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An interview with Ricky Knox: 'It's about time the mortgage sector caught up with the way people live'

Theo Osborn | 14:00 Friday 20th September 2019

Ricky Knox, CEO at Tandem (pictured above), talks about its Savetember campaign, upcoming mortgage product and educating young people about money in a discussion with Specialist Banking.

You’ve launched ‘Savetember’ to help tackle the UK savings crisis. Why did you think this was important and what do you hope to achieve from the initiative?

From the research we conducted, it was alarming to see how many Brits live without savings. We need to create more awareness around the fact that people are relying on credit in emergencies when they should be falling back on their savings instead. The goal of Savetember is to show people that they can continue to live their life without having to make drastic cuts in order to save money for a rainy day. 

Tandem is encouraging people to come together through September to support each other in their individual savings journey. This campaign is also about building healthy financial habits for life — changing and creating a generation of savers that are ready to tackle whatever life may throw at them.

How do you believe your mortgage product will change the industry?

The current credit bureau assessment system has been criticised for punishing Brits who have made past credit mistakes or are new to credit. Tandem’s mortgage offering will better suit the changes that are happening in both the mortgage industry and the way people work. 

We are giving those who are part of the gig economy or work on a freelance basis a solution. It’s hard enough to get on the property ladder as it is with rising house prices; judging them on their career just makes it harder. It’s about time the mortgage sector caught up with the way people live. Which is why we want to give people a chance to get on the ladder and embark on a long-awaited journey.

The Money Hacks programme is helping to teach young people about money. What further work needs to be done to educate the UK’s youth about finance?

It needs to be taught in schools. Education teaches you about the past and how to work with numbers, but when it comes to doing ‘life admin’, such as opening a savings account or strengthening your credit profile, so many falter. Let's face it: these are vital skills we all require, and trial and error isn’t the way to learn when it comes to hard-earned money. 

It’s important to educate people to recognise the value of money and understand that it isn’t an unlimited resource. The Money Hacks programme is just a small step in helping to teach young people about money. Doing this on a larger scale will really benefit the next generation to prepare them for the real world.

If you could change one thing about the banking industry, what would it be?

To stop treating customers unfairly. People work hard for their money and it’s a shame when life throws unexpected curveballs. I want to see more transparency in the industry that enables customers to make educated decisions that suit them.

Whether it’s planned or unplanned, interest and repayment rates should be standardised. Banks push for customers to save their money, but are then making them struggle by paying back extra on top of their borrowing. This is an area where Tandem aims to be the best: using our highlights feature, we warn customers when they are about to go overdrawn or are going to struggle to make a payment. We also launched Autosavings, an intuitive feature that offers a set of intelligent rules to change habits and overriding attitudes towards savings.

How did you get into banking?

The banking sector felt broken: for an industry that plays a central role in someone’s daily life, it wasn't thinking about customer problems. I felt there was a place for a bank that genuinely wanted the best for its customers and, with this in mind, I co-founded Tandem.

However, my fintech journey began before it was even commonly referred to as ‘fintech’. I built my first fintech in the foreign exchange (FX) space. From there, I've dedicated myself to improving financial services (FS) for customers across FX and international payments. It was then that I saw the opportunity to disrupt the biggest part of FS: banking.

If you didn’t work in banking, what would you be doing?

If I wasn’t working in banking, I would most likely be working in a tech company of some form. I founded four tech companies before I went down the banking path, so I most likely would have continued in that area.

Looking at the next big trend and using this to help customers is my first question when starting a business. If I can create a useful solution that creates ease for people, I will do it.

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