2015 was the year that put Grow Financial on the map, says Kevin Sandhu, the company’s founder and CEO.
“At the beginning of the year, if we made a phone call to a bank, a bank teller probably wouldn’t return our calls, by the end of the year we literally had top executives from Canada’s largest banks calling us,” he says.
That’s not the only recognition that Grow Financial (which was known as Grouplend until November) has received, it’s also a finalist for Startup of the Year at the Canadian startup awards.
The name change came as the startup looked to move beyond investor-backed consumer loans, its initial offering.
“It’s very clear that what we do is much more than that, we use technology to solve broad financial problems,” he says. “It’s not just personal loans or consumer loans and its not just one or two or three different products and we wanted a brand that better reflected that.”
The same day the company announced the name change, it launched its second product, credit-monitoring tool RateTracker.
“This was one of our turning points to get calls from big bank execs., and not only big bank execs in Canada, also big bank execs. in the U.S., big bank execs. in the U.K.,” Sandhu says.
He says RateTracker is the first product of its kind in the world.
“It’s free, it literally costs you nothing and there’s very little available globally that give this level of transparency for truly zero dollars,” he says. “It provides you with what I would argue is the most meaningful piece of understanding around your creditworthiness.”
He says it’s designed to give people understanding around their creditworthiness without the need to know a whole lot of “bank speak.”
For Sandhu, Grow Financial is a tech company working to build products in the financial sector, rather than a financial company that’s using technology.
“There are too many companies that are fin and not so much tech that are really building small specialty finance companies, there’s nothing wrong with that necessarily but I think that they unfairly ride on the hype of Fintech,” he says.
Sandhu says his approach is the opposite.
“We’re using technology and data to improve people’s financial lives and that’s not necessarily running an alternative bank or building a better loan product or one particular product like that but rather building a great technology company that can help a lot of people,” he says. “I think that’s why we’ve had the traction we have.”
While Sandhu has a background in investment banking, the majority of Grow Financial’s team has never worked at a financial company before and comes from other parts of the tech industry. He says that gives the team a fresh approach to solving financial problems.
Sandhu says he doesn’t quite know just how Grow Financial’s relationship with the big banks will play out. While he says Grow Financial is open to partnerships, he knows things might not go that way.
“We do still present a threat to big banks and credit unions and everybody else in that traditional world,” he says. “It’s clear that they’re as interested in partnership as they are in direct competition. I can tell you it’s going to be a mix of both.”
Even though 2015 was a good year for Grow Financial, Sandhu says the company itself has a lot of growing to do.
“This is very much the first inning of the game, we’re building something that’s going to be around for, hopefully, decades, if not hundreds of years,” Sandhu says.