Financial innovation, technology advances and social changes are sending shockwaves through the financial services industry. In an age of increasingly rapid change, important questions, debates and developments are unfolding before our eyes. These ideas, and the choices we make in response to them, will shape our future. Technology is vastly powerful, creating new industries in response to – or sometimes in anticipation of – changing customer expectations. Rebank explores the trends, developments and challenges that define our age and shape the future role of money, banking and financial services.
Purpose Driven Investing for Financial Return with Flourish Ventures
48:11It’s great to be back after taking nearly a year off from regular content to build and launch BELLA. The break wasn’t really planned, but between launching the business, having a son and moving to LA all while dodging COVID, it was unavoidable. But just because we weren't publishing, doesn’t mean we weren’t going deep on fintech. The team and I built and launched BELLA in less than twelve months, and we’re aggressively scaling it now. In the background, I've continued to trade views and break down strategy with the world’s leading founders and investors. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share some of the most topical discussions we’ve had over the past year, and we’re also working on new content that you’ll start to hear and see. Right now, we’re especially interested in embedded finance, DeFi, M&A, new takes on traditional consumer finance products, payments, e-commerce, digital investments and, as always, digital banking. We’re always looking to talk to great people in those areas, so please shoot recommendations our way. We’re still figuring out the podcast schedule, which we expect to be less frequent than weekly. We’ll be increasing focus on our newsletter, especially our premium content. Sign up at bankingthefuture.com/subscribe. In today’s episode, we’re joined by Tilman Ehrbeck, Managing Partner at Flourish Ventures, a venture firm focused on improving the financial health and prosperity of people around the world. Flourish invests in segments including Challenger Banks, consumer and SME lending, personal finance, data analytics, insurance and financial infrastructure in countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Flourish has invested in companies including Chime, Aspiration, Tandem, Grab Finance and more. I find Tilman to be extremely thoughtful and a great communicator, and he’s doing hugely important work. This conversation helped me better understand how impact-oriented VCs like Flourish balance purpose with financial returns in the highly competitive venture space. Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Tilman Ehrbeck.
The Origins of Digital Banking with Shamir Karkal
57:26Today, we’re joined by Shamir Karkal, co-founder of Simple, the first digital bank in the US, and now co-founder of Sila. Founded in 2009, Simple was the original digital bank, conceived and built to give people more control over their money. After a few successful years, Simple was acquired by BBVA for $117m, under whose ownership it operated until early-2021, when it was shut down. Simple was loved by its users and mourned following it’s closing, in what was a sad moment for fintech. Today’s breed of digital banks, including Chime, Varo, Current and others, inherited a lot from Simple, who pioneered the space. However, few of Simple’s most popular features have been replicated by other players. In recent years, we’ve seen huge user growth achieved by fintechs offering banking to previously underserved customers, especially those living paycheck to paycheck. Nonetheless, Simple leaves a powerful legacy, and many lessons learned, for the entire fintech industry. In this conversation, we go deep on what worked and what didn’t for Simple, why it never hit escape velocity, why its users loved it so much and how Shamir and his co-founder Josh engineered life changing payouts for their employees through the BBVA acquisition. We also discuss Shamir’s current company, Sila, which is building programmable money for the next generation of fintech companies. For all of our past episodes, and to sign up for our newsletter, please visit www.bankingthefuture.com. Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Shamir Karkal.
Dissecting the Free Stock Trading Industry with Freetrade
50:51Today, we’re joined by Viktor Nebehaj, Co-Founder of Freetrade, a free stock trading platform in the UK. Founded in 2016 and launched to the public in 2018, Freetrade has grown to over 500,000 users in just over two years in the UK alone. For the full backstory, check out our episode with Founder Adam Dodds from February 2019, available at bankingthefuture.com. In this conversation, Viktor takes us behind the scenes at Freetrade over the past few weeks, during the Reddit-fueled runups in Gamestop, AMC and others, as the company struggled with partner-imposed trading halts and FX throttles. We also discuss payment for order flow, margin lending, rapid user growth and Viktor’s views on the good, bad and ugly of free stock trading. If it seems like I care deeply about this subject, it’s because I do. Investing is one of the most important things people can do to support their long-term financial well-being, but the industry is characterized by unnecessary complexity, conflicts of interest and information asymmetry that can make it hard for people to get the best outcomes. Companies like Freetrade, Robinhood and others have a tremendous opportunity to break up entrenched industry dynamics and bring access, education and tools to the masses now that they're mainstream in their respective home countries.
Robinhood, Chime and the Emergence of a New American Finance
39:47Welcome to our much anticipated first episode of 2021, and what a start to the year it has been. Last week was a trainwreck as Gamestop, which was initially bid up by Redditers in an attempt to punish Wall Street, crashed back to earth when the very free brokerage platforms that purport to democratize investing for the 99% shut off trading in the most active stocks, benefitting hedge funds at the expense of retail investors. As wild as the events of the week were, they are merely a symptom of something much deeper: latent hatred for Wall Street and the traditional financial system that repeatedly and seemly unfairly rewards a small number of people at the top. Precisely because of this feeling that the system is broken and doesn’t serve the people, fintech is flying. Robinhood, Chime, Cash App, Coinbase, Affirm and Klarna have built insane user bases, because they are catering to huge swaths of Americans left behind by the incumbent industry. These companies are the future of retail finance in America for sure. What will their impact be? I’m joined by Lex Sokolin to discuss these topics. Check out all of Lex’s work at fintechblueprint.com For all of our past episodes, and to sign up for our newsletter, please visit www.bankingthefuture.com. Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Lex Sokolin.
