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It’s been an up-and-down couple of years. It’s time to change lanes, seek new inspiration and be bold: here are a few stories from financial brands on-the-up.

When competition is rife and the industry is slow to evolve, it takes smart businesses with a strong vision to come up with an entirely new take on ubiquitous products, reposition their brand and cause a mindshift that will push others to follow.

We meet five financial brands that have come out on top in the past few years thanks to their unique offering - they realised the world was changing and rode that change to redefine their take on the financial industry.

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has brought to the fore it’s the importance of small to mid-sized financial institutions and their contribution to innovation, digitalisation and also the community. Grameen America is a nonprofit from Queens, New York that builds on the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus. The strength of Grameen America’s model is its focus on community lending, where a peer support and monitoring system work as incentives for each borrower to repay their loan. Following its decision to move to cloud technology, the organisation’s loan transaction time was reduced by 50% and the caseload benchmark grew by 25%. Since Grameen America moved to a 100% digital disbursements and repayments, the organisation has become more than 60% financially sustainable during the first year of Covid-19.

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of Ualà and its mission to offer the underbanked more control over their finances. A new way to provide loan services has been the pillar around Ualà’s success in Argentina. Financial accessibility has threatened to destabilise Argentina’s weakened economy in recent years, yet the nation remained unfazed thanks to the new mobile-yielding demographic fully embracing the tech-loving trend. According to a recent report, in Latin America around 70% of people do not have a bank account and traditional banks are not equipped to serve digitally-connected consumers, while mobile technology becomes ubiquitous. Ualà perceived this gap in the market and started providing innovative options for personal investments, opening up new opportunities for unbanked and underbanked consumers who don’t want to or are unable to deal with traditional banks. The fintech’s loan requests are completely digital, easy and secure with payments erogated within 24 hours.

Despite its athletes, wines and conservation efforts winning international acclaim, South Africa's unbanked and underbanked population is still estimated at about 11 million, curbing realising its full potential. Stemming from the belief that every South African has the right to accessible and affordable banking, TymeBank aimed to disrupt the local banking industry by offering a pure digital banking experience to customers. As a new entrant, TymeBank knew that offering real-time banking experiences that are unique, personalised and intuitive along with excellent customer service, will be vital to success. As an emerging market, South Africa is still a cash-heavy society. Partnering with supermarket chains ‘Pick n Pay’ and ‘Boxer’ gave TymeBank access to 800 stores and allowed them to install real-time biometric recognition kiosks that customers could visit to open a bank account. With just their identity number and no additional paperwork, the customer is issued with a personalised, activated Visa debit card within five minutes.

These have been chaotic years for the old continent, but amid all the gloomy headlines there have also been slivers of good news - whether it’s businesses retooling to provide medical equipment or professionals finding creative ways to keep their industries afloat. When in 2016 ABN AMRO was faced with the arrival of innovative fintechs and bigtechs, the Dutch banking giant began looking for ways to position itself for the future. They knew that this will include changing legacy systems, processes and seeking out new market opportunities. ABN AMRO did not shy away from the challenge and in just ten months launched a digital SME lending spinoff, New10. From the start, New10 focused all development efforts on customer facing value creation. New10 provides its customers with a strikingly modern user experience, fast onboarding, a transparent 15-minute credit decision, and customer funds can be made available within two working days.

Vietnam is undergoing a cultural renaissance led by a young and optimistic population that remained largely unflinched by the hardships of the pandemic. With the government successfully opening up the country to investment, creative fintechs are finding a foothold here. Launched in January 2021, Cake soon realised there was a significant gap in the market for a full-service digital bank for Vietnam’s young and digitally-savvy population, so they started developing a full suite of digital banking services, which they completed in 74 days. New customers of Cake can open a bank account in just two minutes. In an exciting first for Vietnam, Cake will be included in ride-hailing app Be’s interface. By linking the digital bank to Be, Cake opens up access to financial services to as many as 10 million existing Be drivers and customers, primarily Gen Z and young professional consumers. Cake’s app enables customers to transfer and receive money, pay bills and make deposits, among other services.

Find out more about how those businesses are shaking-up the industry, or how you can build the next-generation of financial experiences, here.

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