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Why Farhan Ahmad Is Wanting To Lend A Hand To SMBs

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Why Farhan Ahmad Is Wanting To Lend A Hand To SMBs

Benzinga's Fintech Focus Podcast features conversations with the biggest names in fintech. Subscribe to the Fintech Focus newsletter to get a roundup of industry news delivered to your inbox weekly, and check out upcoming programming at Benzinga events.

In this episode of the Fintech Focus podcast, we shine an underserved area of the business community: small and medium-sized businesses. Most banks gear their services to large businesses with a little extra help on the side for small businesses. That’s why our next guest on the podcast is a man with a plan to help out SMBs.

After years of working with big-name clients and handling digital payments for Europe and Africa at Barclays, Farhan Ahmad realized that small and medium-sized businesses needed more help from their financial service providers. He set out on his own with Bento For Business, a financial services company specifically-designed for SMB’s.

Listen to the podcast below to hear how Ahmad is throwing is bringing his large business expertise to help out small businesses.

Interview Highlights

When and how exactly did the idea for a product like Bento For Business ... How did that come to you?
I was at Barclays and I wanted to start up a company, and I went searching for the big idea. And I literally went searching for saying, "What is the biggest pain point in financial services that I think I can solve or effect in a meaningful way?". And something that at that time I thought would not be something that's in the common ... Everybody would not be talking about this. I didn't want to follow an existing trend, I wanted to identify the next big thing.

All of us are users in consumer banking. So we kind of see the friction in consumer banking. You have a bank account, you can see what frustrates you. And it's easy for people to come up with ideas and thoughts on ... I shouldn't say easy. It's certainly more common for people to come up with ideas on that and solve that problem. However, the BDB side, unless you've been running big companies, or running companies of any sort, typically most people don't have any idea of the friction points. And so they naturally landed on BDB as the area of focus. Looked at small/medium business in general, which I thought were extremely underserved in this space.

One of the benefits of banking with a large bank is you get access to a lot of different types of products. So, how did you decide to compete with the for small businesses?
We're kind of pseudo competitors. The way our motto is built, we would love to work all these banks. This is something that I've noticed in that space while being in those banks. We wanted to do things for SMB's too. We just couldn't make a business case that would trump other opportunities in the pipeline. And the test-deck's almost filled for two to three years at each of those companies, that's just pretty common. And as much as people believe in this, it's really hard to justify this over other profit tools for a large bank, because the investment required is pretty steep to do this.

The notion for us was to say, "All right, there's a technology component here, and a bank competent here,” and we separate the two. So, instead of using this platform built in the 60s and 70s that every bank uses, how about we build a modern version of that? When you build that, you reduce the cost spaces of the platform, you make it really easy to access, you put modern tools next to it. And we still want to work with banks and third parties to bring it to life and provide a very holistic sweep of services, not just one product.

We're not trying to be the new model-based business bank, we're not trying to be that. We're not trying to just be a card company, we're not trying to be an expense management company. Our whole mission is to be a financial operating platform for SMB's, and that means everything that a large bank would offer to a business, we can offer it, but just in a much more accessible way.

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