Neat makes the world of international trade more accessible to entrepreneurs, SMEs and ambitious young companies from across the globe. Small businesses for a long time have been underserved by traditional financial players which have resulted in many businesses being financially excluded. Closing that gap on financial exclusion for SMEs and giving them access to products that suit their needs is a big part of what Neat is trying to do. Started in 2017, Neat has helped more than 5000 business customers to expand internationally with offices in Hong Kong and London.
David Rosa is CEO, co-founder of Neat and a Fintech entrepreneur. Throughout his career, he has been exposed to managing teams across time zones in complex corporate environments all the way to agile business development for startups and related pivots to find product-market-fit.
What has been the traditional Neat response to financial technology innovations?
Neat’s response to financial technology innovation has always been to embrace it. There are many different forms of financial technology in play now, which means as a fellow fintech we are able to mix and match to suit our needs. We actively seek out other fintech companies to work with that specialise in what they do. Collaboration is extremely important to us as a business.
For example, if we look specifically at regtech, this plays a huge role in the onboarding of our customers and so we partner with companies that tackle that particular part of the customer journey. When we partner with other financial technology companies, we are familiar with how they operate and the like-minded nature that comes with innovating.
How has this changed over the past few years?
The fintech ecosystem has grown exponentially over the past few years, which means depending on what stage you are in your lifecycle you also have the ability to partner with different fintechs along the way, who are also at different stages of their journey. It has created a parallel world to the incumbents. This ecosystem has also become multi-jurisdictional and you see fintechs working together on a more global scale.
This in effect has meant that it has become easier to embed financial technology into companies. The way in which fintech has evolved means that there is much more choice, spanning all aspects of financial products and also peripheral financial services that are crucial to the customer journey like regtech or accountancy technology.
Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?
Neat has always championed having a culture that embraces change as a normal state of being. A fintech is always in a state of change. In the fintech community, we talk about these near-death experiences, most startups will go through at least one and I think that those experiences will always accelerate that change in culture.
Neat like all fintechs has been on a rollercoaster journey and our near-death experience really helped us to become more prepared and adaptable to what is around the corner. Change means you have to constantly evolve as a company and there always needs to be multiple backup plans in place to help mitigate those risks.
What Fintech ideas have been implemented in Neat?
So, Neat is first and foremost a fintech and has the mentality of a fintech. We as a company aren’t afraid to partner with other fintechs that specialise in what they do as opposed to thinking and doing everything ourselves.
We look at what our customers’ needs are and what pain points they are feeling and so we focus on solving those problems our customers are facing and then implement fintech ideas that are really going to benefit them. For example, looking at our small business accountancy needs, we implemented an integration with Xero to give our customers a more streamlined bookkeeping experience.
What benefits have these brought?
Customer centricity is at the heart of the decisions that we make. So we will always look at what benefits these have brought to our customers and ultimately we want our customers to have a more wholesome experience. One that is catered to the needs of SMEs and entrepreneurs.
For our company it means that we are more agile, we can implement and get to market quicker which in turn has allowed us to help close that gap on small businesses, an integral part of the global economy that are financially excluded.
Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?
I am going to look specifically at China for this one. Their fintech ecosystem is extremely advanced and very mainstream. It is really led by big technology companies moving into the fintech space. However, because of their advancement in technology, I think it may become harder to innovate whilst regulation becomes increasingly more stringent, leading to traditional players having less pressure to innovate.
Can these challenges be aided by Fintech?
I think the sandbox that fintech operates in has become increasingly more defined as the industry matures. However, I think there are still huge opportunities for fintech to continue to disrupt and challenge the status quo and ultimately deliver on product offerings that the incumbents struggle to develop.
The fintech industry has come a long way in the last few years and is helping to level the playing field. Customers are really seeing the benefits of what fintechs are trying to do. Gone are the days where you create a product and customers have no choice but to use it. Now we are seeing customer-led products which ultimately lead to a better experience.