Nicholas Salguero of Arbor tells us how to save without realizing it, cancel debts and invest to make savings profitable, all from the same app.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nicholas Salguero: Thankfully, we are all doing exceptionally well, Spain was hit very hard in the first wave, and although being an extremely challenging time, we have managed to stay healthy and safe through the last year. Thanks for asking!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Arbor.
Nicholas Salguero: My co-founders and I founded the company in early 2017 as I had just moved to Spain from the US. The purpose we were seeking was to transform the way everyday people handled their personal finances, more specifically understanding and improving their financial wellness, something you don’t read or see a lot of, much less in Europe than in the US, for example. Having lived in the US and being of the strong opinion, younger generations will face significant hardships as they approach retirement due to underfunded retirement accounts and little to no savings. It was very apparent the problem in Europe was equal, if not worse! Why? Simply because the amount of help you get from public subsidies, unemployment benefits, social security, etc… is far larger in Europe, but many of these systems can and will go bankrupt as the number of people drawing from them vs the number of people contributing to them is vastly different. So, in essence, the problem is masked by the amount of help, and you have fewer people aware as well as engaged in “doing something about it”. We set out to change this through our Financial Wellness value proposition, helping people save, invest and manage debt.
How does Arbor innovate?
Nicholas Salguero: We bring a fresh view on the world of personal finances from a more holistic angle than existing value propositions and situating our purpose at the core of our product: to improve peoples financial wellness
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nicholas Salguero: Covid-19 has proven that many things we take for granted are ethereal. We have been able to adapt well to the changing business environment and have come out stronger on the other side, however for many of our users, that is not the case, with massive loss of employment across the board and many people facing significant financial hardships. In this regard, the pandemic has boosted our user’s and prospective user’s awareness of the necessity to actively work on their financial wellness, whether that be to get out expensive debt as soon as possible or start a rainy day fund, for example, putting us closer to their pain point and making Arbor’s value proposition more relevant.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nicholas Salguero: Of course, with the amount of uncertainty in the world and some of our investor commitments put on hold, we were forced to downsize our team at the worst possible time to preserve cash and weather the storm. Two big learnings for sure, one I have already mentioned, that many things we take for granted are ethereal. The second, is the fact that no matter how bad the situation is or seems, we always deal with it with honesty. We were open with our team about the difficult decisions we had to make, and why and to this day, I can say not one person left holding a grudge or hasn’t been there to extend a helping hand many months later, I can’t express how grateful I feel for the people we have been able to align on this team.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Nicholas Salguero: That’s a tough one. The easy answer is Google and Slack for our remote working needs. The difficult answer is empathy, being part of a team that is fully remote, going through some tough times facing extreme adversity at work and at home has proven that the best and only way to stay united is through empathy. We have delivered higher results throughout this tough time than ever before, with fewer people, all thanks to an extremely united team and incredible resolve to see this through.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nicholas Salguero: We have two main sets of competitors, the large incumbents where we compete to differentiate at a product level and the smaller Fintechs where we compete for similar customer demographics. In both cases, the answer is similar, if not the same, provide an extremely clear and relevant value proposition with a long term vision. Our product is different to everything out there today in PFM focused Fintechs, which makes us unique, as well as the fact that we are one of the few strivings to achieve profitability in the next couple of years, we are not focused on growth to no end, we rely on capital efficiency and a profitable business model to stay in the game long term, non-dependent on huge capital intensive rounds to keep us alive.
Your final thoughts?
Nicholas Salguero: I would just say that as we endure these historical events, we must pause to reflect on not only what has passed and potentially worry about what is to come, but focus on what we have and can be thankful for at home and at work, the people that surround us and make our immediate world progress and move forward. These are the people that have an immediate effect on our lives and those that we have chosen to have by our sides. If there was ever a time to stop and be grateful, this is it!
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