Can you tell me a bit about Plum?
Plum is your financial assistant for life. You connect your bank account and our AI analyses your transactions, and uses this data to help you understand, manage and grow your finances. There are three main pillars to Plum:
1 - Savings: with auto-savings, our AI crunches all of your data and uses that information to put the right amount of money aside for you every 4-5 days. Overtime, you accrue a good pot of savings. We’re also looking at smart triggers for saving more: when you get paid for example.
2 - Investments, which we released last year: once you have your pot of savings you can decide to grow your money in some or all of the funds that we have. You can invest risk-based, or thematically. So if you're interested in the giants such as Apple, you can choose to invest in companies like them. If you want to invest from an ethical standpoint, you can do that too.
3 - Monitoring and saving on your bills: our AI sees your transactions. We can see if you're getting ripped off, too. A good example of that would be on your energy bill. 80% of people are on a bad tariff, most likely with one of the big six - they were probably lured in with a teaser tariff and then moved onto a standard variable tariff. We can detect that and in this case, offer the possibility to switch to a better product within Plum itself.
Until now, having a person looking after your money has only really been available for the rich and this is kind of bringing back capacity to whoever wants to use.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself, what you do at Plum, your background?
Before I came to Plum I was at Deliveroo for just over two years. I worked in various operational capacities, for example, heading up the support team for the UK and working with outsourcing partners in the Philippines to provide a streamlined service. Just over a year and a half ago, I went from food delivery to fintech.
Deliveroo was extremely interesting to work on and of course grew super super quickly. But I'm not that committed to the cause of convenience food. Whereas savings is a really big problem for a lot of people and that compelled me to move. A year and a half ago I joined the club as Head of Operations and I’ve been working in that capacity ever since. I also do a bit of Product Management on the side for one of our squads.
As a business we are kind of split up into what we call ‘squads’. We have teams of engineers, designers, data analysts and a PM, who work together towards an objective. It might be to build the best switching engine in the market, or to work bringing the world of investments and capital growth to a broad range of people. At the moment I'm product managing the former.
There's been an explosion in financial management apps since Open Banking. Why do you think Plum is going to stand out?
So there are two types of new technology that we've seen as a result of Open Banking:
1- Neobanks like the Monzos and Revoluts...the cool-coloured cards that people are carrying around lately.
2 - Other apps that help you look at your spend and visualise where you put your money to make it very easy for you to manage your spending.
The full stack solution. This is where we sit. What differentiates us: we sit on top of your banks and we aggregate that data manage your entire financial landscape, be that savings, growing those savings, enabling you to save more by switching bad products to good ones, and so on.
If you look at other providers they might focus on savings or they might focus on investing your spare cash. With Plum, we bring all of those different facets of your financial life together to offer what I’d call a full stack solution. Saving your money first and then once you have a pot of cash, enabling you to kind of grow more in the long term and build up larger amounts of cash for your future. And then on the side Plum acts as your second pair of eyes making sure that you're not being ripped off. So it's bringing all of these different elements together and using the data to provide a holistic solution. That sort of life time value and long-term financial journey doesn’t really exist right now.
I think another difference is the tone. Quite a lot of the financial apps follow your every spending move: “You spent this much on coffee”, “your balance just went below this” etc. These are solutions which are quite individualistic and place quite a lot of onus on the individual to shape up. Whilst in some circumstances this is true, there are other forces shaping people’s financial situation. I think Plum’s automated saving algorithm is the perfect solution to that: it takes away the worry about savings...it simply does it - no slap on the back of the hand because you spent X or Y - we’re busy, stressed, humans and quite often understandably focused on the short-term.
Who are your main competitors?
It’s actually changed over our lifetime so far. I guess our main competitor in the past has been Cleo. People think of us as a chatbot and Cleo is also a chatbot, they do savings and provide insights too. There was a time when that was all Plum did, but now we’ve added more elements to the product. Equally, you have the likes of Chip or Money Box who are trying to help you save money on the side by rounding up expenditure. There’s overlap but ultimately the missions and ultimate solutions are quite different. And then, there’s the neo-banks who are also bringing fair banking to the people and making money simple - Plum sits on top of these banks as a full stack financial solution - we’re not just holding your money, we’re saving it, investing it, switching it.
The user interacts with Plum via the Facebook chat, yes? But Facebook had a popularity hit recently. How has that impacted on Plum and how did you deal with it?
Facebook had some pretty bad press. I think I have two main points:
1 - We do have a chat thread through which people can interact with the bot. We also have what we call webviews which also live inside Facebook. What is happening within the webviews is hosted by our servers and Facebook is ‘blind’ to any of the stuff that's happening within these screens.
Then again from a brand perspective, when people are saying bad things about Facebook we’re ultimately associated with that. One of the main things for us was that we were already strongly toying with the idea of building an app. Some people really love the chatbot and don't want to download another app. It's just something alongside what they use already. Then again other people, before the bad Facebook press, wanted an app anyway. So it kind of gave us the impetus to start building this second available application to use Plum - ultimately we just heard our users. We'll build them sort of in parallel so people can choose what's right for them. So, if they just want to download the app, they can go ahead and do that.
2 - We’ve been very clear about what we are using your data for. So from the moment that someone signs up we say what is it that we're going to do and how we’re going to do it. Ultimately, every user should know exactly why they're signing up from the get go.
You guys use AI to learn about people’s behaviour and every time I interview people using machine learning they tell me something very interesting they learnt from people's behaviour. I find it fascinating. Have you guys found anything interesting in particular from the Plum users?
Yes. We have a lot of data. We have a lot of interesting insights around engagement. There are a lot of people building these financial products in the market. But one thing that we're starting to realise is that even if you have a solution or if you think that you can bring extra value somewhere by saving money for instance, if it's not at the right trigger-point, people won't necessarily act on it.
There's a cohort of new fintechs that are helping people sort out their finances and it's easy to be paternalistic and say “I think this is the right thing for you” or “you should do this”. But if you don't first of all educate and explain why it's important, as well as reach out to the user at the right time, much of the learnings are lost. As a business we're learning a lot about how to engage people on these matters. You know, it depends on the product type as well.
So if you're reaching out to someone about investments a lot of people haven't had exposure to that up until now. So: educating them around that topic, throwing away all of the jargon that usually keeps people off these kind of products and introducing them to that in an easy way. Bringing these products to people in a manner that engages them is actually quite difficult and it requires different methods of doing so. That's a big part of our learning over the last few months.