short notice to reinforce the local credit risk team after the Dubai financial crisis. I say team, but it was a credit risk team of two – my seasoned manager at the time and me.

I hit the ground running, transitioning from covering European banks to various industries across the whole MENA region. After my then-manager was repatriated to the UK, I was the sole credit risk person on the ground. Through a period of moving to corporate banking credit, coming out on top of several restructurings and lay-offs, I did a full circle and ended up leading the local credit risk team of two.

So, some eight years after arriving in Dubai, I was then where my first manager had been, only with a portfolio that spanned across two divisions.

At several points during this period, perseverance was an absolute necessity. While working for the same employer, I think I moved offices seven times and changed managers nine times. I worked through the closure of two bank branches, the opening of two others, the sale of the retail banking division, the run-down of a non-core portfolio, etc.

I believe grit is something one develops early on, but my experience in corporate and investment banking indeed developed this trait in me. That’s something that has been, and remains, very useful when running my own business.

One of your main strengths is risk management. What are some of the risk factors a start-up company should consider in the UAE?

Liquidity risk, the risk that the company cannot promptly meet its short-term payment obligations, is ultimately the determinant of most start-up company failures. Most other risks, if they materialise, are in one way or another direct or indirect causes of liquidity issues. If you think about it, a start-up company with significant cash reserves can make more mistakes along the way compared to one without cash.

Therefore, understanding how strategic decisions and the risks impact the company’s liquidity is crucial.

Generally, it helps to remember to “follow the money”. When you’re reviewing a new agreement with a supplier, transacting with a customer, or considering investing in new equipment, ask yourself: do I understand where the money, or “cash”, is at all times and how it flows?

Risks vary in nature and impact depending on the company. It is well-established that humans tend to be optimistic when evaluating their endeavours – something referred to as the overconfidence effect. One of the most common mistakes start-up companies make is not understanding or underestimating the risks they face.

An early-stage unregulated start-up company may not necessarily need a fully built-out enterprise risk management framework. However, the founder or executive still needs to understand the risks. And external investors will, at some point, demand a roadmap on how management intends to address those risks and build out the company’s capabilities.

By illustrating that the organisation is aware of its risks, even if those risks are not addressed immediately, you reduce the uncertainty for external parties, thereby increasing the company's value.