The needs of SME business owners are diverse, time sensitive and arguably underserved up until now. The mobile-first banking service Tide, is designed with this in mind, providing small and medium-sized enterprises with a faster and more cost effective service. George Bevis, Founder & CEO of the fast-growing FinTech company recently shared Tide’s story with us and what the future holds for FinTechs and incumbents.
[KAE] Tell us more about Tide, including what makes the company and its vision unique?
The bank challengers have so far focussed on solving problems for the consumer. But the reality is that business owners – those who take risks, create jobs and contribute largely to the economy – have also been crying out for a modern, honest banking service. When it comes to banking, they have historically been among the most vulnerable and mistreated group of individuals. From swap mis-selling to hidden fees; small businesses have been a target. Therefore at Tide it is our mission to equip them with the tools they need to thrive. We’re building a brand that they can rely on. Tide’s online current account saves business owners time and money so that they can focus less on tiresome administrative tasks and more on building flourishing ventures. The app automates bookkeeping and lets users file expenses and send invoices with a few taps. Members can be set up with an account within five minutes – instead of waiting weeks for an account to be opened with a high-street bank. And unlike traditional lenders, Tide does not charge a monthly account fee, just 20p for Faster Payments and £1 for an ATM withdrawal.
[KAE] What have been the critical components for Tide’s success up until now and what barriers have you encountered along the way?
Tide’s success up until now is owed to the speed at which it delivers services. Start-ups and small businesses do not have time to waste and certainly should not be kept waiting weeks for their accounts to be opened. They want to start trading now and have a trusted solution to managing their finances. Our mission is to save them time so that they can focus more on building flourishing ventures. Being first to the market with a current account for small and medium-sized businesses is helpful and it means we are also the first to convince smaller companies that we are nothing like the banking services that came before us – the ones they did not trust.
[KAE] Given your experiences from both sides of the fence, working for a FinTech (Zopa) and established players in the UK Financial Services space (Barclaycard, RBS, Capital One and WorldPay), what are the most common misconceptions held by Financial Institutions and FinTechs around the needs of small businesses and/or working together? And which one is the most frustrating?
Everyone assumes that all small and medium-sized businesses have identical needs. They all have needs in common, for example they all need to be paid on time and have access to capital, but the UK’s SME sector is amazingly diverse. There are so many more self-employed people in the mix now and they require a different type of attention and support. At Tide, we want to understand all of these different individuals and their ventures instead of assuming everyone wants the same thing. Big companies and financial institutions that perhaps have been less exposed to how fledgling businesses work, can sometimes wrongly assume that things like admin aren’t problematic for smaller firms. In fact, they don’t have the resources to manage the masses of paperwork that larger corporates have employed a team to look after.
[KAE] Putting PR claims aside, how well do you feel Financial Institutions are actually structured to work with FinTechs and actually drive innovation forward? And how should they change?
Financial Institutions want to innovate, they’re desperate to do what they can but they are held back by their legacies and can’t move as fast as they want to. There are plenty of opportunities for them to work with FinTechs to drive change: you see banks partnering with peer-to-peer lenders for example, in a bid to offer their customers additional support they might not be able to give themselves. There will be more of this in the future.
[KAE] What is the most comical or shocking ‘lost in translation’ moment that you have seen, or heard of, in regards to FinTechs and Financial Institutions working together or entering into initial discussions?
I was asked by a big bank if I would talk to them about our plans. A week later they sent me a five-page form to fill in before the scheduled call as a pre-condition for speaking to me. I found it strange as they had requested the conversation and also typical that there was a long-winded process to go through before we got to an initial chat.
[KAE] Are there any key trends and/or technologies that you feel will be game changers this or next year within the small business space? And why?
Tide is the game changer. Our mission is unique. Next year we’ll be expanding into Europe and aim to serve tens of millions of businesses by 2026.
[KAE] And Brexit. Will this be a friend or foe for Tide?
During uncertainties entrepreneurs tend to just get on with it. We don’t know what Brexit will mean for businesses yet but we are a young, nimble company that will respond to adversity with whatever it takes to keep supporting our members.
[KAE] What is the one pearl of wisdom or candid advice you would share with anyone starting their journey as a FinTech and why?
Raise as much money as you can: FinTech is expensive.
Download the full report here as first profiled by Commercial Payments International (CPI) in partnership with Eurofinance.
About the Author:
George Bevis is founder and chief executive of Tide, the fast-growing fintech company that provides online current accounts to business owners. Bevis previously worked in the banking sector and is a serial entrepreneur. In 2002 he joined Capital One as a business analyst before moving to Royal Bank of Scotland where he became head of innovation for the bank’s Retailer Solutions division. He later worked as director of business strategy at Barclaycard. Prior to starting Tide, he also worked as director of product at peer-to-peer lender Zopa. He launched Tide in January 2017 and is backed by entrepreneurs including Zoopla founder Alex Chesterman and William Reeve, co-founder of Lovefilm as well as venture capital funds Passion Capital and LocalGlobe. More recently Tide secured $14m from backers including Creandum and specialist fintech investor Anthemis.
More about FinTech Vantage:
This post is part of the FinTech Vantage series by KAE that provides a fresh perspective and hears first-hand from various players across the FinTech ecosystem.
KAE will be posting a number of interviews with FinTechs that share their candid viewpoints and to really get under the skin of the FinTech world.
If you would like to share your views and participate in the FinTech Vantage series, feel free to reach out to us at FinTech@kae.com