Exclusive: ‘Building for an unknown future’ – Elliott Limb, Mambu in “The Fintech Magazine”

Composable and collaborative are the watchwords for the new normal in banking, according to Elliott Limb, Chief Customer Officer for Cloud-native banking and lending software-as-a-service provider, Mambu.

“If anybody in a bank’s telling you that they know what the bank’s going to look like in five or 10 years and can guarantee their market, then I think they may be in for a bit of a shock,” says Elliott Limb. 

As chief customer officer for Cloud-native banking and lending software-as-a-service provider, Mambu, his job is to prepare them for it – after all, neither he, nor anyone else could have predicted in January 2020 how different things would be in April. The pandemic has grimly proved his argument for a) composable, Cloud-based banking services, which give greater flexibility of response to changing world circumstances, and b) collaborative ecosystems, because we really are all in this together. They were compelling trends before the crisis, but as the banking system wakes up to the new reality of trading post-pandemic, Limb believes you’d be foolish now to resist them.

Working with fintechs, including some well-known unicorns such as the UK’s specialist business lender OakNorth, German challenger N26 and global money transfer service TransferWise, as well as top-tier banks and telcos, Mambu allows clients to rewrite the score for financial services. Wrapped around its core banking platform is the Mambu Process Orchestrator, giving companies the ability to ‘compose’ their own business processes and services in a low/no-code environment. 

An ecosystem of vendors is available to plug into customers’ platforms over the Mambu application programming interface (API), which powers more than 6,000 loan and deposit products, while a Cloud-native system provides the security, accessibility, flexibility and potentially infinite scalability that’s increasingly demanded in a fast-changing environment, says Limb.

That elastic capability in particular has been tested and proven by many clients servicing small and medium-sized businesses – one of the sectors that Mambu focusses on and Limb, as a former entrepreneur, knows well. He has bitter memories of the difficulty he experienced in establishing individual relationships with banks so that they fully understood his specific business needs, and the frustration of being shunted to a call centre.

The ability to build close ties with SMEs and customise packages to suit them through the Mambu softwareas a service (SaaS) model, is what has attracted newcomers in SME banking, such as  Recognise in the UK. 

“People sometimes misunderstand SaaS; they think it’s a code-based deployment mechanism,” says Limb. “But it’s a lot more than that. It’s a mindset, it’s about building the ecosystem, it’s the pricing and it’s the rollout implementation.”

It’s also decentralised – which turned out to be vital for Recognise, launching in the midst of a pandemic, with teams working from home during the critical implementation phase. And that’s likely to become an increasingly important feature of SaaS as work patterns change.

“The lockdown has not stopped us from rolling out and working collaboratively; we can still get things done,” says Limb. “A pure SaaS model, and a pure collaborative way of working like this, means we can all be working from home in different parts of the world. The software just rolls out because we can implement as teams across companies. That is a massive change,  and this is what people need to wake up to. It is such an important shift in the market.”

Changing the game

Recognise CEO Jason Oakley looked long and hard for a suitable banking platform before deciding Mambu was the best fit for his company’s mission to shake-up business banking.

“The beauty of the Mambu Process Orchestrator is that the tech allows you to create bespoke solutions, it allows you to get to one-to-one and really connect with the client and understand them. That changes the game,” Oakley says.

It begs the question whether the tens of thousands of SMEs still served by more traditional banking structures, and which have struggled to get the immediate help they need during the crisis, would have fared better if those banks had been based on a fundamentally different technology.

Explaining how Mambu is responding to the crisis, Limb says: “If we pick up any requirements from customers at any time, we can turn them around very quickly. In this crisis, we suddenly saw payment holidays were needed, different loan calculations, interest rebates. As soon as a request came in, we pulled together a crack team – say it was for SME financing – and, as we’d had a request from one of these types of customers, we immediately reached out to the other 10 to ask ‘are you seeing this?’. We then delivered that solution within two to three days, straight out of the box, and rolled it out to all of them. They didn’t need to go through an implementation phase, it just worked. That way, we could help them to help customers who are in a crisis; the underbanked, the SMEs who are struggling, the people who need access to funds or to change markets and make regulatory changes,” says Limb.

“We’re seeing that, around the world, regulators are saying ‘give interest payment holidays’. We can roll that out in a matter of days. We can move with agility to do the right thing, not just for us, for our clients and for their clients, but for humanity and the economy in general.”

Mambu recently struck a deal with UK-based business banking platform Tide to boost Tide’s revolving credit facilities and overdrafts for SMEs. It has entered into a partnership with TransferWise to allow Mambu’s customers to plug into TransferWise’s API to enable simplified international money transfers. It has tied up with Singapore-based Goldbell Financial Services, a business finance provider, to power Goldbell Evolution Network (GEN), a private debt investment platform. Collaboration and composability were key fundamentals to all of those, says Limb.

 “Putting a composable infrastructure in place acknowledges that not all banks are the same,” says Limb. “Gone are the days where ‘collaboration’ just means a bank demands its customers pay a certain way and the technology vendor sells what the bank wants.  Now, we’re all working a lot closer. Composable and collaborative are absolutely fundamental to making this market work.”

The complex server-based systems, still commonly used by many legacy banking giants, carry a significant disadvantage, according to Limb, who also warns that it is not enough for them just to try to transfer part of those structures to Cloud-based platforms. 

“Even some Cloud solutions are very much legacy solutions being wrapped in a Cloud, so you still don’t get the agility, you don’t get that cost/income ratio aligned to your revenue,” he says. 

“It always used to be a choice between best of breed and best of suite, when you were looking at software vendors, and how you selected software as a bank. Now it’s best fit. Composable is at the core of everything we do. It’s almost like Lego blocks. We should allow our customers, and our customers’ customers to develop exactly what they need as a business, and we believe that, as long as we pre-validate and have the right connectivity to all of our partners, all of the technology and solutions, we can drive an ecosystem that delivers that. It’s going to evolve and change. There’ll be better players in different markets and, over time, we can plug people in and out; we just have to be at the core of what is changing, making sure that we can drive any of our customers to deliver whatever it is they need to give their customers the best experience. 

“We have completely open API documentation, that anybody can see,” he adds. “And we completely believe in driving connectivity in the ecosystem. In fact, anybody who’s trying to build something that isn’t ecosystem led, isn’t open and isn’t collaborating, I think they have a short shelf life. Honestly, I think the biggest thing banks should be doing right now is building for an unknown future.”




This article was published in The Fintech Magazine: Issue #16, Page 52-53.

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Author: Laimis Bilys