Fintech NextGen

Martin McCann – Trade Ledger

2019 was a breakthrough year for Trade Ledger. 2020 promises to be even bigger as open banking creates the perfect set of conditions for the Trade Ledger platform to take off.

Dexter Cousins of Tier One People caught up with CEO and Co-Founder Martin McCann in Sydney recently to talk open banking and Lending as a Service.

 

What kind of FinTech is Trade Ledger?

Trade Ledger is a banking platform technology designed to help banks and large non-bank lenders provide any type of credit to businesses and corporations around the world.

We have built a global platform, technology which can be instantly deployed in any country. Matt Born (co-founder) and I come from Enterprise Technology backgrounds. Trade Ledger came into being because we both wanted build what we call a ‘true platform’. We see a lot of FinTech’s claiming to provide platforms which in our view are nothing more than technology stacks for a specific product. These are not true industry platforms.

Enterprise Software, which is essentially what we do, is one of the most complex and difficult markets in business. We’ve been building Trade Ledger for a market which didn’t even exist when we set up the company. Globally the market we operate in is estimated as a $4 Trillion opportunity. Just the undersupply of credit for businesses globally is $2 trillion. That is the extent to which businesses are underserved with lending and capital. We call it ‘Lending as a Service.’ Nobody used the term when we set the business up two-and-half years ago.

 

Can you tell me how LaaS works?

Essentially LaaS is the outsourcing of the IT and operational requirements for the bank when it comes to lending. Typically, for a business to apply to a bank anywhere in the world for a line credit the average time to process the application is 90 days.

There’s about 30 hours of manual work for the customer plus 300 emails and 500 calls involved.

Trade Ledger eliminates the manual processes using API’s and accessing the banks data, completing the whole process in four minutes without a single document filled out.

 

What do you attribute to your success so far?

Matt and I followed our own path when we started the business. Trade ledger was incorporated in August 2016 and we were supremely confident we were building the right solution at the right time for the right market. Joining forces is the first thing we got right. What Matt, the team and I are doing is really, really hard and you need at least two co-founders to tackle all of the challenges ahead.

The combination of us working together has proven to be a real positive for the company and our personal lives. Matt and I both have extensive experience in enterprise software. We both worked at SAP and we witnessed software disruption in other sectors, it was only a matter of time before the same would happen in banking.

The blueprint was already there from other industries, it was just a case of applying the strategy to the right niche. Forming our partnership, our timing and product market fit are the keys to our success so far.

Discover your next challenge – https://tieronepeople.com/jobs-in-fintech/

Can you tell me more about the Trade Ledger business?

The business is now over 20 people, evenly split between London and Sydney. We’ve almost doubled the size of the company in the last three to four months. We are delighted with the ‘firepower’ we have hired into the business.

Firstly, we managed to find really high calibre senior engineers, the kind of people we think are potential game changers. In London, we’ve hired a CFO who is highly respected in the VC community. He will help turbo charge the growth of the business. We are embarking on Series A funding, having a CFO of the calibre we have is essential.

All this adds to the great talent we already have.

We don’t want a development center, and operational offices, we’re trying to keep uniformity across the offices. Fundamentally I believe three things will give Trade Ledger long-term differentiation, in the market-place.

The people in the organisation

The culture of the organisation

And what I call the velocity, are we moving fast enough in the right direction?

I don’t know if we are moving fast enough in the right direction yet, but we are accelerating.

 

What makes the culture of Trade Ledger unique?

The culture is very important to us. Matt and I have almost identical values and business ethics. Transparency is key to us, in terms of our business relationships and our people. We firmly believe when you’re trying to grow something this new, this quickly, you are going to break things, frequently.

It’s what you do when you realise you’re going in the wrong direction, or you’ve broken something which counts. And recognising which things you can break and what you absolutely have to get right.

Living by this ethos creates a culture of high performance which is the edge for a company like ours. Frankly, the banks struggle to attract the kind of people required for a high growth, exciting tech startup like Trade Ledger.

