How Digital Banks Can Cross Over to the Physical World With Coenraad Jonker, Co-Founder and CEO, Tyme Bank

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Welcome to another episode of Scratch! In this week's episode Eric Fulwiler is joined by Coenraad Jonker, Co Founder & CEO of Tyme Bank, the leading challenger bank in South Africa with 6 million customers.

Tyme has just expanded in the Philippines to help 52.1 million unbanked citizens. At Singapore Fintech Festival, our conversation covered the origin of Tyme, how they built a successful challenger product and brand and how they plan to become a true rival brand.

This is a fascinating conversation, tune in!


Eric: Hey, before we get into today's episode, I have a favor to ask actually. So we are now over a year in with Scratch. We've recorded about 50 episodes and by the time you're listening to this potentially more, it's been amazing and I've really appreciated the feedback and support from you all. But I really want to try with the second year to get scratch in front of a wider audience. And so I'm asking you if you've been listening for a while or if you're new, if you find this content valuable, if you're supporting what we're trying to do, I would really appreciate it if you could just take a second press pause on this episode. Either leave a review or share this episode and scratch with someone else who you think would find it valuable. It would mean a ton to me and to us as we're really trying to build the audience and the rival brand and get this content in front of more people that we think and that you think can help. Thank you so much for the continued support. Now onto the episode,

Coen: Success is firstly about timing. Secondly about quite a bit of luck, but then it's about resonance. It's about creating something that people recognize as something that belongs in their world and that is a good thing in their world. And I think that we were lucky enough to get timing right, but also invested quite heavily in creating something that we believe people would recognize as a good thing in their life and something that will bring them empowerment, will bring them agency and will help them build a bridge between their lives and the former economy that they intuitively knew had to be built at some point.

I'm Eric Fulwiler, and this is Scratch bringing You marketing lessons from the leading brands and brains rewriting the rule book from scratch for the world of today.

Hey everyone, a very special episode of Scratch Today, both because it was recorded live at Singapore FinTech Festival, which if you've never been, and this was my first time, it's, it's amazing, there's 60,000 people and it truly is a global FinTech conference. But man, there is so much going on in the FinTech space in Southeast Asia in general, how many of these categories are changing in the brands and the businesses that are growing and taking advantage of that. But it's also special because sometimes you come across people in life, but also when you get to interview a lot of people for a podcast where you feel like you really just have kind of a connection from the very beginning and it makes for a really organic, interesting, informative interview. And at least for me, that was the case with Coen. Coen Jonker is the co-founder and CEO of TimeBank, which I believe is the leading challenger digital bank in South Africa right now.

They have 6 million customers down there and is really a success story for the African continent overall and globally in terms of a challenger bank that has really gained traction and been successful. They just launched in the Philippines to 51.2 million unbanked citizens and we talk about the origin story of time, how they built a successful challenger product and brand, but also where they're going from here in Southeast Asia and also more generally how they're planning to take time from a challenger into a true rival, a business that has truly redefined the category that they're in globally. So without further ado, please enjoy as I really did this conversation with Kun Yoker of TimeBank. All right. We are here in Singapore at the Singapore FinTech Festival, 60,000 people I've been told, which is crazy. You can probably hear a bit of the background noise vo a crowd that is here. But I'm very excited to sit down with Coen Jonker today, co-founder and CEO of TimeBank. How are you doing,

Coen: Eric? Lovely to be joining you here, having a really exciting week at the festival.

Eric: Amazing. And you've been based in Singapore for a while now?

Coen: Yes, we relocated here January last year and before that I was in Hong Kong for about six years. Okay.

Eric: Yeah, my, I've been to Asia a few times, but I actually haven't been to Singapore and I guess it's only been two days, but it's amazing. I mean there's so much going on just so there's a different compared to London or New York, it just seems like there's a different energy, particularly in the FinTech community here.

Coen: I think this city is an extraordinary study in design and the power of design and the power of foresight and what has been created here since 1965 for a little island state. City state is truly extraordinary and the only way to experience it is to cover Spain, Tanya.

Eric: Yeah, and the, it's not really the closest thing, but one of the places that it feels like in certain ways to me is Dubai. And actually someone was telling me this week that the Emirati came to Singapore 40 years ago and saw what they were building here, and that has influenced how they've built Dubai. It's interesting, we had on the podcast a guy from Dubai Tourism who's responsible for essentially building the brand of Dubai on the consumer side, but also on the business side to get businesses to come to Dubai. You definitely see some of the similarity in terms of how the business quote of Singapore and Dubai have been built, but also the brand as well.

