Five minutes with Tom Blomfield
Serial entrepreneur Tom Blomfield is re-inventing banking from the ground up. His fintech startup, Monzo, claims to be the bank of the future and has already attracted 400,000 users. Tom says there’s more to the technology than simple direct debits and current accounts – in the future it will be a one-stop shop for all your personal finances. But, he warns that there are still teething and scaling problems to endure, and his advice for other budding entrepreneurs is to get out there and test their product in the real world.
- Describe your organisation’s purpose
We want to build a financial control centre for 1 billion people – to give them visibility and control of their money. Monzo exists to make people’s lives easier, simpler and less stressful.
- How would you describe the culture at your organisation and how do you maintain it?
We value transparency. Most of our meeting agendas, minutes and emails can be read by anyone, inside and outside the company. Why? Firstly, for internal reasons – we believe transparency creates a happier, more productive organisation that is confident to work autonomously. When information is siloed, you tend to make worse decisions because you don’t have the context. Transparency makes information available, which means teams can get out there and attack their goals with all the background necessary.
Secondly, for external reasons. “Banks have basically destroyed consumer trust in banking. We’re helping rebuild that trust with our transparency.”
- How does your organisation prepare for the future world of work?
The future is uncertain so every organisation has to be agile. We’re a growing organisation, which means we’re continually reengineering to adapt to new challenges. “What excites me about the future of work is that the banking industry is on the verge of being totally upended. That’s where our opportunity lies.” We want to build an app where you can visualise all your money, pension contribution, credit card activity, student loan and direct debits all in one place and managed by software. Nothing less than a generational leap forward.
- In what ways does your organisation collaborate with others and why?
We’ve always believed that the bank of the future will be a marketplace, and a market-based bank is driven by partnerships. We’ve already started to explore how we can work with other companies to help our customers save or make the most of their money in the most convenient ways possible. That might mean helping them to switch energy provider or to insure a valuable item before they’ve even left a store. It helps these companies acquire customers and helps us deliver better value to our customers.
- What is the main thing that attracts talent and retains talent in your organisation?
People are attracted to Monzo because they believe in its mission. People stay here because they get to work with great people every day. For each open role we get approximately 100-200 applicants. What’s interesting is that as we grow, we get more risk averse candidates – more mainstream candidates.
- In your experience, what is the best way to build diverse teams?
For us, two things. First, we looked at our hiring processes and realised that the people coming in at the top of the ladder do not represent the UK population. To address it we did outreach into communities who are underrepresented in technology companies. We also spoke to newspapers, went to different cities and worked with community organisations. Second, showcase the role models that your organisation already has. For us that means publishing our diversity statistics and writing blog posts that demonstrate we’re walking the walk.
- What has been the biggest challenge to your growth and how have you tackled it?
Scaling the organisation. We’re at 400,000 customers and while that number continues to accelerate, scaling the organisation to meet demand has been challenging. We’re looking at a second office so we can scale our customer support. That comes with questions around the cultural fit of new people, how we can provide quality training and how we ensure new joiners believe in the Monzo values just as much as the founding team.
- What has been the best decision your organisation has ever made?
To launch a prototype early and get feedback early. When we launched it wasn’t feature complete and we tested it. It turned out we had made something people wanted. It was our customers who helped iterate Monzo early on and make it better.
- What would you say represents the biggest opportunity for your organisation in the next five years?
Reinventing banking. This is the era of the smart bank, it’s not just a card or account, it’s a whole new invention.
- What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Everything that Paul Graham has ever written. His advice is to launch early, write code and move quickly. Execution above strategy. “The Silicon Valley start-up approach works, in my opinion, because it’s better to move and do than it is to spend three years trying to build the perfect product behind closed doors.”
- What other organisation do you admire the most and why?
Facebook and Google are both pretty incredible but still have their flaws. I like the ‘move fast and break things’ philosophy at Facebook. They’ve got two billion users – it’s the first time in human history a company has done that, but their approach to privacy and personal data is shaky. Google is a world-leader in its technology but I don’t think ‘don’t be evil’ is good enough for the 21st century. It’s slightly agnostic and given the world we’re in I don’t think it’s enough anymore. You have to aim to leave the world in a better state than you found it.
- What does a Vibrant Economy mean to you?
One where people from different backgrounds – including nationalities – can come and create products and services that change the world.