Anthony Thomson, founder of Atom Bank, is absolutely clear about his career goal: He wants to redefine customers’ everyday relationship with money, he wants to improve it. He is aware that the financial sector is in the midst of a revolution marked by an unstoppable wave of disruption. “The first change is that money is data and data are the main product of our business” he said during his address in South Summit, where he unveiled three essential challenges that all companies must face to survive in this paradigm shift.
Thomson, who also founded Metro Bank, shatters many of the clichés attached to fintech. He quit his studies a long time ago, but has broader experience than any of the members of the audience gathered to attend his conference in Madrid. He does not have a financial profile, not event technological. His thing is marketing, and that is why maybe he is capable of making people laugh and grab and hold the attention of an audience that answers energetically his unstoppable barrage of questions.
In his animated presentation, Thomson reveals three challenges that any startup must face to succeed. “Actually, they are three questions. Three questions that all companies need to answer, regardless of their size,” notes Thomson.
1 – Purpose
The first one is an eminently existential question. Why are you in this business? Defining the purpose of a company is essential, according to Thomson, who refuses to take “to make money” for an answer. In fact, he believes that one of the most pressing issues that the financial sector is facing is “that if you make sure you’re giving the best product, the best service, or the best experience, you will make money. But you need to be capable of knowing why you’re working so hard,” he says.
“Atom’s purpose is to improve the our everyday relationship with money” says Thomson, one of the founders of the UK’s first mobile-only bank, who has already opened doors to all UK customers, and in which BBVA holds a 29.5% stake.
Earning customer’s trust is another one of the keys for Thomson, who draws a line between cognitive trust and associative trust. Cognitive trust makes reference to skills, competences. “We all trust our bank to keep our money safe, to pay with our card or get cash at an ATM; but surveys say otherwise,” he says.
That is why, for Thomson, the challenge is precisely earning the associated trust, the one that is implicitly recognized in a brand or company, and which reassures customers, even turns them into “fans” of a service or product.
3- Drive and innovation
Not losing momentum is the third key challenge that companies face. Indeed, Thomson speaks about “constant and dynamic innovation” to avoid becoming less competitive.
He uses a Henry Ford example to illustrate this last piece of advice. Ford said that if he had asked his contemporaries about how they would improve transport, they would’ve asked for a stronger or faster horse. They would’ve never thought about an automobile. “Many people’s reaction when they saw the first car was to wonder why would they ever buy such an expensive machine, that needs fuel - because there aren’t any places to refuel – and is not even that much faster than a horse,” said Thomson.
“Today, if you ask anybody what they would rather have; the answer is clear. But the question that people today still don’t know how to answer is: why do I need a mobile bank? “Sometimes it is hard to perceive disruption,” says Thomson, who believes that companies should always keep an eye out for change and strive to stay dynamic.