No matter what extent of experience you’re leveraging, building, verifying and launching a fintech product that’s able to keep abreast with the fast-paced nature of the industry has become harder than ever.
As Griffin confirms here in this latest Behind the Idea feature, infrastructure is everything when it comes to bringing a new form of fintech into the market. The old parable teaches us that when the flood comes, it washes away the houses built on the sand first.
Leading the conversation here is the company’s CEO and co-founder, David Jarvis.
Backed by his experience as an engineer for the likes of Airbnb and CircleCl, Jarvis details how he built a ‘fintech for fintechs’ to give innovators the infrastructure they require to push the finance industry forward.
In this, Griffin aims to lower the barriers to entry for fintechs, providing financial infrastructure with transparent pricing and an API-first approach:
David, tell us more about Griffin and its offering
Our CTO, Allen Rohner, and I founded Griffin to help companies quickly and safely build and launch financial products. We’re aspiring to be a purpose-built bank for fintechs, and are seeking authorisation to become a bank with the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Becoming a bank will allow us to provide our customers with a full-stack embedded finance platform that provides the infrastructure, security and support they need to go to market quickly.
Consumers and businesses can access digital-based financial services more easily with technology, but launching a product remains a complicated process. We partner with fintechs to provide them with the infrastructure, regulated partner and support they need to build a product, allowing them to focus on delivering customer value.
What problem is Griffin solving?
Almost all fintechs rely on banks to offer financial products (in one way or another), but traditional banks are often saddled with legacy infrastructure that can make partnering with them hard, costly and inefficient. Banking-as-a-service (BaaS) providers came on the scene to solve this problem by acting as a more accessible layer for companies wanting to offer a financial product, but they still rely on incumbent banks that tend to be risk-averse and bureaucratic.
This setup leaves little room for innovation and puts fintechs in a vulnerable position. Middleware BaaS providers (typically EMIs) are limited in what they can offer, and most brands end up needing to stitch multiple providers together to build a seamless product experience.
That’s why we set out to build an API-first platform that combines the power of an authorised bank with the benefits of a full stack, vertically integrated BaaS product suite. A platform that serves as a single system of record and provides fintechs with scalability, security and resilience.
Since launch, how has the company evolved?
Last year, we launched our first product, Verify, an end-to-end onboarding solution for fintechs to help them automate their KYC/KYB processes. We’re working with clients, like Comma, to help them scale their onboarding while ensuring they meet all regulatory requirements.
In November, we launched a public sandbox for our entire BaaS platform, which replicates our live environment and lets users build products and test drive everything we have to offer in a safe, controlled (and free!) way. Fintech builders can develop complete prototypes and give us feedback on how to evolve our product roadmap and improve the user experience.
It’s exciting to work with early users and see how fast the platform is evolving and improving based on real user feedback.
What has been the biggest challenge or ‘trickiest moment’ to overcome?
Every startup has its own challenges, but ours are of a different order of magnitude. The majority of fintechs are able to get a minimum viable product to market in under a year, but building a bank is a multi-year endeavour that takes patience, determination, and a lot of hard work.
It takes a lot of grit to stay the course, especially when times get tough. The capital needs alone are above and beyond those needed for your typical startup. So one of the biggest challenges has been bringing on new investors to support our growth, especially when the macroeconomic climate is so difficult. Luckily, we’ve built a team that takes these challenges in stride.
What are your biggest achievements or ‘proudest moment’ so far?
We’ve had many big achievements, but officially submitting our banking licence application was a big milestone and a very proud moment for me. It was a long process that included extensive research, a robust regulatory business plan and some very complex financial modelling (in addition to building the core infrastructure of the bank).
Only 28 per cent of companies that held initial meetings with the regulators reached the application submission stage between 2013 and September 2019, according to the PRA and the FCA, so to have gotten as far as we have is a testament to the great work of the team.
How would you describe Griffin’s company culture?
Kind, thoughtful and high-trust. Our people resonate with these values to a powerful degree. What I suppose is maybe a bit surprising is the degree to which these values – so simple in many ways – are not a fit for everyone. Our interview process is pretty good at filtering for these values, but we do make mistakes (no interview process is perfect), and it’s fascinating to me how both people and an organisation can have a sort of allergic reaction to each other when the fit isn’t right.
One other thing that is unique about us is that we actively and deliberately designed our culture from day 0. It’s not something that ‘just happened’, nor is it the result of some sort of weird branding exercise. That’s not to say that we fixed it on day zero and it hasn’t evolved – but we had a very clear vision and thesis on what sort of company we wanted to build, and the changes we’ve made along the way are more iterative in nature.
What’s in store for the future?
The future looks very exciting for Griffin. Right now, we are focused on becoming a bank and working closely with the early adopters of our BaaS platform. Plus all the normal stuff around looking for Europe’s best talent to join us on our journey!