This year has certainly started off with a bang in the Fintech industry, with more Fintechs raising greater than $100 million than ever before. And we’re just wrapping up the first quarter of 2021! Like many industries, the pandemic has dramatically accelerated digital transformation and consumer adoption of digital Fintech tools, and that’s certainly apparent in investors’ interest.
This should scare traditional banks. Even JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon admitted recently that “Banks ... are facing extensive competition from Silicon Valley, both in the form of fintechs and Big Tech companies.”
One challenger bank that’s seen tremendous growth this past year—coupled with an enormous $220 million Series D led by Andreessen Horowitz—is Current. And joining us on this week’s Fintech Growth Talk podcast to share his insights and reflections on the recent Fintech explosion is Current’s VP of Marketing, Adam Hadi.
Current has actually been around for six years, nearly a lifetime in the Fintech world, and Hadi attributes its longevity and success to meeting an unmet need in the marketplace. As a mobile-first platform, Current didn’t face any legacy costs in terms of backend systems, which gave them an initial advantage. This low overhead set them up to be able to develop their business model, which is the bank’s real differentiator, says Hadi. Where traditional banks make money from collecting deposits and lending, Current’s profits mainly come from interchange fees, fees charged to merchants for debit and credit card transactions.
That is, Current profits each time their customers spend money, while customers are encouraged to use Current’s services because they don't have to worry about any hidden, overdraft or minimum balance fees. This is ideal for the underbanked—people who generally live paycheck to paycheck, work in the gig economy, or are generally low-wage. This demographic has been largely ignored by traditional banks because they’re not as profitable as more affluent customers, but Current’s business model enables them to make money without it coming out of the customers’ pockets.
This business model also has empowered Current to develop features and services that traditional banks can’t or won’t. Hadi believes this is rooted in their technology, but also in traditional banks’ desire to hold onto customers’ money as long as possible. Current, on the other hand, wants to help its customers use their money wisely. This has led to Current becoming a dynamic, multi-product Fintech firm, offering a wide range of products that appeal to Current’s broad customer base.
All of these differentiators have led to massive organic growth from its existing user base, with the current pandemic-fueled growth more like the cherry on top. Hadi says this is because Current has invested a lot of time and energy into building trust. Unlike marketing for traditional banks, customer acquisition for challenger banks isn’t a pure direct response game. It requires multiple touchpoints that build overtime, which is why organic growth is so vital to the firm’s brand.
What’s more, Hadi says Fintechs need to know their customers better than other industries. They need to know the basic demographics, sure, but also their desires, their pain points, their aspirations, where they want to go in life. Marketing a challenger bank is broader and more complex, and while it can be difficult, it’s also interesting compared to other verticals that Hadi has worked in.
Ultimately, Hadi believes Fintechs need to understand how to deliver more value to their customers, while ensuring that their entire team—marketing, product development, growth, etc.—is aligned around that objective. By taking a holistic view of the customer, Fintechs can build a holistic approach to acquisition. And, with a little luck and a lot of elbow grease, these efforts will likely pay off in the long run.
Adam Hadi is the VP of Marketing at Current, a leading U.S. technology company serving Americans working to create a better future for themselves. Prior to leading marketing at Current, he was VP of Marketing at Quidd (acquired by Animoca), head of marketing at DRAFT (acquired by Paddy Power Betfair) and led user acquisition at Topps Digital after spending several years as an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Listen to our full interview with Adam Hadi here: