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“I Came To Financial Services Sector As An Investor In Emerging Markets” With Head of Partnerships Bradley Van Leeuwen at Railsbank

Neobanking in Modern Era


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

It was clear to me that the financial services sector had been ripe for serious change for a long time. I came to it as an investor in emerging markets where the shortcomings of traditional financial services companies were more acute. I backed Intouch, the first online insurance company in Russia; LBT, a big-data powered collection platform in Turkey and more. Many were able to go on to become market leaders quite quickly, so I set out to do it myself.

I helped build Dopay, a neobank for emerging markets that helps companies pay their employees electronically, instead of via a cash payment. Today it pays people from thousands of companies, including Uber drivers in Egypt! To facilitate this we partnered with Barclays and soon realized bank processes and technologies to be barriers for tech firms to partner with banks.

Fast forward to my move to Railsbank. I joined them because they have one of the most innovative teams in the industry. We partner with banks, integrate with their technology and make it possible for our customers’ to embed global transactional apps or business in only five lines of code, whereas previously it would take at least nine months and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds.

What do you think makes your bank different in these disruptive times?Can you share a specific story?

Railsbank helps banks join and monetize the change in financial services. We had a great example recently. A startup founder joined an accelerator with the idea of building a neobank. Starting with only this idea, less than three months later he was able to demonstrate a working version of his product, transacting with real money, to a packed auditorium for his accelerator’s demo day by integrating with Railsbank! This just wouldn’t have been possible without using our platform.

What are the risks that boards are concerned about ?

The main risk we talk to banks is how banks can ride the wave of change in financial services in a way that drives revenue growth, while also managing compliance risk. Banks face a lot of unfair criticism here — they are often blamed for being slow, risk averse and costly. But, the truth is that with more than $300 billion of regulatory fines levied on banks since the crisis, they are right to be cautious.

In your view, should Conduct risk be among the top risks to be concerned about? Can you elaborate or share a story?

Technology has come a long way since the last financial crisis, allowing compliance teams to manage risk better than ever before, but equally, banks have never been under closer scrutiny. Banks don’t sell financial services, they sell trust. This level of trust is the key barrier to entry that benefits incumbents and makes it very hard for startups to compete.

This means that Conduct Risk is probably the greatest risk that banks face. It is essential that they maintain the trust of society if they want to continue to generate value for shareholders. For me, this doesn’t mean more forms with even more check-boxes. What it should mean is having the right culture from the top down and putting the customer first in all decisions.

Building a “Lean Risk Culture” is crucial in order to strengthen risk management practices at a holistic level. What is your approach in building a lean risk culture? Can you share a story or example?

Risk management is critical and doing it in a way that supports a Lean Organisation is critical to effective compliance and a successful business. At Railsbank, compliance is in the core of everything we do and in the core of our technology.

Our team consists of FinTech and financial services veterans. For example, our co-founder and CEO did the first online forex trade on the internet back in the 1990s. Our other co-founder and COO also helped digitize capital markets for the first time. So from first-hand experiences, we’ve seen how effective compliance can be a fantastic enabler of innovation can be.

This is why we put compliance at the core of our technology. The Railsbank Compliance Firewall ensures banks and fintech companies can work together in a scalable and safe way. This means our developers are just as aware of compliance as our sales and compliance teams. Some see compliance as a cost and a burden, but we believe it gives Railsbank an advantage.

With an increasing amount of data breaches and financial crimes , what do you think is the most effective way to manage this risk ?

Compliance first, compliance by design and a compliance culture are all key elements. The introduction of GDPR is a fantastic step to ensure that businesses understand the importance of managing people’s data responsibly. Setting the right direction and culture for a company must come from management. It means hiring the right people, being ready to invest in processes and technology to manage the risk and managing your partner base to ensure that risk in minimized across the organization.

Can you name one area within risk management that will see the most benefit due to advances in technology?

RegTech is moving faster than ever. KYC, transaction monitoring and customer due diligence have all been key areas of risk for financial institutions. Great new innovations are launching in this space every day. Regulators are increasingly pressuring financial institutions to adopt these market leading technologies and FinTech startups will need to stay aligned as well if they want to successfully build trust. This is why Railsbank brings market leading compliance technologies into the its platform by working with leading compliance innovators like ComplyAdvantage and Onfido to ensure our customers are at the cutting edge.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

When I was young, my Dad gave me one piece of advice that stuck with me my whole life — “if you never do anything wrong, you will always sleep well at night”. I think this is increasingly critical in financial services. It no longer matters what you can get away with, but what outcome you intended for the customer and if that was the right thing to do by them.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Finance, and Investors read this column. If you could have private breakfast with someone who you consider really successful , who would that be and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I would love to have breakfast with Max Levchin. Not only has he been super successful with the likes of PayPal and Affirm, but we seem to share a common drive to improve financial inclusion and make appropriate, life-improving, financial services to everyone.

Originally published at medium.com

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