FinTech Talent

FinTech Australia Talent Market Place
FinTech Talent Market Launch In Partnership With FinTech Australia.

FinTech Australia has partnered with Tier One People to launch a Fintech Talent Market in response to increasing job losses through the Covid-19 crisis.

The marketplace, run through LinkedIn Groups, aims to connect people in the Fintech community who have lost their jobs to Fintech companies with jobs.

Revolut, Xinja, Up, Wisr, 86 400, Airwallex, ReInventure Group, Tyro, Lendi and Spriggy are just some of the companies to show their support by joining the group. Jobs and opportunities will start to be advertised in the group this week.

“This crisis will cost many their jobs, and the fintech industry is not immune. However the FinTech Talent Marketplace is a way that we can help those whose jobs are impacted and keep them in the ecosystem,” FinTech Australia GM Rebecca Schot-Guppy said.

“This is a closed marketplace, for people in the Fintech community. While we are setting this up now, we believe that this initiative will play a key role in the recovery phase of this crisis through growing and hiring staff,”

Dexter Cousins, Managing Director of Tier One People added: “We’ve had an incredible response from the community since we started the marketplace. We are encouraging FinTech Australia’s counterparts across the world to follow our lead. We would love to see this become a global FinTech community initiative.

“Hiring in these conditions is incredibly challenging for employers. Where posting a regular job ad could usually lead to one hundred applications, now it could easily see one thousand. Time poor founders can’t manage these volumes of interest. 

“This marketplace is helping connect experienced fintech industry talent with the companies that can utilize their skills most. In the process we are keeping talent in the industry. It’s completely free for talent and Fintech Australia Affiliated Companies to join the group. Now is the time for Tier One People and FinTech Australia to play a key role in reinforcing the value of community as we navigate this pandemic. “ 

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Katherine McConnell – Brighte

From corporate career to FinTech leader of the year.
The amazing story of Katherine McConnell.

Katherine McConnell is CEO and Founder of Brighte. In 2015, Katherine was in a comfortable corporate job. Today she is Fintech Leader of the year, running a successful, rapidly scaling business and has the backing of Mike Cannon-Brookes.

I have been recruiting leadership talent for 20 years and no one has impressed me as much as Katherine. She is rightly hailed as an inspiration to female entrepreneurs. But her courage, commitment, vision and focus serves as an inspiration to everyone.

Interview with Dexter Cousins of Tier One People

 

What motivated you to start Brighte?

Katherine: The idea for Brighte came in 2015, it was a combination of two things; deep industry experience (Katherine spent 14 years at Macquarie Bank in asset and energy finance.) And identifying an opportunity in the market to provide a faster, easier way to finance solar panels and batteries, especially for families around Australia.

My family had installed solar and it was an exciting time. There were days where we lived totally off the grid. Some days we were putting energy back into the grid, even making money from our solar set up. Our two kids were fascinated.

However, having solar installed was expensive. I knew that as the cost of batteries came down, solar would become more accessible for Australian families. Even today, solar is still expensive to install so finance is often needed. You pay for solar panels, batteries and the installation upfront, but over time you generate savings on your energy bill.

A payment plan product where you can pay over time wasn’t on the market when I installed solar. And that is how Brighte was born. It was a mixture of personal excitement, and the realisation of a potentially huge market opportunity.

How did you get started on Brighte?

Katherine: I began working on Brighte over a period of a few months. Resigning felt like a much bigger deal than starting the business. Now I have had success, a lot of people come to me with great ideas, but they can’t bring themselves to quit their regular job.

I understand why they find it so difficult. Macquarie was a big part of my life, for 14 years. How do you give it all up for what feels like a crazy dream? The only person who can get you to make the leap is you, but for someone in a corporate role, who’s rational, that’s a really, irrational step to make.

What is it like to go from having a stable job to becoming a business leader and CEO of one of Australia’s fastest growing FinTech’s?

Katherine: Every day has offered a different experience. A lot of what I am doing hasn’t been done before. A sole female founder, in the finance industry, starting a lending business, mum to two kids. At Macquarie I never had a team. Until Brighte I had never managed anyone in a business, no leadership training.

Everything I have accomplished with Brighte, I had never done before, and there’s no guidebook. Of course, other people have launched successful start-ups in their own way, with their company and industry. You can read their experiences and stories, but your own journey is totally different to theirs.

It can be lonely being the CEO. Sure, you have your leadership team, and you can share things with them, but ultimately, you’re the only one who’s across everything in the business.