So, banks will have to partner with Fintech’s to access the talent, innovation and execution required for this next paradigm of business we are entering. Big organisations just cannot achieve the velocity required to keep up with the pace of innovation today.

 

What do you look for in the people you hire?

Primarily values and attitude. We don’t focus on people’s experience or their background, we focus on whether or not they would fit well with the team or will they be disruptive in the team. We love diversity. It does cause some challenges. The nature of diversity means it’s harder to evaluate how someone will fit, in the context of values and ethics.

And then the other thing we look for is high potential or high propensity for success. What we’ve found is interesting. People who are under-experienced, properly motivated and show high potential are a much better fit for this organisation than people who’ve got proven experience.

People with high potential fit our culture and the way we work. They want to get ahead quickly, they appreciate the opportunity to be able to contribute and to learn. And they understand the value it creates for them as an asset that differentiates them in the market.

 


 

Trade Ledger

 

 


 

What prompted your move to London?

A good question. Can I say, it’s really nice to be back in Sydney in the heat. From our perspective, Sydney is a great place to start a company. There’s a lot of benefits to be found in the FinTech ecosystem but there are limitations.

The market itself is relatively small, compared to other markets globally. With our ambition to be a global software company, we don’t see significant market penetration in Australia. Banks in Europe and North America don’t see Australia as a market with enough scale, so it is difficult to get credibility as a global player being based from Sydney.

Why choose London? After some consideration and research, the legislative changes in Europe and open banking in the UK made London the ideal launch pad for the Trade Ledger platform.

There’s massive investment from the banking sector in open banking technology, which from our perspective, is just API-based platform technology. The most innovative global bank transformation programs are happening in London. Lloyds alone has five transformation programs running, which, have a multi-year program budget of over 2.5 billion pounds. That’s the scale of transformation technology that’s happening in Europe and it’s hard to find anything comparable happening anywhere in Australia.

If we want to be a global company, we have to win the European market and more specifically the London market. Open banking, GDPR and other legislative changes have created a seismic shift to data-driven lending in the business bank and SME funding market-place.

 

The UK is now 12 months into open banking. What are the potential opportunities here in Australia?

The UK market has been really interesting, and for us, it’s great to have a ring-side seat to the first real implementation of open banking.

Year one was all about fixing the problems with the original scope, specification and approach to open banking. It went live late and there were a couple of issues with the implementation.

The challenge is shifting a heavily regulated market to a technology-driven business model in a record amount of time, it’s never been done before. All of the interested parties are struggling to keep up.

The regulators are finding it particularly difficult to figure out what to do when things go wrong. Liability, specifically the daisy chaining of liability and how to manage it, is turning out to be a significant problem. I think everyone has underestimated how big a shift this was going to be.

Discover your next challenge – https://tieronepeople.com/jobs-in-fintech/

What can Australia learn from UK Open Banking?

Australia being number two into open banking is perfectly positioned to come up with the best capability in the world. It is a highly ambitious plan to implement open data across all industries. Conceptually this is where the market needs to go to.

The Australian market has perhaps underestimated the difficulty of implementation challenges. Something of this scale needs a very strong governance process. It needs to have a very, very high degree of consultation with all of the stakeholder groups.

My fear is the original scope could be thwarted, and open data never actually achieves the ambition outlined in the original agenda. Specifically creating competition in banking.

I wrote an article outlining my fears, published in the AFR. From the feedback I received, maybe people misunderstood my intention. I do not advocate any particular solution, Trade Ledger will prosper regardless of what Open Banking journey Australia chooses. I feel strongly that we need to have the right discussion about the national interest, because this is a once-in-a-generational opportunity Australia can’t afford to get wrong.

If Australia gets open banking right, it is my firm belief we can export financial services to other countries on a scale rivalling the mining industry. And if we get it wrong, then the opposite is true. Digital financial services does not observe national borders. Regulation, which once protected national markets has now become a grey area.

 

What does the future hold for Trade Ledger?

We are in advanced discussions with significant global banks. It is a distinct change in strategy for us. There is a much higher risk involved and a lot more investment up front.

