The Opposite of a Bank
In a country that ranks 2nd in the world in entrepreneurship, banks don’t offer the emerging class of digital-native business builders tools comparable to what they’re used to using in every other aspect of their work. Look at SaaS products like Shopify, Google Analytics, Slack, or Mailchimp and then look at whatever banking app is on your phone. Pretty weak, right?
I was talking with a friend and former colleague about his experiences with small business banking and before I knew it, he was lobbing complaints at me nearly faster than I could jot them down in my notebook. As the owner of a small agency that creates eCommerce websites, he felt that banks weren’t setting his business up for success.
Getting things done was painful and reporting didn’t give him the information he needed. He estimated that interacting with his company’s bank took up nearly half a day every week — much of it spent on tasks that could be automated or building makeshift tools that his bank didn’t offer. In his mind, every minute spent on banking is a minute he can’t spend with his clients, finding new business opportunities, hiring new staff, and the innumerable other tasks that are part of his core business operations. I asked what could help him better run his businesses and he told me that he wanted the exact opposite of what banks were offering.
What Banks Are Offering
There’s a pretty common narrative that Canadian banking, especially small business banking, is decent enough. Big banks offer an overwhelming number of services that solve for what most small businesses need their bank to do for them. While this is true in an obvious sense, it also misses something important: those same big banks are paralyzed by their position in the market. They are trying to be all things to all people. It becomes prohibitively risky and expensive if they want to fundamentally change the way they operate. Their aversion to change and risk has framed the way they’ve built out their digital bank platforms that are “good enough” but can’t be truly great or innovative.
Why Can’t Banking Be Like My Favorite App?
Businesses need to be able to make deposits, order checks, and pay bills — so big banks offer those services. The real problem isn’t what is being offered, it’s how they are often packaged in an extremely generic way. The experience and offerings of digital business banking are incredibly undifferentiated between big banks. The lack of personalization does not solve for the customer. It doesn’t start by asking what they need to get done and how it can help them do so. In a country that ranks 2nd in the world in entrepreneurship, banks don’t offer the emerging class of digital-native business builders tools comparable to what they’re used to using in every other aspect of their work. Look at SaaS products like Shopify, Google Analytics, Slack, or Mailchimp and then look at whatever banking app is on your phone. Pretty weak, right?
The Root Of The Problem
It all comes down to user experience. Building something magical is hard, but it helps when you build something with purpose. We’re building a platform for Canadian small businesses to ensure their experience managing their finances is bespoke and frictionless. Our team is breaking the foundational assumptions of what business owners perceive about that experience and forever alter their expectations. That’s what we’re aiming to build at Ferst Digital. We need to not only create the services needed by small business, but also an experience that removes the pain, anxiety, and confusion from banking.
Our Path To A Solution
To build the best possible platform our team has conducted more than 100 hours of interviews with Canadian small business owners. Our goal was to find out how we could create a service that could help them focus on building their businesses instead of their workload.
They wanted to know why their banking experience couldn’t be collaborative. Why it couldn’t use APIs so it could work seamlessly with the other tools their business uses. Why it couldn’t make checking the financial health of their business effortless. We wondered why banking couldn’t do that too. And that’s what we’re building — a platform that is the opposite of a bank.
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