Article written by Dexter Cousins

Anthony Nantes, Wisr - Leadership interview

"In Fintech, we're supposed to be creating the future and building the companies of the future. But there seems to be a deafening silence from the Fintech community around social purpose. And I think this is where we will see the next big change."

Anthony Nantes - CEO of Wisr.


Anthony Nantes is CEO of Wisr an ASX listed company and Australia's first Neo-lender.

Tier One People Founder, Dexter Cousins caught up with Anthony to discuss Neo Lending, Fintech 2.0 and how to build a high performing team.

What is a Neo Lender?

AN: If you Google what is a Neo-lender, Google will give the answer as Wisr. Neo-lending is a brand new category that we’ve built, it's really about completely reinventing what a consumer lending company can be. 

Unlike the more traditional lenders and banks who are geared to have customers borrow money from them and once the transaction is done, the relationship ends. We’re building a purpose-led company that genuinely focuses on a customer's financial wellness. 

If someone borrows $30,000 to go and renovate their home with Wisr we go on that journey with the customer. We’re not going to charge monthly fees. We're not going to charge early repayment fees. In fact, we're going to provide tools, apps, products, and services to actually help customers pay their loan down faster. 

Wisr will potentially make less margin than the traditional model by helping our customers pay their loans off quicker. But we think by doing that we're actually going to build a much, much bigger business as a result.

Wisr recently announced a partnership with NAB where they have invested $200,000,000. Why are NAB investing in a potential competitor?

AN: There's a few reasons. First and foremost NAB are really attracted to the purpose-led nature of what Wisr is doing. 

Everyone talks about the big four banks as if they're one thing. But all of the Big 4 banks are competing against each other for the number one position in the market. And if you are not number one then you have to start thinking outside of the box.

I think NAB are looking at Wisr and saying, how else can we get to scale and provide customers with more value? 

At Wisr we are focused on the things we can become the best in Australia or even the best in the world at.

Capital market management and treasury isn't realistically something that Wisr can be the best at. But Australia’s Big 4 Banks are some of the best in the world at that. 

Where Wisr does have the edge is at the very front end with customers, providing them an amazing and beautiful experience and helping consumers completely rethink how borrowing money can be.

That’s a very different experience and if we couple that with the capital management of NAB than we have a very powerful proposition for our customers.


You presented at Intersekt recently - Can you explain what Fintech 2.0 is and how it ties into the Wisr vision?

AN: The focus of that particular talk was looking at building social purpose-led companies and why it’s so important. And there's a whole range of reasons why it’s good for society. But being purpose-driven is also good from a commercial perspective. Those companies who are purpose-led tend to outperform 2x or 3x over companies which don’t have a social purpose culture.

Not only do shareholders see better returns, we see greater engagement right across all stakeholders. And the improvements in performance are mainly driven by the fact that employees have a really clear sense of purpose. They become strong advocates for the company, finding fulfilment and meaning in their work.

Being a social purpose-led business then turns customers into real brand champions as they also connect to the company's purpose and what you're delivering for them. 

Being purpose-led is a really important part of what we're building at Wisr. And globally we're seeing a movement as companies become more purpose-led. Larry Fink wrote a famous letter last year explaining why he only invests into purpose-led companies. He is the second most influential investor in the world behind Warren Buffet.

In Fintech, we're supposed to be creating the future and building the companies of the future. But there seems to be a deafening silence from the Fintech community around social purpose. And I think this is where we will see the next big change. 

The first wave of fintechs were cleaning up the low hanging fruit, but not really disrupting and not really changing anything. Just doing it faster, better with a slightly better UX maybe. The Fintech who will make it through this next wave are the ones who are social purpose-led and will genuinely change the customer's experience of finance. And that's what we're aiming to do at Wisr.

Wisr seems to be scaling at a rapid rate. How are you hiring the right people as you're scaling? 

AN: It's always a hard question to find the answer to. If I go back 18 months it was a lot harder to attract the right talent. But now lots of people want to work at Wisr. Everybody wants and actually deserves meaning in their work. To be doing something that has a genuine purpose behind it is rare to find. 

It's very hard to get a job here. We intentionally make it hard to get a job here because we really focus on hiring high-performing talent.

What do we think high-performance means? For us it's two things. It’s making your colleagues great. So, being an amazing colleague yourself, but also helping your colleagues to be amazing. Secondly, we absolutely must hire people who take responsibility. Unfortunately it’s difficult to find people who genuinely want to take responsibility. Those who do, we find are self motivated, they measure themselves, they set goals, they welcome feedback because feedback helps them become better. They're not defensive when people point out things that could've been done better.

So, we take our time to hire first and foremost the right characteristics.Throughout our hiring process, we are looking for these qualities in potential hires. We set challenges for potential candidates and observe how they react and respond. It gives us a greater insight into how someone might perform in the working environment at Wisr.

The vibe in the office at Wisr, it seems like incredible fun. How do you keep the sense of fun going along with a high-performance culture?

AN: Why I believe Wisr is such a great place to work is we encourage everyone to have ideas. Some of our greatest innovations often happen over a beer on a Friday or over a coffee one morning. Someone will have a cool idea and five days later the thing appears somehow, someone's executed on it.

The custom Wisr Chuck Taylors every employee gets at their 6 month mark is a fun example. Someone suggested the idea and two weeks later 40 boxes of Chucks turn up. 

Our custom pale ale and lager. That was a conversation over a beer one night and three weeks later I look in the fridge and there's Wisr branded beers. And so we have this amazing culture of people taking on responsibility and just doing the cool stuff in every aspect of the business. It’s not just the product team who gets to innovate, it’s every single person in the business.

By having fun and not feeling constrained by processes and control, our people can be creative and come up with innovative products for customers. And there's lots of people in Wisr who've got no finance experience whatsoever. They bring a fresh perspective and don't come with preconceived notions on how things should be done. 

Wisr is a great place for people with super high potential, who have been denied the opportunity to show some of that potential before. We provide an environment which gives people the freedom and encouragement to go and achieve outstanding things. 

Founder of Tier One People and host of the Fintech Chatter Podcast.

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