A Passionate Mindset and Superior Execution: A Conversation with BM Technologies’ Luvleen Sidhu

A Passionate Mindset and Superior Execution: A Conversation with BM Technologies’ Luvleen Sidhu

Is there a better person to lead a conversation about bold leadership in fintech than Luvleen Sidhu? Chair, founder, and CEO of BM Technologies, Sidhu was the youngest female founder and CEO to take a company public when her firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange at the beginning of the year.

“I am proud to see BM Technologies take this historic step and enter the public markets,” Sidhu said in January. “We are delighted to be one of the first neo banking fintechs to go public. We are also EBITDA positive today, which serves to set us apart from other neo banking fintechs in the market.”

Formerly known as BankMobile, BM Technologies currently has more than two million account holders, and provides disbursement services at 700+ college campuses in the U.S., reaching one out of every three students in the country. The BaaS innovator was among the fintechs to earn recognition at the recently announced Finovate Awards, taking home top honors in the Best Fintech Partnership category for its collaboration with T-Mobile.

Beyond the Arc’s Steven Ramirez hosted a fireside chat with Luvleen Sidhu as part of the FinovateFall conference in New York last week. Below are a few excerpts from their conversation.

On what it takes to be a bold leader today

For me, being a bold leader really comes down to a few key things that, in my opinion, a bold leader would demonstrate. So that is being able to have a compelling and unique and unifying vision and purpose. (It is) being able to get people to buy into that, to be energized by that, committed to that. (It is also) being able to have superior execution, because you can have a great idea and be in the clouds, but unless you are working on improving, iterating, and being agile and adaptive to the times, you’re not going to succeed.

On the inspiration behind her company’s “bold bet” in 2016

We launched in 2015 as a direct-to-consumer strategy – like the Chimes, the Varos, the N26s of the world are doing now. We found out pretty early on that our pillar of being able to have a profitable, sustainable model as fast as possible wasn’t happening. The CAC was really high. We weren’t getting the sort of engagement and direct deposit customers which are critical in banking to actually get. So we took a bold bet in 2016 where we took a B2B2C approach and started implementing banking as a service, which is our strategy today.

On practicing bold leadership on an individual level

I think it’s contagious. When you’re bringing that innovative sort of passionate mindset and energy to work, then you engender that with everyone that you work with. It creates this ripple effect and you get others to buy in and work with you and you create a lot of tremendous momentum from that. I think it’s (important to) remain keen to continuous learning. This space is moving so fast. We can’t rest on our laurels for more than six months (before) you’ve got to innovate again. And so it’s people that make sure that they’re looking at what their customers are saying – and responding to that – but also looking at the competitive environment, how is it changing, how is it evolving … (That’s) how you remain competitive in the space.

Check out the rest of Luvleen Sidhu’s Fireside Chat: Why We Need Bold Leadership More Than Ever Before from FinovateFall 2021.

Women in Fintech: Finding Community and Investing in Social Capital

Women in Fintech: Finding Community and Investing in Social Capital

Our Women in Fintech Series continues with an interview featuring Pauline Roteta, Co-Founder and CEO of Pasito.

We spoke with Pauline to discuss the importance of DEI in current fintech trends, the benefits of finding one’s community, and her journey to founding Pasito, the fintech that delivers financial wellness through inclusive employee benefits.

Pauline will be joining our Women In Fintech Power Panel: Paving The Way For The Next Generation Of Female Founders & Executives – How Can We Reach A Gender-Neutral Future In Financial Services? at FinovateFall next month.

Tell us about yourself.

Pauline Roteta: I went to college to be a Civil Engineer. Growing up in a small town in Argentina, I was awestruck by the sheer size of development in New York and wanted to be part of that continuous cycle of growth. While I cherish the process thinking engineering gave me, after a couple of civil and construction internships, I was hired by Goldman Sachs for the summer and have never looked back.

In finance, I found a community of the sharpest minds tackling global challenges and saw the opportunity to effect impact at scale.

Now a decade later, I can safely say that finance has given me the development and growth I was after. I’ve been part of teams that grew multi-billion dollar businesses from scratch, led acquisitions, raised private equity funds, and I have been the most senior female investor of a private markets investment fund. In 2021, with this experience under my belt, I co-founded Pasito, a female-led fintech delivering inclusive benefits for working parents. As a founder and business leader, I am now even more excited than at the start of my career for the tremendous growth opportunity ahead for fintech companies like Pasito.

How have you seen the industry change across your career?

Roteta: So much has changed in 10 years. When I first joined BlackRock, we were focused on the European Debt Crisis and unraveling legacy portfolios from the 2008 Financial Crisis. While technology was important to the business model, most of our analysis and delivery was in person. The active-passive debate was just starting. Fintech wasn’t mainstream and wasn’t seen as a threat by incumbents.

Fast-forward to today: we’ve seen a proliferation of fintech companies that are effectively competing with long-time incumbents in wealth, banking, and payments. In the space where we are building, there has been less disruption. Plan administrators continue their manual processes. Technology looks like it’s from the first days of the internet. Customers haven’t yet been delighted. Pasito is working on changing that.

