The Power of Data Podcast
Episode 61: Understanding The Value Exchange Of Data
Guest: Samantha Seaton, Chief Executive Officer at Moneyhub Enterprise
Interviewer: Sam Tidswell-Norrish, International CMO, Dun & Bradstreet
Hi, welcome back to The Power of Data Podcast. Today I'm delighted to be joined by Sam Seaton, who’s Chief Executive Officer at Moneyhub Enterprise. Welcome, Sam.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Sam, you've worked across a diverse mix of organizations and having just looked through your biography earlier this week, in a number of different roles from consultant to CEO in a number of different types of organisation as well. Could you start off with giving us a bit of an overview of your career and background?
Well, yeah, so I grew up in Towers Perrin, I had the amazing opportunity to MBO EValue from Towers Perrin when they merged with Watson Wyatt and I ran that as CEO for five years, that was my first CEO position. And then had a fantastic opportunity to join Momentum and running their retail UK investment business, which was actually what Moneyhub was part of. And then I had an incredible opportunity to MBO Moneyhub, as a result of all non-core businesses needing to be off the books for Momentum, which is a South African insurer, like Aviva in South Africa, which was a fantastic opportunity, then kind of went through in February 2018, the management team of Moneyhub took over the reins. And I guess, just a little bit more flavor to that, because that's a quick canter through how I ended up here, I think the main lever behind that is the fact that when I was at Towers Perrin I realised that products get manufactured and taken to market but consumers really have no hope of understanding what those products that they're buying are. And it's never really sat that well with me. So ending up where I am now, the journey that I've been on is always about getting closer to the consumer, even though we're b2b as a business, but enabling consumers to make better decisions. So I feel like I'm in a good place.
Excellent. And what I love, I was on your LinkedIn profile earlier today, and in the about section, you said, “what a time to be working in financial services, never has there been a more exciting opportunity to be an agent of change in the sector”. I could not agree more, not least of all because Dun & Bradstreet is going under a really exciting transformation in parallel to an industry. The data segment that is equally going through an exciting time. But financial technology has had an incredible decade. And even through the atrocities we've had this year, it's another exciting inflection point. The digital singularity that we've had means that data underpins everything more of its being created every day and more opportunity with that to. That phrase, out of the hottest fire comes the strongest steel, I think is always true of innovation in times of downturn. So what are some of the exciting trends you're seeing in the industry? What makes you say that on your LinkedIn profile?
Well, I think there's a number of factors. You've mentioned what I mean, clearly COVID has had a yet another impact on already lots of change. But there's a few things for me: one, if you think about the turn of the century, the internet online shopping now, early 2000. I think that for me was one step. Then I think the mobile phones, what was around 2007-8-9, combined with the credit crunch, and then the legislation changes that have been taking place in terms of much more consumer-focused legislation putting the consumer first. So you combine all of that together, and I think you just get an incredible opportunity to create these agents for change. So obviously at Moneyhub we leverage open banking legislation, PSD to legislation, as well. But I actually think it's the consumer that's driving the real change. That's what for me is really exciting. So I think the main players are having their whole world turned upside down. Very fortunately, I'm on the right side of making that change happen and enjoying it rather than finding it particularly difficult.
I agree with everything you just said. One of the areas around consumer that I've always been shocked that hasn't evolved quite as fast as I'd want around consumers being able to take control and be at the center of change is actually consumer pay cycles. We still get paid every 30 days, your employees every month lend their employer their salary, and it's a huge opportunity, I think to unlock value in the economy, by allowing people to get paid as they earn. And that's just one area. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about the areas of change that Moneyhub is affecting. Tell us what does what Moneyhub does?
So really Moneyhub is all about financial insight. That's fundamentally what we live and die by and we always say at Moneyhub insight for good. So enabling you - and we obviously enable businesses - but enabling the businesses to, in effect, have the consumers’ back. So if you think about what business needs to do - every company this is - I think they need to be able to engage with consumers at a highly personalised level and at scale. And I think that's really what like a Moneyhub, open finance platform enables enterprises or businesses to do. And it's every business. It's not just financial services businesses. So that's the biggest, so exciting about what we're doing.