If Trade Ledger is to become what we intended from day one, a global top three in the category, then it’s the direction we need to go in. We don’t shy away from risk or challenges, we embrace them, and we work harder, faster, and smarter to try and move in the direction we want to go.

 

Discover your next challenge – https://tieronepeople.com/jobs-in-fintech/

Andy Taylor – Douugh

We are laser focused on building a ‘smart’ banking experience that will change people’s relationship with money for the better – fostering financial wellness.

Andy Taylor – CEO, Dough.

Andy Taylor is an Aussie FinTech pioneer. He is one of the original founders of Society One, bringing peer to peer lending to the Australian market. Andy’s latest venture, Douugh is his most ambitious project yet, a next gen Neo Bank with an AI first approach. Set to launch in the US through a partnership with Choice Bank, Douugh announced a partnership with Regional Australia Bank just this week.

Tier One People CEO, Dexter Cousins brings you this exclusive interview!

What does ‘next gen’ Neobank mean?

Unlike ‘traditional’ Neobanks, who are taking a mobile first approach and applying for their own banking licences to sell traditional bank products. Douugh is a technology company taking an AI first approach to building a proprietary software platform, partnering with a bank to provide it with deposit taking capabilities and a balance sheet. The company is pioneering a new business model focused around delivering financial wellness for it’s customers.

Is it a similar arrangement to your partnership in the US with Choice Bank?

Correct, it allows us to offer a fully insured bank account and Mastercard debit card, without the need to become a licenced bank ourselves. This frees us up to focus on building out a technology company, innovating on the customer experience software layer through an AI first approach, utilising open API’s.

How did the partnership come about? Was it difficult to find/select the right partner?

It’s been very difficult and time consuming to find the right partner in Australia. We wanted to find someone who respected our independence, shared our values and capable of supporting our ambitious product and growth plans.

Just so I don’t explain it incorrectly … would a Douugh customer in Australia be opening an account with Regional Australia Bank? Can you explain the arrangement to me in layman’s terms please?

Correct, it’s ultimately a wholesale partnership. The Douugh branded bank account will be ‘issued’ by Regional Australia Bank on the backend, customers funds will be held by them, protected by the government guarantee on deposits upto $250,000. The entire customer experience is managed by us through our mobile app and customer support centre.

This is a similar commercial partnership model to what Up has with Bendigo Bank. Meaning, we act as an ‘authorised representative’ of a bank, rather than getting our own banking licence. The partnership with RAB is very much the missing piece. The ability to offer a fully insured bank account and debit card means we can now launch in Australia.

Do you expect HENRYs (High Earner Not Rich Yet) to migrate away from Big Four banks to Douugh?

We do expect people to dip their toe in the water initially to test our technology and gauge the impact it will have on their daily lives. I think we will need to work hard to win the right to people’s salary deposits. We believe people will hold multiple bank accounts in the future.

The battle ground is winning the right to the salary deposit and everyday expenditure. We do allow customers to connect their existing bank accounts and credit cards, so we can give them a 360 degree view to truly understand their financial position. This is where the strategy of becoming the ‘financial control centre’ for our customers becomes very important.

Why do you think Douugh will appeal particularly to this demographic?

We are laser focused on building a ‘smart’ banking experience that will change people’s relationship with money for the better – fostering financial wellness.

People now expect transparency, insight, personalisation and autonomy. They want to understand the opportunity cost of their financial decisions today and what it means for their future, delivered through a seamless, intuitive and frictionless experience.

Banks today do not offer this. They are analogue in their offering, and are not incentivised to offer this kind of service and business model, as they are bogged down by legacy systems and operational models, totally reliant on pushing traditional credit products to deliver short-term profitability, as opposed to generating positive financial outcomes for their customers, taking a longer term view.

People are now aware of this (as exposed by the Royal Commission), and are looking to technology to help them. We believe this sentiment is consistent around the world.

And is that the same for the US and Australia?

Ultimately, it’s about understanding people’s emotional drivers. Money is one of the most powerful forces behind emotional state of mind, and the majority of people’s relationship with money is based on fear and anxiety. We plan to tap into this in a positive way and change the narrative, supporting and educating our customers to get ahead and achieve their goals. So, they can live happier and healthier lives. Rather than be bogged down, living paycheck to paycheck .