Where do you see fintech heading in the next 12 months?

Roteta: After the events of 2020, financial health and diversity, equity, and inclusion will remain top of mind for businesses and the government. We’re seeing employers treat financial and mental wellness with the same care that they treat physical health. That’s a huge win for the retail consumer and creates an opening for new business models in fintech to fill in the gap left behind by wealth management.

When it comes to DEI, we see fintech pushing the boundaries of financial product and service personalization.

While we’ve seen an explosion in fintech, it’s important to remember most of the big problems remain without a solution. The U.S. has never been more unequal. The wealthiest families, who are primarily white, own most of the stock market. Black and Latinx families have limited access to financial advice, and their assets amount to a fraction of the average American household wealth. At Pasito, we are working on closing this gap, one product at a time. Our hope is that more fintechs will build with this mission in mind, rather than continuing to develop products that solidify the status quo.

What more do you think can be done to support women in fintech?

Roteta: We have a long way to go in fintech to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce. The easiest way to begin this work is for leaders in the space – both men and women – to first look inward and ask:

  • What am I doing to actively advance women in fintech?
  • How am I contributing to female-founded and women-led companies and initiatives?
  • How many women are working for my company? (if the answer is not many, then ask WHY?)
  • How is my culture inclusive and inviting to women?

The second easiest way to support women in fintech is to simply listen. What do women need to join the industry? If you ask, they will tell you. (Hint: it usually boils down to equal pay, family-friendly benefits, and flexibility.)

Lastly, invest social and financial capital in women. Women with powerful ideas will not only increase the return on your investment, but also the overall positive impact you can have on the world.

Where did you find support in the fintech world?

Roteta: We’ve seen tremendous support from Startup BostonParenthood VenturesThe Capital Network, other fintech founders, and personal mentors. The insight and community from these networks have been invaluable for Pasito’s early growth stage. Our leadership team is now paying it forward to other founders, so we can collectively level the playing field in hiring, building, and fundraising.

What advice would you give to women starting their careers in the industry now?

Roteta: Be confident. Find your community. Listen to founders who have been there before. Conduct market validation before spending your money. Be selective of your investors. Above all else, stay true to your mission and values.

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FinovateFocus: Leverage New Tools and Technologies to Make Data Work for You

FinovateFocus: Leverage New Tools and Technologies to Make Data Work for You

Data Tools and Technologies is the theme of this month’s FinovateFocus event, which takes place less than a week from today on June 30. This two-hour, targeted networking and collaboration experience leverages smart algorithms to help attendees find like minds and make the best matches. In between networking sessions, FinovateFocus will feature short presentations on harnessing the power of data from fintech analysts, business leaders, and industry experts.

Book your ticket at our FinovateFocus hub today. Free registration for eligible director/head/SVP/C-level professionals from financial institutions is available. Visit our FinovateFocus hub for more information.

Here’s a look at what FinovateFocus has in store for next week’s presentations:

  • Transforming Relationship Managers into Trusted Advisors with Yamini Bhat, CEO and Co-Founder of Vymo.
  • Six Steps to Accelerate Your Progress on the Road to AI with Steven Ramirez, CEO, Beyond the Arc
  • Balancing Humans and Machines to Unlock Real-Time Finance Insights with Snehal Shinde, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder of Zeni Inc.

After the networking sessions and presentations, FinovateFocus will feature a set of fintech roundtables led by our experts. Themes and hosts for the June FinovateFocus roundtables next week are:

  • Maximizing sales effectiveness: The art of working with “small data” with Yamini Bhat, CEO and Co-Founder of Vymo
  • The power of data to enhance your services – from Open Banking through Open Finance to Open Data with Dr. Louise Beaumont, Chair of the Open Finance & Payments Working Group of TechUK
  • Strategies for developing and deploying AI more quickly with Steven Ramirez, CEO of Beyond the Arc
  • Leveraging data to provide a better borrowing experience for businesses with Sean Hunter, CIO of OakNorth

FinovateAsia: Digital Disruption, Embedded Finance, and the Customer Experience

FinovateAsia: Digital Disruption, Embedded Finance, and the Customer Experience

If you are looking to get up to speed on the innovations in fintech taking place in the Asia-Pacific region, then our all-digital fintech conference, FinovateAsia, is your ticket. For two days next week, June 22 and June 23, our guest speakers and distinguished panelists will share their insights and experiences as innovators, entrepreneurs, and analysts in one of the fastest-growing, technologically-creative areas of the world.

We’ve already introduced you to our keynote speakers. Here’s a look at the roundtables and panel discussions that will be available to attendees over the course of the conference. Learn more about FinovateAsia Digital at our FinovateAsia hub and pick up your ticket today!

Digital disruption and customer experience

Examine how customer demands have changed in the current environment. Discover how to build successful partnerships and distribution channels with customers in mind. Read more.