Coen: Yes, I can see those similarities and I think even before that I think Hong Kong has a lot in common as well as a city but I find the three cities texturally very different. So the recipe might be very similar but the experience is very different. And again, the only way to do justice to that conversation is to experience it for yourself.

Eric: Yeah, totally agree. All right, so before we get into the time Bank story and some of the conversation that we're going to have today that I'm very excited about, want to start with a bit of an icebreaker question, which is what's a brands that you're very passionate about right now and why?

Coen: Eric, I'm going to be very boring and say Tesla.

Eric: Tesla, okay.

Coen: For me, what they've been able to do in putting distance between their brand and brand positioning and any other brand in the industry has just been phenomenal. The other aspect that I really love about them is how they have been able to mobilize user content and user opinions to drive what I think is sort of best in class net promoter score in the world.

Eric: It is amazing because it's one of those brands where a lot of people in the industry will say they don't do marketing and they don't do paid advertising, but they do a ton of marketing in terms of Elon Musk and how he's built a brand and PR and all those things that they do which is one of my, I don't know if pet peeve is the right word, but it's one of my strong points of view on modern marketing and modern brands, particularly for challenger brands, is a lot of people say, oh, they don't do marketing. In the FinTech world, particularly in London, when I got there seven years ago with Monzo and Volute and Starling and these types of challenger banks that were coming up, there was a lot of conversation around how they didn't do marketing because they didn't do paid advertising, they didn't show up on tv, they didn't have the bus ads and all that stuff, but they did a ton to position the brand in a very sharp and differentiated way to build community around what they were doing to build advocates to get their brand out there in a certain way, some of them more founder led than others like Tesla has been. But marketing is so much more than just paid advertising. It's how you bridge the value of the product you're building to the needs of the customer in the market. And there are many different ways to do that.

Coen: Yes, and for me, the Taj Mahal, the holy grail of marketing is when you don't need to tell your own story. If you can get to that point where the world tells your story for you and particularly people who are not getting paid by you are telling the story for you, I think then you've sort of hit that sort of flow of trust that a business needs to live in.

Eric: And at the end of the day, the best marketing is a great product and the most effective form of marketing is word of mouth, always has been, always will be. So let's get into talking about time. I want to start with what I'm calling the origin story. So let's start with for people who maybe haven't heard of TimeBank, how would you describe it?

Coen: So time is a multi-country digital banking business passionate about human potential and unleashing human potential and focused on two segments underserved consumers and small and micro businesses in emerging markets. So we have a bank in South Africa, we have a bank in the Philippines, we headquartered in Singapore and we run a development and engineering team in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Eric: I think it's interesting, we do a lot of work in the challenger banking space that was at Lebanon F before starting rivals. So I've kind of been in this world of challenger banks for a little while now, and a lot of them are about not the same thing, but their purpose sits in the same ballpark, if you will, underserved a lot of the business, a lot of the market, whether it's on the consumer side or on the business side that has been hard done by or not served well by the traditional FS and banking world. So how do you differentiate within that? Or is that not a concern because there's actually so much opportunity that there's enough space for multiple challenger banks to kind of have the same vision and the same purpose? Or is there something a little bit more sharper or different about how you're building and how you're thinking about the vision for time?

Coen: Eric? I think the story is very different for emerging markets and for mature markets. And I think that it is true to say that in emerging markets, the blue ocean is still enormous. You can go to one of these large markets and you find somewhere between 30 and 80% of people in the market who have never had a bank account before in their life not even to speak of other products like insurance being able to borrow invests and so on. Having said that, I do think that even in a market like that, standing out from the crowd is important. Finding a unique space is important, and I think the space we found as a business is in the crossover between the physical and digital space in people's lives. So if you say to me what is our claim to fame as a business, our ability to deliver digital channels inside physical retail stores we use digital kiosk that we put in physical retail stores and other high footfall environments and then we integrate into cash registers and checkout points for the purpose of cash management. And in this way we sort of replicate the sales and service function of a branch and the cash management function of a traditional bank branch, but in a way that we do add a fraction of the cost and in a user experience that is much better integrated into people's lives.

