A Conversation with London’s FinTech Innovators in The Business Space: Soldo Speaks with Starling Bank on Revolutionising The Financial Ecosystem in Businesses
Soldo, the London-based FinTech solving the challenge of automating, delegating and controlling company spending, earlier this year announced an integration with Starling Bank, the digital-only challenger bank. The integration brought significant advantages to business users who are now able to automate sending company money and receiving payments. The partnership created an opportunity for businesses to save significant revenue by enabling them to invest more time in productive activities and less time managing invoices.
The duo shared a conversation dissecting the future of financial management within the workplace. With both disrupting the traditional banking system and addressing the flaws of antiquated financial services, Soldo and Starling discuss how businesses can take advantage of the surge in technology behind finance whilst advising on the biggest challenges businesses may face when adopting fintech solutions.
- The profile of Fintech solutions to date has been much higher in the consumer market as opposed to the business market. What do you think is driving this, and how can Fintech providers make sure that businesses don’t miss out on the technology revolution?
Julian Sawyer, COO, Starling Bank: Technology innovation across many industries has been consumer led, with more product hype and buzz, and subsequently more opportunity for the network effect. More companies like Soldo and Starling Bank are now providing the innovation often only associated with consumers to the business market.
Steve Whiting, Director Financial Services, Soldo: The evolution of Internet, through the Internet of Things and APIs, has enabled more sophisticated, interactive and transactional value propositions. When it comes to ease of use and value-added services, social media and mobile has increased the level of consumer expectation. When it comes to money, all parties in the ecosystem are naturally more cautious about new technology and new players. Typically, consumer early adopters can be prepared to try something new based on how cool it is and how useful it could be. Business owners, before adopting something critical to their existence (such as financial matters), are more concerned with reliability, cost and trust. For the profile of FinTech solutions to be raised in the business market, they must be seen to be reliable, secure, regulated, trusted and cost-efficient.
- What advantages do digital-first challenger banks and Fintechs provide for businesses over traditional high street banks and financial services providers?
Julian Sawyer, COO, Starling Bank: The agility and ability to respond to user requirements and deliver innovative solutions quickly. Bringing innovation to the market is critical – people expect Starling Bank to deliver this and that attracts loyal and engaged customers.
Steve Whiting, Director Financial Services, Soldo: Traditional banks and financial service providers are focused on maintaining core banking services that are founded on highly complex technology platforms. As can be seen in media coverage of outages or security incidents, business continuity is vital. It is risky to make changes to core banking services, especially at the rate required to continually layer-on useful new features for today’s customers. Challenger banks and FinTechs are built from a blank page to be highly flexible at all levels – delivering on innovation is “designed-in” to culture and technology – they innovate on top of a solid foundation of existing traditional financial services.
- How important is the API ecosystem and integration of solutions for businesses? What should be done to help businesses make the most of tech ecosystems?
Julian Sawyer, COO, Starling Bank: Very important, to be able to create an ecosystem of complementary value adding organisations and solutions provides real innovation. No company can deliver every product or service required by every client but an open and connected world is needed and customers will engage with this model.
Steve Whiting, Director Financial Services, Soldo: The API ecosystem – aka the API economy – is vital for businesses. As individual point-solutions become more and more sophisticated, it is impossible for just one or two service providers to maintain best in class competence across broad domains. Instead, by connecting the API economy as an extension of the Internet of Things, businesses can adopt the most appropriate and tailored solutions that in turn enable their business to compete by being better and more cost effective. Businesses will naturally make use of API ecosystems – the role of the Fintech is to create relevant, compelling, cost-effective and trusted financial products and solutions and businesses will embrace them.
- What are the biggest challenges to business in adopting Fintech solutions? How can they be overcome?
Julian Sawyer, COO, Starling Bank: Trust is critically important, Starling is a Bank regulated in the U.K. and Soldo uses Starling Bank for faster payments. Together we provide the very best solution for business banking, coupled with reliability and security. This results in a huge level of trust.
Steve Whiting, Director Financial Services, Soldo: Initiatives like Open Banking and PSD2 enable Fintechs to consume core generic banking services on behalf of their customers and turn them into more relevant and sophisticated solutions. Businesses want to trust the fintech service because it is business critical for them; it is crucial that it is cost effective. The biggest challenges to businesses adopting Fintech are inertia and cost: inertia because businesses are busy doing their core business and it is a perceived pain to change processes, and cost because Fintechs are required to provide cost-of-ownership and return-on-investment advantages that take maturity and reputation to convincingly articulate. These are typical “chasm-crossing” challenges for completely new products and technology and will be overcome by challenger banks and Fintechs nurturing and evolving references and trust.
- Which areas or departments of business will see the greatest ROI when adopting Fintech solutions?
Julian Sawyer, COO, Starling Bank: Finance, payroll, treasury and payments. Real time payments in a cost effective way is critical not only to receive customer money and pay suppliers but also to develop a set of new business services that can only be achieved through real time.
Steve Whiting, Director Financial Services, Soldo: I agree with Julian – and I would add to this the sales function as a result of businesses being more focused on their own core specialism and thus enabled to be more competitive.