  • Sheila Paul, Chief Marketing Officer, Home Credit Philippines
  • Mikko Hietanen, COO, CreamQuark
  • Shawn Lau, VP, Partnerships Solutions, SwissRe
  • Justin Yiu, Head of Innovation, Solaria Labs East (Asia), Liberty Mutual Insurance
  • Gerald Marion, Chief Customer & Strategy Officer, BUPA ANZ
  • Moderated by Marc-Antoine Hager, Sales Director, APAC, CleverTap

Embedded finance and the future of finance

Learn how to harness the power of data and digitization to build new models of finance across verticals. See how to empower customers through better offerings, and how to integrate services into customers’ every day lives. Read more.

  • Victor Alexiev, Director, APAC Head for Citi Ventures, Programs & Strategic Partnerships, ICG, Citi
  • Sonal Kapoor, Director, Flipkart
  • Moderated by Yannick Even, Head of Digital & Smart Analytics APAC, SwissRe

The evolving payment landscape in Asia: Blurring of lines between payment systems

Examine the emerging challenges and opportunities in the payments space. Discuss how the payments industry can foster collaboration to serve consumers and businesses better. Read more.

  • Daniel Webber, Founder / CEO, FXC Intelligence
  • Laetitia Moncarz, Head of Corporates & FI and Business Innovation, SWIFT Asia Pacific
  • Kevin Popermhem, Cross Border Product Manager, ITMX
  • Moderated by Nicholas Soo, Regional Head of Payments, Global Liquidity & Cash Management, HSBC

Change management: Bringing your people on your digitization journey

Learn how implementing cultural change can future-proof your business and attract and retain the right, forward-looking, tech-talented people. Read more.

  • Faraaz Ali, Group Head, Digital Ecosystems, API and Open Banking, DBS
  • Susan Ong, Chief Information Officer, Home Credit Philippines
  • Oscar Ramos, Partner & Managing Director, Chinaccelerator
  • Deepak Oram, Head of Marketing Technology & Automation, HDFC Bank
  • Moderated by John Gist, Head of Fidelity Labs, Fidelity

Overcoming challenges and fostering successful partnerships across new ecosystems

Explore the convergence between financial services, insurance, wealth, and health, and the disruptors working across ecosystems. Learn how you can fit into this emerging ecosystem model and expand into new markets. Read more.

  • Deepak Sharma, Chief Digital Officer, Kotah Mahindra Bank
  • Manish Gurbuxani, Regional Head of Business Development and New Markets, Prudential
  • Alpesh Doshi, Managing Partner, Redcliffe Capital
  • Moderated by Yi Mien Koh, Chief Partnership Officer, Asian Markets, AXA Asia

SME lending in a post-COVID-19 world

Learn how credit and financing options favored by consumers have changed in response to the pandemic. Examine ways to determine the unique credit needs of different customer types and how to build new products to accommodate them. Read more.

  • Nikhilesh Goel, Co-founder and COO, Validus Capital
  • Brian Yeoh, Head of Data Governance and Strategy, Financial Services Regulatory Authority
  • Moderated by Zhi-Ying Barry, Senior Analyst, Forrester

Acceleration of digital banking: Innovating in response to COVID-19

Investigate how banks and other financial institutions embraced digital transformation trends that preceded the pandemic. Discuss what challenges and opportunities are likely to arise in a post-COVID environment. Read more.

  • Sam Tanskul, Managing Director Krungsri Finnovate & Head of Innovation, Krungsri Bank
  • Xue Kai Pang, CEO, Tokocrypto
  • Medhy Soudhi, Head of FinTech & StartupXcharge, DBS
  • Moderated by Lapman Lee, Professor of Practice (FinTech & Innovation), HK Polytechnic University

Leveraging emerging technologies and digitization to reimagine a hybrid customer experience

Discover how to identify customer pain points more efficiently and find the right balance between digital self-service and the human touch. Learn how to harness AI and machine learning to exceed customer expectations. Read more.

  • Andy Chun, Regional Director, Technology Innovation, Prudential
  • Shawn Low, Co-founder and Head of Operations, Better.com
  • Tomasz Kurczyk, Chief Digital and Transformation Officer, AXA
  • Moderated by Frank Yazdi, Head of Priority Client Services, Asia Pacific, HSBC

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Quantum Metric on Agile Operations and Fintech Innovation

Quantum Metric on Agile Operations and Fintech Innovation

The partnership between Quantum Metric and U.S. Bank was major part of the conversation on digital transformation in financial services at FinovateSpring in May. Quantum Metric, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and founded in 2015, leverages its Continuous Product Design (CPD) platform to enable business, product, and technical teams to build better digital products faster. With partners ranging from Alaska Airlines to Western Union, Quantum Metric helps businesses access the customer insights that guide and inform development process.

We caught up with Michael Hanson, Regional Vice President of Banking and Financial Services at Quantum Metric, to find out what banks and fintechs can learn from Quantum Metric’s experience in collaborating with U.S. Bank. A textbook case of “two great tastes that taste great together,” Quantum Metric and U.S. Bank showed attendees what’s possible when companies with track records of innovation and a shared commitment to collaboration come together.