Eric: And I really want to dig into that because I think that's such a point of differentiation on the product side, but also on the brand side compared to a lot of the other challenger banks in the market that are digital only. Before we get into that, I want to ask one more question kind of in this origin story bucket, if you will, which is there's so many challenger banks now, there's a lot that we've heard of and a lot of others that we haven't yet heard of or maybe haven't been successful. What was it about time, I'm sure there's so many things that go into making a business like this, the success that it is, but if you had to try to boil it down, what was it that you think allowed for time to become the success story that it is?

Coen: If you believe the research, which I do given my own experience success is firstly about timing. Secondly about quite a bit of luck, but then it's about resonance. It's about creating something that people recognize as something that belongs in their world and that is a good thing in their world. And I think that we were lucky enough to get timing right, but also invested quite heavily in creating something that we believe people would recognize as a good thing in their life and something that will bring them empowerment, will bring them agency and will help them build a bridge between their lives and the former economy that they intuitively knew how to be built at some point.

Eric: I totally agree on luck being one of, if not the biggest factor to me it's luck, hard work, and smart work probably in that order. But I really love that kind of perspective about resonance. And I'd be curious with time and the context of the conversation around luck being a big factor in success, was that something that you kind of found, you got lucky and found that point of resonance or how, I'm sure the answer is both, but how much did you identify what would create that point of resonance and then go build it versus testing and learning along the way and then finding that resonance and double downing doubling down on it?

Coen: An analogy that I would use to describe this yin and yang of reson resonance is sort of the archetypes of a sculptor and a dancer. And so if you think about the sculptor, you do have to go into the market with your own agency intact and a world to shape the market to your own world. And I do believe in this sort of Steve Jobs mindset that people don't really know what they want. And so there must be this sort of imposing yourself on the market aspect in your thinking. But then there must also be this what I would call the dancer's attitude, which treats the universe as the choreographer and doesn't invent the steps, but listens to the signs, the signals that you get from your environment. But the dancer's job never stops with just interpreting it is also taking those signals, those sort of instructions from the universe, from your customers, if you will and make it your own interpreting it and putting your own spin and your own flair into the execution of it. And if you can, I think hold those two archetypes in your mind when sort of doing this dance or finding resonance I think you can do it, but as you can, and I hope the way I described it is not too abstract, but I do think that it is much more of a art than a science to get it right.

Eric: I really like that I've heard the art science metaphor. I haven't heard the sculptor dancer metaphor, I'm going to let that one digest, but I really like it the whole Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, if you ask people what they wanted, faster horse type of thing, my contrarian opinion about that. Cause I totally agree. I think there's a bit of a survivor's fallacy because all of the businesses that become super successful have some element of we didn't just listen to what people said, we came up with a thing they didn't even know they wanted. But there are so many failed businesses that have tried to do that as well. And so at the end of the day, it's both. It is listening and finding a way to contribute to what the real needs of people are. A lot of them they know and a lot of them they don't. And it's it's one of those things where you can figure out the factors of what goes into making a business, any business, not just a FinTech or challenger bank successful, but just because you put them together doesn't mean that it ends up with the same product or story at the end.

Coen: I, I'm completely with you on that. I often say that the best things about our business, the most interesting and creative aspects of our execution was certainly not in my mind and I could not even have imagined them when we started. And in this way it is like a dance or a conversation. It's a back and forth, back and forth, learn, test, do learn again listen again. And so the one thing I will say is the business of time looks nothing I imagined it to be when I had that sort of first picture in my head of where we'd end up.

Eric: And so much of what I'm sure it's the same in the product world, but certainly in the marketing world is focused on a static moment in time trying to build a brand, a marketing campaign, a team that is fit for purpose for how things are right now. But we always talk about four principles of what we call rival brands. So challengers that have actually been able to change the category, not just attempt to change the category. And that's being relevant to the needs of the customer, authentic to who you are, differentiated in what you bring to market, but also dynamic because long term, even medium term success with how quickly a category like this is changing is dependent on not just developing a brand or a product that's fit for purpose for how things are right now, but the ability technologically, culturally, procedurally to be able to understand how things are changing and then adapt to how they're changing so that you can be fit for purpose consistently over time.

