Reinventing financial services for SMEs: Wio Bank

SME Banking
26/04/2023 Interview
profile picture of Jayesh Patel

Jayesh Patel

Wio Bank

Chief Executive Officer

We often read that the offers of traditional banks are not adapted enough to SMEs. So, we set out to discover new players dedicated to SMEs. Jayesh Patel, Chief Executive Officer at Wio Bank, gives us his point of view and shares with us what Wio Bank offers its customers.

In which countries do you operate and how do you perceive the banking offer to SMEs there? In your opinion, does the offer from existing financial institutions meet the needs of SMEs?

The UAE is a heavily banked market with over 50 banks serving a population of 10 million and some 400,000 private sector businesses. The industry is dominated by a set of long-established traditional banks. But banking ubiquity doesn’t necessarily mean customer happiness. Most of the banks continue to have archaic processes and legacy systems. While a handful of digital banks have been launched by incumbents, they are still dependent on the parent bank’s policies, people and infrastructure, thus limiting their ability to truly disrupt the market. 

Wio is the first platform bank in the Middle East region, built as a greenfield project to revolutionize the banking sector with three main capabilities:

 Digital banking apps that are easy, enabling and empowering – your everyday digital banking app with a seamless intuitive experience.

 Embedded finance solutions – Wio will be providing banking services in the apps customers use every day without them needing to switch to the banking app. 

• BaaS capabilities that allow non-banking apps to integrate Wio’s banking services and provide it to their customers. 

Wio has been created with an ambition to contribute to the UAE’s digital vision by creating a robust digital financial system and building disruptive solutions. Wio leverages the strength of its shareholders and the management team who have successfully launched digital banks in the past. This is evidenced by Wio launching the platform in just 17 months! 

The first disruption that Wio has made is with the launch of a digital banking product for businesses. Through rigorous market and customer research, we identified core gaps in financial support faced by SMEs, who are vital to the economic growth of the nation. This led to the decision to prioritize the launch of Wio Business, a tailor-made SME application, providing a convenient and seamless banking experience.

What is your business model and your core value proposition for SMEs?

1. Modern experience and digital infrastructure 

Wio believed that it could solve a major concern that incumbents couldn’t: traditional banking infrastructure doesn’t support the convenience and modern experience businesses have come to expect in the digital age. Wio attacked incumbent models by creating an entirely app-based experience where businesses could open an account from their phone in minutes.  

Wio has also been able to move faster than competition because of its forward-looking approach to building banking infrastructure. Instead of a massive code base with limited deployment flexibility, Wio is built with scale in mind and uses a microservices-driven architecture. This allows our engineering teams to deploy code more frequently because deployment only impacts the microservice they are working on. In comparison, most traditional banks are pushing updates on a quarterly or annual basis. 

2. Best-in-class products and services 

Wio had the insight that customers should be able to do everything from the app. This includes storing money, sending and receiving payments, budgeting, creating invoices, requesting POS terminals and online payment gateways. At launch, Wio was able to provide features not offered by competitors, including real-time notifications on spending, disposable virtual cards, saving spaces to simplify and automate savings, tracking payments and sending reminders. In addition, Wio offers an always available support, with a human element complementing our digital experience. This immediately made it a 10x better product and service. 

3. Community driven approach 

Right from the start, Wio Business was built along with our customers. Before public launch in September 2022, Wio ran an extensive beta phase with over 800 customers who shared astounding feedback on the experience. Their ideas also made it into the main product and generated best-in-class engagement. As Wio continues to expand, we are mindful to launch features with an emphasis on treating customers fairly. 

4. Driving deep value for customers 

Wio offers simple, transparent, and customer-friendly fee structures simply by cutting significant infrastructure operating costs. Wio Business is a subscription-based product, which offers physical and virtual cards, goal-based savings, local and international payments, invoicing, generation of payment links, etc., in exchange for a flat fee. Wio shows all charges upfront, including those from third parties. This is very different from traditional banks whose economics are reliant on customer-unfriendly fees and hidden charges.

Wio has signed up over 10,000 SME customers, averaging 2,000 new accounts every month, quickly becoming one of the leading banks tailored for SMEs in the UAE.