On the breadth of digital experience in financial services

When you think about digital experiences, it’s more than just a website. It can be a native application. It could be your tablet experience – depending on the demographic. It could be ATMs – ATMs are essentially a branch within a digital device – as well as kiosks in the traditional storefronts and branches that tend to be the bridge between the traditional banking relationship and a digital self-service relationship.

On the value of a company-wide embrace of agile operations

That means that marketing is now going to be agile. So instead of trying to craft some type of new product or new pitch and then releasing it out in the wild and seeing maybe in six months if it worked and delivered … No! We want to launch something, but we want to know immediately, in real-time, (and) understand if it’s working or not working, if there’s an opportunity to drive some type of improvement. It’s literally agile operations, which has been around for decades, but is now being deployed across the organization.

On the challenge of overcoming “technical debt”

There are long-term contracts and on-premises solutions that are baked into current workflows and current processes. And so as you’re learning new tricks, so to speak, (the question is): how do we quickly retool and empower our employees with the technologies that are going to support those new processes and support some of those new tricks that we’re teaching folks?

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

The Emergence of Childhood Investing Apps

The Emergence of Childhood Investing Apps

Providing services for Generation Z is increasingly on the minds of both banks and fintechs alike.

One such fintech, EarlyBird, is making it easy for a child’s community to invest in their future. We spoke with the company’s CEO Jordan Wexler on the current childhood investing environment and what it takes to compete.

Talk to us about the current state of financial literacy in the U.S.

Jordan Wexler: The numbers tell us that most American families aren’t doing a great job at teaching financial literacy. According to a recent survey, 19% of Americans reported that their household spent more than their income over the past year. Add in the fact that 43% of adults say they haven’t got a rainy day fund, and that means huge chunks of our society simply aren’t prepared to face financial hurdles. This shows that good financial habits and knowledge aren’t being effectively passed down either.

Research suggests there isn’t much time to sow the seeds of financial literacy into a kid’s headspace. Children generally have their financial habits set by the age of seven. That means to set kids up for financial independence, they have to be taught the basics of financial literacy sooner rather than later. Not only will you instill good habits early, but you’ll also be setting them up to make smart investment and financial choices throughout their lives.

Most wealthtech tools target high net worth individuals. What benefits are there to having a young client base that typically has no income?

Wexler: The benefit of helping the youth is that we’re trying to set them up for financial success in the future. We aren’t encouraging spending – we’re instilling good financial habits early on that will help kids flourish in their adult lives.

With EarlyBird, our vision is to have parents start investing in their children from day one. That way, in 18 years, they will have a solid financial foundation for their child to give them the freedom to pursue their aspirations – traveling the world, going to college, starting a business, whatever it may be.

EarlyBird was built for more than the children with their name on the custodial account. It’s for parents, family, and friends that want to give meaningful and purposeful gifts to the children in their lives to help support them financially. We’re making it accessible to all because it doesn’t matter which household income bracket a family falls under, investing just a little bit each month for your child can go a long way.

What elements do you use to cater EarlyBird to such a young audience?

Wexler: We’re catering EarlyBird to parents, their children, and also the community around them that wants to see them succeed. For parents, we’ve simplified the process to kickstart their child’s future by opening a custodial investment account. It doesn’t matter if the parent is a beginner, novice, or expert in investing in the stock market, we’re allowing families to gift meaningful and sustainable financial contributions for all life’s milestones.

For children, we’re creating a platform that allows them to learn about finances. They can better understand investing/saving, watch their money grow, and then one day have a bank account with accumulated funds to use as they please. Our hope is that from being a lifelong EarlyBird user, they’ll know how to manage those assets responsibly.

We’ve also created a great user experience for the ‘givers.’ They are able to record a video memory with their contribution and can use it as an opportunity to pass down stories and knowledge from the world of money. Video memories are placed into an archive on the EarlyBird app for the children to look back on and learn from forever.

EarlyBird was founded in 2019. How have you seen the childhood financial services space grow since then?

Wexler: Being in the weeds in the childhood financial services space, it’s apparent that there’s been massive growth and that it’s on an upward trajectory, especially with latest funding news from services like Greenlight, Current, Step, and Till Financial.

One thing we are noticing right now is that “kids” and “children” are being somewhat generalized into one category of fintech. The reality is – there are different offerings in the space that make sense for different ages and parental comfort levels. I feel that we’re at the point where parents need to start to consider their “ideal mix” when it comes to the fintech tools and apps they use to save for their children, teach them financial literacy, and also get them started with spending when it’s time.

For example, parents can get started with EarlyBird when their child is born and then later on incorporate an app with teen-focused debit card to begin digital banking. This is similar to the “old school” trajectory of starting off with a 529 account then adding a standard savings account and later a checking account.

It’s great to see so much growth, innovation, and potential happening in childhood financial services. We’re beyond excited to be a part of this movement and to set the next generation up for financial freedom!

Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels

FinovateSpring: The Power of Data and the Role of the Customer in the Post-COVID Era

FinovateSpring: The Power of Data and the Role of the Customer in the Post-COVID Era

Our all-digital spring fintech conference is right around the corner. Here’s a look at some of the luminaries who will be sharing their insights at this year’s FinovateSpring, May 10 through May 13.