With so much skin in the game, managing the board, managing investors, it’s a unique position to be in. But the way I think about is this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s like I have won the lotto, it’s scary, but it’s amazing. And it is a real privilege to be backed by investors.



What are your top tips for securing investment?

Katherine: My advice for seed round is this; work really, really hard. Don’t give up, have a plan, and work to that plan. Don’t go in with an open-ended presentation. Be clear and articulate the commitment you are looking for from potential investors.

I learnt early on that you must have a data room. If you want to win investors over, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. We set up the data room with all the policies, processes, everything in there. We had a very slick and professional presentation in place. There were very clear next steps and everything was ready to go, it just moved so quickly from there on.

Did people doubt your vision for Brighte?

Katherine: Some people did look at me funny, as if to say,

“It is a huge vision, what makes you think you can pull it off?”

And that is okay, they have their own logic and rationale and it doesn’t align with your business plan. There were potential investors who didn’t buy into me, they would look at me and say,

“You need a co-founder, you need a tech, you need to have been an entrepreneur before.”

I satisfied none of their checklists on what makes a successful entrepreneur. The only thing they could see was my deep industry experience.

What spurred you on?

Katherine: I don’t believe the stereotypical indicators of a start-up entrepreneur are required for success. I truly believe you don’t need a co-founder. It would make my life easier if I had one, but I knew I had the resilience and the strength to do it myself.

I don’t agree that you need a tech background or a tech co-founder. I also don’t believe that you need previous experience in a start-up. Understanding the pitfalls may accelerate the journey, but my deep industry experience, understanding financials, understanding commercial agreements, perhaps that is more important than start-up experience?

At no point did I think “I can’t do this”. I was focussed and had total belief I would make it work. I had so much belief that we re-mortgaged the house. Eventually I met my seed investors, fantastic people who I have great respect for.

They saw in me someone who had put her life and her family’s life on the line. They could see I came with deep industry experience, a detailed business plan and could answer any question they threw at me. I had identified a clear problem, identified a clear market opportunity and developed a viable solution. It made a big difference.

At what point did Brighte become successful?

Katherine: The day after I left Macquarie I bought a MacBook, sat at my desk in Stone and Chalk with a computer and a blank pad of paper. A year later, we had built a full tech platform, vendor portal, vendor app, consumer web platform, consumer app. We had built a platform with instant credit decisioning, policies. processes and legally compliant.

Within a year we were accepting loan applications on our mobile app. What we achieved in that first 12 months with just three full time people and contractors was huge. The first year was tough.

We have been writing loans for two years now. The business is 60 people and growing fast. The structure is one third sales and marketing, one third tech and one third operations – credit, risk, finance etc. Initially I hired people I knew, approaching them directly. At the start of 2017 I had to go outside my network as the next phase of growth required very specific skillsets.


How do you find the right talent?

Katherine: Today we’re able to attract great people because of the brand, our investors and the fact we are a solid business. But a year ago, no one had heard of Brighte.

Attracting great people to a start-up is very difficult. You don’t have much leverage. Hiring based on values is nice but not always possible. Now Brighte is established we absolutely recruit on values and cultural alignment. Initially I hired people based on technical expertise.

I consider myself genuine and transparent, I work hard, but I am a parent and need flexibility, and that means you must trust people to get things done. I didn’t set out to create a culture, I had to hire like-minded people.

I am a huge believer in diversity and inclusion. I am very passionate about helping and encouraging fellow females. I want Brighte to be a diverse organization, it is easy to say, you must be pragmatic. As an example, it is tough to find female developers. There are three female developers in our team, which is fantastic, but they are very hard to find.

The way we have attracted a diverse work force is by accommodating flexible working arrangements, allowing people to work from home, work flexible hours or by giving extra time off over school holidays.

When you give your people clear outcomes, define what success looks like and outline what contribution you expect from them, flexible arrangements work well.

So, the culture at Brighte is based on finding like-minded people who share the same ethos on working together. We have a team of high-performing people, with a clear focus, clear direction, clear strategies. Everyone is prepared to do what it takes to achieve their goals. The team is so aligned that I rarely get involved in hiring now.

And what does the future hold for Brighte?

Katherine: We are going to keep our head down and keep working. There are new products in development we will be launching soon.  And we continue to improve the Brighte solution, whether that be for businesses or consumers.

We are working on solutions for our partners at the point of sale, making it easier for our businesses to process sales and grow their business. And on the consumer side we continue to develop ways for every Australian to enjoy the benefits of solar.

