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Funding Circle’s Bernardo Martinez on the role banking partnerships play in customer acquisition

  • With stints at B of A and PayPal, Bernardo Martinez has focused on small businesses.
  • Funding Circle's U.S. managing director explores how Funding Circle uses partnerships to grow in the U.S.
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Funding Circle’s Bernardo Martinez on the role banking partnerships play in customer acquisition

We’re experimenting with an interesting new series on the podcast called Marketing Talk. We’re talking to top finance and fintech marketers sitting on the front lines of their businesses, hustling to bring in the next cohort of customers. As much as TechCrunch makes this stuff look easy, it isn’t and we want to hear from marketers — in their own words — what’s working for them, how they’re structuring their teams, and what channels are delivering.

Off a recent IPO in London, Funding Circle is doubling down on its growth strategies. Partnerships with financial institutions and other strategics play a big role in how the small business lender acquires new customers.

U.S. managing director Bernardo Martinez joins us on the podcast to talk about how partnerships fit into the firm’s momentum and ambitions for the U.S. market. We use the firm’s relationship with INTRUST Bank as a model for how financial institutions can assist Funding Circle’s customer acquisition. We also look at the firm’s partnership with Intuit and how it helps Funding Circle reach more small businesses in the United States.

Bernardo Martinez is my guest on the podcast today.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

What makes a good partnership?

We want partners who have the same vision and values as us. We also want them focused on small businesses. Once they pass these two criteria, then we have deeper conversations around their marketing capabilities and how they approach customers to see if we can add value there. Typically, as soon as we engage with a potential partner, we start thinking through if lending can become a value added service for their products and services.

What role do partnerships play in Funding Circle’s growth strategy?

When we think about it today, partnerships are a key channel for customer acquisition. Over the next three to five years, we expect partners to become one of the main channels for us. So, we’re investing a lot into the channel with people, technology, and processes.

Can you give an example of a successful banking partnership?

We can partner with financial institutions in two different ways: partners can invest in the small business loans we originate and they can also do co-marketing activities. INTRUST Bank is a good example. They began our partnership with an interest to expand their investing activity in the small business loan asset class. We started there and after a year, things are going very well.

Two months ago, we started discussing with them the value proposition on the borrower side. We started to market to small business owners in their geographic areas to provide lending. It’s going well and acts as our blueprint for how we can work with other financial institutions — we want to partner on the borrower and lender side and this is how we want to work with banks in the future.

What about Intuit?

As you know, it’s one of the largest providers of small business accounting software in America. We’re building a partnership with them via their online platform where they provide different offers to small business owners to finance their businesses. We continue to enhance our capabilities with them as we connect the two platforms and enhance their customer experience. In the beginning, customers have to click on a link to go through the referral process with us. We’re working to improve that journey in a more seamless fashion with less friction.

We’re thinking through other Intuit venues that we’re not present in. We’re asking what is the next evolution of our partnership to create more integrated experiences within their platform?

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