Tribe Payments was created three years ago after seeing an opportunity to effect change in the consumer space on the unsexy side of fintech – infrastructure. Tribe the first processor to allow its bank and fintech clients to harness the power of Open Banking without developing their own APIs. A major step in democratizing access to Open Banking services.
Alex Reddish is Managing Director at Tribe who has spent time in emoney and payments over the last nine years. He was previously Head of Issuing and Head of Business Relations at Valitor, and Head of European Business at Raphaels Bank. He said, “When I was at university my dissertation looked at the topic of how prepaid shopping cards would survive, so I feel like I’ve spent most of my adult life in this space. But they say a house is only as good as its foundations, and now is an exciting time to rebuild the structure of fintech.”
The last 12-months have seen a rapid growth at Tribe as the company moved through its teenage stage and began to grow up with a key expansion into Lithuania. Seeing Covid as an opportunity to allow internal acceleration, Tribe also moved to focus on its acquiring side. While customer experience has and always will be integral, the hesitancy of the industry to commit to consumer-facing products meant that big firms instead looked to their overall operational efficiency.
It meant that a new strategy had to be created for the firm as they moved to fully remote operations and a more community-based strategy. Alex explains, “We realised that there was an opportunity to develop communities within fintech hubs that hasn’t always been exploited by natural technology-based environments. But we recognised that there was still a need for face-to-face interaction. What’s more, lead generation can struggle when working digitally”.
Alex explains, “We struggled to add thoughts to a Google sheet as efficiently as we would in a team meeting with a whiteboard, and while the industry pivoted well to virtual conferencing, we found that work on single documents were becoming more protracted – and would often include 5 or 6 iterations of the same file.”
As Tribe continued to ride the wave of endless Zoom calls and ‘death by webinar’ according to Alex, the team welcomed new members. Another 45 joined Tribe during lockdown, bringing the total number of workers to over 120 with the company hoping for another 60 or so this year. Alex said, “Yes we’ve continued to grow but our luxury is that we have a sales and implementation strategy that lags behind Covid. At some points we have been almost too busy. We think having strong internal foundations are nice to have when you need to grow quickly and harness people power”.
While from an industry perspective – global is becoming smaller ever still. But Alex believes that interoperability between countries interested with the traffic light systems we currently have in place. He said, “Our tendency to mix ideas and cross pollinate may be inhibited somewhere by our inability to travel but generally there are pockets of innovation. Certainly, for the next quarter Tribe is focused heavily on Europe.”
Going back to his dissertation although years ago, Alex believes that pre-paid hasn’t disappeared entirely, it’s just moved to something else. He said, “Prepaid became fintech to some extent, certainly in the consumer banking space as you can see from the beginnings of Starling and Monzo. I always felt like the industry would continue to surprise but I couldn’t have forecasted the level of evolution.
“What’s now interesting is watching the big banks reviewing the fintech competition. As we continue to circle between finance and fintech, I think rebundling and embedding invisible finance payments has a long way to go.
“While it may seem that Tribe has meandered as a disruptive river – the truth is that we have to be reactive in this space. Back in 2018/19 we were more focused with building the foundations of a platform. And then in 2020 we tried to catch up with competitors in terms of product availability. Now in 2021 our hopes are pinned on new functionality and great partnerships such as with Tink. It means we’re getting ready to reach towards our end goal – future ready tech solutions”.