Building a customer-obsessed business

"You can have the fanciest tech in the world but if you have no customers, you have nothing," said Difa Niculescu, head of IT for challenger bank Tandem, in a session at the 2018 AWS FS: Insight conference in London, where he emphasized aiming for "customer obsession".

As McKinsey & Company put it: "Banks aren't being disrupted by FinTech technology; they're being disrupted by customer expectations." That's easier said than done, as establishing a challenger bank is more complicated than building a startup in an unregulated sector.

A typical startup needs a founder, a team, a product, some capital, and of course, customers. A FinTech company needs a license too. A bank has to apply, get a restricted license and then wait to meet the conditions for a full license. While a typical startup might need two rounds of capital before launch, a bank will probably need at least four.

One way Tandem dealt with this was by launching through a crowdfunding scheme. This meant the company found investment and engaged customers from the very beginning. Today, Niculescu said the company has a customer committee to ensure that it remains obsessively dedicated to keeping its users happy.

Some of Tandem's core features, such as its spending predictions and recommendations for how customers can save money, are a response to research findings that customers want more personalisation.

The predictions couldn’t be delivered without AWS services, including Kinesis, Lambda and RDS, Niculescu said. He mentioned that AWS had also helped the company expand its framework as customer numbers have grown from zero users at the beginning of last year to breaking the 500,000 mark last month.

For any FinTech startup looking to emulate Tandem, Niculescu said it is crucial to start with customers and what they want. Test ideas quickly, so you don't waste time on weak ones, and get a good 'version one' of your product together as soon as possible.

He advised founders to "favor customer outcomes over tech" and learn from the capabilities of AWS so they understand their options and how they might employ cloud technologies. Tandem, Niculescu said, is now committed to the challenge of taking its business to millions of consumers so it can "optimise their finances forever".

Learn more about how AWS can support your startup, and register to be the first to hear when registrations for the 2019 AWS FS:Insight open, here.

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