Read our Fintech NewGen Leadership Series

Evan Wong – Checkbox.ai

Checkbox was under the radar for over a year. There was no product to show potential customers. No one knew about us until we won Regtech of the Year at the 2017 Fintech Awards. Fast forward 12 months and we have grown from four to twenty people.

Evan Wong – CheckBox

Evan Wong is CEO and Co-founder of Checkbox. At only 25 he already has two successful  startups under his belt. Checkbox is a Regtech solution that enables business people to build software without any sort of coding.

Checkbox is to business applications what WordPress is to Web Design. Used by lawyers, accountants and bankers Checkbox is considered the ideal tool to fix the Regulatory and Compliance issues facing many financial institutions.

How did you become an Entrepreneur?

Evan: I founded my first business when I was 17, an education business called Hero Education. Until that point I’d never shown any signs that I was going to be an entrepreneur. Looking back, I did possess certain entrepreneurial qualities; constantly learning, the drive and desire to solve problems.

What you bring into the world as an entrepreneur is so unique and it really cannot be matched with any other experience in your life. Because of your hard work, your decisions, your creativity you’ve now put something new into the world. It is an unparalleled feeling when you know that this has impacted so many people for the better. I really got hooked on the drug of being an entrepreneur with Hero Education. So, when I left university at the age of 22 it felt natural to get started with Checkbox.

How did the idea for Checkbox come about?

Evan: Like every other startup, we didn’t begin our journey with this idea. People think you need to find the right idea before you launch a startup. Most startups aren’t successful because of the initial idea. It is usually through a diligent process of speaking with customers, understanding the market, and understanding a customer’s problems that an idea then refines and pivots. Eventually it becomes a viable business not just an idea.

In my experience it is best to start with a big, broad idea that’s anchored to a very strong and passionate why. Checkbox happened because I was passionate about two things: Simplifying the complexity around regulation and compliance. I felt that first hand running Hero education. And my second passion was empowering non-technical people to build software.

A lot of people ask me how did you start a software company when you don’t have a software background? Checkbox solves two of the biggest problems I faced when launching my first startup. I hated compliance and process and I hated that I couldn’t code.


How did you get the product out to market?

Evan: So here is my tip for people launching a startup and that is you should never approach new contacts with the intention of making a sale. If you want to sell your product you first need to build the right relationships. When you start out, you can’t make the sale anyway because the product isn’t there. The way to frame your approach is to always ask for advice and feedback. People are more than happy to help you out, especially if your product is in their space.

But what you’re doing is a presales process. The advice you get can be used to improve your product from a customer’s perspective. And the customer is now invested in the product from an emotional viewpoint. In a few months when you have built your MVP they can’t wait to see the demo.

Then it is a much easier presentation and sales process because you are not coming in cold. The client has contributed to the product, they are invested in its success and if the product delivers value they will buy.

Starting Checkbox straight out of University, I had no professional network to tap into. All our clients are Tier One corporate’s, banks, accounting firms, law firms etc. Two years ago, when I started Checkbox, I didn’t know a single person in these types of organisations.

How did you get Tier One corporate’s as your first clients?

Evan: As a founder you must be quite good at hustling. I had to grow our network of clients from nothing. Coming straight out of University, there were no existing contacts or network in Corporate land.  So, I started out by creating a general profile of people I thought that would be interested in the product. Through a combination of research, Google searches, reading articles, blog posts and LinkedIn profiles I built a target list of ideal customers.

Next, I’d reach out by email asking to set up a short call for feedback, not to sell anything! Just feedback on the Checkbox value proposition. The discussion would usually be followed up a few months later with an in-person demonstration of the product. At the end asking for recommendations or referrals to other contacts in their network. Today most of our business comes from word of mouth and thought leadership marketing. Being active at industry events and conferences helps our profile a lot.

What is the secret to working with Corporates?

Evan: There is a lot of buzz and hype around innovation and technology. Bluntly speaking corporates are still learning how to integrate technology into their day to day processes. There is a lot of excitement surrounding startups and corporates are always willing to have discussions. But you must cut through that first layer and understand quickly who the real customers are. The real customers are people who take you seriously, treat working with startups like a project implementation and have the intention of purchasing a license. It’s tricky but you learn from experience how to prequalify the right opportunities.


How has the business changed since your early days?

Evan: Checkbox was under the radar for over a year. There was no product to show potential customers. No one knew about us until we won Regtech of the Year at the 2017 Fintech Awards. Fast forward 12 months and we have grown from four to twenty people. Today we have a product that is purchased by tier one enterprises. We went from bootstrapping to closing a $1.7m funding round. We have gone from no revenue to now generating revenue. And we won Regtech of the Year again at the 2018 Fintech Awards. It has been a totally crazy year.

