MP recently spoke with Neel Ganu, Co-Founder & CEO of Finch. Always looking for unique solutions to complex problems, he co-founded Finch to fundamentally change the way people manage their money and empower younger generations financially.
Neel has undergraduate degrees in Computer Science (Monash University), Finance (University of Melbourne), and an MBA from MIT Sloan. He is also a CFA charter holder.
Before Finch, Neel was a Senior Director at Fidelity, the first employee in the US at N26 (Berlin-based challenger bank), and a financial services strategy consultant. He unsuccessfully tried to buy a community bank, leading him to author a Harvard Business School case on core banking systems. Neel is an evergreen enthusiast of how fintech is changing the world.
We have a big vision – to close the generational wealth gap. To do so in a meaningful way, we’re building the best home for your money. We’re starting with creating the best card to help people invest and build credit.
The traditional financial system is designed to benefit itself, and institutions do not always encourage us to exhibit the right behaviors. We’re creating a unique financial institution – Finch is designed to benefit our customers.
What does Finch stand for as a business, and why?
Finch stands for doing well by doing good. For us, this means two things:
Firstly, empowering people with the knowledge and tools to make the most of their money.
Secondly, creating a business model where when our customers win, we win.
By empowering people with the information and tools to spend, save, invest, and borrow, we enable people to be in control of their financial situation. People who are financially empowered are more confident to make decisions that change the trajectory of their lives. As a company, Finch wants to be there to help support these decisions.
Traditionally, the business model of banks and credit card companies is designed to benefit themselves. Banks take deposits, lend them out, charge people interest, keep most of it, and pay very little. Credit card companies offer enticing rewards and make it easy to overspend while charging predatory interest rates on the other side. Our business model is designed where when our customers win, we win.
How is Finch empowering people to better benefit from their everyday finances?
Financial empowerment is the confidence and ability to make decisions that change the trajectory of your life. Finch starts by creating the best card to help people invest and build credit.
As a generation, Millennials are holding back. 57% aren’t investing, and 46% feel held back by their credit score. By not investing and building credit, they could be missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in long-term wealth. This could mean the difference between living a full life and retiring comfortably at the age of 55 or missed opportunities and working tirelessly at the age of 70 with their golden years nowhere in sight.
Finch empowers people by providing them with the knowledge and tools. We’ve created a product that eliminates all friction from investing and credit building. By linking Finch to your existing checking account, people can start investing with rewards and building credit. In the future, Finch will automate every aspect of your financial life and become the best home for your money.
We unlock real economic mobility and enable access to equitable financing options for a market segment that has been traditionally overlooked and underserved.
Where did the name Finch come from, and why was it chosen?
The Finch bird played an essential role in the inception of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. They showcase adaptive resilience and the ability to diversify rapidly, adapt to new challenges, and respond to new environmental opportunities.
Our name, Finch, represents our core purpose of helping our customers spread their wings to reach financial freedom and that we have adapted to market needs.
Finch represents the next evolution of banking.
What three characteristics define an effective leader, and why?
Connected to the problem they are solving. Being connected to your vision and genuinely believing in the problem you are solving creates great alignment in every decision and action taken. This helps your team, and you take steps towards Mount Everest every day.
Integrity. Integrity is doing what you say you will do. Making sure you never stray from your morals and staying consistent in your decisions creates trust and loyalty with customers, employees, and investors.
Empathy. A company is not the processes or products you create, but it is the people you have with you. Connecting with and understanding people is a core characteristic of an effective leader.
Being an effective leader is not a destination but a journey, with these three characteristics as guiding principles.
What are your three greatest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?
These questions just got a little more personal!
Fear of failure. The fear of failing in achieving our big vision is my greatest fear as an entrepreneur. There are many factors at play – some in your control, while some entirely out of your control. While giving those factors in my control my best, I remind myself that failure isn’t the opposite of success. You only truly fail if you give up. If you believe in the vision, stay the course.
Fear of rejection. Building a business is always a story of ten thousand “no’s.” Although you develop a thick skin, the fear of rejection sometimes creeps in. Perspective is an essential guiding principle here – you don’t need everyone to say “yes” – just the right people to say “yes.”
Fear of letting people down. When it comes to taking a risk on a new endeavor and having people alongside you on the journey, natural fear is disappointing them if things do not go as planned when turning your vision into reality. While you can’t make everyone happy, the important thing is to give it your all, so you know that you’ve given it your best shot.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful leader?
While many written stories of successful leaders have made it, there are many more unwritten stories to consider. I do not believe there is a single formula to becoming a successful leader – but one consistent theme.
To find your version of a successful leader, it’s essential to be flexible and iterate based on learnings and feedback. That way, you can achieve your version of success.
What are three obstacles you’ve faced while preparing Finch to launch this year, and how have you overcome them?
Not enough hours in a day. When you’re preparing for launch, there is a lot to do, including remembering to eat, stay active and sleep. I find myself wishing for more hours in the day! There is no way around this other than staying laser-focused and prioritizing the most important things.
The technical challenges of launching an innovative product. Innovating in a regulated space is challenging, and we have had technical challenges in launching an innovative product. To overcome this, we worked closely to ensure vendor alignment and that the benefit to the customer is always prioritized.
Managing a customer base through a product evolution. Finch is in the midst of an evolution – from a separate checking account to ‘wrapping around’ your existing checking account. Managing our customer base through this evolution has had its challenges; however, effective and regular communication always ensures that customers are aware of changes to their accounts (and the range of benefits they will soon be receiving!)
How do you deal with doubt?
At times, doubt does creep in; however, it is always important to recalibrate your focus and ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing.
I first remind myself of my bigger vision, then surround myself with the best support to achieve my goals. The most crucial step is acting.