This is where we see our AI assistant Sophie really playing a positive role and forever changing the game. Taking on the responsibility of a frictionless, autonomous money manager. Working on behalf of our customers to make money work for them, not the other way around.

We believe this will have a major and lasting impact on society as a whole. This is the legacy I want to leave behind.

Douugh Smart Banking

 

Do you have any indication yet of likely demand for Douugh?

We have strong demand in the US from the little marketing and PR we have done, with thousands of people signed up to our waitlist.

We have started to raise our awareness in Australia via our partnership with Crowdfunding platform Equitise. We aim to build a foundation community. With thousands signed up on our waitlist so far. We will look to ramp up our pre-launch marketing efforts from here on in.

Are we likely to see the Australian accounts open this year? Is there a sense of urgency with other neo banks on the scene?

We are targeting a late Q4 launch this year. Yes the space is hotting up, and we are keen to cut our teeth in this market because it is our home, and we believe Australia (like the US), has a very big problem to solve in terms of the spiralling household debt levels and overall financial health.

Importantly, we view Australia as a key strategic market for R&D purposes, as it is continues to lead the way in mobile payment adoption in the western world.

Is it hard to explain to potential customers the unique selling point of Douugh versus other options? What is the main hook you think that will get people over the line?

Not really, I believe it is much easier for us as we don’t need to get distracted by the fact that we are wanting to be a bank. Becoming a bank does not solve the problem. We have a much more succinct, purpose based marketing message and mission than other ‘Neobanks’.

The hook is that we are looking to pioneer a new business model to make the world financially healthier through a proprietary software platform. We are helping people pay off debt, spend less, save and build wealth autonomously via a ‘smart’ bank account offering, powered by AI.

How is the crowdfunding going? Why did you go via the crowdfunding route rather than the more commonly used VC route?

The crowdfunding is going really well, demand is strong. We wanted to use it as a vehicle to attract a foundation customer base and community in Australia that are passionate about our cause and business. We see this as a better fit at this stage in our lifecycle.

We are on a path to list on the ASX this year, this funding round will allow us to staff up to launch and scale the US business.

How do you view the potential for Douugh in comparison to when you when you founded SocietyOne?

We see much bigger potential for Douugh, as we are operating this as a global banking platform from day one, beginning in the US. The opportunity is obviously significantly larger as we scale up in this market and beyond. Everyone needs a bank account!

We truly believe we can scale to reach 100 million customers by 2030 and we are motivated to show the world that Australia can produce world class consumer technology companies.

Does this feel like unfinished business for you in any way, as SocietyOne came along with a mission to knock the majors off their perches.

Very much so. I’ve always been driven to build a global consumer software company that structurally disrupts the status quo. The mission was always to provide consumers a better experience than offered by the banks, with a business model that is aligned to positive financial outcomes. With Douugh, we are building a product that is co-created with customers from a passionate community.

David Washbrook Look Who's Charging
David Washbrook – Look Who’s Charging

Look Who’s Charging had a stellar 2018 with numerous awards, accolades such as featuring in KPMG’s FinTech 100 and commercial success with two of the Big 4 Aussie banks becoming customers. Sibos and Money 20/20 helped put Look Who’s Charging on the global FinTech map.

Tier One People’s Dexter Cousins talks with Co-Founder David Washbrook to talk about a fine year and a Vegas road trip!

What is Look Who’s Charging?

Look Who’s Charging is all about improving the customer experience through enriching bank statement transactions. Everyone has experienced the issue. You look at your bank statement and half the time it may as well be written in foreign language. You see C&A WALKER PTY LIMITED, for example. A Google search brings up hundreds of businesses none of which you recognise.

So, you phone your bank. Twenty minutes on hold, verify yourself, bounce between two or three different departments, and at the end of all of that, more often than not the bank can’t do anything other than a Google search themselves. In fact, two of the Big Four bank’s contact centres don’t even have access to Google.

