Millennial businesswoman Luvleen Sidhu is the Co-Founder, President and Chief Strategy Officer at BankMobile, America’s largest and fastest growing mobile-first bank. BankMobile empowers low-to-middle- income Americans, the underbanked, and millennials with a digital, effortless and financially empowering banking experience. Luvleen launched BankMobile in January 2015 – when she was only 28-years-old – with the understanding that everyone needs financial services, yet it is one of the least customer-centric industries that exists today. We had a chance to interview Luvleen and asked about her story, how she started her financial business and the future of BankMobile.
Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
Shortly after I graduated from Harvard in 2008, I started my career at Lehman Brothers. My career was off to a memorable start since my first day coincided with the day that Lehman filed for Bankruptcy. I went on to work in investment management until joining Customers Bank, which is my businesses’ parent company today, to lead its business development unit. That’s when I began to examine how banks could benefit from going digital. I then decided – prior to founding BankMobile – to study strategic management at Wharton Business School.
In January 2015, I founded BankMobile, to give consumers an affordable, efficient and enjoyable banking experience. Banking was outdated and one of the least customer-centric industries that existed. Banks had been slow to adapt to changing consumer behavior and preferences and had been neglecting a large portion of the population that was struggling financially. I saw an opportunity to disrupt and exponentially improve the established banking business model based on branch-based customer acquisition, which was both inefficient and costly. BankMobile is now America’s largest and fastest-growing mobile-first bank.
How did you come up with your business name?
Sometimes the best business names are those that tell the consumer exactly what the business is aiming to accomplish. After I learned that Americans on average are walking into a bank branch only one time a year, as opposed to interacting with a bank on a mobile device 20 to 30 times a month, I knew there was a void to fill with our business. We wanted to combine the trust and credibility that “bank” evokes with the accessibility and high tech that “mobile” infers. BankMobile very simply exemplifies what we stand for and what we wanted to provide to our customers.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
BankMobile is a mobile-first bank offering no to low-fee checking and savings accounts and personal loans to our target customers—low/middle income Americans, the underbanked, and millennials. We give our clients an alternative banking experience to the traditional model that is focused on technology, innovation, easy-to-use products and financial education. We are uniquely positioned to provide low-cost banking services and to date have saved our customers $100 million in banking fees.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
BankMobile created a disruptive low-cost operating model that allows us to provide low-cost banking services to those who have been left behind by the high-fee model of traditional banking. With this multi-partner distribution model, which we refer to as “Bank-as-a-Service,” we can acquire significantly more customers at significantly less costs than traditional banks then transfer that savings onto our customers.
Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years?
Our goal is to become the top acquirer of checking accounts and one of the top five banks in the country. We will do this by leveraging the customer base of our partners to open one million accounts a year and continue to give consumers an affordable, efficient and enjoyable banking experience. We are already an industry leader in technological strategy and will continue to be, with increasing access to so many exponentially-growing technologies such as artificial intelligence, biometrics and blockchain.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs?
Don’t just be customer-centric, be customer-obsessed. It is not enough to just focus on why a customer would be attracted to your business but always look to find solutions to better serve their needs and improve their lives. Continuously focus on why a customer would stay with your business and what you can do to improve the customer experience. Entrepreneurs should remain customer-obsessed long after launch, remembering that the customer’s need is at the core of their purpose. As your business grows and evolves, the customer should always come first.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?” -Simon Sinek
In my experience launching the largest and fastest-growing mobile first bank, I’ve learned how important it is to have a clear vision and purpose. Knowing your WHY is vital to your success that’s why this quote resonates with me so much. In short, I’ve learned that a bold, compelling vision and massively transformative purpose are needed to create disruptive businesses.
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
I am extremely proud of the work BankMobile has done to help students save money, at a time when millions of Americans are faced with rising tuition and student loan debt. Today, one out of every three students in the U.S. is using BankMobile. On top of offering students an easy-to-use banking alternative, we are here to help them save money and create a financially-sound future. As I stated earlier, we have saved our customers, mainly college and university students over $100 million in banking fees.