An Interview With Steve Britton on All Things Embedded Finance

embedded finance interview

Orenda is a one-stop-shop for embedded financial services with a mission to make FinTech more accessible to a whole array of sectors across the globe.

While this is no small feat, Orenda’s approach to embedded finance is a simple one. By delivering no code solutions, they’re able to help businesses of all sizes, whether they’re traditional financial entities or otherwise.

Orenda’s Chief Commercial Officer, Steve Britton, has over 30 years of experience in the payment and disruptive banking space and has always been passionate about working with early-stage businesses that move fast and challenge the status quo.

We recently sat down with Steve to find out more about the work Orenda is doing and what more businesses should know about embedded finance.

 

Q1. How did Orenda Finance first come about?

Steve: Orenda was started before I got involved with it. Josh (CEO) and David (CTO) had built a digital lending proposition, which incorporated an embedded finance platform.

I knew there were lots of projects and opportunities around and I thought there was a good potential opportunity in the market for Orenda. I’ve been with them ever since.

 

Q2. What attracted you to working with Orenda?

Steve: They move really quickly and get stuff done, as opposed to just talking about it. That’s one of the attractions of working in a smaller company, we can test and trial, fine-tune and adapt.

Orenda works in a space that I like. It’s a crossroads of trying to help bring out new financial products and services via new routes to market, new partners, new companies, new challenges, as well as working with bigger banks that are starting to look at this sort of space as well.

 

Q3: What does Orenda do that sets you apart from your competitors?

Steve: One of the greatest strengths of Orenda is its tech platform and capability. Without that, we wouldn’t be able to offer our proposition, or it would cost us millions of pounds to get the platform up and running.

The way our technology is built, managed and provided to organisations gives us the ability to do really smart stuff, really quickly.

 

Q4: How many markets do you serve? Are there any that you work with more than others?

Steve: We mainly serve consumer brands, but there are also FinTechs and banks that can benefit from working with us.

However, if you look at embedded finance in terms of target markets and where the opportunities are, it’s in consumer brands who already have a marketplace or a customer base. It’s the non-financial service companies who are looking at ways of leveraging and building better relationships with their customers as well as increasing engagement.

Businesses owners are thinking, “I’m trying to find new ways to get to new customers, but I’m also trying to work out what other products and services I give to existing customers”. That’s where embedded finance is playing a big part in where the industry is headed.

 

Q5: What ethos drives your approach to FinTech?

Steve: In terms of differentiation between us and some other people in the FinTech spaces, we deliver an end to end full stack around a solution. It’s not just a bank account. It’s not just a card product. It’s not just access to a payment network. It’s the whole thing, including the provision of the front end, which is the mobile app or the web channel.

We can also deliver a brand on behalf of our clients. Some clients build out their own front end and connect to us in a smart way. That allows them to implement a no code model, so they don’t need huge tech teams or payment expertise to do the things that they like to do.

I guess we would say we take the heavy lifting away from those organisations and let them do this stuff really quickly from a solid platform with high levels of performance.

We’re also working with best of breed licensed financial service companies to help us deliver these solutions. So we’re bringing the ‘tech’, but we also manage the delivery of the ‘fin’ in FinTech by working with financial partners.

 

Q6: How disruptive do you think embedded finance is and why?

Steve: Some people would say it’s a revolution; I would say it’s more of an evolution.

With embedded finance, brands now have access to banking and finance capabilities that they can offer to their own consumers or new consumer markets they want to go after.

The whole thing has sped up over the last five years or so for a couple of different reasons. One is customers have got more demanding and can switch their bank account provider really easily. But technology has also improved beyond imagination, allowing Orenda to do what it does. So there’s also the mobile world at the front end. Improvements in quality, capacity, and performance have made everything much more mobile-first orientated, versus somebody sitting on a laptop 10 to 20 years ago doing their internet banking.

It’s a combination of these different aspects that are driving the interest, which is a great opportunity for us to grow a business, deliver value, and do something that’s helping other businesses succeed in taking new products and services to market.

 

Q7: What do you make of traditional financial entities vs non-traditional financial entities?

Steve: Most of us change bank accounts more often than we used to, but there are still those traditional bank accounts. However, they’re under attack, so they are trying to react and compete, some more effectively than others.

Then there are those non-financial service organisations. They have the ability to do great stuff and deliver great services, but they don’t have to have the overheads and the costs associated with running and being a bank.

I think one of the interesting things is the potential partnership opportunities that emerge out of incumbent banks, who are trying to work out how they compete and how they survive with the challenges of Banking as a Service (BaaS) providers and the new brands coming to market.

In the future, they’ll potentially be working together in an embryonic relationship where they’ll benefit one another. Of course, the brands will take financial services to market more effectively than the banks can. But the banks still might be sitting in the background, managing the capital and the regulatory issues, and dealing with all of that painful stuff, which marketing brands, retail brands, for instance, don’t really want to get involved with.

 

Q8: What aspect of embedded finance do you think is most important to the customer journey?

Steve: From an end-consumer viewpoint, there are still small businesses out there that will try to open a business bank account through a big bank.