Coen: Yes, and I think this balance between the, let's call it the enduring aspects or themes of your business and the responsiveness of your business again, is a sort of fine art. And I, I've as a heuristic for myself found that if you lean towards consistency when it comes to identity and integrity about who you are and what you stand for in the markets, but lean into flexibility in terms of execution format, and even sometimes the tone and texture of communication, you can sort of find a way to not get lost not to become a chameleon in how you turn up in the market, but to maintain at the same time a level of flexibility and responsiveness to what a market asks of you. And I find that now interesting, particularly in the context of being in South Africa and being in the Philippines, which are two markets that have a lot in common. If you put them next to each other with a set of economic indicators, you will immediately see why a business like us would be in both those markets. But once you're in the market the nuances of the market the way people engage and so on, are very different. And you just couldn't afford to say, we are going to pitch up like a Coca-Cola or McDonald's just going to pitch up exactly the same in the two markets. I just don't think that works for our category

Eric: And that balance between knowing what needs to say the same and knowing and being able to change the things around that, we talk about it as load-bearing structures for our world is marketing. So load-bearing structures for the brand, what the brand needs to stand for consistently no matter when, no matter where it is in the world. But then the things around that, our model or our framework for building brand is actually called brand operating system in part because we believe just like an operating system, there are core tenants of it that are not going to change, but it need, it consistently updates and upgrades with the world around it. But that's where the magic lies, that's where the opportunity and also the risk lies is knowing what to change, when to change it and how to change it. But you definitely need that plasticity within how you do things to be able to be successful.

Really. I like that. I like load-bearing structure, plasticity balance and understanding where the load sit and where the movement's required. I think that's the interesting intellectually and emotionally challenging part of the conversation

Eric: There's some way I'm too jet lagged to figure it out, but there's some way to tie that load-bearing movement metaphor to the sculptor and the dancer. I just got to sleep on it and figure it out. So let's talk about the digital physical world. So the way I want to introduce this section, this chapter of the conversation is in our prep emails, and we didn't have a chance to sit down and actually prep before this conversation, but in our emails you wrote, I think the unique conversation around time is how a digital bank can cross over the digital divide into the physical world and do that without compromising the digital operating model or the cost efficiency that comes with it. It's about understanding customer behavior and integrating into the ecosystems where these people live their lives. Can you unpack that for us a little bit and what did you mean by that and why is it so important to time success?

Coen: So to understand the way we think about it, it's maybe useful just to describe what it looks like to a customer in the real world. So we've got close to 6 million customers in South Africa. Now only 20% of them onboarded as a customer using the traditional digital channels, apps and web

Eric: Only 20%? wow

Coen: Yes. So 80% of them onboarded in the physical world at kiosks in retail stores. And so what those 80% of customers would've experienced, they would've walked into a retail store. In the retail store, they would find a time bank kiosk or a go time bank kiosk in the Philippines. They would go up to the kiosk. Typically we would have what we call an ambassador next to the kiosk. Somebody from the local community would be able to explain to you what the kiosk does for you. And they would biometrically onboard onto a bank account, do a full customer identification process, and within somewhere between two and a half and five minutes, the machine would print them debit card, a visa debit card with their name on it, and that account would be live immediately. That customer would then typically take the cash that they have in their pocket, go to the closest checkout counter or till in the retail store, and they would deposit money into that account and that money would be available to them live in real time in the physical environment. Now, the way we've designed this initial engagement with our brand is that the entire experience starts in the physical world where that customer shops and does business today. And everything that we build into that experience, we build into that experience to be as familiar as possible to the patterns of behavior that they have on the day. They engage with us the first time. We then take them on a journey from that physical experience now that they have the account and we encourage them to download their app or to try the USD channel for those who don't have smartphones and still want to use digital channels. And then we start a process of behavioral nudges with them which we've refined over the last three years that essentially help them do the next little thing to get into the digital world and we nudge them up. Typically a active customer starts with us with two or three interactions in the first month and they build up to an average for the entire base of 11 transactions per month digital on the platform,

Eric: Digital touchpoint

Coen: Digital, yes. Per month. And it is that journey from the physical to the digital world that allows us to address a market segment that is well beyond the typical digital bank market segment, which is sort of digitally savvy, digitally native customers, but actually take people who are not in that world today and go with them on the journey into that world.

