Today, more than 30% of Canadians are living from paycheque to paycheque. The number of people in debt is rising too, with the Bank of Canada reporting in May 2018 that the average Canadian typically owes around CA$1.70 for every dollar they own. Canadians are not just struggling financially: according to a report by NBC, financial pressure and consequential stress can both directly and indirectly affect mental and physical health. Millions of underbanked Canadians are in need of banking and money management services, of short-term loans to make it to the next paycheque, and of long-term services to nurture and support their aspirations.
The idea of Cashco has been rooted in a number of businesses founded by the company’s CEO, Tim Latimer. Cashco Financial as it exists today has been around for a decade delivering alternative financial services to the citizens of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, both through brick and mortar and online - providing over 140,000 clients with long and short-term personal loans, cheque cashing and, as of 2017 in Alberta, banking services. “Over the course of our history our business model has continued to evolve, at a time we were focused solely on providing access to payday loans, then added and evolved to installment products, and now we’re focused on bringing banking services to our clients. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to our clients banking needs so we work to offer banking-like products that can offer support to people that can't get help anywhere else,” says Raymond Wilson, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Cashco.
Wilson, who has served in his current role for three years, is able to bring a powerful sense of empathy to the company’s relationship with the numerous underserved families and individuals across the country. “I grew up in a single parent home; my mother raised myself and my brother, and there were many times I could see the stress on her face as she was trying to feed and clothe the both of us,” he recalls. “I really feel passionate about the subprime loans market because I can connect with the customers. There were plenty of days growing up when there was nothing in the fridge. I know where they’re coming from.”
Cashco serves its clients by working tirelessly to embody its five core values: Respect the vision, Embrace Can I, Live the Golden Rule, Own the Results and Communicate Honestly. The core values set the expectations for staff on how Cashco employees behave and treat each other. “We work hard to make sure these are living, breathing values embodied throughout the organization,” says Wilson. “The organization moves quickly, and we have a big job to do. If we don’t have clear expectations of ourselves and the people around us, it’s very hard to do what we do every day.”
Over the last 5 years Cashco introduced a decision engine that takes all the data feed into it and works to make better predictions on client’s likelihood of honoring their financial commitment to them. “At the time, it was transformational for our business, today it means we can make better decisions on affordability and support our clients need in order to help them maintain a positive relationship with their money.” That technology now needs to be monitored and adjusted continuously to ensure that, first, clients keep moving along their credit journey, and second, that Cashco builds a sustainable business that can be around for many years serving the underserved and underbanked. This technology is heavily based on artificial intelligence/machine learning that speeds up the delivery and removes friction from the client’s journey with Cashco.
One of the largest challenges that Wilson recognizes is the preservation of the empathetic, personal experience as Cashco increases its digital offerings. “We know we can be successful when the client sits down at the desk and we have a conversation. But, as we move into a more digital age, we need to start looking at other ways to create those touchpoints and still maintain that relationship while the client benefits from the accessibility of digital products,” he says. The company’s efforts range from simple steps, like attaching an employee’s picture to an email to humanize the interaction for the client, to the construction of an entirely new portal to allow for easy access to account information and Cashco’s new banking services. Rather than cold functionality that widens the distance between Cashco and its customers, Wilson sees the “exponential growth of technological applications” as an enabler for increasingly personalised and empathetic services. “We’re utilizing technology to make our customer journey as painless as possible,” he explains.
In particular, Cashco is employing analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to both empower the front end of its business and augment its back-end decision making. “We use AI for our loan decisioning, which we’re constantly tuning to make more efficient, and twinning with our analytics to create a higher loan completion and closing rate,” says Wilson. Cashco has also made the decision to build its AI in-house. “Our CEO has the entrepreneurial spirit,” Wilson explains. “With that comes quick change; this way we don’t have to wait to make alterations the way we would if you bought something off the shelf. We acknowledge that there’s a cost to doing things in-house, but it allows us to be much more agile.”
AI also plays a critical role in Cashco’s latest project: applying decision making to the loan recovery process. “We’re working with another company to bring AI into our recovery and collections department,” says Wilson. “If clients are unable to make a payment, there’s a reason for that. AI can help us understand not only how to best communicate with people, but how to help them ensure they can complete their loans with us.”
To maintain relevancy Cashco has recently mapped out the strategic direction for the next three years, identifying the necessary business decisions in order to compete in their space – knowing the space continues to grow and demand is increasing. “A digital Cashco is imperative, and we have it centered around the idea of digital client-care services,” says Wilson. “Overall, our digital ecosystem is focused on leveraging our data, and advanced analytics platforms are built together so decision making is driven by the business, and AI/machine learning will be the driving factor is producing sound recommendations to guide the process.”
The entire enterprise is designed to accommodate and exceed the needs and expectations of the underserved. Cashco provides relief today by making it easy to get an immediate loan regardless of current or past credit history. The company accepts its clients, wherever they are on their journey. Due to the multiple solutions it offers, Cashco is the only finance company that can help move clients through the entire credit continuum to achieve a better credit rating and create hope for tomorrow.
Looking to the future, Cashco Financial has bold ambitions. “Our big, hairy, audacious goal is to be recognized as a new, different kind of bank by 2025,” Wilson concludes. “We’re going to build a forward-looking resilient business with a loan book of $250mn by 2021, serving underbanked Canadians with subprime loans, and continue to offer meaningful banking delivered through advice-based, intimate, one-to-one relationships."