Ash Shilkin, Managing Director and CEO
Millennials have come of age in an era of rapid technological transformation, globalization, and economic disruption. As this generation—one of the largest in US history—enters its prime spending years, the retail banking industry is moving to bridge the dichotomy between new technology and traditional banking systems. Banking and financial organizations are attempting to understand and connect with this key demographic, which brings banking services to the forefront of the agenda. The focus is on creating millennial-focused brands and customer experiences that address millennials’ fiscal concerns and help them meet their financial goals. But the failure of many banks to develop convenient technology and engaging user experiences has made the journey a difficult one. Worse yet, the inability of the companies to keep up with the cost and speed of developing the technology in-house aggravates the situation a notch further. Set against this backdrop, Ash Shilkin is transforming the banking services industry by creating engaging customer experiences through his appropriately named company: Change Financial (ASX : CCA, OTCQX : CNGFF).
Stroll into the headquarters of Change Financial, located in sunny California, and you meet an enthusiastic team possessing a perfect mix of the maturity of a large organization with a touch of startup DNA. Although Change Financial is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), the Los Angeles base reflects that the company’s focus is the US market. Governed by a mission to introduce state-of-the-art technology in the US retail banking industry, Change Financial is built on the belief that the course of reaching and engaging customers entails delivering an entirely new banking experience that meets the demands and expectations of the digital natives.
With Managing Director and CEO Shilkin at the helm, Change Financial is revolutionizing its customers’ ability to control and maintain their finances at their fingertips. Change Financial’s innovative mobile banking and enterprise Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings address diverse requirements of both millennials and financial institutions, and are underpinned by three divisions: Consumer, Enterprise and Blockchain.
An Innovative Way to Bank
Steering away from traditional banking models, the company has devised a banking application called ChimpChange, the core product of the Consumer division. The app focuses on providing consumers with fee-free banking and money management tools, through its mobile payments and transactional banking services. “We are redefining the banking experience for users in two major ways: on one hand, millennials can get a clear picture of their finances, while on the other, financial organizations can offer a unique banking experience and customer service to gain more customers,” says Shilkin, “Our award-winning technology is offered as a service to banks and financial institutions who want to rapidly improve their technology or offerings to attract a whole new client base and scale to new heights”.
With our Consumer division seeing continued growth and our burgeoning Enterprise and Blockchain divisions showing massive potential, we are very excited about the future
Change Financial initially embarked on its journey with millennials in mind, but the company is extending its target market. “We are proud to have acquired over 150,000 banking cardholders in the last 18 months, 65 percent of which are millennials,” says Shilkin. At the end of 2017, Change Financial grew at an aggressive rate with transaction volumes up by 267 percent, deposit volumes by 263 percent and sales by 261 percent, when comparing to the prior comparable period in 2016. Unquestionably, these figures are a testimony to the company’s unwavering confidence and prowess when it comes to driving success in mobile banking and financial solutions.
It’s also not surprising that ChimpChange won three awards; Best Mobile App, Start-up of the Year, and Consumer Champion, at the 2017 PayAwards.
With millennials facing the challenges of high transactional costs, minimum monthly balances, overdraft fees, and the struggle to save money, there has never been a better time to woo them with innovative ways to help manage their finances. ChimpChange achieves this by leveraging the convergence of services, customers, and high-end technologies to make all the difference for financial institutions to achieve success. “While customers have to pay fees for something as trivial as swiping a card or transferring money, we use technology to provide a more useful banking experience and help them understand their expenditure and offer them innovative ways to save money,” says Shilkin. For example, the ChimpChange banking app allows users to send and receive funds with its instant free peer-to-peer payments feature. What makes the app’s peer-to-peer payments function unique is that the users can attach a photo or video content along with the payment. “Instead of writing a message and saying ‘Here you go, John, I am repaying you for lunch’, you can take a short video of yourself eating a burger and giving a thumbs-up,” adds Shilkin. “The video will be saved in a user’s official transaction history for the next seven years. The photo and videos have features where you can put filters on them, draw on them or write on them just like any popular social media or picture sharing platform.” Through ChimpChange, the company is partnering with financial and banking institutions and assisting them in bolstering their brand, acquiring new customers and improving customer experience. By leveraging the ChimpChange mobile banking platform and our vast experience over the last couple of years, our banking partners can better identify and act on acquiring new millennial customers at less than $35 each,” asserts Shilkin.
Signing up for ChimpChange is easy and can be done in minutes. ChimpChange conducts a complete KYC (Know Your Customer) check as required by the USA Patriot Act and other verification processes to weed out identity thieves. Users do not need to visit a bank branch and show a physical ID to open a bank account. Once a customer advances through full KYC, ChimpChange opens a personalized bank account that includes an account number, routing number, and a debit MasterCard, wherein the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures their money.
Users can directly deposit their pay into the account, link other bank accounts to it, or load cash into the account in real-time. “We have built machine learning algorithms to apply analytical rules to accounts. For instance, if there is excess expenditure in any particular category for a month, a smart push notification will be sent to alert them about the cash flow in a particular direction,” explains Shilkin. These AI advancements will be rolled out in the near future.
"We are proud to have acquired over 150,000 banking cardholders in the last 18 months, 65 percent of which are millennials"
Yet another distinctive feature of the ChimpChange app is its Automatic Round Up feature that allows users to collect their spare change from 1 to 99 cents after each purchase. The amount set aside becomes a part of the overall Card Account as the Round Up Balance but is not available to complete a purchase, or be withdrawn via using the ChimpChange Prepaid MasterCard. With this passive way to save money, the customers can see a meaningful difference in their savings within a short time span.
Redefining the Future of Banking
Looking ahead, Change Financial is seeking partnerships with banks in the US and across the globe for its Enterprise and Blockchain divisions. The Enterprise division is nearing the completion of an offering which involves a globally scalable, microservices, cloud-based, API-driven infrastructure and a partnership with Mastercard (NYSE : MA). The company’s multiple banking products will assist the banks to be agile and gear up as behaviors shift. Clients may opt for customized solutions as per their specific requirements. As Change Financial’s technology is built on microservices architecture approach, it offers a far more modern and innovative way to build banking software solutions. The company stands a mile ahead in the realm of mobile banking solutions owing to their cloud-based and API-driven offerings. Also, the company leverages an internal blockchain-based framework ledger system to create an immutable record of transaction history.
Change Financial’s Blockchain division was formed around an investment in Ivy Koin, a blockchain-based payment company developing ivyKoin, its own cryptocurrency. ivyKoin provides significant Know-Your-Transaction (KYT) and KYC information, encouraging the acceptance of fiat deposits (e.g. US Dollars, Japanese Yen, the Euro, etc.) from the sale of cryptocurrency by traditional banks and financial institutions. ivyKoin facilitates payment transfers between individuals or businesses and offers more KYC, KYT and Anti-Money- Laundering (AML) payment data than closest comparable Ripple, or legacy payment networks SWIFT, ACH, CHIPS or FedWire, while simultaneously complying with regulatory requirements. “With our Consumer division seeing continued growth and our burgeoning Enterprise and Blockchain divisions showing massive potential, we are very excited about the future,” concludes Shilkin.
With its technological clout, Change Financial is sprinting full steam ahead to meet the expectations of tech natives, who increasingly rely on the maturity of social customer engagement and an easy, intuitive customer experience. In days to come, Change Financial intends to partner with like-minded organizations to take their solutions and services a step ahead and further revolutionize the retail banking arena. Change Financial is a true agent of change that’s reserving a spot for itself at the vanguard of the banking services industry.