Current macroeconomic pressures have strained the relationship between banks and small business customers, causing difficulties for both sides. By adopting a customer-centric approach, banks can help small businesses and themselves move forward in a future of economic recovery.
With this in mind, our latest Behind the Idea meets the business technology fintech BankiFi.
BankiFi’s platform sits at the heart of the relationship between banks, businesses and consumers, and its technology helps each to better serve the other, enabling banks to connect with their business customers on a new level of customer centricity.
Here, Mark Hartley, the platform’s founder and CEO, explains how this chain reaction works and discusses its suitability within the current economic climate. Hartley is a key figure in the developing concept of open banking, and was integral to the foundation of the Open Payment Hub and the launch of the BankiFi Revenu app.
Hartley’s three-decade career is intertwined with many of the world’s fastest-developing and innovative payment systems, and as this Behind the Idea discovers, open banking could be the most innovative of them yet:
Tell us more about BankiFi and what it offers
BankiFi is a technology platform designed to help banks and other legacy financial institutions improve their service to small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) by providing a set of integrated services, such as accounting, invoicing and payments.
Essentially, we enable banks to become more customer-centric, as opposed to being product-centric, which they often are now. With BankiFi, these companies can consolidate white-label microservices and offer them as a suite of open banking and accounting services to business customers, allowing them to curate their own user experience.
What problem was BankiFi set up to solve?
BankiFi established itself to address the issues faced by SMEs, banks, and other traditional financial institutions.
We believe businesses in these two sectors need more support than they’re currently getting, and we’re here to provide that. Take for example SMEs, right now, they’re often forced to wait for much longer than bigger businesses to get paid. This epidemic of late invoice payments within SMEs has major ramifications and forces businesses to spend more time on financial admin, which puts them under immense pressure.
In fact, according to McKinsey, SMEs end up spending around 74 per cent of their time on non-core activities, dealing with things like late payments and invoice reconciliation. That means SMEs can dedicate less time to important tasks like sales. Especially now, with businesses of all sizes stretched under broader macro environment pressures this needs to change and change fast.
Banks find themselves in a similar boat. In the past few years, fintechs, payment processors and alternative finance providers have started eating away at the market share of traditional banking services. However, if banks were able to better embed themselves within modern business workflows through simple-to-deploy financial tools then they could take on these challengers and become indispensable to their customers
That’s where BankiFi comes in. Our platform helps banks reduce their customers’ admin time and facilitates prompt payment for SMEs, optimising their working capital in the process. Additionally, our platform enables banks to proactively offer value-added services to SME customers and identify lending opportunities should customers face working capital challenges.
For the bank that hopefully means happy customers as well as increasing their revenue and lending book.
Since its launch, how has BankiFi evolved?
Since founding BankiFi in 2017, we’ve expanded from a team of just two to 50 people. We now work with banks across the UK, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) and North American regions, and several strategic partners, including Visa, MX and Microsoft.
It’s been quite the journey so far, and in the past year alone we’ve launched our service in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, as well as in North America, where we have partnered with Axiom Bank to deliver our open cash management system. This system helps to enhance business banking for small businesses and community financial institutions.
What has been the biggest challenge or most ‘tricky moment’ to overcome?
Operating a global banking tech business entails navigating a difficult industry, and the regulatory constraints that accompany it. This has brought with it many tricky moments, but we’ve managed to overcome them. It would be remiss of me not to mention covid-19, which was a challenge, but one that also engendered many new opportunities for us.
The pandemic forced banks to digitise in ways the sector had previously deemed to be too challenging. This meant that the wider banking industry had to become more collaborative and creative in its approach to the provision of financial services and as such, make them more receptive to our solutions.
What are your biggest achievements or ‘proudest moment’ so far?
We can look at this question through two different lenses. From a business perspective, highlights include onboarding a number of highly reputable banking clients in the UK, working with partners in New Zealand to deliver a better service to small business customers, and our launch into the US, as well as winning our first client over there within just four months.
From a cultural perspective, we are really proud to have retained the majority of the core team that BankiFi started out with. Our people are at the heart of our business and they’re what makes us tick. We understand the value of our team and have heavily invested in their progression and development, helping them relocate and train on the job. This has in turn fostered a fantastic culture, which has helped to enable our employees to fulfil their true potential from a personal and professional standpoint.
How would you describe the culture of BankiFi?
At BankiFi, we are all about openness and inclusivity, with gender, age, and cultural diversity high on our agenda. As a result, we now have a team that is truly global, with people from many diverse backgrounds and experience levels, all of whom contribute to our intensely positive culture.
As a business, we put a huge emphasis on connecting and being together whenever we can and do this through quarterly in-person meetings and monthly gatherings across varying time zones.
What’s in store for the future?
We have a firm focus on scaling out our operations in North America and Europe.
Many SMEs across the US and Europe are struggling right now and need help to keep their heads above water. At the same time, many banks are unable to offer the support SMEs need in an effective manner and have seen their role in the financial ecosystem diminish in recent times.
That presents a huge opportunity within the financial sector. We firmly believe that banks can win over scores of new customers if they focus more on the needs of SMEs and look to make the lives of their owners easier.
There’s a lot of work for us as an industry to create a level playing field, but at BankiFi, we are committed to that endeavour and to championing the cause of the SME.