How does your position now differ from your dream job as a child?
As a child, I never imagined that I would be leading a digital bank with one million customers! At various times I thought I would become a cricketer, a sports commentator, or a physicist, but being a digital banker was definitely not one of my dreams.
I first trained in engineering and then found myself working for a telco, and then went to business school and ultimately began working for Capital One’s credit cards team in 2002.
That’s when I first found myself in the consumer lending space. I quickly realised that many of the challenges I had with money growing up helped me understand the importance of delivering fair, intuitive and transparent products that offer great value to consumers, improving their financial well-being and resilience.
Growing up I experienced both the good and bad sides of credit and its impact on financial health and mental wellbeing.
In my teens, as a family, we experienced the darker, ‘loan shark’ side of credit that often comes with extremely high interest and predatory marketing.
But credit also opened up opportunities for me in my life and career. Getting credit – mostly from friends and relatives – to complete my education was incredibly enabling, allowing me to build a career, travel the world and ultimately move to London.
These experiences are something I keep with me all the time now, asking ‘what does it feel like to be a customer on the other end?’
My early experiences with money motivated me to continue designing products for people from all walks of life, giving Zopa’s customers more control over their financial lives.
What is the biggest workplace challenge you face day to day?
Since I joined Zopa in 2014, I have seen a lot of things change and a lot of businesses come in and go out of fashion.
The winning business models in my mind are meeting customers’ needs with products and services with strong unit economics and a clear market fit; these tend to survive and thrive.
With this in mind, our main challenge is always around answering the question: what do customers want and how can we use technology to solve it?
Legacy banking has often needed more transparency and is hard to understand, leaving many customers unable to make the right financial decisions. Further compounding complexity, the goals and business models of banks are often fundamentally misaligned with consumers’ interests.
As a newer player at the intersection of tech-enabled fintech and fully regulated finance, we can reimagine what banking really looks like.
Working this way has proven successful for us. We turned a monthly profit for the first time in March 2022, followed by multiple periods of profitability. This will likely convert into full-year profitability in 2023 for the first time, which will be a key milestone in Zopa’s growth journey.
What is the best thing about your role at Zopa Bank?
The people. We’ve been fortunate to employ an exceptional team of passionate and talented people at Zopa. This diverse talent is the reason we continue to go from strength to strength.
We’ve also done a lot of work in the past few years to continue bolstering and improving our employee value proposition, and as a result, we ranked 2nd in Newsweek’s list of the UK’s 100 Most Loved Workplaces in 2023.
We are proud to be Zopians. With a score of 4.6 / 5 on Glassdoor and 94% of our employees recommending us, Zopa Bank has one of the highest employee satisfaction scores in the UK financial services industry.
Tell us about the latest innovations being employed at Zopa Bank.
Some of Zopa’s most exciting innovations enable customers to improve their financial health, gain access to better-priced credit, access market-leading saving products based on individual preference towards interest and flexibility, and transfer card balances in a way that helps pay down credit, faster.
Customers coming to us for a loan get a personalised rate in minutes, running ‘soft credit checks’ only on an initial application so that their credit files are not impacted.
Our application is digital; while approved customers get their money within two hours.
Our best-in-class underwriting models use cutting-edge AI and machine learning algorithms that have been optimised over the last eight years to deliver stable and better-than-expected credit performance.
This means we have a very resilient foundation and a model that successfully took us through the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
We’ve recently expanded our suite of savings offerings with a Smart ISA product, this is in addition to our award-winning Fixed Term Savings accounts and our “hybrid” Smart Saver that offers easy access and notice features in a single account.
Furthermore, following the acquisition of DivideBuy, we brought to life our vision for BNPL 2.0, an evolution of today’s model that is fully regulated, puts customer protection first, is responsible and sustainable.
How is AI changing the game in fintech?
One of the things that attracted me to Zopa Bank is that we could use technology in a far more meaningful fashion to help build a good lending business.
Zopa Bank has been a pioneer and remains on the cutting edge in machine learning, a long time before LLMs and AI foundational models became buzzwords.
We have been using ML models for more than eight years, operating an increasingly highly-automated lending strategy since 2014 with a focus on credit decisioning and customer engagement.
A lot of businesses talk about using machine learning, but very few can claim this much experience with it.
Using machine learning and data, we make lending decisions in less than eight seconds; while 99% of approved loans take less than five seconds for credit approval.
We will continue to use AI to improve our productivity and to drive better customer outcomes with cutting-edge technology and digitally native journeys that add true value for our customers.
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The key benefits for us in automation are reducing manual processes, reducing manual mistakes, and improving our efficiencies