Seven in Seven

For years, we’ve put our demoing companies to the seven-minute test. Now its our experts’ turn on the clock. Our Seven in Seven main stage session on Tuesday, May 11, gives seven analysts, innovators, and executives seven minutes each to share their insights into the most critical issues facing banks and fintechs in 2021 and beyond.

  • Ronit Ghose, CitiBio
  • Hugh Shannon, OakNorthBio
  • Siri Borsum, HuaweiBio
  • Alex Weber, N26Bio
  • Charles Potts, Independent Community Bankers of AmericaBio
  • Nadia Edwards-Dashti, Harrington Star GroupBio
  • Alex Johnson, Cornerstone AdvisersBio

Main Stage Keynotes

Looking for a 30,000 foot view of the fintech landscape? Our mainstage, keynote addresses examine the terrain.

The Pandemic’s Lasting Impact on Financial Services and What Comes Next

The pandemic pushed financial services companies to innovate and accelerate their digital transformations overnight. Hitting the industry’s reset button has created growing pains and increased competition for some and opportunities for others, including new customers and partnerships– but what does this mean for the future of banking?

Melissa Manne, Marcus by Goldman SachsSessionBio

Enabling a Data-Driven Enterprise

To streamline and automate compliance activities, leading firms are now implementing an enterprise data fabric to bring together data from across the enterprise, reducing manual effort, increasing accuracy, lowering latencies, and simplifying operations.

In this session we will present a subset of the research findings, describe what top analysts are calling “the future of data management,” and how it is being used to streamline both compliance initiatives and accelerate strategic business initiatives at top financial services firms.

Joe Lichtenberg, IntersystemsSessionBio

How Covid Has Transformed Global eCommerce & Omnichannel Payments

How Will True Mobile Wallets Evolve & Will They Be Able To Connect Internationally?

Will Graylin, OV LoopSessionBio

A Digital Banking Roadmap For Community Banks & Credit Unions: Start With The Customer & Work Back

Rilla Delorier, Coastal Community BankSessionBio

Power to the Panels!

From insights into customer engagement to expanding the role of women in fintech, our mainstage Power Panel discussions offer deep dives and diverse opinions on key issues in our industry.

Customer Insights – Sharing Real Life Examples Of Best Practice In CX And How To Blend Human & Digital CX

  • Dominic Venturo, U.S. BancorpBio
  • Camilla Morais, BrexBio
  • Stephen Goldstein, RGAXBio
  • Lamont Young, Citizens BankBio
  • Alyson Clarke, ForresterBio
  • Read more

How Will New Technologies, New Competitors And New Business Models Shape The Future Of Payments? Is Payments Orchestration About To Have Its Moment?

  • Andrew Steele, Activant CapitalBio
  • Carolyn Criscitiello, Santander BankBio
  • Eric Van Miltenburg, RippleBio
  • Gilles Ubaghs, Aite GroupBio
  • Read more

Lending 2.0 – What Are The Problems That Need To Be Solved For Consumers & SMEs In The New COVID 19 World?

  • Mark Ruddock, BFS CapitalBio
  • Mercedes Bent, Lightspeed Venture PartnersBio
  • Tom Burnside, LendingPointBio
  • Louise Beaumont, TechUKBio
  • Read more

Paving The Way For The Next Generation Of Female Founders & Executives – How Can We Reach A Gender-Neutral Future In Financial Services?

  • Nisa Amoils, A100xBio
  • Sarah Wolter, FinTech CollectiveBio
  • Cat Hernandez, Venture CollectiveBio
  • Michelle Tran, NYC Fintech WomenBio
  • Read more

Tickets for FinovateSpring are available now. Book your reservation by April 30 (this Friday!) and save $100 on the price of your four-day, all-access pass!

Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels

Beyond Good and the Power of Purpose-Driven Fintech

Beyond Good and the Power of Purpose-Driven Fintech

When we think of global corporations and business in general, do we feel pride in how we do things? Beyond Good, a new book by Unconventional Ventures co-founders Theodora Lau and Bradley Leimer, is a call to arms for business leaders to recognize how they can do well by doing good.

Beyond Good showcases how fintech is changing business models and what every industry can learn from it. The leaders in financial services are fostering a thriving ecosystem of incumbents and startups, unlocking new possibilities to make broader financial inclusion a reality.

With a foreword from the Aspen Institute, exclusive interviews with leading B-Corps, policy makers, executives, and case studies from companies like Sunrise Banks, Ant Group, Village Capital, Microsoft, and PayPal, Beyond Good shows how everyone can contribute to a more common good. Finovate readers can also get 20% off their copy of the book, using code Inspire20.

Below are a few excerpts from our conversation with Theo and Brad on the new book and their upcoming appearance at FinovateSpring next month. For the full interview, check out the video above.

