Structure Drives Innovation as Avant Disrupts Financial Services

Barney Beal, Former Content Director

June 21, 2016

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a regular series profiling NetSuite customers who are changing their markets through innovation. For more interviews in the series, visit the Profiles in Innovation(opens in new tab) landing page.

Avant makes it easy to get a personal loan. It takes just minutes to apply for a loan and Avant lets you know instantly if you’re approved. The digital banker has been named one of Forbes’ 25 next billion dollar startups.

Andrew Beck, Director of Global Operations at Avant, tells us why they embrace disruption in the lending space and what startups can learn from their larger enterprise counterparts.

How is your industry being disrupted?

Financial Services(opens in new tab) is being disrupted in three areas: lending, payments and wealth management. These three developments are often described as the “unbundling of banking,” and tech companies are leading the charge.

“Avant became one of the fastest-growing startups in America by lowering the costs and barriers of borrowing that have prevented thousands of middle-class Americans from getting the financial support they deserve.”
Andrew Beck
Director, Global Operations of Avant

How are you responding to these challenge?

We embrace them! In fact, we are one of the primary disruptors in lending today. Avant is one of the fastest-growing start-ups in America, lowering the costs and barriers of borrowing that have prevented thousands of middle-class Americans from getting the financial support they deserve.

What are some things you do to make sure your company is flexible and can react quickly to change?

It may seem paradoxical, but we emphasize structure. If we are systematically reviewing our key challenge areas, and taking a rigorous but nimble approach to operational and strategic improvement, we believe we can meet any development quickly and effectively.

How do you anticipate disruption?

In our industry, it’s important to keep a close eye on technological, analytical, and regulatory change. It’s also important to focus on what the customer wants. If we can bring breakthrough technology to improve on a long-standing customer pain point, we’ll lead any disrupting activity.

What companies do you admire for their disruptive capabilities and why?

Amazon is the best. They have a fantastic focus on their key business areas, and aren’t afraid to take risks to expand beyond them. Amazon Web Services is a great example, and who knows, maybe next drone delivery will be the game changer they say it will.

What can startups learn from enterprise businesses in terms of expanding business models to include new markets?

I think start-ups fall in love with the “fun, young, chaotic environment” feel too much. Just because you’re a startup doesn’t mean you don’t need structure and focus on key priorities. In fact, it’s even more important, because you have less resources and time to make mistakes. Improved structure, while embracing change, would improve many startups today.

How do you encourage your teams to get outside their comfort zone?

It’s up to a manager to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their people. Once identified, we encourage people to utilize their strength to improve on a weakness. So if someone is excellent with process and analytics, but a poor public speaker, focus on the preparation, the substance, and so on. Then you give that person confidence that when speech time comes, they’ve covered their bases in a way that is familiar to them.

How do you stay in touch with changing customer needs and expectations?

Take a rigorous approach to gathering customer feedback through contact reason tagging, customer surveys, employee surveys, and employee feedback sessions. Figure out what your common issues are, and supplement that with qualitative feedback.

What are three things you consider when expanding into new markets?

We look at expected economics, ease of entry and brand impact.

To learn more about innovation and the rapidly-changing landscape for business, download the white paper, The Physics of Business are Being Rewritten(opens in new tab).

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