If you’ve traveled internationally before, you’re probably familiar with the Incoming Passenger Cards they make you fill out before you land. The ones that basically ask you to willingly disclose if you’re a drug runner, money launderer, if you’re carrying a banana or have been infected with Ebola in the past 30 days.
I travel fairly frequently between Sydney and Christchurch, New Zealand, so I have the privilege of being able to fill out a number of these several times a year. Mostly it’s a pretty unmemorable experience, just like the inflight meal service. But I’ll never forget this one time, having just started my first job at Tyro, fresh out of university, when I was faced with the dilemma of needing to fill in ‘Occupation or Job’. At the time I had this ridiculously convoluted title of ‘Payment Solutions Specialist’ which wouldn’t fit in the boxes provided. So, thinking I was doing everyone a favour, decided to just put ‘Sales’. What a rookie error that was.
For whatever reason, when I presented at the customs booth in New Zealand, the officer clearly wasn’t satisfied with my ambiguous title. I suppose for some people ‘Sales’ is a convenient descriptor that covers all manner of evils. Mr New Zealand Customs Officer, upstanding defender of the border that he was smelt a rat.
‘And,’ he inquired, disdainfully assessing my passenger card, ‘what exactly is it that you sell?’ No doubt expecting me to wither in a heap in front of him and confess to my crimes, I think he was rather unprepared for my response.
‘EFTPOS terminals,’ I replied sheepishly.
He eyed me rather suspiciously, or should I say, quizzically. ‘And that’s a job, is it,’ came his retort, accompanied by a set of raised eyebrows. I must have managed to convince him it was (I’m in sales after all), but I made a mental note to find some other more reputable title for future border crossings.
Selling EFTPOS terminals is certainly an odd job. If you chat to most of the Tyro sales team, we all have a story or two like that -the dreaded ‘and what do you do’ BBQ question you can’t really avoid. In the past I’ve experimented with a number of personal elevator pitches, from Merchant Acquiring (sounds well paid and important) to payments (ambiguous but relatable). Generally, if you hit anyone unversed in the banking world straight up with ‘I sell EFTPOS terminals,’ they look at you with a mixture of pity and confusion – how could you possibly enjoy that, or, what even is that? Of course you do enjoy it, and it is a job. But by that stage the conversation’s moved on to the McKinsey consultant standing to your right.
I’m telling you this anecdote because now in 2016, suddenly I’m selling more than just EFTPOS. At Tyro, myself and the team now get to sell small business banking. A subtle distinction but one that represents years of work in the making. You see, in the past week we’ve gone live with our first ever banking product, the Tyro Smart Account. And what might look to outsiders like a small step for Tyro is in fact a giant leap for Australian banking. What this represents should not be taken lightly by the established banking community.
While still an MVP, the Tyro Smart Account is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a smart and talented product team and a visionary group of founders who took on the challenge talked about by many of the biggest names in tech globally – the challenge of building a full stack bank from scratch.
Designed to strip out inefficiencies in managing bill payments through a tight integration with Xero, we now face the task of getting the Smart Account into the hands of the Australian small business community. Today I was on the phone to businesses who had already expressed interest. Being able, for the first time, to move the conversation beyond just EFTPOS to their banking needs as a whole was exciting. I sense the next chapter in Tyro’s growth story will be a fast one.
We know our banking products won’t solve all the accounting, lending and investment problems SMEs have. So we’ll complement our roadmap of banking solutions with supporting and building an ecosystem for other fintech startups who can solve those problems. In fact, it’s already happening today, up in the Tyro FintechHub. This type of collaborative movement in the Australian banking sector has the potential to be a serious economic growth game changer. Goodbye mining boom, hello small business boom.
When I left university I didn’t think I’d be selling EFTPOS terminals. But one thing is for sure, I definitely didn’t think I’d end up helping a great team build a bank. The future is certainly unwritten, but I must say, it’s rather fun to have a chance to help choose the words. I won’t call myself a banker, yet, or possibly ever. But maybe next time I pass through customs in Christchurch I’ll try out Fintech Evangelist. That could be interesting.
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