Hi all. Thanks to those who replied to last week’s call for Sønr Insiders - we’ve been inundated and will come back to all the requests as quickly as possible.
Make sh*t happen or lose your talent
Something I hadn’t expected from a couple of weeks away was to come back to an inbox of CVs from people we’ve been pitching to over the past few months. Alright, an inbox might be over-egging it slightly, but a good half-dozen inbound enquiries from seriously senior folk working within big named insurance companies, looking to jump ship.
And the reason? Either because their companies are moving on stuff too slowly or not moving at all.
I’ve talked at length about the need to effect change at pace albeit if you’re new to Sø.Nws and want to chat this through, drop me a note. I’m always happy to chat.
There’s much I’d like to talk about this week, but let’s start with a look beyond insurance at the UK’s buoyant challenger bank landscape. First out of the blocks is Revolut. I just love this tweet which says it all.
They only passed 1 million users in July so if anything their customer acquisition rate is accelerating. But why?
As a bank, Revolut has come a long way from the pre-paid debit cards on offer at launch - now offering loads of features including a sandboxed crypto marketplace, on-demand travel insurance, Xero integration for business users and swish metal cards for premium customers. They offer a wide range of services to many different segments all at the same time, and they’re doing it in the classic lean startup way - consulting and testing with customers, iterating fast and learning from mistakes as they go. By the way, did I mention they’re already valued at $1.7 billion?
High Street Blues
Next up, the high street. Kind of. Here in the UK we've lost nearly two-thirds of our bank & building society branches in the past 30 years, with 19% of the population 2+ miles away from their nearest branch. Think what you will about cashless society, digital banking and all that, but that’s a huge problem for many people, not least small businesses who rely on banks to make cash deposits.
Against that backdrop, the recently announced partnership between Starling and the Post Office will be welcome news for many. Now, all Starling customers (personal and business) will be able to make deposits in any of the 11,500 Post Office branches and continue to access a full range of digital banking services via the Starling app. Coupled with their impressive financial services marketplace (home to PensionBee, Habito, Kasko, Wealthify and many more), Starling’s growing platform is one which puts the customer firmly at the centre of their entire approach.
This week's bit about China
Now then, China. Yes, again! You can’t talk for long about mobile banking and the ecosystem model (think Starling or Monzo’s “hub & spoke”) without considering how these things work in urban China these days.
These stats from a 2017 EY report are a bit out of date but even now the differences are stark - almost two-thirds of Chinese people banking on mobile! Over a quarter have adopted Fintech products! With an excess of 800 million internet users in China now, these figures all appear to point towards a fully digital future for banking, payment and access to financial products, likely accessed through a single platform.
Then consider the great losses the banks in cash-loving US could make if their slice of the payments pie starts to shrink in the face advances by of AliPay et al, and you can see why some of these 70+ Chinese unicorns have their sights set firmly on new geographies.
As I’ve mentioned before, we’re taking a client to China early in 2019 so don’t be a stranger if you’re best buddies with Jack Ma. And if you’re reading this from out that way, let me know, it’d be good to connect.
Our roving report Dan P has been busy as usual with our Spøtlight series. First up he shines a light on the Blockchain PaaS Insurtech startup (buzzword bingo alert!) Galileo Platforms with an interview from CEO Mark Wales. Galileo offers access to their slick insurance platform built on DLT which offers much value to insurers across the entire business lifecycle.
Dan also spoke with Vivek at Digit Insurance - a young Indian GI business which raised a huge $45M round earlier this year to build out their product range and ramp up distribution. We chatted with the Digit CEO last year before our India visit in January and, although we couldn’t meet as they were in full fund-raising mode, I was hugely impressed by their offering and expect great things from them in the future.
Sadly, we don’t have a podcast to accompany the Spøtlights this week, but it is not entirely our fault. Diccon & I met with Amit Patel, Head of New Ventures at BUPA, but we ended up having such a brilliant chat that we ran out of time before we even plugged a microphone in! We promise to get Amit back in a room soon and will record our conversation this time.
And with that, I say goodbye until next time and wish you all a lovely weekend. We’re off to the Tällt Christmas getaway now, for a heady mix of turkeys, dogs, babies, country walks, rugby, log fires and red wine. If you want to know more about any of the above, want to head to China with us sometime, or if you want a job, my inbox awaits.
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