Since its inception in 2014, Loot has come a long way. Back then, Ollie Purdue, CEO, had just graduated and the germ of an idea had begun to form – modernising traditional banking to create a money management app for millenials. With no start-up experience, tech background or regulatory knowledge, he persisted… and now leads a company with a headcount of 45 across two countries. Loot offers a digital-only current account, complete with Mastercard, and real-time spending and budgeting alerts on your mobile. Still only 24 years old, Ollie tells me he had never even worked for a CEO before, let alone have experience as one, but by creating a collaborative environment, the Loot team generally solve problems together.
Please give us a brief overview of Loot. What was your mission at the beginning, and how has that evolved?
At Loot, we provide our users with a digital current account and our mission has always been to empower young people through better money management. While at university, I realised that the banking industry is one that is outdated and plagued by poor service. High-street banking has grown complacent due to the fact there has not been a genuine alternative. Yes, there is competition between Barclays, NatWest, Lloyds and the like, but they all use the same tired, old, unresponsive model.
Loot gets rid of the need for a bank and offers a better all-round service. Through the Loot app a user can move, make payments, allocate, spend abroad without fees and analyse their finances faster than any traditional bank can offer through their app. We also offer the ability to speak to specialist support at a moment’s notice, a feature that enables users to pause their card’s functionality if they think they have lost it and cancel it when they are sure that they have.
The culture at Loot has changed since we started because of the rapid growth, but in a positive manner. In the early days, the focus of the company was primarily on building technology, but now it’s on creating new, exciting products and dealing with an ever-changing customer base. I feel personally like I’ve gone from more of an operator to a manager.
The company has grown very quickly in a short amount of time. What were the challenges and how did you approach them? What led to your successes?
A large challenge upon starting up was my personal credibility as a young founder. Fresh out of university, I faced scrutiny from my peers. To bypass this and ensure I was taken seriously and had the backing of senior members across a number of companies, I created an advisory board of six members from the banking, fintech and financial disruptor sectors. None of the board members was financially compensated, but all were investors in Loot. Creating the tech behind the app was also a major challenge.
Ultimately, the success of Loot so far is due to the committed staff we have. Be it in the data department or the finance team, everyone is brilliant and committed to the cause. I also cannot emphasise enough the importance of networking. Meeting people in your company’s sector and understanding where you are missing key skills is the best way to ensure that all your skill gaps can be covered by people that you trust.
How do you stay in touch with your target market? How do you advertise?
Because our audience fits into a younger demographic, we find that new media channels are the most effective use of our advertising spend.
Through the SKINT section of our site, we offer a thorough and diverse selection of content to help our current and prospective customers. We keep the content original, interesting and relevant for our demographic. We are also incredibly active on our social channels, but a lot of our business has come from word of mouth.
Do you expect to see much of an impact from the UK’s departure from the EU next year?
One thing that we can all agree on is that currently there is a high degree of uncertainty regarding the outcome of Brexit. As a result, it is very hard to gauge the impact on the UK when nobody knows what the deal will look like. There are some very big players campaigning for transition periods, which would be beneficial for many businesses.
In terms of investment in UK companies, which has been a hot topic, the likelihood is that it will drop. Naturally this is bad news for start-ups, as European venture capitalists look away from London and to the wider European markets, meaning there are less investors for each start-up.
What’s next for Loot, and how will you stay ahead of your competitors? What makes Loot unique?
In truth, the aim is to keep doing what we are doing: providing a brilliant product and service. Our 12% month-on-month growth speaks for itself, but we must not rest on our laurels and we will endeavour to up our game, diversify our offering and continue to grow.
Our workforce is expanding rapidly and by the end of 2018 I expect our team to be 60-strong at least. For now, the key to our growth is expanding our user-base – with our current growth, we are on track to hit 1 million account holders by the summer of 2020.
I do not view our competitors as other fintech companies. There is enough room in this space for other fintech start-ups and collectively our competitors are the traditional banks. There is no comparison between a traditional bank account and a Loot account. Our service is superior in so many ways to that which the traditional banks offer, be it flexibility, control or customer service, we provide our users with a completely different type of banking experience. Simplicity and flexibility defines everything that we do – these two words are very rarely associated with high-street banks.