Out of all the challenges we have faced, finding the right people has been the toughest. As soon as the business gets to a certain level you can’t do it alone anymore, no matter how brilliant you are or how hard you work. At the end of the day it’s going to be a team of great people who will realise your vision and build on the initial success of the founders.

I have learned people are the most important factor to business success. You need to be very, very precious about who you bring into your team. When you are a startup every new addition changes the dynamic and culture, way more dramatically than it does at a larger company.

How do you attract the right talent to Checkbox?

Evan: I hate to say this, as it’s a love hate relationship, the best way we have found talent is through recruiters. But they’re expensive. We started off hiring through our personal networks, but we didn’t know the right people. Then we tried out some of the newer recruitment platforms. They were okay, again the quality wasn’t quite there.

Then the pressure hit, and we had no other option but to use recruiters. The amount we’ve paid in recruitment fees over the last year is enough to justify two full time in-house recruitment resources. So, we are exploring tools like LinkedIn recruiter. But we are still finding it very difficult to find the right quality if I’m being honest.

The secret is to create partnerships with the best recruiters in their field. Using multiple recruiters was probably our greatest recruiting flaw. Maybe that is the right thing to do at the very beginning because you don’t know anyone in the market? But eventually you realize that by working with so many different recruiters you don’t get the best talent. Recruiters will save the best talent for the clients they have the strongest relationships with. People are the most important asset in a company. It is the one area where you can’t afford to cut costs, even in a startup.

We have gained the best results by working in partnership with select recruiters and paying their fees. I have found if we give exclusivity we can negotiate cheaper fees and still get access to the best talent. It is all about creating a win/win relationship. We get great talent at a reduced fee; the recruiter gets repeat business and knows they will get paid for the work they do.

Attracting the right people is massively important.

Evan: Getting the right talent to stay is even more important. Especially when you consider the pain and the cost for finding someone. Founders can sometimes be a little complacent and don’t fight for employees when they resign. How expensive was it to get them into the business? How much time did you have to spend convincing them to join? How much time and money have you invested in them as a person? Then why aren’t you figuring out ways to make the person want to stay? Especially when replacing them is an extremely expensive exercise. Will the replacement be a fit to your company and can they perform? Retention of good people is more important than acquisition of good people.

 

How do you retain your people?

Evan: Retaining the best people is about leadership. It’s about being a good leader. Good leadership includes understanding and listening to your employees. You need to understand what your peoples career goals. When issues arise, you need to act quickly and resolve in a professional, mature and empathetic way.

Culture has the biggest impact on retaining talent, especially if you’re a startup. If you’re a startup with a crap culture, then you are a crap business and a crap place to work. As founders you need to work out exactly what your culture is going to be. Get your vision, your purpose and your values set early days. The values of your company must flow from the values of the founders. I feel very strongly about this. When you are starting a business, the founders are the brand of the company. The founders are going to set the energy, the expectations and the culture of the company as well.

Similarly, the values of the company must reflect the values of the founders. We have three founders at Checkbox. Now all three of us may not have the exact same personal values. So, we have spent days working out what we truly cared about. Collectively we decided on the top five shared values. Values we could demonstrate and action every day, values our customers and employees would also care about.

The Checkbox values are:

Practice positivity, master empathy. It’s about creating a very positive outlook no matter what happens. It is about choosing positivity over negativity and keeping up morale in the team.

No ego, no blame, no mercy. No mercy means having an open company culture where if there’s a problem we talk it through. There’s a mutual understanding within the company that there are no personal attacks. We are just calling issues as they are but bringing no ego and no blame to the discussion.

Simply first class. We strive to over deliver in everything we do. We want to exceed expectations.

Empowered as a team. This is a concept whereby we provide autonomy to all team members, so they can direct the company in a way they see best, as a team. If it’s not done as a team everyone is just running around like headless chickens. But if we are all aligned to the same target then people can make autonomous decisions.

Be Bold. Suck less. Be Bold means taking calculated risks and experimenting. Learn so that you can Suck Less. If you understand what you suck at then you can fix it. It’s about continuous improvement.

I feel aligned to all five values but the hardest one to practice daily is Simply First Class. As a startup we’ve got limited resources. You often compromise. The quality of the code, the type of talent you can hire or the product you present to the customer. There’s always going to be a compromise. It is tough because you don’t want the company values to be something you aspire to. They should be the expectation today.

What does the future hold for Checkbox?