Eric: And it's interesting because that allows you to be a better digital version compared to the physical banks and a better physical version or I'm not explaining this well, but you know what I mean, you're able to bring the benefits of both worlds to the market. Was that the plan from day one?

Coen: No

Eric: Okay

Coen: So we started in our early days when we started experimenting, we started very much with a more digitally oriented proposition. And as we went into the market tested our different propositions, the market led us more and more into this engagement within the retail environment in particular within typically we would go first into F M C G retailers, so grocery stores. But we've also sort of done this in coffee shops in government offices, schools and universities pharmacies and other environments that are generally regarded by consumers and emerging markets as trusted environments where we leverage off the halo effect of the trusted brands where we engage. So if you are in a place like South Africa, Nigeria or the Philippines or Indonesia or any of these markets and somebody offers you something online your first response is to question the legitimacy of the thing that you've been offered. But if you get offered something that is in a sort of big shiny kiosk inside the retail store, which you've shopped at and your parents have shopped at the likelihood of you asking the question, is this even legit is so much lower?

Eric: Yep. Yeah. It's one of the things that we work on a lot, particularly in the FinTech space, finding that balance and for different types of FinTech businesses, it's going to manifest in different ways, but essentially it's that balance between innovation and trust. And so it's interesting that, and my next question is going to be about how you do that on the brand side, but from a product standpoint, leveraging offline channels and specific offline channels and thinking strategically about how you show up and where you show up is an interesting, and at least compared to the UK or the US I think very differentiated way of doing that. So you've talked a lot about customer behavior and it seems like you know as a CEO, and I always believe organizations take on the DNA of their ceo. So I'd imagine TimeBank as an organization is very focused on understanding, listening to customer behavior needs and then finding the right balance of how you lead them, where you think they need to go versus delivering on what they're asking for right now when it comes to, so we've talked a bit about what that has delivered for you on the product side. How does that translate to the brand and the marketing side? How are you listening to an understanding consumer behavior and the cultural context around that behavior to build a brand that people have equity with?

Coen: I think the way you ask the question is interesting because at the center of your question is this idea of people having to have equity with the brand. And I think that there, there's an idea that should sort of centrally in the way we want to position the brand and that is understanding the mindset of customers when it comes to money. And the truth of the matter is that most people in the markets in which we operate have very high anxiety levels. They're very fearful when it comes to money. Three out of four people are consistently anxious that they will not make it through the month with the money they have. And so money and survival are very closely tied in people's minds and they operate in a world where they don't have an experience of agency. So a lot of people just don't feel they're in control of their lives, they feel they're the mercy of the world. And so a central idea for us is can we create a brand? Could we create a brand where it's never about the brand but about the customer and particularly about the potential of the customer and the agency of the customer. Could we create a brand where what the customer experiences is not so much a bank that is awesome, but a bank that makes them feel awesome, that makes them feel that they have agency in their lives. And if I'm a customer, I actually feel empowered, I feel good about myself when I'm engaging with a brand. And so our payoff line in South Africa is, you've got this. And so the whole idea is we will give you the tools to make you feel like you've got this. And that is sort of what in my view also has to drive then product development and the question that our developers and our designers need to ask themselves, if I do something new on this platform, is it going to make the customer feel more in control of their finances, more in control of their lives? Is it going to make them feel that they have a sense of dignity or is it going to make them feel dumb? It's going to make them feel like they dunno what's going on this app. And so that has sort of driven us in a direction where we try to create an experience that's cleaner, that's simpler and that allows people to discover the environment rather than the environment. The in complexity of what sit behind the app shouting out at the customer when they open the app. And as I say this, I don't feel that we anywhere close to where we need to be. When you're sort of listening to your own story and you go, if I look at my own app, I feel like we have a long way to go to create the world where the brutal complexity of financial services all sit in the basement and what is presented to the customer is that sort of clean and empowering experience that we all, I think at a level sort of craven our lives.