On the importance of financial inclusion

Theo Lau: “If we talk about the onset of the so-called fintech revolution, if you will, a lot of the new startups seemed to regurgitate old ideas that have already been around. They make it prettier, they create this bamboo credit card … But it that really changing our behavior, is it really changing how we work? In the West, are we really including more demographics and doing things better for them? I would argue a lot of the time we are not.”

Bradley Leimer: “Inclusivity goes much broader than just a credit card or just lending or just credit. And that’s a lot of what we discuss. There’s more to a financial relationship than one side of the balance sheet. There’s more to the financial services model than just profitability. There are longer term implications in everything we do every single day and every decision that we make.”

Why fintechs and financial services need to move “beyond good.”

Leimer: “We’ve seen a lot of stakeholder capitalism lately and examples of companies that have tried to mean more for their business model and their communities. That’s what we celebrate in the book, the shift that we can include more people in our communities in society. Especially in financial services and technology, companies we really need to focus how we can serve these larger groups. Everybody in society should be able to be a part of our business models. And that’s why we go “beyond good.”

Lau: “We want to reinforce that this is not a zero-sum game. Just because we are including more demographics and more considerations on how we conduct business doesn’t mean you’re losing. Case in point, one of the things lately we’ve been talking about is student loan debt, $1.7 trillion dollars of debt. Obviously the burden is shared across all demographics, but particularly in communities of color, among first generation college students, and among those in other less advantaged groups.

So our question is: how do we go about solving it? There are a lot of different moving parts. But for financial services, the role isn’t just to offer another loan on top of the pile of deb because that’s not solving the problem. We need to go back further to ask how we create a more equal society, more equal products, and create services to help people rethink their finances and get to a healthier financial situation.”

Join Theo Lau and Bradley Leimer at FinovateSpring May 10 through 13. For more information about our upcoming, all digital, spring fintech conference, visit our FinovateSpring hub today.

Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

Digital Identity’s New Frontier

Digital Identity’s New Frontier

After the world went digital last year, the digital identity crisis began taking on new life. Most fintech players are involved in digital identity in some way, and Experian is no exception.

We recently spoke with Eric Haller, Experian’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of Identity, Fraud & DataLabs, to get an idea of how digital identity is changing.

In the interview below, Haller offers his expert opinion and shares how enabling technologies such as AI and the blockchain are impacting how firms think about digital identity.

Digital identity has been on the radar of financial services firms since the dawn of online services. How has this past year of digital acceleration changed how firms approach digital identity?

Eric Haller: The pandemic has shifted segments of the population to the web that weren’t as engaged online as they were prior to the pandemic. For this segment, shopping “face to face” felt safer in many ways. But with a biological threat surfacing, the risks of shopping in the physical world traded places for online risks. All of a sudden, online services seemed much safer.

This plays out in our research where we saw a 20% increase in online shopping this past year with 43% of consumers believing they will even increase their online activity over the next year. And with this shift, 55% of consumers say security is their top priority in a digital experience.

Tell us about the role that AI plays in enhancing digital identity verification for banks.

Haller: To validate someone’s digital identity, literally hundreds of data elements are evaluated to assess whether an individual is a bot, an imposter or the person they claim to be. And all this data is collected, analyzed, and acted on in milliseconds. AI allows for these complicated links and behaviors to be tied together in a variety of ways quickly, efficiently, and accurately to assign the correct conclusion to each customer.

If everything goes well for a legitimate customer, the experience is smooth sailing and both the consumer and merchant conduct “fraud free” business. Most often, there is no fraud. It only happens a very small percentage of the time. But it’s important that if it is a bot or an imposter, that the models in place are precise.

The blockchain seems like a valuable enabling technology when it comes to proving identity. Is this an idea you’ve seen gain popularity? Or is it more of just a fad?

Haller: The portability of a trusted identity in a digital ecosystem integrated with a blockchain could serve a lot of value for consumers and businesses. But it requires quite a bit of effort to get both those that want to share their identity and those willing to invest in accepting it participating in it.

If there were a lot of businesses that would accept a particular blockchain based ID, consumers would put in the effort to have on and use it. If there were a lot of consumers with it, businesses would put in the effort to invest and accept it.

Which side grows with scale first? There are many chasing this ideal. I wouldn’t characterize it as a fad — just very ambitious and challenging to achieve.

Photo by Pablò on Unsplash

FIS On Ecommerce Trends & BNPL Market Predictions

FIS On Ecommerce Trends & BNPL Market Predictions

What’s behind all of the buzz surrounding the recent buy now, pay later (BNPL) trend? We spoke with Jason Pavona, FIS General Manager for North American E-commerce, to get his thoughts on the matter.

As the General Manager for North America, Pavona leads FIS’s merchant acquiring commercial efforts in the United States and Canada along with driving the payments analytics business he founded and acquired by FIS.

In our interview below, we gleaned insights from FIS’s recent payments report and tapped Pavona’s expertise on BNPL, the uptick in ecommerce, and banks’ responses.

It’s widely understood that ecommerce grew in 2020. Do you anticipate that the growth curve will continue or level off?