Evan: We are considered a Regtech startup. For now, we are focusing on regulation and compliance. But there’s no reason why we can’t extend the software for other purposes. Our mission is to empower business people to build software. The vision for our company is to become the industry standard for anyone who wants to build software. In the same way Microsoft Office is used to create documents, presentations and spreadsheets. We see Checkbox as the tool to create software. But today we are focused on business applications to manage processes, policies and decisioning.

Over the next 12 months we have a major project in Asia. International expansion is very much in our sights. In my role as CEO, right now is about laying the right foundations for scalable growth. We are past the phase of product validation, but we are not quite ready for high growth.

We are in a period where we need to hire the right people so that when we hit the ‘Go’ button the business won’t fall apart in the process. We have just hired a Head of Finance and Operations, Head of Professional Services and a Customer Success Manager. These are examples of the more operational roles we need to hire right now. But we are hiring across the whole spectrum; engineers, developers, sales people, operations. In two years, we could have two hundred employees, so we are always open to conversations with talented people who have what it takes to grow a business and share our values and culture.

Get more info on Checkbox  

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Australia's OpenBanking Revolution Blog
Australia’s Open Banking Revolution

When Will Australia’s Open Banking Revolution Begin?

With Open Banking reforms set for July 2019 we have seen the launch two new Digital Banks in Australia, 86 400 and UP Bank. Cuscal backed 86 400   has serious funding and weight behind it with Anthony Thomson, founder of Atom Bank in the UK, as Chair for the bank.

86 400 is still to receive a full banking license and hopes to launch it’s first products early next year. The executive team is in place, in execution mode and there is significant hiring behind the scenes.

UP, backed by Bendigo Bank has quietly entered the market place with  prepaid card offering. The UX is super slick with an account set up in minutes via the app. The card is beautifully designed and the app itself let’s you track your spending on the card. It is an encouraging start.

Judo Capital announced the second-largest fundraising round in Australian start-up history and expects their full banking license by the end of 2018.

Xinja meanwhile recently held their first AGM and announced series C capital raise valuing the business at AUS $95m. With regulators yet to grant Xinja a restricted banking license the raise is conditional on securing a license.

We are hearing that Neo Banks are turning capital away, significant amounts. Australian consumers and investors are raring to go.

Volt Bank, the only licensed Neo Bank in Australia is quietly going about their business. There is significant hiring with the business now over 70 people strong. Most hiring is on the development side but as yet, the mobile app has not been released. Volt Bank Deputy CEO Luke Bunbury was speaking at Mumbrella recently talking about distrust of banks. And he is 100% on the money.

Everybody wants Neo Banks

Recruiters are having a hard time right now trying to convince top talent to join the big 4 banks. And top talent of the big 4 banks and financial institutions seem eager to move on. The enquiries are so great in numbers that we are actually having to turn candidates away from large financial institutions. While we would love to help, the career transition from large corporate to startup is difficult with many people failing to make the leap. And many people in banks offer a very narrow skill set. When you consider CBA has 40,000 staff a Neo Bank will only need 400 staff. So it doesn’t look pretty for career bankers, especially the support staff in operations, finance etc.

Despite the high risk involved and the fact that even the licensed Neobanks in Australia are yet to offer a single product, top talent are showing a strong desire to switch.

Peers in the UK are witnessing a similar trend. Contacts at the Global Search firms in London tell me it is a real struggle to fill the top banking jobs. Executives would prefer to join a Fintech where the regulatory sandbox is making life easier, the rewards greater and the opportunity to build and drive change in the industry fulfilling.

What is holding Australia back?

Asian Investment in Fintech has increased significantly in the past 12 months and the UK is 5 years ahead of where Australia is now. Despite the efforts of UP, Judo, Xinja, Volt, 86400, Qwid and Douugh, Australians have the choice of one product, a prepaid card. In contrast, ANT Financial in China has a 30 day Go To Market turnaround for new products. It raised US $14bn earlier this year.

Who is to blame for the lack of progress?

The Royal Commission appears to be making life for new entrants super tough and the stance of regulators is clearly stunting innovation and progress. While third world countries advance at a rapid rate, it appears the only ship not rising with the tide is Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Hon Scott Morrison MP gave an impressive and encouraging speech at the Annual Fintech Awards dinner in Sydney recently. He made it explicitly clear the Open Banking programme is a priority with the Government relying on the Fintech industry “not to stuff it up”. If successful, Open Banking will be used as the template for all future Australian innovation. Scott Morrison has put a flag in the sand with Australia’s Open Banking initiative set to go live 1st July 2019. He seems personally and politically invested in Open Banking, he can’t afford for it to be his NBN!

