When Dominik, Peter and I started Synctera together, I was coming from a background of having worked with banks and having helped build a challenger bank. I had seen the problem of partnership banking from both angles and I knew that there were challenges on both sides and that something in the middle could probably help.
I spoke to many who were trying to build in the space and stuck on some of the hard problems in financial services. I spoke with banks who wanted to partner with programs but didn’t want to lose sight of the end customer activity. We weren’t first to get into the partnership banking space, but that was also an advantage because we could see the challenges that the existing players faced and we could address them strategically with the design and architecture of our platform.
It turned out that having a two sided marketplace for matching and building a regulatory forward platform was useful. In the early days some of our regulatory features were criticized as being “over the top” and that other platforms didn’t have these features - but we stuck with our vision and this has helped us scale safely and keep our banks and partners focusing on the right things as they scale.
One of the best experiences in the early days (and still) is to see people’s faces as they understand how our platform works and what we do - and how it relieves the pain points that they have experienced. This was early validation that we were on the right track.
Expanding to Canada
Starting in the US market was important for us because we could move quickly and there are banks who have been focused on partnership who we could work with, bring our platform and solve problems. Since I call the country home, it’s a weird experience to build in Canada for the US market. I couldn’t really test any of our US customers' products, I was in the Canadian market and excluded from their products.
One of the most rewarding experiences in developing financial services products is to go out in the world and use what you’ve built. It is an exhilarating experience to tap a card that you designed with plumbing you built and see it actually work. Our Canadian team really wanted to experience the 40+ programs they were involved in configuring on our platform. They were excited about them, they could see the potential but couldn’t actually try them.
I had some people reaching out to me to see if we could come to Canada and this piqued my interest. We asked quite a few questions - was the market big enough? Would our model work in Canada? Would anyone care? I had friends on the banking side and on the Fintech side as well as people who were wanting to do embedded banking all reaching out to see if we could “make Canada happen” - I believed in the market, I believed in our team and I believed in our platform capabilities.
Finding our first bank partner was an important step and what helped me here is having some network in the space and being able to understand how banks operate and what is important from their perspective. Being bilingual in bank and fintech process and technology is important here and we were really happy to have landed a great partnership.
It feels great to officially be doing business in Canada and to be facilitating the cross pollination of US / Canadian financial services capabilities.
Where we are
Like in the US, we’re taking a compliance forward approach to Canada - and Lisa Durnford and team has been doing a great job of guiding the extension of our platform to accommodate the Canadian market.
Over the last six months we have built a lot, built it well and built it quickly. Elena Litani has worked closely with the engineering team to help us ship key features and capabilities for the Canadian market and all of this has fit well into our platform so that it doesn’t look like Canadian capabilities are just “bolted on” to the side of the US platform.
I’m happy to say that we’re now live, moving money and launching programs in Canada.
How we got here
One of the things that I’m really proud of is our velocity. Because we’re taking a platform approach to partnership banking and we had considered multi-region as part of the basis of our platform, we were able to move very quickly and not need to completely redesign the platform to get here. Having a platform approach means that our API is “batteries included”: instead of finding your own processor, bank partner, card fulfillment provider, risk vendors we provide these capabilities under a single platform API.
For example, we built EFT outbound in three weeks: two weeks of development and one week of testing. This work was based on patterns we had developed in the US which are now proven - so we were able to leverage the same patterns and frameworks and move quickly on the Canadian built.
We’re even contributing the CAD EFT code back to Moov to help push forward open source financial services in Canada - supporting other innovators who are looking to help evolve the Canadian landscape.
We have a great team who move fast, learn fast and build things quickly and well. Knowledge and velocity are our key capabilities.
We’re building a platform for this business, not doing it bespoke - and we’re working out in the open with a public Open API spec and public documentation. Anyone can sign up for a sandbox key and build out their vision on our platform.
We’re going live now with our first programs - people are tapping real cards in the real world and moving funds. We’re taking our velocity and knowledge and pointing it at our roadmap to continue to evolve our platform to achieve parity with our US offering. We’re also leveraging the economies of scale from our US business to the Canadian market. This will continue to happen fast and we will probably face challenges along the way - but we’re used to overcoming these - and we will continue to advance.
What I’m really excited about for the Canadian market is what I’ve experienced in the US market. Seeing what people build with our building blocks and how they take our capabilities and use them to solve real problems that they see in Canada.
Learn more and reach out if you’re ready to build.