By Aisling Finn on Monday 19 October 2020
Nicolas Weng Kan talks about his first few months in the job, how Yolt is doing and what’s coming next for the money management app.
All the way back in January 2018, Yolt was the first third-party provider to make an open banking API call under the new Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2).
Today it’s new boss Nicolas Weng Kan wants to remove the stigma around open banking, something which he admits could be difficult to achieve.
“We surveyed over 1,000 companies in the UK and the Netherlands about open banking and one of the most striking figures that came out is that 23 per cent of respondents thought that open banking was the ability to take a customer’s data without consent.”
“That is one premise that a lot of people, even people within the industry, don’t understand. Nothing is taken without the consumer’s consent and its always for the good of the consumer,” explained Weng Kan.
Because of the lack of understanding, Weng Kan says it is more important than ever to build trust with consumers: “I’m not thinking about making money yet, what I want to do first is build trust.”
Weng Kan only stepped into the top job at the beginning of July and was thrown in at the deep end, joining and leading his team entirely remotely.
AltFi caught up with the freshly-appointed CEO over video last week to see how things are going.
“I only joined the company two and a half months ago, but it seems like an eternity,” Weng Kan chuckles as he recalls his unusual start at Yolt.
Joining entirely remotely Weng Ka said he saw first-hand how important it is to try and build strong relationships: “You really have to work as a team, as a manager to get people comfortable with the new working situation. You need to find a way to build rapport, a lot of which comes from just talking and being more approachable, authentic and give a lot of time to your team.”
The new CEO joined the money management fintech having spent several years in the top jobs at both Google and Confused.com and says it was an easy move across thanks to his years spent in the world of price comparison and personal finance.
“Yolt is my dream come true, this is a really good gig to be in because there’s a lot of data and I love data—after all, I am an engineer. But, on the other side, we have the ability to bring something positive into the life of the consumer,” he told AltFi.
“If you leverage the data as a force for good, to make good things happen for the consumer, I think that’s how we are going to build trust. That’s how we’re going to convince them that open banking is a good thing.”
Since the PSD2 came into force in January 2018, open banking has grown significantly and, in the past year alone—spurred on even further by the Covid-19 pandemic—has doubled its UK user base to 2m people, with Yolt a major beneficiary of this boom.
Despite only being at Yolt for just shy of three months, the business looks set to undergo an extensive transformation under Weng Kan’s leadership, including a complete overhaul of its app.
“I’ve come at an incredibly exciting time for Yolt. We’re currently working on a beta for our new app, and while I won’t try and take credit for that—unless it goes well,” the CEO jokes. “I think we have a great product that suits the needs of the situation right now.”
Yolt’s top-secret app will completely reimagine how its users manage their money and, while Weng Kan remained incredibly tight-lipped about the redesign, he did hint that the app will extend the services Yolt already offers.
“We have a product that will focus on helping users save money, as with Covid, everyone is in a difficult financial situation or at least people have to be very careful about their financial situation,” Weng Kan told AltFi.
“The new app will really help consumers achieve saving goals and give them intelligent nudges in both directions, so it's all data-driven to look at the best position for the consumer.”
Weng Kan added that, while the new app is still very much under wraps, it’s only the beginning of the story: “Once we release this version, we will continue to build on top of it and there will be more and more feature’s added.”
“This time next year, you wouldn’t recognise all the features that have been added to it."
The CEO admitted that if he gave anything else away his product team would have a go at him, so, kept quiet on the more specific features of the new app ahead of its imminent launch.
According to Weng Kan, less than 50 per cent of the people using Yolt who said they wanted to save money, have actually been able to stash away any cash throughout the pandemic.
“We are talking with partners at the moment that are looking at offering loans for small and medium businesses,” the CEO said.
“One of the most difficult situations here is assessing how much income a company receives, either you look at all their documents and invoices or you use open banking to see a verified income stream, which is clearly very useful.”
As well as being the CEO of the money management arm of Yolt, Weng Kan also oversees the YTS arm of the business too.
Just shy of two weeks ago, the financial API provider made its one billionth API call since being the first third party to make one back in January 2018.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know if the milestone call was made to a Yolt account, “wouldn’t that have been amazing!” Weng Kan remarked.
“We have an incredibly close relationship with YTS but, at the same time, we don’t share data. We share products with each other, but never data. It’s not how our systems are built.”
YTS now has 95 per cent API coverage in the UK, 90 per cent in the Netherlands and recently deepened its coverage in Italy, France and Spain, where it now has 80 per cent coverage across the three nations.
So, there you have it, Yolt and YTS are making the most of the open banking boom.
Just like the technology that powers them, the two fintechs have increased their usage, with Yolt now home to over 1.5m users and YTS making roughly 26m API calls per week on average.
There’s also a lot still to come for the company under its new leadership, with the hotly-anticipated re-vamped app still yet to be revealed and more integrations in the pipeline for the future.