Jason Pavona: We are seeing this growth continue for at least the next three years. Our recent Global Payments Report is forecasting that the global ecommerce market will grow by nearly 60 percent by 2024 to a total value of $7.3 trillion. The pandemic did accelerate this growth, as we saw two to three years of typical acceleration condensed into 2020, so some leveling off can be expected. However, this rapid growth was also driven by a push towards digital retail that was underway well before we had ever heard of COVID-19. Consumers are now more comfortable than ever making payments online — their inclination to the speed, ease, and flexibility of online shopping points to continued growth in the ecommerce market. While growth may slow down the line, we are not seeing signs of a plateau in that growth.

The report notes that Asia is leading when it comes to using mobile wallets at the point of sale. What’s holding back U.S. consumers from using mobile wallets at the point of sale?

Pavona: Payment innovation in Asia, and particularly China, has coincided with the rise of smartphones and powerful local super apps, helping the region leap ahead of the rest of the world in the use of mobile wallets. The pandemic helped to accelerate digitalization of the point of sale across the world and increase the usage of digital wallets, but buy-in from Asian governments in the innovation of payments has supported that development.

Mobile and digital wallets are rising in the U.S., with digital wallets accounting for a third of all online payments in 2020, but the U.S. does still have some catching up to do. We expect mobile wallets to become more ubiquitous as Americans become more used to the technology and begin using digital wallets in place of their physical credit cards.

Many Americans, however, are torn over going fully digital in their payments. FIS has found that while 55% of consumers prefer digital payments, 67% feel more comfortable using traditional payments methods.

There’s been a relatively large influx of third-party players in the BNPL space, but some banks have created their own BNPL offerings. Which do you see coming out on top?

Pavona: It is possible that banks are able to take some market share in the BNPL space, however this could be considered to be taking back market share from BNPL providers that have taken over the relationship with bank customers at the point of sale.

Third party BNPL providers are growing rapidly, and in order to compete banks need to forge stronger relationships with merchants at the point of sale – relationships companies like Affirm and Klarna already have. It may also be reasonable to expect banks, in response to third party financing, to adjust their consumer credit card offerings to gain a competitive edge and compete directly within their customer’s wallets, rather than at the point of sale.

Do you think BNPL payments will be a lasting trend or will consumers eventually default back to traditional credit?

Pavona: It is a bit early to say one way or another whether BNPL will be a lasting trend and how the leading providers will expand their product sets and relationships, though given the rapid growth of BNPL solutions across markets it’s not difficult to make a case for BNPL being here to stay. FIS expects BNPL to more than double its market share to 5% of all transactions by 2024, and comprise 4% of the global ecommerce market by 2024. While U.S. consumers may still be building trust in BNPL tools, some European countries have accepted them whole-heartedly. For example, BNPL purchases account for 20% of all online transactions in Sweden and Germany.

While we forecast several more years of strong BNPL growth at least, another question to consider is how BNPL will fare under heavier scrutiny from regulators. The U.K. and other countries have already begun discussing and introducing BNPL regulations and other countries like the U.S. could be soon to follow.

FinovateFocus: From Payments and Remittances to Data Technology

FinovateFocus: From Payments and Remittances to Data Technology

This week featured the second of our new, all-digital FinovateFocus conferences. With a theme on payments, remittance, and foreign exchange within the fintech industry, our day-long offering of rapid-fire presentations and live roundtable Q&A sessions provided a fast-paced, no-fluff opportunity for financial services professionals to get up to speed on the latest in fintech – and to make the kind of high-quality connections that will lead to partnerships and collaborations in the weeks and months to come.

Scheduled for the fourth Thursday of every month, FinovateFocus enables like-minded professionals to discuss top issues within fintech, advance business objectives, and grow their networks.

To whet your appetite for our upcoming FinovateFocus in April, which will focus on Data Technology, here’s a look at the speakers and topics from our just-concluded FinovateFocus in March. In the meanwhile, to learn more about our upcoming April FinovateFocus event on April 22nd, visit our FinovateFocus hub today.

  • Millicent Tracey, Digital Payments Advisor, NACHA, on the buy now/pay later phenomenon in e-commerce. LinkedIn
  • Fergal de Clar, Marketing Manager, Fabrick International, on managing subscriptions from your banking app as a value-add for customers and an opportunity for customer engagement. LinkedIn.
  • Josh Stephens, VP of Product, Current, on the rising importance of instant payments. LinkedIn.
  • Matt King, Head of Payments Platform, Brex, on the build it or buy it innovation question with regard to financial partnerships at a time of hypergrowth. LinkedIn.
  • Timothy Chiodo, Director & Lead Analyst: Payments, Processors and Fintech, Credit Suisse, with a selection of key themes and topics on the minds of payments, processors, and fintech investors. LinkedIn.
  • Colin Wynd, Head of Real Time Payments Technology, The Clearing House, on the impact of faster and real-time payments. LinkedIn.
  • Mark Ruddock, CEO, BFS Capital, on how a new generation of small business owners is demanding change. LinkedIn.
  • Christopher Simco, VP, Emerging Payments Product Management, TD Bank, on how payments and innovation tempo are shaping consumer trust in banking. LinkedIn.
  • Gilles Ubaghs, Senior Analyst, Aite Group, on innovation in the payments industry, the familiar versus the new. LinkedIn.

