We talked to John Natalizia of Snoop about open banking and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
John Natalizia: Launching a new business has had its challenges, but nothing beats my attempts at homeschooling my kids in Lockdown 1.0 for fraying my nerves! To be honest, I am very lucky compared to the many severely impacted by Covid, so I feel grateful for that.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Snoop.
John Natalizia: I started my career as a management consultant for KPMG and have spent the last 15 years working in Financial Services. Before Snoop, I built Virgin Money’s new digital credit card business, and I was building their new Digital Bank when the CYBG acquisition happened back in 2018. So I’ve spent my whole career building new businesses, bits of businesses, and unfortunately sometimes dismantling businesses – but Snoop has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had to date.
After leaving Virgin Money, a group of us decided we wanted to do something special and something with purpose. And as a team with huge banking experience, we knew a proposition based on the power of open banking had the potential to be a gamechanger. We did think about creating a bank from scratch, but we wanted to be 100% independent, something a bank can never be. As such, we sketched out the problem we wanted to solve (how to help people overcome the £12 billion loyalty penalty), what we wanted to achieve as a team (help to make everyone better off) and how we’d go about doing it. The result is Snoop, and I’ve been delighted with the progress so far!
How does Snoop innovate?
John Natalizia: Available to everyone but unique to all, Snoop uses secure open banking technology to connect to a customer’s bank account(s) and credit card(s) and delivers data-driven, personalized insights to help consumers make the most of their money. Think of it as an Instagram feed for your finances – and much more besides! With Snoop, we estimate that the average household could save around £1,500 per year.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
John Natalizia: In light of the significant economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we brought forward our launch plans to help consumers and households manage through the lockdown period and beyond. I think the key to everything has a strong proposition that addresses a pressing need. You need to be distinctive, and you need funding. In our case, the proposition is all about putting people in control of their data to help make them better off – as I mentioned earlier, that’s up to £1,500 better off per year for the average household using Snoop. We’re also well-funded, having recently closed the 2nd largest European crowdfund of 2020.
In September 2020, Snoop was named one of Europe’s top 50 financial technology companies in the Fintech50, ranked 5th in BusinessCloud’s 100 Fintech Disrupters list, and topped their East of England Tech 50. That sort of traction has been great, but most importantly, Snoop has been downloaded well over 130,000 times in the first 6 months and growing quickly. Our focus and core challenge now is all about momentum. Accelerating the build of the Snoop platform and all the money-saving features we’d like to deliver for our customers as we aim to become the go-to money/lifestyle app and help to make everyone better off.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
John Natalizia: We thought the biggest challenge caused by Covid-19 and the first lockdown would be operational and come from everyone not being able to be together. We moved to work entirely remotely a week or so before lockdown to properly assess and understand the issues we might face when the formal lockdown was inevitably imposed. We made communication a priority, and the team worked around the clock to launch the business in April 2020 – some two months earlier than planned. So I guess we were fortunate that the pandemic didn’t halt our plans, but rather it accelerated them. We focused 100% on what was essential in terms of coming to market and our purpose, which is to make everyone better off. Having a purpose which your entire team believes in makes your job as CEO much easier. So my lesson – culture is everything.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
John Natalizia: Watching Lazio strive for midtable mediocrity in Serie A. And when that just adds to my stress, nothing beats a long run to clear the head. I must say, however, if you want a stress-free job, don’t work in a start-up!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
John Natalizia: Snoop takes the idea of money management much further than other fintechs by actively helping people use their data to help them save money. Hyper-personalisation and the ability to connect people with relevant and personalized money insights at exactly the right time is Snoop’s competitive advantage. What’s more, we believe that by combining the best capability of the neo-banks, money management, price comparison websites, switching services, cashback sites, and money-saving services into one app – we can deliver something uniquely useful and better for consumers.
In terms of staying ahead: We launch new features to improve the app every couple of weeks as we aim relentlessly to meet customer demand for new money (and time) saving features. After a strong start, it’s all about continuing to listen to our customers and building the app with them, scaling quickly and from open banking to open finance – new features, new partners, new territories – there’s a world of opportunity, and we have a team ready to grasp them.
Your final thoughts?
John Natalizia: Almost 50 million UK consumers have a current account. And over 25 million people use their mobile to manage their money, a figure that’s growing quickly as a by-product of Covid-19. Snoop can plug into over 50 banks, deliver consumers a better experience, and save them lots of money. As such, the big banks are set to become utilities that provide the plumbing for the system, and consumers will plug into them via services like Snoop rather than natively.