Putting money on a shore thing

Oliver Prill, CEO of business banking app, Tide, explains its recent growth and how he believes the new normal (sorry) will benefit his offering for SMEs

Putting money on a shore thing

There are, of course, a great many daunting aspects to running your own business and high on that list is attempting to keep track of the monthly balance sheet.

Get that wrong and even if all the other cogs are running smooth, the wheels will come off sooner or later. It’s a truism that a good accountant is the most important appointment a business can make.

Let’s face it, it’s a profession that exists solely because most people find that kind of detailed admin work tedious in the extreme. The average business owner can spend 40 days a year in admin hell. Which is 40 days that could be spent on another aspect of their business.

That’s the central tenet behind the many business management applications available today that are designed to automate as much of the cash flow process as possible so business owners can get on with the more interesting and dynamic aspects of running a company.

Among its competitors, Tide has carved out a 5.5 per cent market share and now boasts more than 340,000 members, after significant growth during 2020.

CEO, Oliver Prill, explains what makes Tide special in such a crowded market: Tide’s unique platform approach is what makes us stand out. Our mission is to save business owners time (and money) on their financial admin, we achieve this by using smart technology to automate and connect processes. This includes issuing and chasing invoices, matching images of receipts to payments, auto-categorising transactions for easy bookkeeping and accounting, and predicting future cashflow issues, with recommendations on how to mitigate them. 

By connecting up these products, instead of just presenting a marketplace of options, Tide reduces the duplication of processes, automates actions and delivers useful insights to make the admin side of running a business easier.

Prill says the firm is currently on a fast upward curve having achieved 5.5 per cent market share just four years after launching. The business has committed to reaching 10 per cent market share by the end of 2023, as part of ClearBank and Tide’s public commitments to the Banking Competition Remedies Alternative Remedies Fund, having won both a £60m and £25m grant. 

Adding to the app

Tide is also committed to adding to the platform, adding new products and functionality to improve the user experience. 

Prill explains further: The aim is to create an intuitive, all-encompassing financial platform that small business owners can use to manage all of their financial admin. 

We speak to our members day in and day out to understand how we can best support them and will continue to build the platform to ensure we give them the best service possible.

In terms of additions on the horizon, we are partnering with Sage to create a unique accounting tool within the Tide app that will provide further automation in accounting and take the pain out of self-assessment and other tax commitments. We will also be launching a payroll tool and cashflow prediction product very soon, along with building out the credit proposition, with new credit partners being added to the platform, alongside developing more of our own lending products.

The advantage Tide and other such apps have over traditional banks is that those banks offer a combination of consumer and corporate services that don’t quite fit the very specific needs of SMEs. Many traditional banks also have high monthly costs associated with their accounts (Tide’s key offering is free of monthly fees).

In addition, traditional offerings tend to consist of banking services only, meaning other financial admin, such as running payroll, processing invoices, managing expenses, etc., has to be done separately, without the automation and connectivity offered by fintechs. 

The effect of Covid

The pandemic changed everything for businesses across the country and while it has been devastating for a great many, there’s no denying it has also been beneficial to some, particularly those offering digital and remote solutions. 

For Tide it was an opportunity to offer increased customer support and initiatives to help businesses survive.

We acted immediately to put a number of initiatives into action, says Prill.

We engaged with Government and relevant industry bodies to ensure the voices and needs of small businesses were heard. This included contributing to the introduction of loan schemes over and above the CBILS scheme.

With new restrictions and support schemes being introduced almost daily there was a need to deliver clear and timely information to small businesses. Tide created a Coronavirus information hub to publish easily digestible information, which saw visits in the 10s of thousands each week.

We created an eligibility checker tool to help small businesses understand the Government and private sector support they were eligible for. And we also invested in increasing capacity in our member support teams to ensure we could be there to help members as quickly as possible as they were likely to need more help in such a tough time.

In November 2020, Tide launched Tide Charity to give grants of £1,000 to businesses severely affected by the crisis. Since launching, the charity has given almost 200 grants to help keep businesses going.

Forever changes

Many column inches have been given over to speculation about the potential long-term effects of the last 18 months. At the more optimistic end of that commentary, none of us are ever going to put up with delayed trains, stuffy offices and Pizza Friday ever again. But whilst that might be so much wishful thinking, Prill believes some of the adaptations made will stick and stick in a way which is beneficial to Tide.

We believe the increased digitalisation we have seen is here to stay. Tide has benefitted from traditional, high street, banks being closed and not taking on new business customers – we have found that business owners who previously tended towards using traditional banking services have been more willing to use digital alternatives, those decisions are unlikely to be reversed. 

The pivots businesses with a physical presence had to make to digital offerings are also likely to remain. Having a strong digital presence has given many businesses a valuable additional revenue stream.

Essentially, it has hastened a process that was inevitable, with increased digitisation making business on the move not only possible but now preferable. 

Ronnie Dungan
Ronnie Dungan

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