But July 2019 is only 11 months away!

How much time and energy are we seeing wasted at innovation hubs, conferences and meetups? Are we guilty of confusing motion with progress?

(Read this great opinion piece, “ecosystem is not a safe word” by one of my favourite commentators on Fintech, Leda Glyptis)

The regulatory sandbox seems to be filled with quicksand. How many Fintech startups are spending time, energy and precious resources pandering to regulators? Waiting months for a response, only to be asked to fill out more forms, answer more questions, when a 30 minute meeting could quickly resolve any minor queries halting progress.

Quietly, small businesses and start up founders are being driven to despair (and often out of business) while corporate, government and regulators appear more interested in perception than progress.

I am convinced Australia has the talent, ideas, capital and capability to be the leading Fintech innovation hub.

So what are the regulators waiting for? Would more progress be made if the spotlight was put on ASIC and APRA?

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Eric Wilson Xinja
Eric Wilson – Xinja

“This is what I love about true Neobanks. Turning the banking model, a full 360 degrees, back to when banks were for the community by the community. Entire communities, towns and cities were built with the help of a bank.”

Eric Wilson – Xinja.

Eric Wilson is CEO and Co-Founder of Xinja, one of a new breed of Neo Banks. 

Dexter Cousins talks with Eric about the Xinja journey. It turned out to be the most refreshing and enlightening 30 minutes we have ever spent with a banker!

 

What is a Neobank and how is it different to online banking?

Eric Wilson: Good question. Let’s look at how banking has evolved. Legacy banks, big monopoly banks (or oligopoly banks as we have in Australia) have gradually moved to online banking. More recently we have seen web and phone apps, but Australian banking has not evolved in the last five years. Online banking in Australia is effectively a last century business model delivered through a different channel, your smart phone. The next evolution of online banking is a bank built specifically for smart phones. This is where Neobanks and Xinja come in to play.

Australia is in catch up mode with Europe and North America. The regulators have just allowed a new type of banking license to help businesses like Xinja get started on the journey to becoming fully fledged banks. This is the first step. If we look overseas you get a better idea as to how the model can develop. The market ends up with four or five digital banks designed entirely for mobile.

But a digital bank is not a Neobank. Xinja and other Neobanks (Monzo being a great example) aim to revolutionise the banking model. NeoBanks are not only changing how the service is delivered but fundamentally changing the products and services a bank offers. Sure, a Neobank might still deliver a home loan through your mobile phone but maybe Neobanks come up with alternative ways of sourcing the funding; Peer to peer? Arbitraging across jurisdiction?

Neobanks are designed for the smart phone and can deliver products, services and features a normal bank can’t. I am a big admirer of Monzo Bank and we are very fortunate to have a co-founder of Monzo on the Xinja board. When we talk about digital banking he describes the journey as being one per percent complete. I agree. We are just at the beginning of the change.

Xinja 10 golden rules

 

How did Xinja begin?

Eric Wilson: I’ve spent over half my career in banking. Most recently I was the chief executive for a subsidiary of a big four bank. My father in law was an old school banker. He grew up in the country and was a bank manager for towns out in the bush. In his days, bankers were respected members of the community. They helped people manage their money, helped them get ahead. They did good and didn’t lend too much money.

After years of working in the modern banking industry I recognised the banks have little connection to customers and the community. And it didn’t sit well with me. Ultimately, I was lending my strengths and expertise to something I didn’t believe in. My gut was telling me there had to be a better way.

I kept thinking of my father in law and what it used mean to be a banker, very high levels of personal service and humanity in banking. So, I set out to build a bank to deliver a similar level of care, compassion and consideration, but in today’s world.

A Neobank has no branches. The shop front is a customer’s mobile phone. And with technology we can hyper personalise the service. A neobank can help people manage finances better by giving them nudges and reminders on spending. Customers have access to loads of data to help them change their behaviours around money. A Neobank provides tools to make banking fast and hassle free. Why does banking have to be miserable and grey? Why can’t it be enjoyable, fun and ultimately work for the customer?

“This is what I love about true Neobanks. Turning the banking model, a full 360 degrees, back to when banks were for the community by the community. Entire communities, towns and cities were built with the help of a bank.”

True Neobanks are changing the model by putting customers right at the heart of everything they do. Xinja has a win-win philosophy. Every decision we make must be good for us and it must be good for our customers. At Xinja, literally every decision we make we put the customer at the heart of it. When we design a product, we don’t just come up with a product and launch it. We have real customers coming into the office, sitting with the team giving their feedback and developing product ideas.

