If you could design a banking solution for your startup, would it look like a traditional bank offering? Standard Bank is betting on no, gathering a tech and customer-focused team and giving them major leeway to experiment with the entrepreneur banking model. According to Standard Bank’s Angé Baard, Paton Raman, and Gugu Sithole, who presented the idea to intrigued accountants and entrepreneurs at Finance Indaba Africa on 12 October 2017, it is built on the concept of co-creation. The team is so focused on flipping the usual path of product development that they haven’t even named this service yet, calling themselves simply “the offering” or “the proposition”.
“Our way of working is premised on this quote from Malcolm Gladwell,” explained Angé: “If everyone had to think out of the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing.” So, they’ve adopted “design thinking” and “lean innovation” methods, with a focus on iterative design and fast prototyping to completely rework how their entrepreneur customers bank.
Eighty percent of their small but growing customer base is new to Standard Bank. “We are a unique proposition from within Standard Bank. You can think of us as a fintech startup from within the bank,” said Gugu.
“We believe that South Africa’s future economic success will be driven by entrepreneurs," said Angé. “We’ve been around for about 18 months and have been working with customers, live customers, from day one.”
They also know that the most important relationship for many entrepreneurs is the one they have with their accountants. The offering sees themselves as the third corner of that triangle, and they work directly to incorporate entrepreneur and accountant feedback into every aspect of their proposition – down to the name and branding, which is still being discussed by their new and Beta users.
The team was initially based in Cape Town exclusively – an intentional move to keep them away from the pressures and influence of “the mothership”, Paton explained – and has since expanded to Johannesburg. Their mission is “to serve entrepreneurs and their accountants through a disruptive, tailored engagement model that focuses on their needs and lifestyle; in a way that makes them feel that we are on the same side.”
This involves placing the customer-facing people of the team at the centre of the model. They get the “pain points” and feedback from customers, pull in other team members to solve them, and then this solution is disseminated through the model to all clients.
The offering doesn’t place many hard limits on their understanding of “entrepreneur” – happy to work with startups and business people along the experience curve. Their only requirement is that you come to them with – or allow them to connect you to – an accountant.
Core elements of the proposition include one point of contact with the bank for all your accounts (business and personal); round-the-clock availability; prepopulated forms (to cut down on paperwork required from the customer); and a single repository for all relevant documents. And when they say 24/7 contact, they mean it: “We get Whatsapp messages from clients at 3am, and we respond,” said Gugu. They are also happy to engage with customers over a broad range of communications channels, like Skype, email, voice notes and Whatsapp.
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