Banks are ‘missing a beat’ with millennials, says co-founder of fintech startup Finch

Finch fintech startup

Finch co-founders Toby Gardner, Shahirah Gardner and Eric Kuhn.

Having recently graduated from leading US fintech program, Envestnet Yodlee Incubator, Melbourne-based start-up Finch has today launched its first offering to the Australian market – a social payment app that gives millennials a clearer picture of their spending habits.

Shahirah Gardner, who co-founded Finch with her husband Toby Gardner and their friend Eric Kuhn in 2016, spoke to Dynamic Business about challenges associated with launching the app, which is available for free download in Australia (iOS/Android), and her belief that traditional banks are ‘missing a beat’ when it comes to millennials. 

DB: What is the elevator pitch for Finch?

Gardner: Finch (short for ‘finance made cinch’) is a financial app that removes those awkward money moments that arise in one’s social life, whether that’s being left out of pocket by a ‘forgetful’ friend or a flaky housemate, having to calculate who had what at a restaurant or tracking expenses across a group (without an excel spreadsheet!).

Specifically, the app allows users to pay and request money instantly (without a BSB), split bills, run tabs in groups to track shared expenses (perfect for housemates/roommates) and – in the comings months – receive actionable insights to improve spending and saving habits. Over time our goal is to provide personalised, data driven recommendations.

We offer free instant transfers between Finch balances and a small transaction fee from debit and credit card. In the future, we’ll introduce a subscription model for financial insights, and eventually, potentially referral fees.

DB: Why is the app geared towards millennials?

Gardner: A lot of millennials simply don’t know how and where they’re spending money around their social life. So we provide financial insights for those who are starting to gain interest and awareness around their spending, and also allow for budgeting for others who are ready to become more frugal.  We’re building around the behaviours of our customers.

DB: What sparked the idea for Finch?

Gardner: While the three of us were living in San Francisco, we used a number of financial apps on a daily basis – one to pay friends, one to split expenses, another to budget… but there wasn’t was a single platform that allowed people to do all of these things, let alone support them as their financial priorities and goals changed over time. So, we asked ourselves: if there was a single platform built around behaviours, rather than products, what would this experience look like? That’s how the idea for Finch was conceived – and the reason we’re meeting with millennials around their behaviours today.

DB: How useful was Envestnet Yodlee incubator?

Gardner: Being accepted into the #1 fintech program in the US validated our approach and our team, indicating we have what it takes to be globally competitive. Also, our peer group of start-ups were incredibly talented and often well-funded from Silicon Valley VCs, which set the bar very high for us!

The program, which culminated in a Demo Day pitch to investors in May, really helped us prioritise certain activities, identify gaps in our approach, and refine our messaging for investors and customers alike. It also gave us the belief that Aussie fintech startups can compete with the best in the world despite being in a smaller market with less access to capital. This was proven when we won Best Product Demo (as voted by Yodlee Engineers and Product Managers) at Bootcamp 2.

DB: What are the strategies for growing your user base?

Gardner: As part of our beta testing and pre-launch experiential campaign, Finch hosted a four-week “Innobeta Program” at Melbourne and Sydney University in May. Select students were offered exclusive access to innovation and start-up workshops run by Finch co-founders, alongside user testing and feedback. Many of these students are committee members of various university clubs and societies whose members have been onboarded during this phase and continue to be.

Additionally, we’ve spent the last six months building a millennial audience across our social channels with a focus on millennial content. For example, this week we are launching the first part of a three-part video campaign on Facebook targeting millennials. At launch, we have a 10k following on Instagram, which is on par with the following for Commonwealth and ANZ – this illustrates our appeal to the millennial audience, based on their values. I think the big banks are absolutely missing a beat in delivering the customer experience millennials have come to expect. As a result, millennials feel increasingly disconnected with their banks. In fact, a KPMG report shows that a whopping 84% of millennials would consider banking with a tech company if they had a better product offer than or deal than a traditional bank. We will be launching a blog and influencer marketing campaign in coming weeks.

DB: What have been the key challenges pre-launch?

Gardner: As a self-funded start-up, we’ve had to be really, really lean. That means juggling competing priorities, managing our time and learning as fast as we humanly can! It’s a complex product that required a lot of thinking around product and data strategy long before we had started development.

What allowed us to build and launch Finch without external funding was our network and combined Silicon Valley experience in corporate finance, innovation, mobile product management and tech PR/marketing.

Additionally, finance is a heavily regulated industry which has required us to become very familiar with the regulatory environment. While important, it can also be exhausting and expensive to get the right advice.

DB: What is the focus for your start-up moving forward?

Gardner: Our priority, this year, is building the best user experience and most beautiful financial app that Australia has ever seen. Later this year, we’ll rollout financial insights. Somewhere in between we intend to raise capital and build a team that shares our obsession for beautiful user experiences and data intelligence.