Corey Gross of Sensibill tells us how they build products that reveal insights into everyday spending that can be used to truly personalize financial services.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Corey Gross: We’re doing well. I have a three-year-old and a five-month-old at home. The former is hell-bent on destroying every possession I hold dear, and the latter only started sleeping through the night a couple of weeks ago. That said, there’s a silver lining in being able to have more quality time with my family in between work calls and virtual meetings. Like many other businesses and teams, we’re looking forward to more of a balance where we’re surrounded by our teammates and can again collaborate in person. Balancing our virtual, remote work lives has really encouraged us to prioritize personal time where we can get outdoors, connect with friends through social distancing, and bring back some of that pre-pandemic normality.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Sensibill.
Corey Gross: I went to law school but never really connected with a career as a practicing lawyer. I was more interested in building something out of whole cloth to exercise my creative side. I get a lot of energy when I’m collaborating with teams, workshopping ideas, and then bringing something to life that creates positive outcomes. My dad was a serial entrepreneur, so I think I got that spark from him.
The motivation to start Sensibill really originated from my own personal experiences. When I was younger, I’d manage my receipts as if they were cash since they were a ticket to a refund or replacement for a defective product. When I started my career, receipts basically were cash because I’d need them for expense reimbursement. Prior to founding Sensibill, my family was in rough shape financially, and I’d study receipts to find savings opportunities. I got the moniker of being the “receipts guy,” so I guess it makes sense that I started a company that helps people derive value from them.
How does Sensibill innovate?
Corey Gross: We’re very much a mission-driven company. We believe anyone with the right education, access, and tools can achieve their version of financial wellness. We also believe the key to that is deep personalization. If we speak to people using relatable language and offer solutions that are personally meaningful, they will start to develop healthier habits. Weight Watchers is a successful dieting solution not simply from Oprah’s sponsorship (OK, well, maybe that’s part of the reason), but because it builds a program around the foods you like to eat.
Sensibill provides customers with spend management tools that help track what people are spending their money on, down to the SKU-level items they purchase, so that they can find ways to optimize their financial picture. By partnering with financial institutions, we can use this data to make sure people get educated in the context of their own life, and are provided relevant services and support. We do this through AI, so instead of acting on insights that are stale by many months, we can help banks engage their customers proactively.
In terms of our innovation process, we listen to our buyers and their customers, but it’s also our job to have our finger on the pulse of the industry. How can we make the financial experience more transparent for people who are distrustful of banks? More accessible to people who have been disenfranchised by financial services? We don’t take norms – like only relying on transactions and demographic data – for granted. We investigate how much more accurate our predictive power can get if we know that you’re buying diapers at CVS instead of cereal. We imagine how big of an impact we can make on someone’s life if we could virtually hold their hand while guiding them through a plan for how to put money away for their children’s financial future.
This type of innovation is possible if you bring passionate, creative, and curious people together, and we’re fortunate to have a group of talented people who fit that bill.
Today, our platform is delivering value for 60 million people across 100 financial institutions across North America and the U.K. We drive a 380% increase in overall digital engagement, drive close to 2x in product holdings, create customers that are 16x stickier, and boost customer NPS by an average of 13 points. The business has seen 800% growth over the last three years. We feel validated by our success in the market, along with the support of investors that have contributed more than $45 million in capital to our cause.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Corey Gross: Like many, taking care of our employees and customers was a top priority before understanding how this would impact future business. The financial services industry, especially financial institutions, had to quickly pivot to a remote-first environment and learn how to serve their customers primarily through digital channels — a first for many. During this transition time, we focused on ourselves: improving our technology and expanding our capabilities to meet our customers’ growing demand for digital.
We had to be thoughtful about how we’d maintain our business operations while we monitored how the pandemic would change our industry and the banking landscape at large. We’re the type of business that traditionally benefited from relationships built-in person, so we were looking for ways to compensate. What we’ve found is that there is an opportunity to create even more human connections with our clients in a virtual environment. What do I mean by that? Well, now we’re spending time with our partners and clients in their homes, not in a stuffy bank board room or at a conference center. You’re able to spark conversations about the art of decorating their walls and empathize over the distractions caused by children breaking into their home office during a live presentation. So, while this situation has sucked – no doubt about that – there are silver linings that can help you become a stronger company if you’re optimistic. Despite the challenges, our team wrapped 2020 with significant growth. We had some of our biggest clients wins ever, record logo growth, great new leadership additions, and our biggest ever product releases.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Corey Gross: Certainly, there are tough choices you’ve got to consider when you’re staring down the barrel of an economic crisis. Like anything we do, we let our values guide how we act. Conducting ourselves with integrity most of all. So, we did our best to take care of our people. That also means focussing on their mental health and wellness, especially considering the new remote work environment. We tripled our investment in employee mental health benefits and subscribed to a number of new services to get people the personal support they might need.
Our culture is a big deal for us, and I think we were concerned about how we’d be able to replicate the family-driven environment in a virtual world. I think it’s easy to try and do a little too much to compensate – events, cooking classes, care boxes, fitness challenges – you name it, we did it. But sometimes, it’s finding a way to replicate those simple interactions that mean the most. Supporting mental health and wellness initiatives is a major part of our social corporate responsibility program at Sensibill, and staying true to the spirit of that through human support systems vs. more manufactured programs is a more authentic path for us.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Corey Gross: No logo churn. That was our goal, and we met that goal. It came by investing time in understanding the unique business challenges our clients and their customers were facing. We also invested in a new Client Success platform to help us get more data-driven in our scoring for client health so that we could be proactive in addressing any issues (much like what we aspire to do with our own clients as they support their customers’ financial health). Like other orgs, collaborative feedback sessions are really critical to validating and prioritizing our roadmap, and so our Customer Advisory Board is a key part of making sure we are the best possible partner.
Your final thoughts?
Corey Gross: The pandemic didn’t create a financial wellness crisis. It revealed it. Long before lockdowns, individuals and businesses were struggling week to week managing their money. Fintechs have known this for a decade and have built modern solutions where utility and delight intersect. Big tech is in the game now, too, with Amazon, Apple, Google, and others launching financial products to compete with banks and credit unions. What’s driving customer interest in these alternatives is that they position financial wellness as the driving force of their product’s value proposition. The savings account? The credit card? The investment account? They’re the commodity that works to help the customer reach their ultimate financial fitness goals. In this increasingly all-digital world, where the app is the horse and not the cart, it’s time for banks and credit unions to be playing the right game. We’re proud to be a big part of helping them win, with millions of people being the beneficiaries of our successful collaborations.
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