The process of allowing customers to design the products they want, the bank they want and have ownership through crowdfunding is wonderful. It’s so exciting to build a bank with your customers and for your customers. Let me give you an example. The Xinja prepay travelcard we recently launched, it glows in the dark! When the marketing team first mentioned the concept, I thought it was a gimmick.

However, the card was designed based on feedback we got from our female customers. When they out at night they take a clutch bag. The problem being in the dark they can’t see which card which is. By making our card glow, they can see it. Now as a banker sat in an office not talking to people, I would never have known. But because we put our customers right in the heart of every design process, it means we can do these cool things.

 

Xinja App


 

Xinja was the first Australian business to raise money through Equity Crowdfunding. How was the experience?

Eric Wilson: Mind-blowing is the honest answer. The actual mechanics of getting ready for it were rigorous. I’m reasonably comfortable working with regulators, it is a key part of a banks work. The data you provide must be correct and complete. We found ASIC very helpful and great partners through the process. I can’t speak highly enough of ASIC as a regulator. They were rigorous and thorough but very fair.

What really surprised me with the funding round is the appetite from your everyday Australian for a new bank. Our initial goal was to raise $500,000 and hopefully attract a couple of new investors who could become customers as well. The target was hit in four hours. Then passed $1million after three days and finished at $2.7 million dollars, which is a material amount of money in a $15million dollar series B raise. We will be going through another crowd funding raise in early 2019.

Register for Xinjas Crowd Fund Raise

There is no better endorsement than having customers as investors.

They want to be involved and are wonderful advocates for Xinja. Our customers are willingly promoting Xinja to work colleagues, friends, family. It’s so satisfying to work with customers and shareholders in this way.

A Neobank is built by its customers for its customers. It’s for profit of course but it’s also for purpose. Treating customers as a profit center is not how Neobanks work. We absolutely want to make money and be profitable. But the only way Xinja can be successful is by putting our customers at the center of every decision.

Australia, for too long has had too many big, oligopoly banks. The alternative has been smaller financial institutions which don’t have the resources to react to customer needs. I genuinely hope Australia can have several Neobanks not competing against each other but competing against the big banks.

What we have seen in the UK is the digital banks and Neobanks don’t compete against each other for customers. Customers will usually leave an established bank, CBA, NAB, ANZ, Westpac or whoever to move to a NeoBank. In the UK, once there were two or three Neobanks established in the market customers began moving in volume. (Monzo went from 0 – 500,000 customers in the 12 months since they were awarded a banking license) I am sure we will see a similar pattern once Australians get familiar with the concept of a Neobank.

 

Xinja Office

 

Consumer trust in banks is at an all-time low. The royal commission revealed unethical behaviours by banks and executives. How is Xinja building trust with customers and shareholders?

Eric Wilson: This is a question I ask myself every day. First, I feel a massive personal and moral obligation to our shareholders. Many are mum and dad style investors who have placed a great deal of trust in me and the team at Xinja. I started Xinja because I want to build a highly ethical bank. But me making personal promises isn’t enough.

We invested a lot of money making sure Xinja has the right risk and compliance teams and frameworks in place. It is critically important, but it still isn’t enough. Just look at the banks and financial institutions currently in court with the royal commission. They have spent millions on risk and compliance and employ thousands of people in risk and it still hasn’t worked. Risk management is an essential element to building trust but it’s not enough.

In my opinion it comes down to leadership.

The BEAR regulations, whilst a bit scary being a senior executive at a bank, are important because they bring accountability back to the directors and senior executives. Every person Xinja hires meets me at the final interview. I make our stance on compliance very clear to potential employees and our staff. My philosophy is fair and very clear. If you make a mistake by accident and you stuff something up on compliance let us know straight away and we’ll fix it. You won’t be in trouble we can get it sorted. But if you try and do something dishonest in this business you will be out of the door and reported to the police faster than you can breathe.’

This message has to be made clear from the offset. You have to make sure there is never any ambiguity.

Everyone at Xinja is there to build an ethical bank. When you walk into an environment where people expect ethical behaviour it breeds ethical behaviour.  And don’t reward people in a way that encourages them to behave badly.

 

Shareholders and investors expect returns. How are you managing their expectations while building a bank for customers?

Eric Wilson: In some ways we’ve been very fortunate in the timing of Xinja’s launch. The royal commission will leave a scar on the financial services industry in Australia for many years to come. But at the end of the day you just set expectations. We make it clear to our investors and our customers Xinja will make less money per customer than the big four banks. If we’re going to look after our customers and we’re going to treat them fairly, then naturally we will make less. When customers get something of value we’ll charge them for it.

