How to build a modern FinTech?

The dawn of Banking-as-a-Service and a behind the scenes look at why we built our new tool: t-minus10

How to build a modern FinTech?

The dawn of Banking-as-a-Service and a behind the scenes look at why we built our new tool: t-minus10

Arvind Srinivasan
VP of Product

Arvind is the VP of Product at Synctera, building t-minus10 and thinking about how to fix the FinTech Builder Challenge. Before Synctera, Arvind founded his own company Earthly, with stints as Head of Product at Uber, Amazon, and IBM.

How to build a modern FinTech? It starts with a bank

If you’re looking to build in the financial technology (FinTech) space, banks ought to dominate your thinking: regulations, compliant processes, how exactly to partner, how to leverage a banking charter and more. Any product you conceive where you’re in the money flow, you’d be wise to start lining up your execution strategy around what it takes to build with a bank.

In the past, entrepreneurs I have spoken with had walled off building in the financial arena - it was riddled with complexity, and the journey (time and cost) was not for the faint of heart. It also epitomized the proverbial chicken and egg: you can’t get a bank sponsor unless you had a robust prototype, and to build a prototype that transacted real money you needed a bank. Uncertainty along every forward-looking vector is the number one hurdle for FinTech founders and is a large reason why most FinTech startups never launch.

“Uncertainty along every forward-looking vector is the number one hurdle for FinTech founders and is a large reason why most FinTech startups never launch. ” — Arvind Srinivasan, VP of Product

Historically for FinTechs, a simple thing like testing code paths that interact with real money took an immense amount of time, resources, and people power to set up and operate in a compliant fashion. Builders have “let the sleeping dogs lie,” and the pace of banking technology has trailed the rest of tech for the better part of two decades.

Then new payments disruptors like Stripe hit the market with standard pricing and a developer-first approach, culminating in near-instantaneous time-to-market: connect to an API or two, slap in a few lines of codes, and you're accepting payments! Many started asking the question: if this is possible with payments, why can’t we do this with banking (i.e. holding money, issuing cards, lending etc.)? The new era of Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) was born and is estimated to unlock $230 billion in revenue to the ecosystem of banks, BaaS platforms, and Fintechs alike.

All this value waiting to be created is attracting the entrepreneurs and founders that previously walled-off banking. BaaS platforms allow them to tackle banking use-cases using a “lego-like” approach, where creators connect standard components, pre-vetted to be compliant, in a building block fashion to bring use cases to life. To meet the demand, we now have several emerging BaaS platforms that expose these bits such as the banking license, deposit accounts, identity verification, fraud checks, linking accounts, payments, cards, etc., in modular fashion.

But even as BaaS emerged as an important catalyst for financial innovation, it is still too hard and expensive to bring a FinTech solution to market. With this in mind, we began looking for the missing value layer: how can we make banking as easy to build as payments? How can we make building FinTechs quicker and compliant from the get-go? And it slowly took shape with a guided experience that helps everyone asking these questions: t-minus10.

Introducing t-minus10 - a new way to build for FinTechs

There are many approaches to building a company, but creating FinTechs can be especially hard given the multitude of compliance and regulatory restrictions builders will face. Ultimately, information accessibility (or lack-thereof which leads to uncertainty) is the number one hurdle. When founders dream up solutions to solve financial problems, there’s a dizzying array of unknown questions they're faced with:

  • Is it legal?
  • Do I need a lawyer to tell me this?
  • Should I launch in a state that allows better operating conditions?
  • Surely, I need an MTL (Money Transmitter License)?
  • Wait… what is an MTL?

It can be overwhelming.

We needed a battle-tested “guided building experience” that was proven to work for builders. One that factored in the different ways people build FinTech companies today and how to prescribe the right development steps at the right time, with getting to revenue as soon as possible the ultimate goal.

We created two FinTech Founder Archetypes that helped focus our thinking: the Tech Founder and the Business Founder. The Tech Founder validates their FinTech idea with code that they rapidly iterate on while factoring in early adopter feedback. The Business Founder wants to set all of their resources up before building, with particular emphasis on the right business model and making the numbers work.

These approaches are vastly different, and each has its pros and cons. We’ve spliced together the best parts of each path, allowing builders to exercise their areas of strength while leaning on the experts within Synctera via a guided and intuitive workspace for the rest to build, test and launch as quickly as possible. As a result, we’ve effectively created a new method to build a FinTech:

The Modern Way to Build a FinTech
Benefits of building with t-minus10's "live banking environment"

How t-minus10 works and the problems it will solve

My team and I at Synctera understand that to be the Stripe or Shopify of banking, we need to have the most “developer-centric” offering in the market - that’s the lead-in. But at some point, builders need to quickly access and test in “real-money environments” to get their product to market. Simply put, t-minus10:

  • Provides developers with a personalized guided flow for how to build their FinTech use case
  • Exposes developers to a live bank environment where you can test with real money and banks while developing your code

The first feature removes the mental burden of unknowns and saves countless hours for builders, focusing them on the right bits at the right time. The second allows builders to build once and never touch their code paths again, even after they bring on a bank sponsor because the code was built in a live banking environment and it doesn’t need to change.

One of the key differentiating values of t-minus10 is taking builders out of a sandbox as quickly as possible because building in a sandbox will only ever be 60% complete. Unfortunately, sandboxes are not enough to showcase all of your stuff is working, with the remaining 30-40% a large gap with how money gets moved, how payments interface with the real-world, to running real-world fraud checks, creating accounts, anti-money laundering (AML), and more. There’s no better substitute for being in the real world than being in the real world.

What a builder will experience with t-minus10 is a personalized, guided experience that gives line of sight to a launch while helping them create something compliant with all regulations, testing their app in a live environment with real money, and eventually finding and connecting to a bank partner to launch with. The best part is building in the live Synctera environment is completely free.

“There’s no better substitute for being in the real world than being in the real world.” — Arvind Srinivasan, VP of Product

Why do we call it t-minus10? Because it takes you through 10 simple steps in order to launch:

  • 10. Set up your company profile and get access to API keys for sandbox and the live banking environment
  • 9. Start building and create your waitlist to stir up user excitement and test the messaging around your value proposition
  • 8. Configure components, accounts and money flows to bring your use case to life
  • 7. Test customer flows for customer sign-ups in the Synctera platform
  • 6. Test money movement in the “live testing environment”
  • 5. Prepare to get a Bank Partner by getting compliance and due diligence checklists in place
  • 4. Review your work with Synctera Experts while the bank matches come your way
  • 3. Get a Bank Partner via the LiftOff or Full Banking Match program
  • 2. Get bank sign-off
  • 1. Beta Test with real customers
  • 0. Then it’s launch time! This is the part where we insert the rocket emojis and hope your rocket ship reaches escape velocity

Where we’re headed next

Of course, FinTech builders need to partner with Banks to launch and get to market. That’s why t-minus10 guides you through the process of finding a compatible bank partner via our two unique programs: Liftoff and Matching. We’re excited to dive deeper into these programs in future posts and keep you updated as we add more features that make it even easier for you to build your FinTech idea and bring it to market.

In the meantime, if you’re a FinTech builder ready to begin creating your new idea, get started with t-minus10 at https://app.synctera.com/sign-up

<div class="rt-btn-wrap"><a href="http://app.synctera.com/sign-up" class="button yellow w-button">Start building with t-minus10</a></div>

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