Every day, thousands of purchases are made at retailers. And for every purchase made, there’s a receipt — a printed piece of paper describing who, what, when, where, and how something was paid for. Some people might mindlessly toss the receipt in the trash or stuff it into their pocket only to find it weeks later metamorphosed into a wad of paper on laundry day. As for the more diligent consumers, receipts might actually be read to make sure they weren’t incorrectly charged — and then proceed to follow a similar fate.
Point is — as consumers, it can be hard to keep track of all the receipts that are handed to us. Everyone can relate to carelessly throwing them away, misplacing them, or clearing them off the table out of frustration during tax season.
Luckily, Sensibill co-founders Corey Gross and Jamie Alexander saw this problem and created a solution for banks to help their customers better manage their receipts — digitally. Sensibill’s integration gives mobile banking apps the power to store, summarize, and analyze receipts. Not only does it increase the customer’s experience, the insight gained can help banks further cater to different people.
We had the chance to chat with Corey Gross further to learn a little more about Sensibill’s plans on expansion, the challenges they face, and his thoughts on the future of fintech.
Trulioo: Congratulations on your $17.3-million Series A financing round in March! We hear you will be investing in artificial intelligence and have plans to expand internationally, including the US, UK and Australia. With so many new fintechs entering the space, can you tell us how Sensibill differentiates itself in the market?
Corey: Thanks! We’re really excited about being able to grow Sensibill’s global presence and our deep learning expertise. There’s a lot of buzz around AI right now, and how it’s going to change the way we can solve big problems both inside and outside of financial services. We’ve been developing machine learning capabilities since day one - we’re teaching our machine to read receipts like humans do: identify items, the categories items belong to, the subtotal, the grand total and so on, so that every data point on the receipt is structured and understood. This is a unique approach that has been a big differentiator for us in the receipts and data insights world.
As it relates to how we’re different from other fintechs, our white-label partnership model with banks puts us less on the “disruption” side of the spectrum and positions us more as an “enabler.” We’re clearly an ally and not an enemy. We get to provide the best of what fintech has to offer - namely great design, user experience, and a valuable utility - and we pair it with the trust and loyalty that customers already have with their financial institutions.
Trulioo: What are the challenges of expanding into international markets? How do banks in different geographies differ?
Corey: Well, each market may have a very different banking culture even if they appear to have obvious similarities. In Canada, for instance, we have the Big 5 banks that are typically conservative from an innovation perspective because they operate in an oligopolistic system. There’s no real need to take big risks to transform or grow their business because market share is firmly established and doesn’t fluctuate much, if at all. When you try to deliver innovative, first of their kind solutions in Canada you can spend a lot of time trying to penetrate that shell of conservatism: You’re working hard to help them answer the question “why do this at all?” if even just to test the concept.
If we look at the UK or Australia, they can appear to be very similar – they have a Big 4 for instance – but in those places there’s a stronger movement towards trying new things and increasing collaboration between fintechs and banks. In the UK, there are movements that threaten traditional banking relationships like open banking, the PSD2 directive and so on, which has translated to institutions there taking innovation much more seriously. So here, while you still have to answer the question “why do this?” there’s much more of a willingness to try things out, because the banks understand that the upside for launching compelling new services can be great. That said, the challenge here is that the competition can be fierce and there are competing priorities that might lead to reprioritization if the business case associated with your project isn’t as compelling as the other long list of items they’d like to get out the door.
Another challenge is about resources. We’re a relationship business that does its best work when we’re on site with our partners helping them get to market. Today our client services team is based in Toronto and travels quite a bit. As we’ve been ramping our operations in these new markets it can put a strain on that team if they’re juggling multiple implementations. Ideally then, you’d like to have local people in these markets so that we can always put our best foot forward. Building a physical presence in a new market, along with finding new local team members to onboard, takes time to get right.
Trulioo: How do you see fintech, particularly with mobile technology, impacting the way we bank and spend in the next five years?
While I do think fintechs inspire banks to meet the evolving expectations of digitally savvy users, I don’t think they will be leading the charge in a banking revolution in five years. In five years, the real threat to financial institutions that will force them to re-think their business models is going to come from the tech giants: Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, and so on. In other words, companies that have a well-established culture of innovation, deep and personal relationships with their customers, and a ton of customer data including payment credentials. We all know about their participation in the payments ecosystem - the Apple/Samsung/Android Pays – but what’s more interesting is when players like Amazon start lending to small businesses, which they are. Amazon is well-positioned to be the “Bank of the Future”. They’re a massive retailer, that’s already using data to personalize the customer experience and increase conversion through relevance. They can apply the same concepts to financial services, where your needs can be anticipated through your purchase histories. They’d own the entire customer journey.
There will be plenty of fintechs, in multiple lines of business, that find success on their own. And for the banks that want to get involved with fintechs, the opportunity will be to deliver innovative services faster, better and cheaper than they can today so that they try and keep pace with what’s coming next.
The growth rate of mobile as a primary channel to conduct banking – particularly among millennials – is massive. Traditionally, digital banking has been viewed as more of a utility but I think that’s going to change. Mobile banking can’t just be a digital replacement for a branch if incumbents want to retain and develop customer relationships; it’s going to need become more productized by layering value-adds that help people live a healthier financial life.
If there’s a fintech company you’d like to see featured in our Fintechs in Toronto blog series, please submit your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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