It is a very frustrating problem for the consumer, leaving them feeling genuinely worried that they might be subject to fraud. It’s also a very expensive problem for banks. Ten percent of all the calls to a banks contact centre relate to queries on unrecognised transactions. Sixty percent result in manual chargebacks, costing a bank around $80-$90 dollars for each one.

We improve the customer experience and save banks millions of dollars in costs through reduced calls and chargebacks.

How did you come up with the idea for the solution?

It was two-fold.  My fellow Co-Founder, Stuart, was running a separate business at the time.  He became increasingly frustrated with trying to reconcile his accounts due to the large number of confusing descriptions (most small accounting packages use bank statement data).

At the same time, I inadvertently committed a friendly fraud. I disputed a transaction with my bank as didn’t recognise the merchant. I genuinely thought it was a fraud. I got my money back for the transaction which later turned out to be legitimate.

We did some further research and we quickly realised that unrecognised transactions were a big issue for consumers and also a very expensive problem for banks.  Australian banks alone are spending somewhere in the region of $200m a year dealing with the problem.

Your solution sounds so simple. Why is it that nobody’s done this before?

A lot of Fintech businesses can often be complex to explain. You are correct in that ours is very simple. However, solving the problem is far from simple. Lots of people have tried before. We know big banks who have tried; large software companies who have tried; other Fintechs who have tried.

They throw a team of people at it, work on the problem as a project, get something that is fifty, sixty percent of the way there, but unless you’re maintaining the data, staying on top of it, it quickly becomes redundant.  Our senior team has over 80 years’ experience working in IT and on big data problems, and this is by far the most complex problem any of us have ever come across.

The idea is not new but being able to execute on the idea, that’s where we have achieved something that no one else has managed to.  We return over 180 different fields on a merchant and our accuracy is >95%.  Most other offerings simply return one field (being category) and the accuracy is far lower than us.  Banks are pushing our data to one of the most important consumer touch points being the transaction feed of digital applications; they have to have trust and confidence in our product.

Our solution has three core components, all using proprietary market first technology:

Merchant database. We have compiled a database of the 1.3m card accepting merchants in Australia.  Over 1m lines of code and we draw on over 150 different data sources to ensure we always have the most up to date information.

To solve the problem you need to understand both the legal entity information and trading entity information for a merchant.  Some businesses out there know the legal entity information of a company, and some know the trading entity information, but from what we can tell we are the first business to build a complete legal and trading view of a merchant.

Search engine. We have developed a proprietary search engine to match the 20m+ transactions descriptions (per debit and credit card statements) back to this database of 1.3m card accepting merchants.

Robust architecture. Our robust architecture enables our data to be pushed to bank’s digital applications in real time.  Our API can return data on up to 50 transactions in less than 30ms.

Most importantly you need a solution that solves a genuine customer pain point, saves the bank money or improves regulatory compliance.  Tick two or three of these boxes and your chances of working with a bank significantly improve.

But you also have to have the correct governance, compliance and risk management protocols in place to pass their security and procurement checks.

You’ve partnered with NAB. How difficult is it to partner with a Big 4 bank?

First conversation to go-live with NAB took seven months for us, which was fantastic, especially as they were our first customer.  NAB had identified the problem of unrecognised transactions as a top consumer pain point and one that was costly for the bank.  We offered a unique, market-first solution and NAB was able to move quickly to bring this to their customers.

In general the sales cycle with a big bank, or any bank for that matter, is relatively long.  Most importantly you need a solution that solves a genuine customer pain point, saves the bank money or improves regulatory compliance.  Tick two or three of these boxes and your chances of working with a bank significantly improve.

But you also have to have the correct governance, compliance and risk management protocols in place to pass their security and procurement checks. You can have the best product in the world but if you don’t have the right risk management procedures in place then you won’t go-live with a bank. The Hayne Commission and recent high-profile data breaches from companies such as Equifax, British Airways and Marriot-Starwood Hotels make it increasingly harder.