How’s the experience at Wio Bank different compared to other players? What are the unique features you offer to your customers?

Wio Business provides startups, freelancers and SMEs access to banking services seamlessly while empowering them with innovative beyond-banking services. The offering was developed in collaboration with customers and built to get SMEs up and running quickly by providing easy and simple banking tools to manage their business better. 

Wio has a streamlined account opening, providing an operating account much faster than other players in the market. Our innovative features empower customers to manage and track expenses easily, simplify saving for VAT, manage receivables through the invoicing services, and accept payments through links. Moreover, the business banking app comes boosted with benefits such as guaranteed interest on savings, free processing of salary transfers via Wage Protection System (WPS), and guaranteed USD exchange rate of AED 3.673 on US dollar accounts. The enhanced offerings are designed to make banking simpler, more accessible and cost-effective for small and medium-sized businesses.

Wio Business better addresses the banking needs of SMEs by seamlessly integrating personalized services for their business. Under its two business plans – the newly launched ‘Grow’ plan and the existing ‘Essential’ plan, Wio Business offers zero minimum balance and free sign-up to payments gateways, simplified and fully digital business account opening, expense management, personalized options and seamlessly integrated services that are built around each client's needs, in addition to helping them automate their admin by being in control of their spending with unlimited virtual cards for their team and account access for multiple users. 

Wio has signed up over 10,000 SME customers, averaging 2,000 new accounts every month, quickly becoming one of the leading banks tailored for SMEs in the UAE.

Being a banking provider without physical branches, customers only interact with you remotely. How do you ensure an excellent sales and service model leading to a great customer experience with interactions being 100% digital?

Our customer care team is available 24/7 to provide top-notch support in both Arabic and English. Unlike other banks that rely on impersonal bots or complex IVR systems, we believe in putting our customers first by ensuring that reaching an agent is quick and easy. In fact, our average speed of answer is maintained under one minute at our call center line, hence our customers never have to wait long to speak with a real person.

We are dedicated to making banking simple and hassle-free for our customers. That's why we have designed our app features and journeys to be incredibly intuitive, so that our customers can self-serve with ease.

At our bank, we value feedback from our customers and take it seriously. Our team works diligently to implement customer suggestions internally, collaborating across teams to ensure that our customers' needs are met.

We take pride in our commitment to exceptional customer service and believe that our dedication sets us apart from our competitors. Our customers are our top priority always.

Wio Business was launched officially on 5 September 2022. In just under six months, Wio has become the largest SME onboarding bank, outpacing every competitor. Wio customers, transactions and balances are growing exponentially (double digit growth month over month) with a customer activation rate of 91%. 

Where do you see Wio Bank in five years? What impact or difference are you trying to achieve for small business owners in your portfolio?

With Wio Business, SMEs can collect payments via payment links, POS and bank transfers, historically a huge pain point. Instead of just sending invoices via email, businesses can send a Stripe payment link to customers. The experience has been meaningfully better for our customers. As a reflection of that, Wio has an NPS of 73, which is miles ahead of the industry standard and in line with the world’s best consumer brands.

Can you specify some major milestones accomplished on your bank’s journey?

Wio Business was launched officially on 5 September 2022. In just under six months, Wio has become the largest SME onboarding bank, outpacing every competitor. Wio customers, transactions and balances are growing exponentially (double digit growth month over month) with a customer activation rate of 91%. 

Wio Business also has the fastest SME account opening in the UAE (and quite possibly the region). Where traditional banks require pages of form filling and take multiple weeks or even months to open an SME account, with Wio it takes less than 10 minutes to apply and just 1.9 days on average to open an account for complete applications! It is very important to put this performance in context:  

 SMEs in the UAE belong to a diverse set of industry sectors and sizes ranging from freelancers and startups to established businesses with complex shareholding. 

 UAE has a multitude of business licensing authorities including free-zones which don’t capture the same customer data. 

These licensing authorities don’t talk to each other and there is no centralized system for KYC and document validation. Wio has used the latest tech innovations to integrate these services and has advanced fraud management and AML systems. But in many cases, the licensing documents do require manual verification.

Download Wio's presentation to learn more about the company

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