A startup emerges from giants

By Devie Mohan
Posted on February 24, 2017

Devie Mohan spent the last year focusing on how to help people make better financial decisions, and used a startup approach to solve the challenge.

I have been fortunate to be part of the Think Forward Initiative for better financial decision making since February 2016. ING, together with partners CEPR, Deloitte, Microsoft, Dell EMC and Dimension Data, set up a working group last year to create well-researched, practical, relevant and useful financial decision making tools for the wider population. The aim of the initiative was to understand how and why we make certain financial choices, and whether it’s possible – with the help of technology – to empower us to make better decisions around those choices. We started our journey dissecting the mind of the consumer, and it has been a fascinating journey from that academic view of financial decision making, to the creation of tools that encompass the spirit of this initiative.

Borrowing behaviour was one of the key focus areas identified by the participants to work on; borrowing money when it could be avoided, not making an effort on savings, not finding a way out from the vicious life cycle of debt and more debt – all real issues we wanted to find workable solutions for. With the help of our research team, we uncovered two behaviours in borrowing that would help us directly with the tool we would build:

  • Borrowing, especially borrowing for purchase decisions, is largely an emotion-driven decision making process, whether borrowing via credit cards, bank loans, overdrafts or peer to peer loans.
  • Social media data has tremendous power in understanding key borrowing behaviour.

Several meetings, workshops and pressure cookers in Frankfurt and Amsterdam later, we are pleased to have a working prototype of a solution that can help consumers immediately with their borrowing behaviour. How we attacked the key problem was by creating a startup project with resources spread between ING, CEPR, Deloitte, Microsoft, Dell EMC and Dimension Data. We had teams working on this from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and Australia. We had amazing people, and limited resources, just like a real startup.

Can I afford this?

We were first tasked to come up with ideas. We came up with tonnes of them, and most turned out to be quite practical to implement (no one came up with a space-station-based idea, disappointingly). We then moved on to idea development, need gaps, solution development that fills the need gap, and finally a solution with a very well-defined value proposition. And the best part was that it didn’t take months or years to come up with all this – it took just three or four of us to come up with this in our monthly workshops. We also created a detailed business plan, revenue model, go-to-market plan, and even a focus group feedback and a polished startup pitch and presentation by the time we had reached the third workshop.

What we now have is #CanIAffordThis (Can I Afford this?), a tool that sits on your browser and your phone to enable the consumer to check whether they can actually afford something just based on social media data analysis, and what impact a purchase is going to have in their financial situation. Emotional decision making during purchases is a real problem that drives consumers into revolving debt, regretful purchases and poor planning of their finances. We aim to help solve this problem by attacking a small, yet crucial, aspect in their lives.

This tool is just one of many that has come out of the ING Think Forward Initiative. I’m pleased to open up the invitation on behalf of the Think Forward team to come and listen to us present and pitch all our solutions in Munich next month.

The event will enable us to focus on how to combine the innovative and scientific insights we’re gathering about people, their social environment and the economy into practical solutions that will help people make better financial decisions. There’s also an exciting line-up of keynote speakers from the academic and fintech worlds, as well as interactive breakout sessions to delve deeper into certain topics. You can find more details here or register now there.

This article was originally published on BankNXT, a place for innovative financial professionals to find knowledge and thought leadership, and the community they need to successfully compete in an ‘engagement banking’ era.