Recently, The Financial Revolutionist’s Gregg Schoenberg spoke to Eric Mouilleron, Founder and CEO of London-based Bankable. Founded in 2010, Bankable provides a “Banking as a Service” solution on a white-label basis or through its APIs. Its customers include banks, fintech companies and large corporations seeking to provide cutting-edge and easy-to-use payment services to their customers. A member of KPMG’s Global Fintech 100, Bankable is widely viewed as a rising star within the payments and broader fintech sectors.
The Financial Revolutionist: I know you previously co-founded an IT services consulting firm (Valtech) which you took public. Was the inspiration to start Bankable born when you were at this previous company?
Eric Mouilleron: No, not really. The challenge with consulting companies is that scalability is always linked to adding new resources. It took me some time to find an industry that had the capacity to scale without being staff intensive. At one point, I remember jotting down notes on a paper napkin at a restaurant in Paris. I drew a graph (see below) with capital requirements on the y-axis and staff on the x-axis. With this methodology, I realized that my extreme scenario — zero capital and no staff — was to become a writer. As I wanted to work with people and build a team, I drew a sweet spot representing moderate capital needs and a scalable business uncorrelated with the number of staff. My goal was to demonstrate that a global business can be built without having to be capital or staff intensive. In that respect, the airline industry would have been a nightmare for me — being both capital and staff intensive. Eventually, I found my way into transaction-based businesses and focused on creating innovative solutions for transaction banking clients.
FR: Amongst the many services that Bankable provides, what are the one or two that you think you’re best known for or that most of your clients look for?
EM: Actually, it’s always the same platform that we sell. However, the interface is different depending on business cases. So while we may appear as a provider of semi-bespoke solutions, our core platform always remains the same. We are probably best known for our relationship with Deutsche Bank as they distribute our solution to their 57,000 corporate clients.
FR: When you started the company, you seemed to have been more focused on the underbanked than you are today. Is that right?
EM: Like many payment companies such as Green Dot, we started with the idea of financial inclusion and evolved into serving a broader audience. Green Dot, like us, concluded that since their service was well received, it didn’t make sense to restrict it to one group when a broader audience was interested.
Today, we are still paying attention to our original target market, but we now view it as a business-to-government solution. In fact, we are currently in discussions with some governments to build domestic payment solutions that would enable all citizens to become eligible to receive money from the day they are born.
FR: So is it fair to say that you are working to help some countries go cashless?
EM: Absolutely. We wanted to be part of The Better Than Cash Alliance — started by Bill and Melinda Gates — but they didn’t select us. Still, we are going to get involved anyway. Our focus, though, will be on helping streamline domestic transactions. Why do you need a fancy international card if you don’t travel?
FR: So right now you are focused on Europe. It sounds like this initiative could take you beyond the borders of Europe if things go according to plan, would that be fair to say?
EM: Yes, it is. Bankable’s ambition has been to be global since day one.
FR: Let’s turn to the US. How does it figure into your plans?
EM: Today, we serve our European clients on a global basis as well as all organizations with a legal entity in Europe. So in a way, we are already in the US. However, it will become more of a target for us in 2017 because we have a client whose US contract will expire next year. Winning that business is a big goal for us.
FR: I’m sure you’re familiar with the tension between the banks and third party aggregators like Mint? What’s your take on that?
EM: I think the controversy is a legitimate concern on the B-to-C front, which is one of the reasons why we would want to remain strictly B-to-B focused in the US.
EM: And to be honest, we want to present ourselves as the friendliest fintech around to incumbent banks. We are still open to working with the cool new clients, but I can tell you this: we are not going to take shareholder money to spend on advertising that says the banks are bad. It’s a waste of money in our view.
FR: With respect to insurance, does that industry represent a different set of challenges to tackle?
EM: It’s amazing. You take a few insurance executives to a whiteboard and within five minutes, you can come up with thousands of opportunities. But you have to learn patience. There’s context, culture, process, distribution... However, it’s worth it because the scale is there. We expect to see some deployments of our virtual ledger solution this year.
FR: Any time the word ledger is mentioned these days, the discussion usually goes to blockchain-related technology. What’s your opinion of blockchain tech?
EM: What we do today is not blockchain. But if blockchain becomes a standard, we’ll be able to integrate it. Currently, I do see some blockchain applications where it could become the dominant technology, but it’s not necessarily with the ones that are getting the most attention today.
FR: By most press accounts, it seems like the UK government is really doing a lot to help companies like Bankable succeed. Is it true behind the scenes or is it exaggerated?
EM: No, it is not exaggerated. There is constant contact with members of the government and the people who I have interacted with are impressive. They took salary cuts and are making big sacrifices at Prime Minister Cameron’s request. There’s trust, there’s networking and there’s commitment. We even had a chance to go to Davos at the invitation of the UK government. And we didn’t have to pay for it.
FR: Thank you, Eric. This was very informative.
EM: You are very welcome.
To learn more about Bankable, click Here.