Eric: So you actually led us to the next question that I wanted to ask you, which is not something I thought of ahead of time, but just hearing you talk about how you've thought about the brands, how you've thought about the value that it can bring to people beyond just the functional benefit because people buy and people bring brands into their lives for functional reasons and also emotional reasons, which I think the best brands are able to realize as much as the functional benefit of things. Is there a way or how is there, so you talked a little bit about how you feel like the product maybe isn't delivering on that brand or those are my words, not yours. There's opportunity to further deliver on that brand promise with the product and user experience. I'd be curious what the connection is and if you can actually get into how this works at time, that would be really interesting to hear what's the connection between marketing and product?And the reason I ask is because I'm really passionate, like I was saying at the beginning with the whole we don't do marketing conversation. I think a lot of financial services businesses, a lot of technology businesses think of marketing as a distribution function. And I actually think there's a huge opportunity for it to be more of an innovation function to actually bring the customer and the needs of the customer and the value that you're trying to solve for into the business to actually impact how product is developed and delivered as well. So I'd be curious, is there any bridge like that within time? And if so, what does it look like?

Coen: I certainly don't think that we necessarily have it right, but I will share some of the things we've done to try and be better to do better at that. Cause I completely agree with the way you describe the ideal relationship between marketing and product. So the first thing that we did in both our markets is we recruited our key marketing people very early on with an emphasis on digital and performance marketing skills over traditional brand marketing skills. A little bit of our initial mindset was that I as the founder would sort of add a lot of the story around the soul and the market position to the conversation. And then when we designed the bank upfront, we actually designed it as a team. So we worked together with the marketing people in the room to design the product and try to keep alive this conversation between what do we stand for and what are we building. I think that since launch, sometimes that's broken down and it's often broken down because then marketing people go out, they start spending more time with the agencies, they start spend more time on the aesthetics and so on. And the people who start instructing the product people are the revenue people. And so now there are things like, let's get the lottery into the app because that's going to make us money. Let's add some marketing of some additional products and so on. And the next time you look at it, the thing's making us good money, but it's certainly not exactly the way we would've liked it to look for that empowering customer experience. And I recognize there are trade offs and you can't sort of be completely idealistic about it. But as we are having this conversation, I think I'll walk out of here with maybe a sort of renewed energy to tie our marketing thinkers back into that product journey, into that design journey.

Eric: It's interesting. So for us working with businesses that are trying to change the category that canon does mean a lot of the startups and scale-ups in this world of FinTech and also other categories, but also we do a good amount of work with incumbents that either are launching some type of challenger thing going through a transformation, they want more of the challenger attitude and approach to how they do marketing. And so we kind of sit in this really interesting place in the industry and have this really interesting and I think valuable perspective because we see both sides and so we see what's the difference, whereas the contrast between how challengers are going to market and thinking about an activating marketing and how incumbents are, and obviously that's way one of the things that we see consistently is this is marketing as an innovation function tends to happen a lot more naturally within the startups and the scale-ups. And then as they get to scale, they bring in more traditional marketers, things get more siloed. Everything that you were talking about with marketers, spending time with agencies and all, I call that marketing for the sake of marketing. And it happens so much in big brands and big agencies and it's probably my biggest pet peeve after spending 10 years in advertising agencies. My goodness, that might be happening to us as we speak, But I think all growth ultimately comes from being able to understand and deliver in a differentiated way on the needs of the customer. And anything that is not focused on that is lost opportunity for growth. And so on the product side, there's a lot of that and obviously so much conversation around customer centricity, particularly in this world. But it's the same on the marketing side. Anytime your marketing team or your marketing function overall is not focused on understanding and delivering on the needs of the customer either through them functioning as an innovation function internally or through the marketing they're doing, I think good marketing, effective marketing and there's so many different ways, shapes and forms to do this, but it's delivering value to the audience in the wider market. And anything that's not focused on that I think is growth that's not happening and not being realized.

Coen: I think that's spot on. I think one thing that I found very useful and that we have consistently done is to put all our listening functions with the chief marketing officer. So all our customer conversation activities most of our more quantitative research and so on, you put that all of that with the marketing team and that at least helps for that two-way conversation to be in the same place as their execution. And I think sometimes the ways in which these things influence each other are subtle and it just has to do with people being personally connected to those conversations that happen from the customer side.

Eric: Yeah, one of the things that I really believe in is I think a big part of the role of marketing should be, and in successful high growth companies I think often is to make the businesses they work for more customer centric because that responsibility I think should exist across the board, but marketing is that bridge between the customer and the product. And so they should be the ones that are listening and bringing those insights into the organization and bringing that business overall more customer-centric. But it's not always that way. And it's one of those things where it's like just because you get it right at one point in time, it's a constant balancing act to be able to recalibrate, especially as you scale.