Xinja aims to deliver massive amounts of value and a hyper personalised service using technology. The model is closer to a tech business than a bank. Rather than charging 10 people $10 you build something scalable where you charge 100 people $1.

 

Xinja

 

How have you attracted top talent to the business?

Eric Wilson: It’s been surprisingly easy. There are currently 50 people in the business, all top talent who could easily get a better paying job elsewhere. Xinja presents a compelling career opportunity for outstanding banking professionals who have spent a career working in traditional institutions. As a native Englishman, we have an almost Churchillian rallying call to the people we think can play a significant role at Xinja

‘Now is the time you need to step out, make a difference and actually do something for Australia. Help build a bank that looks after people and makes amends for what the banking industry has done.’

It is surprising how many bankers have a big heart and want to do the right thing. I can’t think of anyone who has turned down an offer we have made. Most hires have approached us direct or responded to a post on LinkedIn. We usually get hundreds of people applying for roles.

People really want to work for Xinja. I feel deeply honored people entrust their careers to us. But, Xinja is doing something incredibly exciting. It is a fun place to work with no organisational hierarchy. Even our intern is quite comfortable telling me what I should improve. Xinja offers an unlimited leave policy, employees can take as much time as they need to re-energise and be a success in the business. There is no dress policy. If you’re going to trust your staff to deal with people’s money, then you don’t need to tell them how much leave they can take and what they should wear to work.

We spend a lot of time with individuals in the recruitment process before hiring. It is essential we get to know the person we are hiring. The Xinja fit is someone who really cares about doing the right thing and is committed to creating an incredible customer experience. A Xinja person is not the type of person who would take 5 months off just to take advantage of an unrestricted leave policy. My challenge is getting staff to take holidays and time out. Xinja is not a job for our people. Sure, they receive a salary but many of our staff are earning a lot less than they could earn in the market. They’re at Xinja because they want to do the right thing. We have a cause and a purpose.

Check out Our latest Fintech jobs

Australian FinTech partners with Tier One People

As the demand for top Fintech talent increases in, we are delighted to announce our official partnership with Australian Fintech.

When speaking to FinTech founders and CEO’s, recruiting the best people continues to be a major challenge. In 2017 Tier One People began collaborating with Australian FinTech to help the FinTech community find high quality and relevant candidates.

We see our long-term partnership as a big step towards tackling the talent shortage facing Australian FinTech companies.

Addressing FinTechs talent shortage

Tier One People are the experts at recruiting top FinTech talent across C-Suite, Sales, Tech, Finance, Risk and Operations. And since launching in 2016, we have fast become the recruitment partner of choice for some of Australia’s fastest growing companies.

The Tier One People service model is tailor made for the FinTech industry; with a focus on speed to hire, quality candidates, long term partnerships and flexible pricing that caters for start-up budgets.

The team at Tier One People recognise that FinTech’s require entrepreneurial, results-driven specialists. People who can turn start-ups into enterprises. And we have developed  unique approach to recruitment that helps clients assess which candidates can achieve the required results.

Australian FinTech and Tier One People plan to utilise this new partnership to provide FinTech’s with a ‘one stop shop’ for hiring top talent.

Australian FinTech CEO and Co-Founder Cameron Dart said.

‘The partnership between Australian FinTech Jobs and Tier One People gives our clients another option, should their own efforts to hire prove unsuccessful. This can sometimes be the case for specialist roles. So, it made sense to partner with a specialist FinTech recruiter. Tier One People were one of the platforms first clients. And as our relationship has developed it’s clear we share similar values around integrity, building long term relationships and making a positive contribution to the Australian FinTech community. And we are both totally committed to helping our clients hire the best FinTech talent’.

Tier One People CEO, Dexter Cousins added.

‘Together, with Australian FinTech Jobs, we believe we can help FinTech’s overcome their hiring challenges. When the team at Australian FinTech launched the jobs platform in August 2017, Tier One People were one of the first to advertise.’

‘We continue to be impressed by the quality of candidates the platform attracts. Some of our clients advertise on the platform themselves but when they can’t hire direct they come to us. Finding and then hiring specialist talent is full-time work and most FinTech’s struggle to dedicate the required resources. When a hiring process stalls it can hold back business growth.’

To find out how Tier One People can help your business contact [email protected]

Together, we can build the companies of the future.

Matt Baxby Revolut CEO

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