So let's talk a little bit about this year. Being the CEO of any company has been tough. It's been tough in terms of the business environment, it's been tough in terms of your people and what people have had to go through. And it's had a knock-on effect through many different parts of the economy. The events of 2020 have affected consumer spending, in a way no one's ever experienced before. People have been traveling, they're spending less on all the things associated with it, we changed the way we entertain ourselves and our recreational activities. It's even impacted our personal savings; in the US I saw earlier in the year hit record historic numbers of personal savings. So it's evident that the financial ramifications and COVID-19 have been far reaching. They're going to continue to be far reaching as firms have to continue saving next year because of the upside they've seen this year from the saving. And at Moneyhub you taken spending insights, harnessing your own data to create your Consumer Spending Tracker, which I'd love you to tell us a little bit about now. And at Dun & Bradstreet, we did something similar for business where we created COVID-19 Impact Index and the COVID-19 Recovery Index to provide an integrated impact assessment on both business risk and business opportunity. So tell us how did your team create the spending tracker? And what are some of the key trends that you can tell us you found from that data?
What if it's okay, I'll break it into three things because I think first of all, I just like to talk about why we did it. And I can talk a little bit about how and then just some of the insight that is actually fascinating. So the reason we did it is because we don't think companies realise yet - all companies this is - the power of the data that they have available to them with their customer base. So we wanted to try and bring to life, how that data that they could have with their customer base, that could be real-time and in their fingertips. So that was the reason we actually did this tracker to try and help companies understand that. You know, one of my friends had an annual review with their financial advisor in early February, and were very upset a month later, when they put that in the bin, their cash flow plan was now out of date within a few weeks. I can still remember them being a bit miffed is the word I'd use. I said to them, there's no need for it to be an annual review, it's 24/7, you can have your cash flow monitored 24/7 with alerts in place. But when you need help or interventions, and I think that's what really got me thinking, I need to try and help companies understand the power of the data that they've got available and with consumers consent, with that value exchange, they're on fire now, they can really do amazing things. And so just to kind of bring it back to what we did, I mean, we have 58 standard categories that our machine learning algorithm breaks financial data into, and then they're grouped into 16, personal categories and then users create their own categories under those so they can create whatever they like, but they roll back up. And then we have 22 business categories and they're broken into eight subcategories. So we have a lot of data that is already segmented and grouped, if you like, which is what enabled us to be able to produce the COVID Spending Tracker and then give some insights up to date insights about what people are actually doing with their money.
How do you see the power of these insights from the data changing in the coming year? Are consumers and companies viewing that exchange of data differently than in the past?
I think that we are kidding ourselves if we think people - I include myself in that - if we really do value our data, because the minute there's an exchange that I think is worth exchanging that for I give it up. So for example, I went to park my car last year at the train station, and they had a new app. I can't remember which one it was, but I downloaded it, and it wanted it wanted everything; access to my photos on my phone and this and that. I thought I'm not doing that. That's ridiculous to park my car. And so then it's like, well, you know, you don't get to park your car by the app. Okay, so I download it again. And what do I do? Go yeah, yeah, I have everything I have the lot because I want to park my car by the app, I want to pay by the app. That's how I want to do it. I just think you've only got to look at, dare I mention it, Cambridge analytical in 2018. I think it tells us all we need to know.
Let's talk for a moment about the business Sam. So Moneyhub been around for five years is it? Tell us a little bit about the genesis of the business and then where you think Moneyhub's future is going to be in our space?
Moneyhub has been around for long enough now to I think develop a kind of what I call a fantastic core product platform, that I believe is still ahead of the market. So for me the market still coming Moneyhub’s away, which is a great place to be. But the future really, the real future lies in the power of what we can do with companies and I have a philosophy, what we really are trying to do is to help everyone do things quicker, simpler and more cost effective, to in effect to take out the intermediaries. So if you don't add value, you kind of don't belong in this world. And that's the real power, I think of an open finance platform, combined with a company, combined with the consumer. You bring those together, you take what we manufacture direct into the consumers hands in an effortless way, and you minimise the touch points in between, and therefore the costs.
Yeah, I mean, ultimately, is Dun & Bradstreet’s business model. On one side, we help companies protect and manage risk and then on the other side, we help them accelerate growth through our sales and marketing solutions. And particularly when we look at the SMB space, or SME space, how do we help smaller companies do things more efficiently? They haven't got the time to think about everything all at once. The solutions that we're offering at Dun & Bradstreet helped take a lot of that hassle out of their lives, how create efficiencies and do across different parts of the value chain as those businesses are growing. Is that something that Moneyhub is spending a lot of time on the business financial management side?
