In the third episode of DueDil Live Series Denis Dorval, COO of DueDil, welcomed Simon Cureton CEO of Funding Options, to the discussion table.
The DueDil Live series has been created to give us an opportunity to talk to some of our partners about how FinTech such as DueDil is helping them transform their processes. Each of our interviewees is a practitioner, working hard to revolutionise SME banking by adopting a more holistic, fluid approach to KYB.
In our third interview since the launch of the DueDil Live Series, Denis Dorval, DueDil's COO and the host of the programme, speaks to Simon Cureton, CEO at Funding Options. In spite of the tough conditions faced by SMEs, Simon and team at Funding Options just passed £400 million of loans, demonstrating that their fresh and innovative use of technology is creating a positive change that appeals to modern financial services customers.
How did you come to be at the helm of Funding Options?
My career started in investment banking. I then transitioned into commercial banking and took the role as Head of Product and Distribution for self-directed wealth platform My Wealth. A few years later, I became a founding member of Esme Loans - an alternative lender from NatWest. This laid the groundwork for my current role as COO at Funding Options by teaching me the basics of building an alternative finance provider from the ground up. And the rest is history.
It’s clear from previous interviews that you need a rich background, a diverse knowledge and understanding of both business and technology, to be able to transform business. And since you joined Funding Options 18 months ago, you’ve seen fantastic acceleration.
Our success is a credit to the whole team. We’ve invested heavily in the technology, data and product side, but the business has always had incredible potential. As an organisation, we have a multi-channel acquisition strategy across both our UK and Dutch businesses. And our broad set of lender partnerships has underpinned success. Then add in investment in technology, data and product. For tech, our strategy is API-led integrations with lenders, focused on building on what we believe will become the defacto marketplace for SME finance in any market, although we find other ways of integrating with partners that don’t have digital capabilities in the short term. Data and insights underpin pretty much everything we do as a business. With insights, you can get a richness of data from partners. And open banking is at the heart of our proposition. But we wouldn't be here without our partnerships. Early last year we decided to partner with key ecosystem players including DueDil, who help us deliver a capability that we believe is market-leading. Without these partnerships embedded in a fluid fashion, we wouldn't be able to deliver milestones such as £400 million of loans.
We’re very pleased to have contributed to your acceleration. It’s interesting how new offerings such as yours are not necessarily built from a breakthrough in how you do a single thing, but the assembly of the right tailored proposition. We have a lot of discussions here at DueDil with players in the financial services market about how it’s no longer costly to integrate best of breed API. How do you see that trend moving forward?
We’ve seen an acceleration in digitisation in the industry. If we think about the challenges we’ve faced in recent months, it’s those businesses that are more successful in eCommerce who were already capable when we went into the first lockdown. But there are other businesses that transitioned and they are the ones that have managed to survive - thrived even. If you then look at businesses like ours with a similar lens, with the obvious digitisation that Covid has accelerated, it’s those businesses that can embrace the digital side of things that will, arguably, be the most successful. But it’s important to support other people, so one of our differentiating factors is that we believe in the hybrid model between the tech, data and human. There’s a constant battle for supremacy amongst those three but without the human input and expertise, your outcomes from purely tech or data, in my opinion, will always be compromised.
That’s also something we’ve heard from past interviews, that combination of technology, people and process. Tell us about how this combination works at Funding Circle.
Innovation is not necessarily about one single thing. We are in the midst of what we believe is a major potential innovation for SME finance in the UK. I can't divulge too much but effectively it’s exactly what you describe, so it’s an amalgam across multiple different innovations. Building a dynamic customer journey that serves multiple products so it improves the customer experience, using insights from API-driven integrations in lots of wonderful ways. When you add them up, the proposition that could result is incredibly compelling. We’re a marketplace proposition, and while there are others out there in the market, there is no defacto marketplace for SME finance. Most businesses still don’t understand their funding options and that’s something that we’re stepping out to try and resolve.
And you’ve opened a business in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is pretty advanced too but how would you compare the financial services market there with that in the UK?
The UK is far more advanced. We’re several years ahead in terms of that journey from a digitisation perspective, embracing digital and innovation. We selected the Netherlands because the market dynamics and cultural behaviours of businesses are quite similar to the UK. There are some key differences - the UK is a very free-market driven in a lot of ways, so your ability to generate revenue in the UK is far greater than anywhere on the continent. For example, one way of earning revenue through our marketplace proposition is success feeds, so when you successfully finance or achieve access for a business to lending, the lender will often pay a success fee. That is very much the norm in the UK - but on the continent, it can be a different model and the desire to pay anything isn’t always there. We can't necessarily do it for free, so if the Netherlands wants to have a leading market for SME finance, the whole ecosystem needs to be embraced.
To get the SME financing ecosystem working better, you need all participants to contribute. We talked about the technology - usually, SMEs would not be considered technologically advanced because they’re small but I think that quite often SMEs are more tech advanced than we think. But what are you seeing? Where do you see the SME maturity in terms of adopting new digital services?
It’s progressed enormously since I first started at Funding Options. We’re seeing adoption rates for open banking increasing steadily over time so the awareness is there. The important thing for SMEs is speed. They need assurances and peace of mind, and they want a good experience. So when you’re delivering a capability that gives quick solutions, gives awareness, and helps to educate customers, they appreciate it.
It’s clear that it's going to be an ever-more digital world in some shape or form. Still with a human factor, but it’s all about speed.
Funding Options is one of many of DueDil’s partners helping to enrich the lending marketplace for SMEs through API integrations. They have fully embraced our KYB for Life approach, making it easier for them to offer customers a fast and reliable tailored service. Learn more about DueDil to find out how we can transform your business lifecycle.