Lindsay Hodges joined BankiFi with a wealth of financial services experience working in America. What's more, Lindsay is also a small business owner, meaning she has a unique perspective that we're delighted to share.
In this blog, we tap into both lenses of Lindsay’s scope – learning from her what it’s like to go from running a small business, to now supporting them in her role at BankiFi.
Why did you start your own business?
I had been working in fintech my entire adult life. I started at a bank when I was 16 years old as a bank teller and opening new accounts. When I was 18, I moved into fintech software and started working for Easy Systems, the company that provided the teller software I used at the bank. From there, I worked in a variety of roles from support, implementation, development, product management and sales and now as BankiFi’s Director of Product Management and Client Success in the US.
About two years ago, my career of 25 years took a turn when I began to fuel a desire I had to build and run a small business centered around wellness. I've always been passionate about wellness, community and connection. When the pandemic hit, it struck me to see just how much mental health was an issue as we became more and more isolated, especially seeing those affects in our kids.
I decided that it was a good time for me to leave fintech and start up my own business that was totally focused on wellness and community. With that, I opened a wellness center, which sits on my property in Colorado. It was such a wonderful learning experience; something that meant I was able to fulfil my passion to connect with humanity on a different level and provide a safe, sacred space for people to come and heal.
Alongside the day-to-day running of my business, I started several small business groups within my community – a community that is the driver of our small town made up of around 2,000 people – so my goal was to bring those people together so we could show each other what we’d created as small businesses, support one another and network.
Would you say that financial wellness is important when considering SMB banking?
I think wellness and finance go together more than most people think. Ultimately, it's about you as an end-user, or customer, and the small businesses supporting our communities. I really love the term ‘financial wellness’ and use it in a bit of a different way. Small businesses who have financial wellness trickles down into our communities – it doesn’t just stop at the SMB and how they are doing financially. For example, small businesses are often paying high monthly fees for accounting software and still struggle with collecting payments from their customers easily and on time. These types of challenges prevent businesses from growing and expanding their services which directly impacts the people that make up our communities. Supporting small businesses and providing solutions for small businesses around financial wellness really is, in the end, a community thing. It touches us all.
Did you face any challenges running your own business?
For me, it was having way too many manual processes. I believe that there’s a balance between knowing your customers and being really connected with them on an individual level and understanding their desire for self-service tools. I’ve found that a lot of customers feel the need to, and want to, self-serve.
They’re used to self-serving in all different kinds of technology that we have access to today. For instance, I have business accounts, but I never go to a bank - I'm too busy managing not only my business, but my personal life. To spend time really connecting with my financial institution on at an in-person level is just too hard to fit in to my everyday schedule.
So, I have really relied on having the tools and the ability to have self-service experiences and to be able to do what I needed to do 24/7. That comes down to the fact that running an SMB is not a 9 to 5 occupation. You’re working on things whenever they need to be worked on. Taking all that into consideration, along with what I was getting from my bank in order to be able to self-serve, I was able to give the same kind of service to my customers.
This came down to automation and allowing aspects of my business be automated on my website, which has worked well for me. The whole concept of my business is allowing my customers to build their own wellness retreats that works for them and their preferences. Instead of calling me to book any wellness services like a massage or a personal chef, I automated all the bookings and payments for the different services and offerings. This created a less friction-filled experience for my customers, and I found that 95% of my customers visited the website vs. calling me directly to book and pay for services.
Again, it comes down to balance. You want to remove the friction your customers could encounter, all without losing that personal touch. So, initially pre-automation of my site was the initial challenge for me. Unlike the majority of SMBs, I didn’t have a challenge with payments. The nature of my company has allowed me to take advantage of the Airbnb platform and the custom payment portal that came with it, which was why getting paid has never an issue for me personally. The struggles I had was ensuring that the wellness providers I used got paid on time which was resolved with the self-service tools implemented on the website.
What do you think are the main challenges facing SMBs in North America?
When I began to connect and network with other small businesses, it was enlightening to see what other small businesses did, what areas they were struggling with and how we could help each other to run things more smoothly. I noticed that a problem shared around the small businesses in my community was getting paid. The problem lies in the fact that, even though small businesses are the backbone of our community, big corporations still take the cake because they’re in a position where they have enough capital to absorb the impact of late payments. Small businesses don’t have this, and that’s really impactful to them in terms of their own cash flow and survival.
Card transaction fees are also a huge friction-point for SMBs. It’s becoming very common for small business customers to be met with an additional percentage added onto the bill if you want to pay by card. SMB’s simply can’t afford the 3-5% hit to top line profit in card processing fees. The impact of this transcends the small business as the cost has been passed onto the customer and into the community. SMBs simply can’t absorb these high fees.
Another huge sticking point for SMBs, particularly in the U.S., is around having and utilizing an accounting software package. I help a family member in the running his business. He is a home inspector, so he does several invoices every day as well as requests his customers to pay from these invoices. Every year at tax-time, it’s incredibly challenging to make the accounting package we use work in the way that the accountant needs. These systems are not designed for the typical small business owner that simply wants to invoice and receive payments on a daily basis.
It was interesting because all the other small businesses I was talking to, were experiencing the same thing. They just want to send invoices and receive payments quickly. They weren't using every feature and capability that the accounting platform has. They're not accountants, so they could never figure out how to make the system work in a way that accountants would. So, they either gave up completely or hired a bookkeeper.
SMBs in North America obviously want to get paid, but they also want to expand, grow and make their business thrive. What they don't want to do, is be on the phone with their accountants, trying to figure out issues of invoice reconciliation. Ultimately, these accounting platforms don’t tailor their services to small businesses – it’s kind of a one-size-fits-all scenario, which ironically links to some of the issues that SMBs have with their financial institutions as well.
If a financial institution offers a solution for the SMB where they can connect their chosen accounting package to the banks’ invoicing and payments platform, the invoice reconciliation process can be automated, which makes for a frictionless and positive experience for the SMBs. Ultimately, saving time and getting paid makes for satisfied SMB customers.
What was the turning point for you from running your own SMB to deciding to help them?
When I was working within ‘big fintech, I felt that we had lost the ‘people’ aspect of what we were doing, and it became more about numbers than it did about the people we were serving – which caused me to feel really jaded.
When I started thinking about how I could use the skills that I had acquired from my past roles in fintech to help the SMB community, I didn’t know what that looked like, I just knew that it needed to be done. I wanted my leap back into the fintech space to be very intentional. So I called Tom Shen first as I have been a part of the culture that he had built within his past companies and through the community he founded over a 30+ year career – so I knew that if anybody would match what I was looking for in order to achieve my goal, it would be him.
He mentioned the work that BankiFi was doing and as I learned more about how BankiFi are helping small businesses solve the challenges that they were having, I was so excited! I thought ‘Finally!’ because I had finally found a company out there who gets that that it’s about customer-centricity and about supporting SMBs in a way that matters. There’s nobody out there doing exactly what we are doing here at BankiFi, particularly in the US market.
It's evident to me that through the BankiFi suite of digital solutions, we can help to build up the connection between the small business and their financial institution, while closely supporting the small businesses to do what they need to have work better with the things that really matter to the growth of their business, which is around invoicing and payments. It is truly exciting because now I have had the chance to get to know BankiFi’s products and people and learn about how we serve banks in the UK and the success of these ventures. To top it off, I get to be a part of creating something that I think will make a huge difference in the US market for both SMBs in the US and FIs alike, which is something I wholeheartedly believe in.
To explore more industry insights from our BankiFi Americas team, you can now see all of our North American blogs in one place.