The ^Finance story
A conversation with Dave Corbett
P^werFinance is the new kid on the block in financial services. CEO Dave Corbett explains what it does, why it’s needed and what the future of finance will look like.
Dave: We’re removing the barriers for organisations to integrate finance into their business, enabling them to provide much better customer experiences and enhance their revenue. We aim to help customers complete their customer’s experience with finance.
P^werFinance looks after all the compliance, regulation, technology for product innovation and infrastructure to operate a finance business. The customers are charged on a pay-as-you-go model, and we grow in line with the customer.
Dave: We start from the assumption that finance is a good thing – but it could be a lot better than it is. It’s very hard to get into the business of providing finance because of cost barriers and the amount of compliance and administration involved. Our mission is to turn that on its head and make it very easy to get into finance in a responsible and managed way.
I’ve always been excited about the power of finance to enable people and communities to invest in themselves, boosting social mobility and equality. That’s why we chose the name P^werFinance – it speaks to our goal of empowering New Zealand businesses and people through more affordable, easier access to finance.
Dave spent many years working for PwC in Auckland and London, cutting my teeth valuing the remnants of Lehman Brothers after the Global Financial Crisis. In those days we were having to do something like 20 million valuations in one day, which was impossible without a lot of smart technology. So when I left PwC I knew technology could enable more efficiencies and better outcomes for customers.
I wanted to help existing finance companies to re-platform to offer better costs, which will benefit the country as a whole. However, after exploring various options our team realised the old technologies they are built on – tech stacks in the finance sector are an average of 40 years old – mean there’s no way to easily integrate new platforms.
That’s why our focus is supporting and enabling the customer first. With our technology, we’re literally building the customer into everything we do.
Dave: Businesses are increasingly pressured to find new revenue streams, so this makes our finance platform particularly relevant. We’re helping businesses give a better customer experience and provide more value, which is a winning proposition for them and for us.
And with recent job losses and disruption, people are also looking to reinvent themselves and reinvest in their futures, from moving city to retraining in new careers. A more flexible and cost-effective way of doing things is more important than ever. We’re just allowing people to back themselves.
Dave: Businesses are understandably reluctant to commit to a significant change all at once. By being an “as a Service” business, we allow them to dip their toes in the water, so they can build up their own evidence it works without going the whole hog. It provides a natural and logical way to grow their finance business.
Dave: Finance is about more than just the commercial segment. Some communities, such as Māori, faith groups or even environmental groups, are looking for ways to express their identity and the current banking system doesn’t have the flexibility to provide what they need.
We’re working to enable courageous community leaders to provide a service that meets their needs, such as identifying the borrower as a hapu or iwi rather than an individual. We can tailor our services to each group, but enable them to benefit from using a shared platform that reduces costs and removes all the complexity.
Dave: I don’t think open banking is a big enough step, nor is it moving fast enough. New Zealand has adopted the UK standards on open banking, except in the UK, fintechs have the right to connect with banks. In New Zealand, they have to negotiate individually with each bank. We have to change this, as it makes it almost untenable to be a fintech in New Zealand.
What we’re doing is helping leapfrog open banking to enable smart banking, creating a platform for innovation. We want to empower fintechs to grow much stronger, not just by providing access to data but helping them develop new products to enrich the whole financial system.
Dave: We’re a locally-owned company with a range of investors experienced in finance and technology, who support us with world-leading blockchain R&D, financial expertise and funding. Increasingly, businesses we approach as customers are interested in becoming shareholders, which helps us understand their needs and grow at the same time.
Dave: I think the future of finance is embedded finance, where lending and payments is part of a business’s overall experience. Instead of one financial sector, finance will be split and embedded across businesses and community organisations.
Lots of money is being spent on things that don’t add value or improve lives. What we save on efficiencies could become a dividend to all New Zealanders, to enable them to buy homes, clothing and other things that make their lives better.