INNOVATOR: Josh Reich, CEO, Simple Finance
Josh Reich's the bellwether of a new generation of bank startupvisionaries-possessing not only business experience but also expertise in technology and data mining and an understanding of how social media can be used as a tool for marketing and differentiation from the old school.
"Banking with Chase will not make you look good in an open-backed dress," he wrote in a recent blog on that bank's Sapphire card brand ad campaign featuring an upscale middle age couple touting the new cards benefits. "I just want a bank that cuts the crap and gets out of the way."
Reich's new bank, BankSimple, positions itself as an easy, intuitive bank featuring accessible online services. It says it doesn't offer "confusing products" or charges "hidden fees." Instead it issues customers a card that leverages analytics to offer an array of financial services such as checking, savings, rewards and a credit line, with other services slated to be added in the future.
The creative force behind the new bank, aimed at consumers who feel disenfranchised by older, more traditional banks, is Reich, a self-described early 30s "data geek" who also founded a boutique data mining consulting firm specializing in aiding startups. The firm, called i2pi (as in the Greek letter), utilizes computational analysis to process billions of calculations per second and helps firms learn how to develop their own analytic strengths. Reich also ran an equity research group at a hedge fund and led core components at Root Exchange, a mortgage lead marketplace.
"My experience was helpful in learning to [build] retail banking and knowing what consumers need from banks," Reich says, claiming banks make money by keeping their customers confused. "I was running a small business and found it difficult to understand my own finances. That was at odds with my background in finance, but it was really hard to understand where my money was going."
When not building a new bank, Reich builds electronic art machines and visualization tools, and holds an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University-where he studied mathematical finance and micro-economics. He also holds a BS in math and statistics from the University of Melbourne. While in Australia, he developed large scale analytics software for Nielsen/NetRatings and Red Sheriff.
Reich's career path has given him a deep understanding of how data impacts a young business' growth, putting him in a unique position to use his experience as a consultant to build a new bank. "Josh has a background in large scale data analytics, which comes form taking huge amounts of data and being able understand what's going on. I don't know anyone who can do that better than he can," says Shamir Karkal, also part of BankSimple's startup team. Karkal met Reich at Carnegie Mellon and is himself a specialist in financial consulting, having worked with McKinsey & Co. where he advised banking and payments clients in Europe, the Middle East and the US on topics such as risk management, portfolio strategy, market entry strategy, cross-sell and operational skills.
It's the ability of its of founders to leverage their mix of tech expertise and business and marketing skills that will determine the bank's success when it formally opens for business later this year. "The bank will need to have simplicity, but also have a lot of capabilities," says James Van Dyke, president and founder of Javelin Strategy & Research.