To learn more about our upcoming April FinovateFocus event on April 22nd, visit our FinovateFocus hub today.

Photo by Monica Silvestre from Pexels

Luvleen Sidhu on Working with Big Banks, Google, and Why She Chose a SPAC

Luvleen Sidhu on Working with Big Banks, Google, and Why She Chose a SPAC

Luvleen Sidhu, CEO of BM Technologies (formerly known as BankMobile), is now one of the youngest female founders and CEOs of a public company.

Since she co-founded BM Technologies in 2014, the company has made major news headlines. We recently spoke with Sidhu to get the background behind some of those decisions and to get her opinion on what it takes to compete in the fintech world as an ethnic minority and a woman.

First off, give us some background on BM Technologies (BMTX) and how it differentiates itself from other challenger digital banking platforms.

Luvleen Sidhu: BM Technologies, Inc. (NYSE American: BMTX, BMTX.W) is among the first neobanking fintechs to go public and is one of the largest digital banking platforms in the U.S. (with over 2 million accountholders), providing access to checking and savings accounts, personal loans and credit cards. We are on a mission to utilize technology to provide millions of Americans with a better banking experience, especially around affordability, transparency and more consumer-friendly products. We are proud to share that we were named the “Most Innovative Bank” by LendIt Fintech in 2019 and we continue to stay true to our mission of being a customer-centric focused company committed to innovation, and financially empowering millions of Americans.

We are a profitable and high-growth company and have been able to build this strong foundation through our Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) strategy, which enables the acquisition of customers at higher volumes and substantially lower expense than traditional banks. This allows us to provide low-cost banking services to low/middle-income Americans. Today, the BankMobile BaaS platform is provided to colleges and universities through BankMobile Disbursements and serves over two million account-holders, providing disbursement services at 722 campuses, covering one out of every three students in the U.S.

Additionally, BM Technologies executed an agreement with Google to introduce digital bank accounts, which will be available to its customers. We also expanded our white label strategy with T-Mobile for the launch of T-Mobile MONEY.

Tell us about why you chose to offer not only B2C banking products and services, but also banking-as-service tools?

Sidhu: When we launched our company over six years ago, we actually only had a B2C banking product. However, fairly early on, we realized we were not growing at the exponential rate that we had anticipated and our customer acquisition cost was high. This caused us to pause and reevaluate our strategy. We recognized that there was an opportunity to pivot our strategy to a B2B2C model where we could lower our customer acquisition cost to less than $10 and in return still deliver a tech-enabled banking experience to millions of Americans through our distribution partners. This has been critical in our growth and our success as a company.

BM Technologies has its roots in the traditional banking world, having been developed internally by Customers Bancorp. How did that relationship shape BM Technologies?

Sidhu: Customers Bancorp gave us an extremely solid foundation as a company. Even when we launched in 2015, Customers Bank had $6.5 billion in assets. My father, Jay Sidhu was then the CEO of Customers Bank and cofounded BankMobile with me. Richard Ehst, then President of Customers Bank, also helped guide me, along with other members of the company’s leadership team. Having the chance to work with banking veterans provided us with immense knowledge of the industry, which helped us be successful.

BM Technologies is one of the 11 financial institutions collaborating with Google to pilot its Plex bank accounts. What benefits does this partnership offer BM Technologies? Are there any challenges with the new partnership?

Sidhu: This collaboration is mutually beneficial and is differentiated from the others because of our unique college student acquisition funnel. This means we are bringing to Google Plex potentially millions of student customers.

For us, the collaboration offers additional brand equity since Google is one of the leading technology companies in the world and has chosen BM Technologies to work with.

Why did BM Technologies choose to go the SPAC route to become a public company? What opportunities will this offer?

Sidhu: We decided to go the SPAC route because it was a more efficient way for us to take the company public. Our ultimate goal is to add a new white-label partner and gain at least a million new bank customers each year and most importantly provide them with the most financially empowering banking experience. We also plan to use our new funds to continue to focus on innovations and expand our product offerings.

As not only an ethnic minority but also a woman, what have you learned about what it takes to compete in the fintech world?

Sidhu: It takes a lot of determination, flexibility and a “can-do” attitude. I have been raised by two parents who have always supported and encouraged me and given me the tools and resources to succeed. This has helped me throughout childhood and adulthood and has given me a strong foundation to launch my own company. “Never give up” is a motto that my father said to me since I was a young child and one that I truly believe in. There have been obstacles along the way, but by continuing on despite them and overcoming them, I feel I have been able to be competitive.

In general, what developments can we expect in the challenger banking space in 2021?

Sidhu: I think that challenger banks will continue to grow their customer base, becoming increasingly popular with consumers across the country. More and more people are turning to digital banking, and the pandemic accelerated this trend. Challenger banks are nimble and consistently creating new services, which are attractive to Americans. I also believe that more challenger banks will go public this year.