We talked to Philipp Buschmann of AAZZUR about challenger banks, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Philipp Buschmann: Thanks for asking. Although my wife had Covid, we have survived it. Now, all is good, and thankfully we are healthy and safe. Personally, I enjoy working from home but also miss meeting my amazing team at the office.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded AAZZUR.
Philipp Buschmann: I started as a computer programmer, but very soon after starting my career, I moved to project management, consulting, and strategic management in the financial technologies space. Then I was called by one of my mates from business school and got an opportunity to start a fintech company. I have been an entrepreneur for 20 years and faced lots of success and surely got some failures classes as well: one of my companies got public, but also, I have learned how some things do not work.
When it comes to the founding story of AAZZUR, we sat together with my co-founders Martin and Richard in Vienna and started a discussion on modularizing financial services, putting various fintech services on one platform, and creating a so-called “lego toolbox.” We were truly inspired to build embedded finance, which became a buzzword nowadays.
How does AAZZUR innovate?
Philipp Buschmann: We innovate by breaking down the spectrum of banking, financial, and fintech services into little bricks; then, we create “lego” blocks out of them. Finally, we allow our customers to choose which of these “lego” blocks they want to put together so that they could create their own bespoke solutions.
Why is it an innovation? Let me give a clear example: before AAZZUR creating a challenger bank would cost around 3 million euros and took 3 years; today, with AAZZUR, it would cost only half-a-million euros and take 6 months.
Yet, it is not only about challenger banks. Indeed, we are deeply concerned about the strategic utilization and monetization of financial data as well as the “next-best-action” phenomena. AAZZUR strongly believes that financial services and financial data remain not only an untapped monetization source but also a better way to serve your customers in a personalized way.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Philipp Buschmann: First of all, as it was common during the pandemic, we had to reduce our staff and reduce the company’s burn rate. We were waiting for the market to react. Secondly, we had to sell online, build trust online, and fundraise online, which we have done all successfully in Q3 and Q4 of 2020.
We have also seen some positive sides of a pandemic, such as people started to think more about digitalization, better customer service, and ways to make revenues in an environment where fundraising is difficult.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Philipp Buschmann: We had to make plenty of difficult choices. We had to make many difficult choices: what is the core of our company, what is our product roadmap, where should we put emphasis on innovation, and where should we get clients in an environment when we cannot meet them.
Considering all the real risks and opportunities of the pandemic, we decided to develop the company further as “online-by-default” and improved our scope management by focusing on our core. Also, we learned how to work slower but efficiently. I mean, we tried to make small and slow but high-value bets, which would allow us to move faster in the future.
We learned that people like to talk a lot when they sit at home, and it becomes harder to identify which of them will be a real partner or client. Yet, I think we managed to develop ourselves to identify true partners better.
Openness and being always available to others, and, most importantly, helping people to solve problems regardless of the necessary outcome – you have to be good friends with partners. These are the things that truly work out and what we have mainly learned to do online.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are helping you navigate the crisis?
Philipp Buschmann: From a managerial perspective, communication tools such as emails, newsletters, thought pieces, and LinkedIn highly mattered – no need to reinvent something. Regarding our service delivery, we just continued being customer-centered as well as using Scrum and Lean methodologies to deliver better technology solutions.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Philipp Buschmann: There are a lot of competitors coming from different angles. Usually, the biggest competitor in the banking sector is the banks with a “do-it-yourself” approach. Still, most of such projects break down, and they fail; subsequently, they come back to us, and we have had that happen several times.
There are also software development companies, but their problem is that they do not have unique products. On the contrary, we are a product and platform company.
So, there are lots of things which are not quite the same emerge in our space, and, in my mind, the real competition space will be much clearer in a year or two.
Your final thoughts?
Philipp Buschmann: I truly believe it is a great time to digitalize your business and realize the wonders of your customers’ financial data to offer them over-personalized services. If you want to come to AAZZUR and want to build or monetize financial services, build an over personalized challenger bank with various products, including insurance, CO2 offsets, wealth solutions – we are happy to help you. For startups, we could be a tech partner by leaving you to perform the marketing, fundraising, and other business tasks in a way that you prefer. Banks should approach us if they want to create additional revenue from their existing customers.
So, thanks, startup.info, for reaching out. Hopefully, our experience will give good ideas on how to improve their performance and benefits from the opportunities brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.