How BELLA Is Reimagining Banking with Angelo D'Alessandro
35:37Today, is a special episode, of great personal importance to me. I have been learning and studying and training in fintech for years, both as a founder and through this podcast, where I’m able to have conversations with the most visionary and impactful founders, CEOs and VCs in the world of fintech. For the past year, I’ve been channeling all of this experience and insight into a new company, called BELLA, that is leading with digital banking in an effort to create positive change in the world. BELLA launched in the US on November 30th, and everything has been a blur since then. Taking a new consumer company into the world for the first time has to be one of the most thrilling experiences that exists. In today’s conversation, I’m joined by Angelo D’Alessandro, CEO of BELLA and my co-founder, but more importantly close friend and mentor, to talk about what we’re building. We cover our backstory, Angelo’s approach to building teams and brands, BELLA’s vision and offering, the influence of Rob LoCascio and LivePerson, the state of the world in 2020 and the implications for startups and brands going forward and more. For all of our past episodes, and to sign up to our newsletter, please visit www.bankingthefuture.com. Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Angelo D'Alessandro.
Challenging the Incumbent Banking Ethos with Aspiration
43:56Andrei Cherny is the Co-Founder and CEO of Aspiration, a socially conscious bank challenging the traditional banking industry ethos. Prior to founding Aspiration, Andrei worked as a speechwriter for Bill Clinton, authored books on public policy and war history, served as Assistant Arizona State Attorney General, held senior positions at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Center for American Progress, and more. In 2013, Andrei co-founded Aspiration, a socially conscious banking and investments provider that lets users set their own fees. Aspiration has raised $200 million in funding and attracted over 1.5 million users. In this conversation, Andrei and I discuss the factors that have contributed to Aspiration’s success, the takeaways for the industry, the company’s future plans, and more. To subscribe to the Rebank newsletter, please visit www.bankingthefuture.com. Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Andrei Cherny.
Building a Diversified, Profitable Digital Bank with Starling
43:48Today, regular contributor Lex Sokolin and I are joined by Anne Boden, Founder and CEO of Starling Bank, one of the original wave of app-only digital banks in the UK. Starling has built a diversified bank and achieved profitability for the first time in October, a rarity for digital banks. Originally a retail-only offering, Starling has built out business banking and banking-as-a-service offerings and now serves a wide varied of customers. In this conversation, Anne, Lex and I discuss Starling’s path to profitability, lessons for other digital banks, marketing and customer acquisition, and Anne’s new book on Starling’s first seven years. For all of our past episodes, and to sign up to our newsletter, please visit www.bankingthefuture.com. To subscribe to Lex’s amazing newsletter, please visit www.fintechblueprint.com. Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Anne Boden.
Self-Funding an International Digital Bank with bunq
41:47Ali Niknam is the founder and CEO of bunq, a fully licensed digital bank based in the Netherlands and available in 30 countries across Europe. Prior to starting buns, Ali founded TransIP, the largest domain name and web hosting provider of the Netherlands. Ali is the sole investor in bunq, having invested €80m in the company to date. As of July 2020, the bank had €650 million of user deposits. In this conversation, Ali and I discuss the economics of digital banking, the decisions bunq has made around economic sustainability and scale, takeaways for the broader digital banking industry and more. To subscribe to the Rebank newsletter, including insights, essays and written transcripts of all new episodes, please visit www.bankingthefuture.com. Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Ali Niknam.
Building the Digital Financial Infrastructure for Latin America with Ualá
38:46Pierpaolo Barbieri is the Founder & CEO of Ualá, an Argentinian consumer fintech taking South America by storm. Founded just three years ago, Ualá has already amassed more than two million customers in its native Argentina and recently expnanded to nearby Mexico. Unlike consumer banking offerings in many developed markets, which compete with incumbent banks, Ualá’s main competitor is cash in markets in which as many as half of adults are unbanked. Ualá has raised just under $200 million since launch, from leading investors including Soros, Point72, Goldman Sachs, Tencent and SoftBank. As if building the modern financial infrastructure for Latin America weren’t enough, Pierpaolo is a Harvard and Cambridge educated Historian and Economist, published author, macroeconomic advisor and regular contributor to publications including Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and more. To subscribe to the Rebank newsletter, including insights, essays and written transcripts of all new episodes, please visit www.bankingthefuture.com. Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Pierpaolo Barbieri.
Understanding the SPAC Boom and What It Means for Founders
35:50Ryan Gilbert is General Partner at Propel Venture Partners, a Bay Area venture capital firm backed by BBVA. He is also as of very recently CEO of Olympus Acquisition Corp, a $750 million SPAC that listed on the Nasdaq in August. In this conversation, we look at why SPACs are coming back in fashion, pros and cons of SPACs versus traditional fundraising and listing routes, Ryan’s plans for the future of Olympus and more. To subscribe to the Rebank newsletter, including insights, essays and written transcripts of all new episodes, please visit www.bankingthefuture.com. Thank you very much for joining us today. Please welcome, Ryan Gilbert.