In today’s financial world. we talk a lot about data, APIs, digitization. As more of the largest financial organizations continue to partner with fintechs, data aggregation, access, and connectivity become paramount to delivering an awesome user experience.
Finicity is one of those companies working behind the scenes and powering the trend towards financial APIs. What began as a personal financial management tool, the firm is working with some of the largest financial institutions to help them take a major step toward digitization.
The firm’s co-founder and CEO, Steve Smith, joins us on the podcast today.
The following excerpts were edited for clarity.
American Banker recently named your firm a top company to work for. What makes Finicity a good place to work?
We do a lot of things well. More than anything, we create an environment of trust and open communication. An environment that respects individuals and encourages innovation. An environment we hope is unique and a fun place to work.
For example, one of the things we offer is unlimited personal time. It’s our way of saying, we know you’re always engaged. We’re not going to track how much you work. We’re more focused on what we have to do as an organization. We also focus on trying to keep everyone up to speed. We have a monthly all hands meeting where we engage with partners and invite them into the meeting. We do a lot of Q&A and give personal and team awards.
How did you get into the financial data aggregation business?
My educational background is in finance and it’s always been a passion. I’ve been in the tech industry for about 30 years, helping people connect to data through technologies. I also spent about 10 years developing devices that made computers mobile. I became interested in understanding how to use these devices to collect data, put them into context, and solve meaningful problems. Helping individuals, families, and businesses make sense of their finances and make decisions around them can impact lives.
Has coming from outside the industry helped or hurt your ability to make early sales and sign up big financial organizations as customers?
It’s an interesting question. In the early days of Finicity, we were really focused on a direct to consumer offering with a PFM we had developed. It was a bit of a different model then. We developed relationships with organizations with like interests. But specifically, there are some things that are useful to not be deeply steeped in industry approaches, allowing you to step back and see the forest, without being consumed by existing process and procedure, consumed by how things have always been.
We’ve been in business for a couple of decades and we have been fortunate to develop deep relationships with industry leaders over that period of time. I think our insights have been helpful coming from an outside view.
Do you see a change in financial incumbents with their approach or willingness to partner with technology firms?
These large financial firms are getting better at it. I would give accolades to a number of organizations that have invested heavily in partnerships or internal resources and internal development frameworks which really pace much better with a startup mentality. Some have adopted agile programming throughout their organizations and hired younger programming talent. Without a doubt, in the last two or three years, I’ve seen transitions take place in very large organizations, and it’s accelerating. If you look at where we were as an industry with things like APIs just a few years ago, and where we are with that discussion today — that’s just one proof point that this is a big deal for large financial organizations.
Chase has been progressive. You can take a look at some of their recent announcements and the amount of investment they’ve made. It’s a large organization that’s moving forward in meaningful ways. Capital One also stands out as an organization highly focused on tech. Quicken Loans also stands apart in its industry as being progressive in this way, in adopting new tech, driving costs down and moving value proposition up for consumers.