In enabling access to continent-wide investment products for savers across Europe, Raisin has demonstrated a model for successful partnership between startups and the banking sector.
Founded in 2013, Berlin-based Raisin is a marketplace for investments throughout Europe, enabling its customers to take advantage of the best interest rates on offer from exclusive savings products from across the continent. Products are accessible in the customer’s preferred language and via a single registration, requiring only one identification. All deposits are fully protected up to an equivalent of €100,000 per depositor.
Raisin’s new concept proved popular with German savers, allowing the startup to expand rapidly into neighbouring countries. The company has gone from strength to strength since its launch, attracting 150,000 customers and entering into partnerships with 62 banks from 22 countries across Europe. Raisin’s employee head count has doubled in the past year to around 220, and the company scores highly with consumers across ratings portals.
By mid 2018, Raisin reached €8 billion in brokered deposits and is currently available 31 countries, with a localised presence in Germany, France, Spain and Austria.
Dr. Tamaz Georgadze, CEO and founder of Raisin, tells us more about the origins of the company and the secrets behind its success.
From your perspective, what have been the most influential or illuminating events in alternative banking, and why?
Skipping over the evolution of mobile technologies, and subsequent developments in encryption and secure payments, which have all obviously provided the greatest impetus to alternative banking, the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) has been one of the most fundamental factors in facilitating open banking. Consumers want simplicity and transparency, and PSD2 is a huge step in this direction. Permitting people to own their own data and other parties’ access to it in fairly uncomplicated ways has advanced the possibilities of modular banking, perhaps more than any other factor so far. PSD2 has enabled innovators like Raisin and many others to pioneer new products and services, offering them directly to customers, and also allowed us to partner with other financial and tech companies whose specialities can enhance our own.
Another way to put it is that the regulatory and competitive pressure pushing banks to open access to their APIs leads to more competition, greater transparency and, above all, more choice for customers. This also means banks will no longer be able to count on captive customers. In this context, easy access to information across banking institutions will make marketplaces like ours increasingly important in determining where customers put their money, based on the superiority of financial offers these platforms make available.
Finally, this situation also means an increasing availability of reliable and affordable data, making it possible for companies to offer products and services the instant that customers most need them, opening the field for the important emerging trend of context-based services and products.
Raisin is an exemplary case study of fintech-banking collaboration. What was your approach to starting the company from scratch?
Through careful product deliberation, never presenting ourselves as enemies to gain media attention, and traditional perseverance. It’s essential that your product or service is something banks or other potential partners can see as providing real value to their customers.
What were the biggest challenges?
Aside from regulatory compliance and the need to clarify whether you’re
a ‘friend or foe’, Fintechs looking to partner with big banks need to understand financial institutions’ pace and the necessary complexity of their decision-making processes. They can benefit enormously from our agility and speed, from our technological know-how and innovative capacity, but we need to come with a deep comprehension of their structures and requirements.
In terms of growth, the most challenging part is to convince the first bank partner to join your platform. But as soon as we could prove our business model works, it got easier. On the distribution side, it is beneficial to partner with leading neobanks and brokers in Europe – both N26 and BinckBank have put a lot of effort into translating our APIs into a neat, convenient product experience. Finally, I suggest maintaining a focus on hiring the talent most relevant for your company, as well as optimising your core product, to make sure you become and remain the best offer available to your potential partners.
You’ve managed to partner with 52 banks in a very short amount of time. What was your recipe for success?
It was important, for example, for us to give sales visibility and high priority: we – the founders – needed to allocate the majority of our time to it, taking direct responsibility for the area. We started with deep experience in finance from our work at McKinsey, so we had an understanding of what banks need, how they’re structured, and how to communicate with them, which gave us a head start. This background helped us to hone our initial offer to maximise its value for our partners, as well as connect with them and successfully convey all the reasons
why they should work with us.
Tech talent recruitment can be a major hurdle to company growth. How does Raisin find the right people?
We have high standards and we want the best people, so it is naturally challenging. But we have achieved real success with our hiring, doubling our tech and product teams over the past year alone. With English as our company language, we can search globally. When we find people with
the skills and motivation we need – once we’ve gone through our quite rigorous process of assessing and getting to know each other, and making a final decision – we support them throughout the relocation process, right up to providing them with a place to stay when they first arrive in Berlin and, of course, helping them adjust to life in Germany. Our team features 30 nationalities.
We do have some advantages, having started with an exceptionally strong team, since
talent attracts further talent. The Google alumni at Raisin, for example, are a selling point for people in tech.
The fact that a number of our current team leads started out with us as working students is a sign of how happy our employees are with us, thinking longer-term. Part of our draw has certainly been the opportunity that we offer people to develop. It doesn’t hurt, either, that we’re the first and leading company in our field, not to mention that our headquarters are in Berlin — one of the most liveable cities in the world, with a great startup scene and Germany’s fintech hub.
Like any company with meticulous hiring criteria, we encounter areas where it’s more difficult to find the right people, positions requiring particularly specific knowledge and skills, some senior positions etc. Developers and engineers are one of the most sought-after groups, especially for the backend. But we’re very satisfied with our current strategy and ability to attract talent.