Coen: And sometimes it could be a small thing such as requiring everyone to sit in the call center from time to time and listen to customer calls. And so although marketing leads it I think thinking about it from a CEO's perspective, it would be a big mistake to say, well that's job, it's to lead it, but it's everyone's job to foster that understanding including in my view, your accounts department and your pricing people and your created risk people and your fraud people. It's as important that they understand the context of the world and their customers world when they engage.

Eric: Do you do that at time?

Coen: Yeah, we do. We do. So we encourage two things, people going out into shops and engaging with products and engaging with customers and people sitting in the call center and listening to customers complaints and compliments.

Eric: So I want to talk about the journey that you are at now and kind of the future for time. So I mentioned it briefly before, but we're very interested in this idea or observation that really the term challenger, which is so used in this world as well as others, is really a statement of intent rather than accomplishment. It's saying that you want to change an industry, you aspire to do that, but actually there's very few of those challengers that actually succeed in becoming what we're trying to build some equity into this term of rival become true rivals to the category and effectively change it. And I think time is certainly on that trajectory. So in this evolution from challenger to rival for time, I'd just be interested to talk about that and the challenges and opportunities that have come up. So let's start with this. So just last month I believe you launched in the Philippines and you talked about how there's some similarities between the markets of SA and the Philippines, but how did you land on the Philippines and why the Philippines versus expanding further into Africa, for example?

Coen: So as a rival, I like that I'm going to start using that term. I think as a rival one has to play to your own strengths. And so for us, picking a second market was sort of less about geographic expansion or creating a business that is contiguous from a geographic perspective, but it was more about going to the market where we believe that our particular strengths and our particular philosophy will be most successful. And so I won't bore you with the technical details, but it spans everything from the regulatory environment the competitive environment in the market the demographics and customer profiles through to things like the profit pools in banking, the level of served or underserved customers in the market, and very importantly the availability of retail partners. So the structure of the retail landscape and whether it is possible to find large scale retailers to do deals with and who would be as passionate as we are about industry transformation in banking.

Eric: And going back to our conversation around the load-bearing structures of a brand, of a product, of a company overall and the things that can and need to change to be able to be as effective in a new market. As you were in a former one, how were you thinking about, are thinking about that overall expanding into a second market, what are the things that are staying the same? What are the things that are changing? How are you trying to translate your success from South Africa to the Philippines? What do you think is going to be most important?

Coen: I think that's at the heart of successful multi-country expansion is figuring that out. And there's some things that easily falls into the centralization bucket. Things easily fall into the in-country bucket and there's some gray stuff in between to figure out the things that clearly on the load-bearing structure category are things like the technology stack the core people and skills to drive the underlying strategy the operational model, the basic policies and procedures and so on that you run. All of those things are highly translatable and we've seen that from South Africa to the Philippines. We cut the time to build a bank by two thirds and we cut the cost by nine 10th tenths. So we built a bank for a 10th of the cost in the Philippines have cost us in South Africa. And a lot of that was replicating the things that we had already built for South Africa. The things that are unique at the technical level it's things like changes in regulation that are unique but then the big changes are really in the behaviors, the prevailing behaviors in the market that you need to work with. So I spoke earlier about how understanding how a customer does business in the physical retail store is the key to putting them on the digital journey that is not actually the same market to market at a highly abstract level, it's the same. But as soon as you get into the next level of detail, people behave very differently in these markets. They're very different histories, very different priorities a very different cultural context. So in South Africa, funeral policy is a very important thing. It's not a very important thing. Funerals not a very expensive importance thing in the Philippines. In South Africa people completely trust their local retail store with cash. In the Philippines, people only trust some kinds of retail stores with cash. And I can go on and on. And understanding these nuances will determine both how you position the brand, but also what you prioritize in your product design and how you show up, what you launch first what you emphasize when you launch in the Philippines, people just love loyalty points. They love loyalty programs and they're willing to go the extra mile to get that extra loyalty point in a way that South Africans, so when we launched, we just had a whole different emphasis on loyalty from the emphasis we had initially in South Africa.

