5 minutes with George Bevis... the man leading the SME banking revolution

The founder of fintech app Tide reveals how it's become one of Britain's fastest growing business startups.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 09 Mar 2018

George Bevis feels that Britain's SME community has been let down badly by traditional banks.

He is also aware that an SME owner's time is precious; they don't want to be bogged down in the mire of endless bookkeeping, accounting and managing staff expenses.

Why not kill two birds with one stone eh? His solution, the banking app Tide combines traditional banking services with automated business management software, and has gone on to become one of the fastest-growing business focused start-ups in UK history.


So, what does Tide do?

Tide is a next generation banking service which exists to make it easier for people who run SMEs to do less banking and get back to doing more of what they love doing instead.

People who run small businesses lose a lot of their time doing crappy admin that they hate doing and is boring. The fact that it is repetitive is an indicator that it can all be automated.

We sell Tide as a software business that is deeply understanding of the workload of the people who run SMEs and have built in software experiences across book-keeping, accounting, managing staff expenses or paying suppliers overseas.

Why did you think the market needed something different?

My personal background is highly relevant. There are essentially three elements to it. One is, to my great shame, that I have been a banker quite a bit in the past for various different companies, so I’ve done my time in that domain. 

The second thing is that I have been an entrepreneur repeatedly in the past in various full profit and non-profit sectors. The final part is that I have done quite a bit on public policy related to small businesses - in 2012 I wrote the Labour party's main book on small business policy.

As the entrepreneur I'd repeatedly experienced the pain of all of this tedious admin, as a banker I felt I knew enough about how account services work to try and fix the problem and from a public policy perspective I have a very strong sense of the national and indeed international need for this problem to get fixed.

Growth has been pretty impressive over the last year hasn’t it?

We launched the product on 31 January 2017 and initially we were just really focused on white collar tech businesses in and around London - we had a little pop-up store in Old Street station.

Very quickly, probably faster than we had anticipated, word began to spread and we started seeing businesses of all types signing up to Tide nationwide. 

We've got more than 30,000 customers now (March 2018) which makes us the fastest growing new fintech in B2B in the UK ever.

Banking isn't exactly the most trusted sector at the moment - have you struggled to get people to trust your product?

We were expecting that British customers would be reluctant to trust a new banking brand with their money, but actually we haven't seen that at all.

Part of that is a technical thing that we don't hold monies under a banking licence, but instead an e-money licence; this means we aren't allowed to take risks with our customers' money. But we try to communicate that we have a deep understanding about small businesses and that we will try to champion and support them.

It's all sounding rather easy, but there must have been some challenges?

Not in this business - this business has been remarkably lucky. We've had good access to capital (with investment from Zoopla’s Alex Chesterman among others) and a fundamentally sound business model so it's been a rather straightforward journey. 

I ran a retail e-commerce business (Speedsell)  between 2008- 2011. It was a second hand trading website and it was almost impossibly hard at all times. The economics were always terrible, some months I wasn't sure how we  were going to make payroll.

It was a real box shifting retail business and when you run a business like that you are really at the coalface of what tough industry is like.

Moving from that to building a venture capital backed fintech business, you feel a little bit like Superman must have felt when he came down from Krypton - you are used to this 10x gravity and actually your operating in a space that is much more straightforward.

What has been your biggest lesson so far?

The advice that I always give people is that if you are thinking of any new business opportunity, be confident that the lifetime value of a new customer that you book is going to be three times the cost of marketing to them.

If it is not walk away because it will be too hard. For me that is the golden ratio for deciding any business venture and if more people did it there would be far fewer business failures.

So where does Tide go from here?

We think we are at the forefront of a global revolution on how small businesses manage themselves and our ambition is that by 2026 we will be serving 50 million small businesses globally.

That is an enormous number, there is no provider anywhere in the world that has ever serviced anything like as many businesses as that, but we think the service we're creating is globally applicable and dramatically better than any existing alternative anywhere in the world.

 

 

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