Why Putting the User at the Centre of Your Innovation Strategy Drives Fintech Success

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By Klaus Thorup, CTO of ClearScore

I’ve always been driven to create products and services that disrupt sectors in ways that truly benefit the end user. I started my career at Betfair in 2003 as Engineering Manager where I helped build the world’s first betting exchange. Following this, I worked for a number of other successful start-ups including Unibet where I was Head of Development, and EasyProperty where I was CTO.

Klaus Thorup

Then, in 2014, I met Justin Basini, now CEO & Co-Founder of ClearScore. We discussed our shared frustration with how difficult and expensive it was to access something as important to your financial well-being as your credit report and history. We saw an opportunity to simplify this for everyone and, in doing so, disrupt the existing model for how people were offered personal finance products.

ClearScore was launched in 2015, with the ultimate mission to help everyone, no matter what their circumstances, achieve greater financial well-being. 

We gave consumers control of their financial data and, for the first time ever, made it possible for everyone to access their credit report and score, for free, forever. 

Four years later, ClearScore is the UK’s largest free credit-checking service, with 8.5m users, and 2.5m more across India and South Africa, and we’ll be launching in in Australia in early 2020. We’ve leap-frogged the competition and transformed the market in the process – most other credit score providers have now followed our lead and gone free.

We gave consumers control of their financial data and, for the first time ever, made it possible for everyone to access their credit report and score, for free, forever. 

From early on, I knew I wanted to make ClearScore a product that would combine market-leading tech with a beautiful interface, mirroring our principles of transparency and clarity to make a complex issue as simple as possible. To achieve this we focused on two vitally important things: always placing the user at the centre of what we do, and fostering a culture of innovation within the team.

User first

For us, our users are at the heart of every decision we make and they will always take precedence over profit. This has been true since ClearScore’s conception, right down the tranquil imagery you see on the site and on the app, which is selected to instil the same sense of calm within people when they engage with their finances. It’s a far cry from the usual harsh red and black you often see when it comes to personal finance. 

My team has developed algorithms that recommend products to our users according to their financial situation, never according to profit margins. This ensures that ClearScore’s growth is sustainable and that we make a real difference to people’s lives. By building a product that equips our users with the knowledge to make the right financial decisions for their unique circumstances, we act as a trusted source of information to which someone can return when they next have a big financial decision to make. In fact, 40% of our users return to us every single month. 

User research is an integral stage of our design and tech build process. We speak with our users throughout the ideation stages of new site features to ensure we’re building a product that’s right for them and truly aligns with their needs. All too often businesses fail because they don’t consider the needs of the end user.

our users are at the heart of every decision we make and they will always take precedence over profit.

Over the past four years our team has created a range of free services that help people sort their money by using technology to simplify laborious processes:

  • One example is Coaching – the industry-first, interactive chat-bot that offers tailored support to users on how to improve their credit score and achieve many other financial goals like buying a home. Each plan uses tech and accessible language to boost confidence, before recommending easy, personalised steps that people can take to reach their goals. And the numbers bear out: to date, 2.3 million people have used our Coaching plans. 
  • Another is Timeline, which displays a user’s financial history in a beautiful interface to make it simple and easy to track their financial history and spot trends according to financial decisions that have been made. 
  • Earlier this year ClearScore partnered with Santander to launch a new digital mortgage comparison tool. The tool allows ClearScore users with a Santander mortgage to quickly compare their offers from Santander to the rest of the market and switch to a new Santander product online in a matter of minutes. Integrations with Nationwide and Natwest have also been developed, offering yet more customers the ability to remortgage in minutes. 

These innovations can be released to market at impressive speed: in fact, we launch upwards of 250 releases a month. 

The right team

After launch, we reached 1m users in less than a year, but while this rapid growth was exciting, it posed technological challenges, and my team and I had to ensure the platform was robust enough to handle the influx of new users. That meant we needed, and still do need, the best talent there is and for this team to feel inspired and challenged every day. Given our user first approach, we always ensure our team is conscious of listening to the needs of the user, this is something we place great emphasis on even at recruitment stage.

My ultimate ambition is to create a UK-based global tech leader, with ClearScore becoming the place to sort your money.

Beyond the tech team, I’ve set up several internal training initiatives, such as Innovation Week, which brings different teams together from across the business to solve a design challenge unrelated to the business. This encourages everyone to take ownership and encourages experimentation and working in cross-functional teams. 

Diversity of thought is key to innovation, especially when the 11 million users that serve come from many different backgrounds and walks of life. This is why I advocate for my team’s involvement in recruitment events that seek to highlight the importance of a diverse workforce, such as those around Women in Tech. We always strive to ensure our teams are as representative as they can be. We are by no means at the levels of diversity we would like, but we’re taking steps in the right direction and this drive towards an inclusive culture has seen ClearScore recognised as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces by Great Place To Work and secured us a rating on 4.6 on Glassdoor

My ultimate ambition is to create a UK-based global tech leader, with ClearScore becoming the place to sort your money. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far, and would urge anyone else starting out on their FinTech journey to consider the importance of always staying user-first and baking in an innovation mindset into your team from day one.

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