We sat down with George Lucas, the founder, CEO and Managing Director of Raiz Invest Australia to discuss his brand and the evolving challenges of the fintech industry.
To start off, can I get your take on the expression, “What’s in a name?”, as yours is quite a well-known one.
Nothing – but it has its advantages when you want tables at restaurants in London.
What first attracted you to the finance/fintech industry, or least, this incarnation of it?
I have been interested in financial markets since I was twelve, when I began doing my first charts on commodities futures and thinking of algorithms that could automate trading. These are in the days before PCs. With the advent of the PC, more – and liberalisation of – financial markets, more trading decisions, information and assistance for humans came from computers…and my first job was building a lot of this technology. Raiz is an investment tool delivered by an app, which is just a progression in a 30-year-plus journey for me.
What are the key ideas or concepts you’ve learned since its foundation and your being CEO?
That financial literacy is best learned by hands-on experience, and not from books. Books and reading have their place, but managing money is very emotional: if you don’t believe me, look at the top reasons why couples divorce. The decisions you make with real money are completely different from what you would imagine while you read an article or book on financial literacy.
What do you see as the most exciting developments in your industry?
The most exciting development is the understanding by regulators and government is that you own your own data. This will allow financial services to be delivered in a more user-friendly and insightful way. Which has only just begun. Watching customers take to these products has been exciting in the way that it shows an interest and desire for consumers to move away from the big four and take finances into their own hands.
What can you list as being your significant accomplishments this year?
Earlier this year, we launched the Raiz Invest platform in Indonesia, which was a huge accomplishment for the business. The strategic move is the beginning of our move-in Southeast Asia, and we recently signed up a joint venture partnership in Malaysia. Last year we re-branded from Acorns Australia to Raiz Invest, so to see momentum continue to carry through under the Raiz brand into a new market has been really significant.
Is the role you have, one which has you learning new things all the time? What do you know now that you didn’t know before you took on the role?
Lots of things – but one of the main ones is the need for financial advice, how difficult it is going to become to get the financial advice in the future, and the role Raiz has to play in filling some of the gaps that have been created recently in the financial advice sector.
Yours is a competitive marketplace. What makes Raiz stand out from the pack?
There’s no doubt about there being plenty of competition out there, which is good. When new competition arises, we know it’s because this is a popular area for growth and an area which we’ve had a foothold in for over ten years. What makes us stand out from the pack, however, is Raiz’s customer experience, both through the app and also customer service switch. With the app, we’re putting the power in the hands of our customers from the start and doing it in a way that is intuitive to invest.
There’s no doubt about there being plenty of competition out there, which is good. When new competition arises, we know it’s because this is a popular area for growth and an area which we’ve had a foothold in for over ten years.
What strategies, marketing or otherwise, have you employed to make this happen?
The majority of our customers come through word of mouth – which is a reflection of the experience our existing customers are having with us.
What are some of your company’s most notable recent achievements?
I’m delighted that we remain the highest-rated financial service app in the App Store, with currently over 200,000 active customers. We’ve already touched on our expansion into Southeast Asia and last year’s rebrand from Acorns to Raiz, which were both notable investments. More recently we were delighted to announce in our FY19 results; we’ve seen continued growth, not only in revenue (a 72.2% increase), but more importantly in customers, which have increased to 194,360 active users (a 21% increase).
The importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been getting a lot of talk in recent years within the business sector. How important do you see EQ as being within an organisation?
Very important. Especially in the financial services industry, where EQ is in short supply, which has led to the recent Royal Commission. We try to have EQ and exercise it as much as possible to ensure that our users have the best experience possible.
Has promoting or encouraging EQ in staff something you have found to be a challenge, and if so, how have you overcome this challenge?
Not really, they get it. They understand that for many people, a $500 balance is extremely important and so when something doesn’t go right, their questions and concerns are just as important as someone who has a $100,000 balance with us.
What does the future look like for Raiz? What’s next?
As part of our expansion into Southeast Asia, we set ourselves some ambitious objectives which we’ve excited to chase. This includes building our customer base up to 1,000,000 users over the next three years in Indonesia, and to have over 300,000 users in Malaysia within three years. These are significant steps, but will help us towards establishing commercial operations in the region.
We also recently announced the addition of the Raiz co-branded bundle MasterCard to our suite of products, representing a significant new feature and important milestone for Raiz’s evolution. With this, Raiz customers will now be able to save and invest inside and outside of superannuation, as well as make purchases where MasterCard is accepted. I’m excited to see how the product will be received in the market.
ushdhanak.com presents this ‘Meet a CEO’ series.
Ush Dhanak is a qualified and certified Executive Coach, Emotional Intelligence Coach, Neuro Leadership and Mediation coach. She has worked with a variety of corporate clients ranging from the Australia Federal Police, Smeg Australia, as well as clients in hospitality and dental. An expert in Emotional Intelligence and how to improve it, she can be found at the link above.