5 min read

11 Stupidest Things Fintechs Say

Dhanum Nursigadoo

Last week I spoke to friends of 11:FS to discover the 11 stupidest things banks do. It was more popular than any of us expected. It even compelled 11:FS Co-Founder, Simon Taylor to write a love letter to the big banks telling them how they can do better.


Here at 11:FS we felt like maybe we’d been a little harsh on our incumbent friends. So, I decided to write another list, reaching out to both the wider fintech community and all our followers to find out the 11 stupidest things fintechs say and do.

11) False Perception

We spend nothing on marketing
That was the first response I got when I asked what stupid things fintechs say. Heavily endorsed by at least 3 different people following up with the exact same comment. It’s an easy message, used by many startups outside of the fintech industry. But why do they love to say it so often? It seems as though the message is to show that the product offered is so good that they don’t need to tell anyone about it. Unfortunately, if you throw an event, have a Twitter account, send out a newsletter, or say anything to anyone about your company then you’re marketing. It’s more than just spending money on marketing companies.

10) Premature Business

We are pre-revenue
This one probably isn’t so common, but it sure is stupid. If you’re pre-revenue then you’ve not got a business, you’ve just got an idea. It might be the best idea in the world. But mining comets for minerals is a great idea, doesn’t mean it’s achieved on a hope and a prayer. Ideas are not the same thing as execution.

9) Raising Hopelessly

I’m looking to raise £100m+ via an ICO for a business that doesn’t exist yet, here’s a link to the whitepaper that explains what we’re trying to build. Do you want to invest?
It’s fine to raise capital, vital even. But when you want people to invest in a company you haven’t managed to get a little bit off the ground you’re not sending the strongest message. Put in the work to create something real then ask for money. And if you build something really incredible, they’ll be the ones asking for the meeting.

8) Problem Solver Extraordinaire

Experience is overrated. I'm an engineer, give me a bit of time and I can solve anything
No-one can do everything on their own. That’s why you need a team, that’s why you hire people. People who know things that you don’t. An engineer can no sooner solve a legal problem than a lawyer could solve coding issues. Respect the specialisms of professions and hire for what you need.

7) ME ME ME!

I don’t like it, redesign the whole thing
This was a popular bit of feedback from designers who’ve been working in fintech for years. They found they were constantly designing for white, middle-class, 30-somethings, despite customer data, because that demographic makesup most of who is in fintech. More fintechs need to accept that they are not their customer base and listen to what those customers want.

6) Sedentary Style

We've a million users .... oh you mean 'active' users?
Getting a load of early adopters on a hype train can be easy for some companies. Especially if they’re bringing in something new to the scene that’ll get people excited. Unfortunately, you can’t build a future on hype alone, fintechs need to adjust when their userbase starts to stop using their product and encourage active engagement.

5) Help Wanted

We're going to make a bank by doing an ICO. Can you help us raise the money, build the organisation and design the product please consulting firm?
It’s a disappointingly common request in the startup space at the moment, often followed by “also can we list you as advisors to help us raise money?” It’s amazing that this sort of thing happens at all. It’s presenting someone with no ideas, no structure, and no strategy; then expecting a ton of risky investment in return. It’s easy to see why no-one would invest.

4) Compli-what?

Can't the banks just do the compliance for us?
In what might be my favourite response, one fintech insider was consulting on met total resistance to any compliance protocols. They were told the first 100K customers were just to make sure the fintech got funding and could show traction. It’s a nice idea in a magical world where wishes come true, but compliance isn’t optional. Companies that fail to be compliant get shut down or fined, even if it takes the FCA a while to get around to it.

3) Who’s the Boss?

Let's reinvent organisation design, we should be a holacracy!!
Holacracies may work for some organisations but it’s not necessarily for every company. As you scale and grow real hierarchy structures become useful in making sure everybody knows what they’re doing and who’s responsible for the work. Just because something’s fashionable doesn’t mean it’s useful.

2) Deadline Never

We can worry about that later
Startups tend to leave things until too late while focusing on growing as fast as possible. That’s great when you need to make money fast and keep the business viable. But it means that: security, monitoring, alerting, and good software foundations are all set aside. The upside to it is that when startups do get around to it they have the opportunity to do the right thing. Not so good for early customers, but great in the long term. It also makes managing expectations hard since when you get around to doing some of those things it feels like a massive slowdown.

1) What Next?

We just signed a multi-million pound deal to build an incumbent bank a new banking platform. Now what?
‘Now what’ usually ends up in spending a great deal of that runway on hiring lots of expensive consultants to help them do some strategy and figure out what they’re actually going to do. It’s a huge waste of cash and really you need to have your plan in place, or at least be capable of making one, by the time you win that contract. Here at 11:FS we bring the real jobs to be done mentality to all our projects, stay aware of what customers need by asking them and bring a flexible culture to the table. Get in touch with us at hello@11fs.com

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 Dhanum Nursigadoo
About the author

Dhanum Nursigadoo

Dhanum Nursigadoo is the Content Writer at 11:FS. He joined the company with a background in B2B journalism. He edits and writes the 11:FS blog (and the occasional podcast) and is always on the lookout for ways to make fintech more compelling than ever.

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