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Underserved SMEs and GIGs 2018

XII digital banks for makers and doers

The incumbent banks are trying to be everything for everybody – but often it means poor products and customer support “for nobody”. Many startups in fintech are attempting to disrupt the banking world with consumer-focused apps, but the real and most lucrative prize is going to be in the small business space.

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George Bevis, the affable 40-year-old founder of digital business bank Tide, has a film recommendation1, which he says provides an unlikely portrayal of what it’s like to work in burgeoning start-up scene. “The best film about small business is A Most Violent Year,” he says. By its own billing, this movie is “a searing crime drama”, depicting the ordeals of a small heating-oil company owner. Played by Oscar Isaac, in 1980s New York, the entrepreneur is trying to make it amid “simmering rivalries and unprovoked attacks” from mafia bosses and political kingpins. It sounds intense.

“The trailers are all people with guns and whatever,” he concedes. “But really it is all about the incredibly difficult negotiations of a small-business owner. For two hours, to understand the real moments of suffering in a small-business owner’s life, you couldn’t do it better.” “I don’t think anyone runs around shooting anyone else. Our experience is not as dramatic,” he laughs. “However, I absolutely know entrepreneurs who have had moments of high drama. There are constantly examples of deals that have been agreed on a handshake, where later on one of the parties to the deal denies what was agreed on the handshake and there’s no written record of that.

In the business I used to run, a number of times we got close to not being able to hit payroll. We always did, I probably had to fund it out of my own bank account a few times. “But these things are much more common than I think is widely understood, because people who run businesses have to keep it secret.” Bevis is a former banker – he has stints at Capital One, Barclaycard, RBS, and WorldPay on his CV – and knows all too well where big lenders have been letting small businesses down.