What happens when a South African banking executive with a penchant for taking on frontier assignments teams up with a game-changing British innovator who was one of the first people to complete the Oxford Fintech Programme when it started in 2017? A glimpse of the future emerges.
Meet Craig Bond and Steve Le Roux, the driving force behind Envel, a world-first revolutionary AI-powered bank that uses Artificial Intelligence to optimise customers’ income, manage spending in real-time and help build wealth autonomously. Envel is a Harvard-founded, MIT-backed Fintech autonomous bank that leverages AI and behavioural science to optimise people’s finances in real-time and automate their budgeting, savings, and investments. Steve and his team invented a new way of banking that exists at the intersection of ethics and Artificial Intelligence. Envel wants to play a critical role in helping young people become financially fit and develop sustainable spending habits so that they don’t struggle with debt after graduating from college.
Envel is a complete startup digital bank designed for a young generation of consumers looking for financial guidance. They are at the frontline of helping Americans better manage their money. Steve’s invention was led by behavioural science when he became aware of the debt problems facing young people leaving college in the USA.
The Envel team consists of founder and CEO Steve Le Roux, who came up with the idea for Envel in 2016 while studying at Harvard University. Together with Co-founders Diederik Meeuwis and Matina Dimitriadou, the Envel team includes talented individuals who have worked at Paypal, Barclays, Santander, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan & Chase, and Circle. Craig Bond serves as Envel’s President and Chairman. He is the former CEO of Barclays Africa and Absa Retail and Business Banking, Standard Bank Africa, American Express South Africa, former Chairman of MasterCard (South Asia Middle East Africa Board) and Ford Financial Services (Pty)Ltd.
A bank that places human behaviour and AI at the centre of its business model is worth watching. They are committed to helping people who do not have the time, skills or desire to manage their finances is what a bank of tomorrow should be centred around.
What can African banks learn from this game-changing startup? We identified three insights that we believe can shift how a banking brand can elevate its equity in a changing marketplace.
Hack the marketplace with behavioural science.
The foundation of a bank’s relationship with its customer is entirely dependent on the customer’s behaviour and informs how the bank services the customer and the products it curates for them. This hack is yet to be fully explored by brand owners. Envel began by designing a robust customer experience before the technology. They understood that people’s behaviour is unpredictable in an immersive marketplace that requires meaningful brand experiences to enhance customer interactions. Envel understands where the future lies and has built a business that taps into the behaviour of today’s customers. What sets Envel apart from competitors is the willingness to place the customer at the centre of their product innovation. In our experience, the voice of the customer is most times relegated to the marketing function. It defeats the purpose of shaping customer–centric strategies.
To hack the marketplace requires going beyond broad insights, past stereotypical profiling of segments and away from the homogenous representation of diverse cultures and lived experiences. Intuitive customer journey mapping is needed to create points of interception where the brand and the customer co-exist in a mutually beneficial manner. Envel understands that the future is young. Africa has nearly a billion people under the age of 35 years. Our banking models need to stay ahead of the curve and lead by designing products and experiences with the future in mind.
Wisdom is as good as those who use it.
The combination of Craig Bond and Steve Le Roux is a team we admire. Currently seasoned bankers lead African banks and have made a traceable difference in finance. However, succession planning is not occurring timeously. Young bankers are still waiting in the wings to define their future. The wisdom of elders must inform transformation coupled with a willingness to allow young talent to set in motion modern-day strategies. Craig and Steve have found this balance where wisdom meets youthful thinking to shape a new banking experience that embraces a young mindset.
A strong brand is not necessarily the biggest.
The cornerstone of a strong brand is to maintain consistency across all touchpoints that an organisation interfaces with its customers. Technology businesses changed the game and brought sophistication and diverse micro-networks. The strongest brands are not heritage companies anymore but rather those born and existing in the age of transformative change. Modern brands are creating themselves and know what people want before they do. Tik Tok and Savage X Fenty have created a blended culture where social currency and personalisation are the differentiators of their businesses.
Envel is a prime example of what a 21st-century banking brand should strive to be – brand-building through solving customer pain points, integrating the customer’s voice in product development and existing where the challenge is the greatest. Brands of tomorrow must leverage their brand equity through interactions and not advertising and learn to embrace an ‘always on’ demeanour. Today is an opportunity for brands to take stock and course-correct their strategies to harness a marketplace where working from home and online shopping experiences have altered our reality and behaviours.
Envel is up against some of the world’s most sophisticated banks. They understand that hacking the marketplace starts with a fundamental shift of our worldview. Envel’s foundation is firmly in place. All we can do is watch how they evolve in the next five years.