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I was brought onboard with a remit to work closely with the Head of Product exploring new consumer business opportunities which could be built on their existing platform.
My thanks to Jonathan Buttle-Smith (Head of product) my colleague on this project.
I strongly believe that you should start with problems. Products need a raison d'être to justify the vast amount of work that goes into building them.
Being new to the finance space, I started by arranging interviews with 50 people from many walks of life. The interviews were focused on their relationship to money, the problems they encountered and the tools or strategies which helped them solve those problems.
The respondents were categorised across a number of variables. Their age, gender, income and level of education to begin with.
Following the interviews we expanded to include more social markers such as:
I was pleasantly surprised to learn how open people were about their financial lives given it's a bit of a taboo subject in the UK.
Some key findings we uncovered were:
Collating the findings we came up with two core product directions which we wanted to validate:
Blossom is a modern bank built around couples. At its core Blossom is a joint bank account, the value comes from the features we placed around it which focused on the financial problems we knew couples faced.
Primarily these problems were budgeting/saving, guilt when spending and maintaining financial independence.
Some of the featured we proposed were:
These accounts which would be automatically topped up on a monthly basis, the amount which was deposited into each account would be agreed by both people up front, leading to guilt free spending down the road.
Customers would each receive a card for both the joint account as well as their own personal account. Each card would be customisable, making the accounts feel truely personal.
Following the theme of transparency and communication between couples, joint payment confirmation ensures both parties agree to large expenses together and giving both people are sense of control over the join fincances, avoiding arguments and tension.
We perhaps take this for granted now, but it was only a few years ago that we were making regular trips to our local bank branch to manage our finances. This made money and finance feel like more of a chore and especially between couples would mean the person for whom this was more convinent ended up controlling the finaces.
Providing service completely online means both people in the relationship are on even footing.
Bloom was designed to help parents teach their children about money. Tailored appropriately to children as they age and learn new concepts in life.
Some of the featured we proposed were:
Finance isn't an easy thing to teach children, it's actually quite a complex conceptually. One of the biggest challenges is keeping children focused, quite often they live in the immediate moment, especially the younger they are.
Allowing children to choose their own goals gives them a sense of autonomy and control. Both of which are things which we scarcely trust them with. Ownership over the goal has the benefit of helping to keep them focused on why they're saving money.
These goals could be something fun they would like to do such as go swimming or learn to play guitar, a new toy or contributing to a wider family goal such as going to Disney land.
As they complete different tasks we can reward them with real rewards like badges and eventually increased financial autonomy
Different ages require different levels of hand holding. Whilst a child is young the tasks are simple, the money is small and their autonomy is low. They require a lot of help to learn the foundations of good money habits.
As they grow old so would the range of features we offer until eventually they have a fully fledged bank account with their own personalised card.
Parent mode allows parents to choose either monetary or experience goals for their child to work towards and create tasks for them to complete (cleaning the car? Tidying their room?!). Once they complete a task, the parent would just tick a box and their progress would be automatically updated. As they grow parent mode would switch from being hands on to monitoring their spending habits.
Now that we have some product ideas, we had to decide how we would validate them.
Smoke Tests are a method for determining if there is sufficient customer demand for a product or service, before you actually spend the time and money required to build it for real. It was originally advocated for by Eric Ries in his Lean Start Up methodology. Famous examples of this are Monzo Bank and Tesla with their Model 3 wait list.
The most common way to run a smoke test is through a one page marketing website which asks visitors to sign up to a wait list before the product or service is actually available.
Below is an example of the Blossom smoke test page. We highlighted a number of the key features such customisable cards which sat together nicely.
Whilst the smoke test pages were being built we researched the addressable market sizes and competitor landscapes for both child finances and products targeted at couples. Our findings were largely positive, both markets were relatively untapped and substantial in size. Children constitute just under 20% of the UK population and as of 2016 over 50% of the UK population were reported as being in a marriage. Considering those who were in a relationship but not married (a figure the ONS can't accurately report) then the amount goes up even further.
Child finances does have a small number of established competitors (Osper being the main one), but they were approaching the problem from a different angle, namely providing children with the same functionality as adult finance tools that had the addition of spending limits and parental visibility. Our research suggested this doesn't actually address the problem of education in a meaningful way leaving it up to the parents (especially when you consider only 1/7 UK adults have been taught how to handle money as previously mentioned). So perhaps there's room for a new provider.
Couple's finance's however is a little more piecemeal, many banks provide joint accounts already but that doesn't actually address any of the financial issues which come as part of being in a relationship, in fact it just exasperates them in many cases. Guidance and education historically is largely handled by financial advisors on a case by case basis. Whilst financial tools are largely focused on individuals.
In addition to running the smoke test pages we also ran a series of ads on Google Ad Words which would target people searching for information on joint bank accounts, mortgages, budgeting advice and children's financial products. They took a simple format of an image associated with a headline which varied depending on what search term they had been displayed against.
We got a couple of hundred sign ups to the Blossom mailing list after a few weeks but only 1/4 of that number signed up for Bloom. Despite all other evidence suggesting the ideas to be good, this we're really the numbers we were hoping for. As a result the business unfortunately decided to focus all resources on their B2B offering and didn't want explore consumer offerings any further.
Given the opportunity I would look to iterate and further optimise both the ads and smoke test pages with a focus on key messaging and varying which features are highlighted.