Brett King is an author, keynote speaker, radio host and most importantly, an innovator. He is also the founder and CEO of digital banking app Moven. With a wealth of experience in the fintech industry, Brett understands what banks need and when they need it. His areas of expertise include innovation, technology disruption and customer experience.
When he’s not running Moven’s New York office, he can be found writing for his upcoming book, the sixth he has written, titled BANK 4.0, or hosting his radio show on Breaking Banks Radio (an internet talk-radio network with over nine million monthly listeners). His first book BANK 2.0 was published in 2010, and has since topped Amazon’s banking best-sellers in a multitude of countries including the US, UK and Japan, and has spent more than two years in the global top ten charts.
bobsguide caught up with the down to earth entrepreneur to discuss his outlook on the banking sector, where the fintech industry is heading, and his thoughts on AI.
How did you become involved in the fintech industry?
My background has always been in technology. I started as a programmer years ago, and then moved into project management and technology integration. My early career included working at Deloitte in the late 90’s, followed by working for a digital ad agency, so I’ve got a really strong understanding in e-business and customer experience.
I then worked in the financial services industry, including with banks such as HSBC. I did a lot of strategy work that made its way to the board on numerous occasions, and I still have very good relations with the team at HSBC. I’ve also worked with the likes of Standard Chartered, Citi bank and American Express on conducting digital strategies.
In 2009 I took a year off and I wrote my first book, BANK 2.0, which was a manifesto for digital banking. It was the first book of its kind that was essentially a complete look at the digital space and how it could change the banking industry. It was a bestseller in 20 countries and translated into a dozen languages, so as a first book it was pretty extraordinary in terms of the success. This success then led to the creation of Moven.
The idea for Moven came when I was on my book tour for BANK 2.0. I was in L.A, meeting with like-minded interesting individuals such as VCs, and there was a lot conversations around how the banking industry would change and what a bank account would look like in a decade. As I described what I believed the bank account of the future would be capable of, one of the VCs turned to me and said: “Banks won’t be able to do this.” That was the epiphany moment.
What gap in the market did you spot to prompt you to launch Moven?
The objective behind Moven was essentially to build a bank account that was futureproof and really optimised how Millennials used financial services through their phone and digital platforms. This was the start of the model, and as we developed it further we came up with the concept of financial wellness and progressed.
I was previously heavily involved in attempting to digitise one of the largest banks in the world. I faced heavy opposition internally; not necessarily because they didn’t like the digital space, but more so that the larger banks had trouble changing their mindsets about the fact that for the last 60 years they had accumulated all their revenue through retail branches. Banks couldn’t conceptualise that shift. So I had two choices: Continue to be the digital transformation guy and try and push incumbent banks to change, which was a long and hard road, or demonstrate how the industry could change by building my own bank, and I chose the latter.
We saw you present at Finovate London, and you spoke about launching Moven in the UK in 4 weeks. What was the motivation there?
Our presentation at Finovate was around demonstrating what we’ve done with our enterprise partnerships and the evolution of the platform away from just the direct-to-consumer model into a software business. The best way to demonstrate a capability to deploy solutions for a potential new bank partner was to show how quickly we could do that, and what better way to show that by building a new app for our UK launch and launching it within a few weeks.
Building the prototype took us around nine days, and the rest of the time was waiting to get approval through the app store. Although we had the building blocks already in place, we were really proud of how quickly it came together. It’s great to have that capability, and that’s what fintech is really about; the ability to create these platforms quickly and radically.
You’re often talked of as being a fintech “influencer”. What does that term mean to you and is being “influential” important to you?
For me, the role of an influencer is more about being an agitator: If you look back at my work, people have said that what I do successfully is get the conversation going. That’s what BANK 2.0 was about. It’s really that I want to stimulate the conversation.
I don’t necessarily have all the answers, but I have a lot of questions. I like to try and find solutions and I love researching the industry to find out what’s happening.
And that became the role I found myself in. I enjoy being the guy that gets people thinking; people may not agree with everything I’ve said, but I’ve got them thinking about a topic. I’ve tried to get people to see that you just can’t continue doing the same thing you’ve being doing for years in banking anymore, that’s not the way it’s working. Things have radically changed.
If you look at the last ten-15 years and think about the options you now have on your mobile phone in respect to banking – you never have to go to a branch, you can transfer money to anywhere in the world, you can even deposit checks by using the camera on your phone. There are so many changes that have occurred. If you’re sitting in a branch then your day-to-day job may not have drastically changed, but you also may not have seen the change as much as someone who is watching the industry from aggregate perspective.
What do you think will be the biggest fintech developments of 2017?
AI is where I see the big potential. The biggest shift is in the perception of a bank’s value to advise, because historically the advice that you get from a bank actually hasn’t been financial advice, its been product advice. If you go into a bank for advice on investments, they’ll talk broadly about the fact that you should be investing and then offer two products: It’s essentially a way to juxtapose advice with sales.
The advice that AI is going to bring will be more embedded in our lives. Once AI understands our behaviour, it will understand our finances, and then begin to coach us and change our behaviour to improve our finances. Even a simple question like ‘Hey Siri, can I afford to go out for dinner tonight?’ will be answered by AI, because it will know everything about your financial life. The day-to-day advice will be much more powerful and life changing than the advice you get from a bank. This is where the value really shifts.
Now you have a piece of technology that really has the potential to change your life. AI will soon be able to change your behaviour and help you save money over a period of time, and assist you to be financially healthy because it has modified your behaviour; a bank can’t do that without AI.
The other part of the shift to AI is to design services to enhance our banking experiences. For example, imagine you go to your local grocery store, get to the checkout and your debit card is declined, all because your salary hasn’t hit your account yet. You didn’t know that before you walked into the store, but now you’ve got to move all your finances around.
And now think of this: The future will introduce a very different interaction. You’ll walk into the store, and because AI knows how much you spend on groceries, and it knows your salary hasn’t hit your account yet, it can send you a message on your phone or wearable device that says: “You don’t have enough money to do your shopping today.” And then there will be an option, such as: “Would you like access to credit to complete your grocery shopping today? Here’s an additional £x for your shopping, and it will cost you a certain fixed fee for that credit facility.” So then suddenly you’re accessing the utility of banking, when and where you need it the most. I’m not selling you a product, I’m not making you come to the bank; I’m providing you with access to bank utilities when you need it.
That’s the shift we’re focusing on at Moven: We’re building banking based on an experiential basis. This is why the big banking players are now redesigning banking around a certain experience. The owners of your behavioural data and access to your experience layer are going to be key players in the industry. Banks will support it but they’re not going to own the customer layer much longer. The behavioural concept is where the opportunity is.