However, these incumbent banks still have strict, outdated criteria, which don’t reflect today’s business requirements, meaning many startups trying to open business accounts are being turned down.

So banks haven’t been doing the best job in supporting startups in getting their businesses to market. That’s where FinTechs have a better consumer proposition.

The other interesting thing in the banking space is that there have been lots of challenger banks providing services to SMEs to make up for this gap in the market left by traditional banks.

A lot of the challengers have also driven improvements in due diligence, checking and reviewing you as a potential customer, then onboarding you and issuing an account within a matter of minutes rather than weeks.

 

Q9: Why do you think it’s important that more businesses are made aware of the no code route to embedded finance?

Steve: It used to be only a couple of years ago that everybody was talking about API-first and developer-first FinTech solutions. Now, it’s low code, no code, embedded finance or banking services.

I see it as a continuation of this theme, where you’re taking what are still quite complicated banking products and capabilities, but you’re simplifying the way that you offer and deliver it to the consumer. As part of that, logically, the less tech involved, the better.

With APIs, even a couple of years ago, providers used to say offer these banking services, so long as you connected to their API. This meant that the customer needed tech people who knew how to connect an interface to it. They would also need to have some knowledge about payments because the API has a lot of data information and terminology in it. So you need a tech person and payments person to do the API implementations.

With Orenda, you don’t need that anymore. You just need a marketing person who decides what products to offer. Then, you work with Orenda and choose the look and layout of the solution using brand colours – that’s it. You don’t need to pay for technical expertise, and you don’t need payment experts because it’s taken care of on our side of the fence.

 

Q10: What are the biggest challenges that embedded finance can help your clients to overcome?

Steve: If you look at the typical type of client, they want to access some financial service capability to offer a bank account product, a card product or some form of financial service solution to their market. Even if they tried to do that through some of the smaller, more flexible, fast-moving banks, it would still take them at least 12 months to get to a stage where they have an offer that they then need to package together to go to market.

Embedded finance is all about overcoming this. At Orenda, we’re helping companies and CEOs to grow their businesses by giving them access to these financial service products and capabilities. We do it quickly, cost-effectively, and we can help them to differentiate themselves in the market.

 

Q11: What role has the Covid pandemic played in the uptake of embedded finance?

Steve: COVID and lockdown have increased the focus on digital banking, remote payments, digital payments and so on. Companies that had good solutions in that space have done really well, the numbers of customers have grown, and transaction volumes and values have seen their company values increase hugely.

Organisations, whether it’s banks or organisations in that space, who didn’t have a good solution, got caught out. They’re now trying to work out how they can catch up by looking for solutions and partners that can help them do the things that worked really well during lockdown.

 

Q12: Where do you see embedded finance heading over the next 5-10 years?

Steve: I don’t see the future as incumbent banks versus challengers. Incumbent banks are likely to partner more with challenger organisations that can help them get access to distribution channels. Therefore, there will be more partnerships with FinTechs, brands and banks to help deliver a range of financial products and services.

Orenda sits at the intersection of that new ecosystem. We can help banks go direct to market as well as helping them to build out distribution channels with third-party partners so they can get their products and services to market cheaper than they can do today.

 

Q13: Are there any emerging FinTech trends or innovations that you’re most excited about?

Steve: One of the things I’m most excited to see more of is the unbundling of financial services.

In the beginning, when you wanted banking, you went into a bank, and they gave you a card, and they gave you a bank account. That gave you the ability to make payments, either cheques or cards or wire transfer money from one account to another. They might have also offered you some insurance and some other products and services, but banking was the core stuff.

Now, we’ve been able to unbundle everything, so we’re adding in lending capability, rewards, insurance products and services, and we can add in all sorts of other solutions and services. So, when a customer comes to us, they can choose an end to end solution, or they can choose to handpick the financial services they want to offer to their target consumers.

So in the future, if businesses want to only offer a lending product, they can just come to us and take lending products. If they want the whole solution end to end, they can take all of that, but we’re giving them the choice of what it is they want and how they offer it to their consumers.

 

Q14: What benefits of embedded finance do you wish every business knew about?

Steve: A lot of non-financial service organisations do not don’t realise how easy it is to embed financial services into their offering. In reality, it’s actually pretty cheap to get up and running and have the more complex aspects managed for you.

Even a couple of years ago, the services that we offer were almost unheard of. I still speak to people who can’t quite believe how cheap it is to access these products and bundle them and onward offer them to their target consumers.

It’s not solely the price that makes it interesting, but it’s important that businesses have the knowledge and understanding that they can access this type of capability.

So we are doing some really smart, great stuff, and doing it really quickly – but it’s built on a platform of delivering that off the back of these licensed registered companies that have to make sure they do things in the right way.

 

Conclusion

We’d like to thank Steve for taking the time to sit down and talk to us about Orenda and all things embedded finance.

The key takeaway? Embedded finance is here to stay and, in the future, organisations will be able to pick and choose their own financial services they require at a much more granular level.

In the meantime, Orenda continues to work hard to create a future where every business can create more revenue streams by offering these financial services to their customers quickly and at a low cost.

Want to find out more about Orenda and the products they offer? Click here.

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