Eric: It's fascinating. I mean so much of it comes back to, it's kind of the red thread throughout this whole conversation, understanding and being able to adapt and build on the needs of the customer in the market and actually building outside in to what you actually need to deliver from a brand and a product. It's funny, I I've always thought when it comes to leadership outside of a marketing product, anything like that, just pure leadership and the ability to take feedback I think are two are the most important qualities. And I actually don't think either get talked about enough, maybe the ability to take feedback but not really. And that's because you know who you are, what you're good at and what you're not good at. The load-bearing structures of you as an individual and you understand and are able to adapt based on what people tell you, what you hear, what you see. And I think that's the case for successful organizations as well and the ability to take feedback. And so I'm kind of connecting the dots a bit to one of the principles that I've always held that I think is really see that playing out in what you're doing at time.

Eric: You just gave me a amazing aha moment as you were saying that. And what I realized is that there's a very close correlation between the attitude of a business and an individual to change and their inherent flexibility, their capability and their capacity emotionally and physically to change. And in the context of a bank and a digital bank a lot of that has to do with the pace at which software development and design can take place. Now in our business, we do about 120 cod drops in production per week every week of the year except it, which is the Vietnamese new year. And what that has done, our ability to actually do 120 code drops in production per week, it's given us more confidence to tell customers we will respond to them. If I was running an old tech stack in an old bank, I just have a less flexible attitude because I know that I can't stretch to what the customers are asking me even if I wanted to. And so that's sort of link between the psychology of change and the capability is maybe now that I say it maybe for some people or obvious point but one that I think will, I've profound implications for the trajectory of businesses over the next 10 years.

Eric:And I think there are so many similarities, truths, first principles within how you build a successful product and how you build a successful brand. Because the end of the day it's about delivering value, relevant, authentic, differentiated dynamic value to the market. And so I would ask, or I would even challenge, what is the equivalent of doing 120 code drops a week on the brand side? Is it testing and learning with a ton of different content? Is it the people sitting in the customer call centers and how they translate those insights back to the product team? But I think there's so many similarities. What works on the product side will work if it's translated correctly onto the brand side. And I think for a lot of product or technology led businesses, this is often how we have the conversation. It's how you think about building good product is how you should think about building good brand. And oftentimes that does need to get translated in terms of the process or procedures or how you actually do it. But I think that's really interesting because you see a lot of these successful challenger technology companies, FinTech companies, challenger banks that are really leading with how fast and consistent they're able to update their product. And it doesn't always translate to the brand side, but I think it should.

Coen:  That's a really interesting insight and a point that lands with me is this tasting and learning point. I think whether you call it growth hacking or simply IB tasting we certainly don't do nearly enough of that. I think it's a challenging thing to build into the DNA once you've sort of launched with high conviction that what works and what doesn't work. And you've got people who's who has have big opinions big characters with big opinions. And I'm certainly not guilty myself, but I think that building, if I had to do one thing different in launching our first bank, I would build growth hacking, AB testing, being much more data led at everything. I would build that into the business in a whole different way from the way we did it. We now doing it in the Philippines. It remains to be seen. I think we'll be much better at it there. But the idea of actually doing that with how your brand shows up that's a new one for me.

Eric: Well, I'm heading to the Philippines tomorrow, so I'll have to see how the brand is coming to life over there. I'm going to let you go. This conversation has actually gone on. I think this is one of the longer ones that we've done, but that's a sign of a good conversation. Before I let you go, last question to wrap things up, we've covered a lot of ground and I think this will be one of those conversations that probably over the next couple weeks I'll have little things that trickle out as I'm digesting everything that we've talked about cause there's so much good stuff in here. But if you had to pull out or sum up one thing that people should do differently after listening to this episode, what would it be?

Coen: Well, my mind is full of all the things I'm going to do differently to start with and I've mentioned a few of them. I think my encouragement to people will be to double down on engagement with customers and understanding, really understanding the customer's behaviors. But beyond that, the customer's underlying psychology I think it's only when we start understanding the motives, the drivers and the emotional states that we engage with that we can get beyond the mechanics to the heart of what drives a long lasting contribution to the world.

Eric: Amazing. I think that's a great place to leave it. Thank you so much for making the time. It was great to meet you. Really, really enjoyed this conversation.

Coen: Thank you

Scratch is a production of Rival. We are a marketing innovation consultancy that helps businesses develop strategies and capabilities to grow faster. If you want to learn more about us, check out If you want to connect with me, email me, eric£ or find me on LinkedIn. If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe, share with anyone you think might enjoy it, and please do leave us a thanks listening and see you next week.

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