Banking that breaks the rules: interview with US fintech Kasasa

Can financial technology escape the gravity well of corporate boringness and become relevant to normal people? Can consumers ever trust a bank again? These are both essential and possible, say Kasasa, an award-winning fintech in the US – we caught up with Andrew Swinney, Content Manager at Kasasa, to find out more about what they are up to:

Kasasa does not offer products directly to consumers – instead creating solutions for community banks and credit unions – how does this work?

Kasasa makes banking products, like checking accounts, and then partners with community banks and credit unions, who then offer those to people. What makes our accounts different is that they are a win-win scenario. So Kasasa is not a bank: we are a partner to community banks and credit unions, providing them with the technology and products consumers expect from a big bank, but now can get from a local institution that treats them like a person.

Most checking accounts offer interest rates around, oh, .01%. Garbage. Kasasa account rates vary depending on the institution, but are on average 39x higher. The reason we can do that is because they incentivize money saving behavior for the banks — such as asking a consumer to switch from paper statements or e-statements. (Did you know it costs an average of sixty cents a month to print just one of those?)

The bank saves money, they pass those savings along in the form of higher interest to the account holder, and the community is stronger because finances are staying local and being reinvested in the community. Win-win-win.

39x higher interest rates? Yes please – gif via GIPHY

Your marketing features the Kasasa team as Spartans at Thermopylae. So who or what is Xerxes?

Easy. The megabanks. Companies like Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. They play fast and loose with their account holder’s money (hello, 2008 financial crisis) and then used bailout money to grow even bigger by buying out community financial institutions that struggled in the crisis they caused.

Wells Fargo has been making many headlines for their shady business practices, but they aren’t the only ones. In January 2017, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $53 million to settle federal allegations that it charged African-American and Hispanic mortgage borrowers higher rates than white customers. In September 2016, the SEC announced that Merrill would pay a $12.5 million penalty for maintaining ineffective trading controls that failed to prevent erroneous orders from being sent to the markets and causing mini-flash crashes.

Does it sound like these business are good partners? Does it sound like they hold their customers in higher priority than their profits?

Consumer sentiment about big banks after the 2008 financial crisis – gif via GIPHY

People deserve better and Americans, at large, are unaware of the options they have. They can get better service, better products, and improve the economic security of their community by switching to community financial institutions.

Our CEO, Gabe Krajicek, really believes in this mission. He sums it up well in this open letter; https://blog.kasasa.com/2018/02/open-letter-americans/

All Kasasa accounts are FREE and PAY REWARDS for things you already do. And only community banks or credit unions offer them. It’s no wonder megabanks don’t offer FREE accounts that pay rewards…these accounts are too consumer-friendly for their taste.

 

Kasasa’s social media is full of memes and humour – how does this match the world of finance?

Finances carry with it a lot of emotional baggage; people feel shame and guilt about making past mistakes or lack of knowledge all of which translates to wanting to avoid dealing with some pretty serious issues. I mean, I’ve even been guilty of not wanting to check my balance after a fun weekend or getting hit with some fees because I’ve neglected something. Our hope is to strip some of those feelings by calling them out and making fun of them.

Plus, some days we just want to make ourselves laugh. Tim Washer is a big inspiration for me, personally, as a B2B marketer. He’s got a great comedic history and reminds us that while we might be B2C or B2B, we are really P2P, and people like to laugh.

Humor is the great currency of the internet.

 

Kasasa recently won “Best of Show” at FinovateSpring 2018: what did you present?

Okay, so there are plenty of companies out there saying they have reinvented the lending process… except, the only thing they are doing is making it easier to take out a loan. That’s great, filling out forms is pretty tedious, so we get why making the process frictionless is smart… but that doesn’t really address what people want. No one has ever said “I wish I could get into debt faster.”

We presented a product that, we think, will fundamentally change the way people manage debt. The Kasasa Loan allows people to pay down extra money (the smart financial move) with the confidence that they can take back that extra amount at anytime.

Pretend you get a $1,000 bonus at work and want to pay ahead on your car. Now, two months later that car needs an $800 repair. With old loans, you’d be upset you paid ahead. With the Kasasa Loan, you can just take that money back out. It’s unprecedented flexibility that gives people the confidence to make financial choices that are in their best interest.

 

Last year Kasasa was voted one of Austin’s Top Five Best Places to Work: so do you have a free muesli bar and slides between office floors?

No, but now we know what to put in the suggestion box.

It can sound a little corny to say that we have a great company culture, but honestly — we do. It’s something that we take very seriously.

Our culture revolves around what is known as “The Patch.” It’s a visual representation of the four values that is present in everything we do; love, 5-star leadership, interdependence, and badassitude. Every employee goes to “War College” where they learn the values; there is even a handbook and a test that every employee must pass.

“It is very humbling to work in an environment where employees aim to make a positive impact every day, and it’s my privilege to lead a group with such strong personal values.” Gabriel Krajicek, CEO

Of course, we also have some pretty cool things like unlimited PTO, Beer:30, a break room full of snacks, and events like yoga, karaoke, video game competitions, etc. What can I say, it’s good to be a Spartan.


Find out more:

“Banking that breaks the rules”: https://kasasa.com/

On Twitter: @Kasasa and @KasasaNews

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