It's actually anything to do with data. At the moment, we believe the market is saturated with low level data insights. So the quality of the insight is poor. Whereas what we think, we really bring to the table is hyper personalised for a business or a consumer because we work with both. So hyper personalised insight effortlessly. So that to me, is the amazing thing about the platform is it's product agnostic. And it's sector agnostic in terms of the industry that it can work for. So we genuinely think that we're probably as equally beneficial for a small business as what we would be for large business, but just in slightly different ways.
Let's talk about those efficiencies for a moment, because particularly as I was reading through your history and press releases, you created huge efficiencies for charities. In September 2020 you launched the world's first QR code based open banking payment capability with automated giftaid for the third sector. Which is an incredible innovation, a tremendous achievement, and actually having material impact for organisations that need it most. Tell us a little bit about that and what the genesis of that idea and execution was.
It all comes back to that same philosophy I mentioned about the I call it zero leakage, and I think the charity world knows all about donation leakage, but it is all about that. And it's one of the ways that I thought we can really a) do good instantly, but also show the power of this kind of direct mode of operation that we're all moving into through the power of technology and data. And so what we used is we used our payment initiation service provisions, which is the new legislation around being able to initiate payments directly from one bank account to another. And although we don't touch the money, we can initiate a payment from one account to another account, and using faster payments, which is off the rails, so you're going to be commission based mode of operation in terms of the rails that Visa, MasterCard, WorldPay, and even debit cards and direct debits, I mean that that whole world is ready to be disrupted. So we thought we would show you that, and how effective it can be with the charities and, and the thing that I think people have been most surprised about is how quick it is. So I think the pushback originally from a lot of companies was well, it's never gonna be quicker than using your credit card is it? It's just, it's just too easy to use a credit card. But I mean, it's incredibly fast. And because we all use biometrics now on our phones, with our banking apps, your thumbprint or just looking at your phone, and the payment is initiated. I think it's amazing. So that's what we did. And what it actually means is that charities get the money directly, like if I make a donation of £20, it goes from my bank account to the charities bank account in less than 15 seconds.
I love that. It's an incredible example of innovation. And one of the areas that I want to touch on just for a moment is disrupting the disruptors. Yes, technologies like AI and machine learning advance and power those decisions that we're talking about even more impactfully. Suddenly something we talk about a Dun & Bradstreet is that need to eliminate bias in those technologies. And I think gender bias and algorithms is something that's still pretty prevalent today. And I know it's something that you're focused on, actually outside of Moneyhub with an organisation you co-founded called Open51. Can you tell us a little bit about the mission and how are you ensuring that women are represented fairly?
So yes, it's called Open51 because 51% of the population are women, and they're definitely not represented in finance in that order at all. And the other thing that really motivated me to found this was one of my friends, she's an ex fighter pilot. And if it wasn't for one of the sergeant's in that world thinking to himself, I do not understand why no women make it through to becoming fighter pilots, when I see a lot of really good women at this point and then the next stage, they're all gone? If he hadn't actually had a looked into what went on, there still wouldn't be any women fighter pilots, because he realized that when he looked into it, the algorithm, the computer algorithm that you went through that process, after that certain stage would never have let any women through no matter how good they were. So it seems like that really makes you stop and think. So I thought, I want to do something about that. And I think we've all also heard of the Apple credit card debacle that the US regulator got involved with closer to home, really, in terms of financial services. I'm not trying to be difficult, but it's really not right. So what I want to do with Open51, and the team is to make sure that women are more represented in the financial services sector, which by definition, should start to erode some of the bias because obviously, by having more women - articulate informed women in those roles influencing behavior, that's a start. And then secondly, just one of the more kind of rudimentary things we've got to do is, unfortunately, we can't use historical data. So when we look at machine learning algorithms, we've got to be very careful about what data they learn from. And we've seen all manner of things go wrong on that front today as well. So that's what I'm a big advocate of.
And seemingly a big advocate of things that you see, you observe, and you just want to change, and well firstly, hugely admirable. Secondly, you're going to be busy, because there's a lot of things we need to change out there. But while we think about the future, what's next for Moneyhub in the area of data and services? Can you share some insight into what future product development looks like?