Finally, you must make your solution as easy as possible for a bank to integrate with. Our solution is at the easier end of the spectrum, but it’s still a lot of work for a bank to integrate with a third-party. If your solution is going deep into banking systems, even if it’s the greatest product in the world, it makes it a much harder task to partner with a bank.


Gaining recognition in the KPMG Fintech 100, has that had a noticeable impact on being able to attract talent and clients?

Absolutely. It has been a really good win for us, especially as we were selected without even applying. We’ve been fielding a lot of inbound inquiries from all around the world after the report was published.  I think we were one of only seven Australian companies to make the list.

We’re almost at thirty people now, twelve people onshore and another fifteen people offshore. We will continue to hire people in 2019. The decision has been made to draw on the best expertise from people around the world as there is a lot of complexity to our solution. Finding the skills onshore can sometimes be challenging; machine learning, AI, the search components of our architecture. We’ve developed a hybrid model with three very senior developers onshore managing the specialist skill sets from around the world and bringing everything together to make the solution work.

Culture becomes a critically important element in growing a business, and the culture is really determined by the quality of people that you hire.  If you have a start-up with some traction, you’re building something exciting and people can get involved with growing the business, it’s generally very appealing to great talent, especially with the buzz around tech at the moment.

Tier One People Fintech Head HuntersYou recently presented on stage at Money 20/20 in Las Vegas.  How was that experience?

Money 20/20 brought together over 15,000 people from leading Banks and FinTech companies from around the World in Las Vegas during the final week of October. We were lucky enough to get a spot on stage and a stand at Money 20/20. Look Who’s Charging was selected, as one of only 24 companies, out of over 800 from around the globe, to pitch on centre stage.  If you’re a tech business you really have to think globally from day one. Money 20/20 provided the perfect springboard to explore off-shore expansion.

Immediately after our presentation there was a long line of companies queuing at our stand up saying ‘we need this in the market. No one is focused on the problem.’ The greatest interest came from Canada and the UK, they’re a bit more advanced with digital banking than the U.S.

What’s your perception of the Australian FinTech market compared to the US?

We expected to go to Money 20/20 and find 10 other companies doing what we do. However, despite a high demand for transaction enrichment, we were unable to find any company who has or is trying to provide a solution quite like ours.

More generally in the banking and the payment space it seems that the U.S. is definitely lagging Australia.  For example, we have contactless payments rolled out across the country.  I personally haven’t taken cash out in Australia since 2017 and I haven’t had any problems. I solely rely on my phone and my watch now.

The U.S. still primarily has legacy infrastructure where you have swipe your card, sign, and show ID to verify your signature.  A number of merchants also still don’t accept card payments.  This makes it much harder to enact behavioural change and get people to switch to a digital wallet.

The environment in Australia is the perfect testing ground for financial services companies to get their product to market. If you can perfect your product here, there’s a massive opportunity to then launch in the U.S. and other markets like Europe.

However, I think that we have got to go to them because they’re generally not coming to Australia to find out about us.  The support is there for Australian FinTechs to expand, for example, Austrade’s Global Landing Pads and the recent UK FinTech Bridge.  In addition, if you have a product in market, and that product is scalable, you shouldn’t have any issues raising money in the markets like the U.S.

What growth plans are there for 2019?

We are super excited about the coming 12 months.  We’re making good progress in the Australian market having on-boarded two of the big four banks and a number of small banks. This will remain our number one priority in the short term.

There’s also a growing number of use cases for the technology – enriching transactions within digital banking applications is just the tip of the iceberg.  For example, one of the top findings from The Hayne Commission was that banks are generally good at verifying income on loan applications but that they were generally poor with expense verification.  Our technology can quickly and easily automate the verification of both income and expenses to a high-degree of accuracy.

Overseas expansion definitely remains our longer-term goal.  We’ll likely look to expand into the Canadian and U.K. markets next as they are similar in nature and size to Australia. We’re very excited by that prospect and opportunity.


 

Matt Baxby Revolut CEO

Join The Fastest Growing Community In Fintech

Get exclusive opportunities, invites to events, podcast interviews and news sent to your inbox.

You're in. Welcome to the community!