A dig­i­tal plat­form to com­pare fi­nan­cial prod­ucts

Us­ing a sin­gle plat­form, South Africans can now com­pare prod­ucts from dif­fer­ent fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions in or­der to de­cide which one will best meet their fi­nan­cial needs.

Finweek English Edition - - THE WEEK - Editorial@fin­week.co.za

when Michael Bowren and Christo­pher Ball re­alised that many or­di­nary South Africans have low lev­els of fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy and of­ten get caught out by loan sharks and Ponzi schemes, they de­cided to de­velop a sin­gle plat­form that would as­sist con­sumers in find­ing prod­ucts that could meet their fi­nan­cial needs.

The pair met at St An­drews in Gra­ham­stown, where they both ma­tric­u­lated. Bowren, a BSc grad­u­ate, was work­ing as a ju­nior en­gi­neer and Ball was work­ing for a peer-to-peer lend­ing com­pany when they de­cided to de­velop Fincheck.co.za. They saw a gap in the mar­ket to bet­ter al­lo­cate fi­nan­cial prod­ucts to suit con­sumers’ needs.

The web­site is mod­elled on UK tech start-up Money­su­per­mar­ket.com, a price-com­par­i­son web­site. “[Money­su­per­mar­ket.com] was sav­ing peo­ple a lot of money, just by pre­sent­ing what is out there,” says Bowren.

Many peo­ple ap­ply for the “wrong” prod­ucts when it comes to find­ing fi­nan­cial prod­ucts that suit their needs. For ex­am­ple, peo­ple who only need R300 might end up tak­ing a much larger per­sonal loan from a bank, un­aware that there are smaller in­sti­tu­tions that could loan them far smaller amounts. “There are a lot of smaller com­pa­nies out there who do very good jobs in terms of fi­nance and in­vest­ments. They just need the plat­form in or­der to be mar­keted,” Bowren ex­plains.

Fincheck is a free and in­de­pen­dent plat­form, con­nect­ing peo­ple to 26 dif­fer­ent prod­ucts from 106 re­li­able and ac­cred­ited fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions. Only reg­is­tered credit providers are pre­sented on the plat­form, he says.

It al­lows peo­ple to sum up the costs in­volved in tak­ing out any fi­nan­cial of­fer­ing eas­ily and quickly. Con­sumers there­fore don’t have to go to sev­eral web­sites to get in­for­ma­tion about the fi­nan­cial ser­vice or prod­uct they are re­search­ing. The Fincheck web­site is com­pat­i­ble with mo­bile de­vices as well as easy to nav­i­gate and un­der­stand, mak­ing it ac­ces­si­ble to the ma­jor­ity of con­sumers it is tar­geted at.

Prod­ucts range from loans (in­clud­ing per­sonal and stu­dent loans), cheque ac­counts and debit cards, as well as for­eign ex­change and in­vest­ment prod­ucts such as unit trusts.

House­hold debt in SA av­er­aged 78% of gross in­come in 2015, ac­cord­ing to tradinge­co­nomics.com, leav­ing house­holds with lim­ited dis­pos­able in­come to live on. Fincheck’s goal is to guide the av­er­age con­sumer from a place of in­debt­ed­ness to a stage where they are sav­ing and, fi­nally, where they’re in­vest­ing for the fu­ture, he says. Fincheck gath­ers in­for­ma­tion from South African lenders, banks, and debt con­sol­i­da­tion part­ners and presents it on Fincheck.co.za in an in­de­pen­dent, un­bi­ased and trans­par­ent way, says Bowren. This al­lows users to com­pare sim­i­lar fi­nan­cial ser­vices prod­ucts on of­fer from dif­fer­ent fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­sti­tu­tions.

The sys­tem matches con­sumers’ re­quire­ments to rel­e­vant prod­ucts. Once the con­sumer has made their choice, they are linked to the fi­nan­cial ser­vice provider that best meets their needs. Es­sen­tially, a con­sumer is “two clicks away” from an ap­pli­ca­tion.

Af­ter ap­ply­ing, the con­sumer will deal with the fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion di­rectly. Fincheck is strictly an al­lo­ca­tor, he em­pha­sises. Con­sumers don’t pay for the ser­vice. The fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion pays a stan­dard fee to Fincheck when­ever a con­sumer chooses a prod­uct from the in­sti­tu­tion. The web­site is up­dated on a con­tin­ual ba­sis as fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions change their rates.

Com­pa­nies look­ing to be pre­sented on Fincheck can use the con­tact de­tails on the web­site. There­after they will be re­viewed to en­sure that they are le­gal, reg­is­tered credit providers, says Bowren.

Many peo­ple ap­ply for the “wrong”prod­ucts when it comes to find­ing fi­nan­cial prod­ucts that suit their needs.

Mak­ing South Africans money savvy

Fincheck pro­vides ex­ten­sive ed­u­ca­tion on its por­tal to help con­sumers be­come more fi­nan­cially lit­er­ate. There are ba­sic in­for­ma­tion tools such as that of Imali Life, which presents ba­sic fi­nan­cial con­cepts like the ori­gins of “money”, “in­ter­est rates” and “debt” by us­ing in­fo­graph­ics and car­toon comic strips.

There are also in­for­ma­tive tips and a blog with con­tent rang­ing from sav­ing to in­vest­ing, and un­der­stand­ing var­i­ous fi­nan­cial prod­ucts and terms, he says.

Since its launch in Novem­ber 2015, Fincheck has ex­pe­ri­enced ex­po­nen­tial traf­fic growth on a month-on­month ba­sis. It cur­rently re­ceives 15 000 unique page views per month.

Bowren says that, at this stage, they do not want to di­lute the prod­uct too much by adding quote com­par­isons for other prod­ucts and ser­vices: “You need to be known for what you do and you need to do that well.”

Cur­rently they’re fo­cus­ing on be­ing “good” at pre­sent­ing fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion and con­nect­ing with users. How­ever, if con­sumers’ needs change and they start en­quir­ing about other prod­ucts, Fincheck will ex­plore other of­fer­ings.

At the mo­ment, the team’s main fo­cus is on cre­at­ing value for the end user. “We want Fincheck to be the fi­nan­cial shop­ping cen­tre in SA – the house­hold name where you just come on here and pick any­thing you like,” Bowren says.

Christo­pher Ball Co-founder and chief in­no­va­tion of­fi­cer of Fincheck.co.za

Michael Bowren Co-founder and CEO of Fincheck.co.za

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