One of the things that we get is people want more insight, not less. So everyone wants more nudges. So for example, I got a nudge from Moneyhub, the other day telling me that I had spent 15%, more on home improvement. And I knew exactly why, because I'd spent more on the garden, and so people want more insight into what they're doing with their money that is for sure. I liken it to driving a car. So most people are not that interested in managing money. They obviously like what it enables and what it facilitates, but the actual money itself is for most people, terribly boring, a real drag. And I liken that to if I had had to take a car engine apart and put it back together in order to get my driving license, I would still be on the bus. And it's not that I can't take a car engine apart, put it back together, I'm sure given enough tenacity, I could do that. But do I want to do that I'm not remotely interested in doing that. So I think we've got to acknowledge, in my view, that there is a job that we can do for people and their money, which means that we can get them to a better place, help them make more informed decisions by taking all the pain away from actually their money. And it doesn't really matter who you are, when you're working with a customer, you want to take the pain points away of what you do with them. And actually money is a big part of that. So we're looking at recurring payments, so I don't know if you're familiar with variable recurring payments, which I think we'll see the end of direct debits and standing orders because they will be a much more effective way of doing that. Users, you know, are human beings are so curious. So do you know that you have two out of three of the major Internet TV providers, which is you are absolutely normal, or, you're incredibly abnormal, because you have 10, different subscriptions to TV programs, and you're an outlier. So trying to feedback to people about what they're doing and how it compares, because people love that, and I think anything to get you a little bit more engaged with what you're doing with your money is a good thing. And then on top of that, automating the next best thing to do with your money, so making saving like democratizing savings, really, and putting that back on the agenda. And the only way I believe we're going to democratize savings, rather than credit is to make it easy, effortless, and so that to me means automating it.
Yeah, democratizing savings is a topic for much debate. And in the part at the beginning, we spoke about getting people paid as they earn and I think we'll do a long way to helping solve that, and particularly when you talk about democratizing savings contribute towards the pension crisis that would set right in the middle of, and most people are entirely unaware of.
And Sam, it's really, really funny when you said at the beginning, about the 30 days that your employer is benefiting from, and I, I'm going to get our finance team to listen to this podcast, because I horrified them when I said to them not that long ago that I'm going to pay people every day. That's what I'm going to do. You know, at the moment, it's quite tricky because of the way payroll systems are set up. But it's, it's on my mission to be able to pay everyone every day, because this concept of monthly pay, weekly is ridiculous, and there's no need for it. And I think we're also going to head into what much more flexible work environment. And what I mean by that is, I think people will do more than one job. So I think the idea that you just get paid when you do your work is very sensible. Right?
Yeah, it certainly is and it'll help not just alleviate economic issues, but equally help alleviate all sorts of mental health issues around financial stresses I suspect as well. There's going to be many benefits. It's a huge trend waiting to happen. We are nearing the end of the podcast, Sam, you've had a dynamic career, you're clearly a change agent, a hugely passionate one. What kind of advice would you give people who are starting their career? What are the big lessons that you've learned that you'd want to pass on some of our younger listeners on the podcast?
You need to be brave, and you need to make your own mistakes. And don't be scared of making them, you only learn by making mistakes. So just get on and meet them and learn from them. I know we can always look on and try and learn from others, and we should. But in my experience, we learn the best and the fastest with our own mistakes. So my view is just get on and make your own mistakes, learn from them, and you will be wiser and better at what you do in really short order. And the other reason I'm a big fan of that is because it's better to be cross with yourself when you make a mistake, rather than cross with someone else because they advise you because then you just blame them. Because it wasn't really your decision, you followed someone's advice. I think you've got to own it, I think look on take on board. But if you want to go and do something a bit different, I'll do it your own way. I think crack on. Be brave and follow your own path. It will be the best path that you can follow, in my humble opinion.
I love that and I'm now scratching my head asking myself why am I not wiser? I've made so many mistakes. But it's great advice, thank you, Sam. And I'd also like to extend a thank you to our mutual great friend Todd Rooker, who kindly made this thoughtful introduction. It's been such a pleasure speaking with you, Sam, and I know our listeners have learned a lot from this. Thank you for joining us on The Power of Data Podcast.
Thanks for having me.