4 more lessons on transforming SME banking from industry pioneers

March 18, 2021
4 more lessons on transforming SME banking from industry pioneers

Author: Denis Dorval, Chief Operating Officer, DueDil

Go big, be bold, be resilient and prepare to stick in it for the long term. 

These were the underlying principles shared from our recent round and final collection of interviews in the DueDil Live series we started last year

I interviewed leaders from Curve, Tide, Metro Bank and Previse, all of whom shared the sentiment that to transform the industry and do something different takes extraordinary resolve, ambition, and a cohesive culture that believes in the mission.

We discussed the shape of the industry and the challenges inherent within to carve out a clear growth trajectory. We explored the power of the the platform to capture an audience's attention and satisfy consumer needs. 

And we explored the necessity to be extremely agile; failing fast, learning from mistakes and adapting the strategy as you go. 

Here are the core lessons I took away from the interviews:

Lesson 1: Build a powerful culture

With an impressive background working for the likes of American Express and Samsung, Nathalie Oestmann is an experienced leader in delivering innovative finance solutions to markets across the globe.

As well as launching new products, one of Nathalie’s core objectives when she joined Curve as Chief Operating Officer was to instil a culture unique to the organisation. 

“There are a lot of things that i’m proud of in terms of what we’ve built at Curve,” says Nathalie. “We’ve had an incredible last year of development and growth.

“This scale-up environment is very exciting, but with it comes challenges. The first being culture. We wanted a culture that was uniquely ours, that reflected our founder and his belief system as well as those of the leadership team and what was already built.”

To facilitate the next phase of Curve’s journey and to build a foundation upon which the organisation could grow, Nathalie defined some core principles.

“We built out 11 principles and we started to implement them. They are on our careers page. We’re very honest… we bring up issues, we talk about them, and we work through what our plans are and we celebrate our successes. It’s all about communication for me.”

Watch the full interview with Nathalie.

Lesson 2: There is tremendous power in a platform

Laurence Krieger’s digital career began in 1994 as he went straight from university into the world of work developing websites for other companies.

Fast forward nearly 30 years and his career has spanned such well-known brands as Yahoo and Revolut on his way to CEO of the leading challenger bank in the UK. 

Servicing 1 in 20 of all SMEs in the UK and growing, Tide’s success is built on the premise of a platform designed to help small business owners. 

“We don’t have the years that most banks do in the UK, but we’ve built our business up in literally four years. It’s been incredible to see and be a part of.

“The reasons we’ve seen such rapid growth and been so successful is that we’re not trying to just repeat the banking product or proposition of the past, we’re much more than that. We aren’t even trying to be a bank, we’re a business financial platform.”

For Laurence and Tide, it’s about truly understanding customers and providing a platform that enables them to focus on their business while the finance and admin side is being managed. 

“With so many decisions an SME needs to make on a daily basis, we want to build a financial platform that solves all the financial challenges around invoicing, receipts management, cash flow, accounting and tax. 

“Our mission is to give time back to business owners to do more of what they love.”

Watch the full interview with Laurence.

Lesson 3: Think big and be persistent

Paul Christensen has been a self-proclaimed ‘Fintech nut’ since the late 1990s. Part of the founding team of a company called Volbroker.com launched in the '90s, Paul’s background demonstrates an abundance of ambition.

His current venture, Previse, is no exception. Looking to change the way B2B payments happen for the better, Paul talked to us about how difficult it is to make big changes and why persistence is key.

“We believe that B2B payments are broken,” says Paul. “It’s incredibly inefficient and needs to change. I’ve been in Fintech for 25 years and i’ve never seen a proposition as compelling as this.

“Except we are changing behaviour on every side. The 5,000 big corporates, the 20 million SMEs and the hundred banks that service that ecosystem. It is really, really, hard.” 

Previse is five years into its global project to revolutionise the B2B payments world and only now is it truly starting to see traction and growth.

“We’ve got five large corporates signed up and fantastic brand names. Mastercard is one, the Daily Mail is one. We have two banks signed up. We’re early. We’re five years in, but it's a really big undertaking and it's really hard. Persistence is key.”

Think big and be persistent and you will see the change you are looking for.

Watch the full interview with Paul.

Lesson 4: Build. Test. Measure. Learn. Repeat.

In the final interview of the series, we spoke to Kiran Mahil, Head of Business and Commercial Accounts at the first new high-street bank for 100 years, Metro Bank.

Our wide-ranging conversation touched upon the need to be laser-focused on your customers in order to deliver the right products and services they actually need through to building an internal North Star to orient teams around.

What stood out, however, was the relentless appetite and need for innovation within the bank and how committed the organisation is to delivering better experiences and products. 

“Everything’s changing as a result of COVID but the core business needs are not going to change,” says Kiran. “Business owners want to focus on running their businesses and they want banking and finances to be easy and simple.

“Within that framework we are constantly innovating. Collectively we are focused on what we are trying to deliver but looking for improvements around it. We build, test, measure, learn and just keep repeating that process.”

Watch the full discussion with Kiran.

And there you have it. An extremely interesting series of interviews with those pioneering change in the industry. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out the 5 lessons from the previous set of interviews and keep your eyes peeled for more DueDil lives later this year.

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