Personal Finance Startup GOKONG Is Ready for Swiss B2C Market: Interview With CEO Rahul Kaushikby Fintechnews Switzerland March 14, 2019
GOKONG, a Swiss fintech startup backed by Bank Vontobel, has recently launched its personal finance management platform aimed at helping consumers better track their finances. The platform aggregates and consolidates all of a user’s financial accounts, whether that’s a banking account or from an insurer, to provide “a 360° view of the financial footprint,” Rahul Kaushik, CEO of GOKONG, told Fintechnews.
“We are about making financial fitness available to everyone, a personal financial fitness coach in your pocket,” Kaushik explained. “We offer spending analysis, budgets, goals, financial analytics just like most e-banking apps out there; However, unlike all the apps, we do that across all accounts.”
GOKONG is a read-only app that allows customers to track all of their finances in one place. The platform is not just a personal finance management software, but also “a live coach” that tracks goals and also serves a spending management tool. It lets users see their account balances, transactions, investments accounts, retirements accounts, credit cards, non-financial assets and insurance policies.
Fintechnews caught up with Kaushik to learn more about the story behind GOKONG, what makes the platform so unique, the company’s plans for the future, and what it will be focusing on for the year ahead.
Fintechnews (FN): In your own words, what is GOKONG and what does your company do?
Rahul Kaushik (R.K.): GOKONG is a mobile first platform that enables you, me, everyone, to aggregate all our financial information in one place. Users can aggregate any institution for free and would switch to the pro version of the app for more institutions.
Many of us have a relationship with our banks/institutions across different products. For example, a UBS banking customer might not just have a checking account with UBS but also savings, Pillar3a, investment accounts, etc. So, when we say that a user can aggregate an institution, say UBS here, basically all the associated products also get added for free! So, essentially one aggregation – all information!
We are about making financial fitness available to everyone, a personal financial fitness coach in your pocket! And that starts with data aggregation, a 360° view of your financial footprint, which is what we specialize in.
FN: What is the story behind your company? What problem did you set out to solve when you launched your venture?
R.K.: GOKONG, as a company, came into existence in Q4 2017. And the idea itself has its roots in frustration around how our financial data is fragmented and in most cases doesn’t actually talk with each other.
Most banks have amazing apps that provide cool features to users; however, not unlike our own situation many users don’t actually do all their banking with just one bank. We noticed that for example people who had a Credit Suisse account also had a Swissquote account. Or, ZKB users also had a Postfinance account. Add to that insurances that most of us here in Switzerland have. Information in all those silos isn’t actually interacting. If it did, we could answer simple questions like your net worth on any given day, your financial health at any given time, status of your budget for the whole family, etc. So those are some of the questions that we sought to answer.
The core issue to target there is really about getting data from all these institutions, cleaning them and aligning them to present one consistent view of the entire financial footprint.
FN: What are the main hurdles you had to face when starting GOKONG?
R.K.: GOKONG is an innovator in an industry that demands integrity, trust and zero tolerance. We knew that before we developed a single feature we needed to ensure that we were aligned with the industry, its principles and base expectations. So, we had to ensure that all our IT infrastructure stayed in Switzerland, we are a read only service, i.e., no financial transactions of any type could be executed on our platform, we had to be as safe as any Swiss banking app, we should support two-factor authentication amongst others. We even engaged a Swiss cyber security company to vet our platform and came out with flying colors. This is one of the same companies that also vets other e-banking apps. These were just some of the many core issues/hurdles that we had to deal with before we could even start thinking about product concepts, features, etc.
Getting all those proof points checked took us longer than expected to get to market but we are grateful for the support and patience we have received from our investor.
FN: Let’s talk about the GOKONG platform. How does this product differentiate itself from competitors? What is unique about it?
R.K.: We offer spending analysis, budgets, goals, financial analytics just like most e-banking apps out there. However, unlike all the apps, we do that across all accounts, i.e., we do a spending analysis across all accounts in one place!
Let’s take an example: suppose you want to analyze and categorize your transactions across two accounts, say Credit Suisse and UBS. Then how would you do it? Excel? Well, with GOKONG, you simply select all the accounts you want to use in your analysis and boom out comes the result.
FN: What about your userbase? What are your growth figures?
R.K.: Well, we are only getting to the launch now. We had put up the app in the appstore to ease the on-boarding process for our friends and family program. But, it has obviously found its way to niche audience outside of our direct networks. And this has been a blessing because we could get more feedback, further validate the proof of concept, and also get a better sense of how users are interacting with our app. So, far we’ve been lucky to have a very loyal, open and expressive userbase who continue to give us great feedback and we’re getting better because of it!
On the adoption and usage side, we’ve seen that, on average, users who have more than one banking relationship tend to spend anything between 12-30 minutes per visit in the app. These are very encouraging numbers.
Additionally, the concept itself has gained traction, we’ve observed appstore rankings in the top 100 here in Switzerland.
We are aiming to welcome 45-60K users this year.
FN: How you plan to get more users onto the platform?
R.K.: We believe we have a great value proposition: a financial fitness coach in our pocket… and there isn’t anything better than peer-to-peer (P2P) marketing to promote that.
Of course we will be engaging with some of the usual marketing activities. But for us to grow meaningfully in the future, it would be vital for us to leverage the network effects that we can leverage through P2P relationships. So, we’re going to be incentivizing our users to share the app in their communities.
For example, a GOKONG user that would onboard a few of his peers onto GOKONG would have his annual subscription for free!
FN: For the year ahead, what will your company be focusing on? What are the GOKONG’s priorities right now?
R.K.: We are focused on user growth this year and we believe that the best way to achieve that successfully is to offer exceptional value and experience to the end user. Of course, it is also a business and that is always the context; however, all that we do and are focusing on is about putting the users and their needs first.
For this year, we want to become the preferred financial fitness platform.
FN: Is there any new feature or product currently in development? Something coming up which we should be excited about?
R.K.: We think of finances in a very different way. We think of it as an enabler of our experiences.
We are building a financial fitness coach that is experience-driven and one that grows with you. Each transaction isn’t just a negative or positive on your bank account, it is an important piece that helps us put together a slow moving and meaningful picture of your spending/savings pattern that becomes more accurate, relevant as the usage grows. So we’re constantly working on bringing more insights to the user.
For the savvy financial planners amongst us, there are many cool and exciting features too. The one I like the most is the automated budget. I can define my budget, pick the accounts I want the budget on and at the press of a button, I’m served an automated budget across many categories all at once instantly and it does that after accounting for fixed expenses such as rent and insurance etc. What’s more, is that this budget is based on actual Swiss households’ data. So, it’s really, really relevant for all of us here in Switzerland and especially families.
FN: In 2014, the Swiss personal finance management market was not ready for B2C and participants changed their business model to B2B. What changed in the past years?
R.K.: That’s a really good question! We see that the market is just ripe for B2C offering in this space. I think there are quite a few things that have contributed for us to be here, however, if I had to broadly classify some of the things that have really driven this, then the following come to mind:
First would essentially be a wider adoption of the SaaS business model. We went from paying for owning a music CD to paying for SaaS services like Apple music and Spotify. We see the same with fitness apps, accounting apps etc. The SaaS model is the de-facto standard now across many B2C apps and is well received.
The second factor that I think has contributed immensely for us to be here is the painful and slow realization that nothing is actually free in this digital era. It has become clear as daylight that as we go along using “free” services like Gmail, or Youtube, etc., we see in very clear ways that even though we aren’t paying for the service, our mindshare is being monetized for ad dollars.
And third, financial data, still, sit across data silos across financial institutions. Even though financial institutions have been innovating a breathtaking pace in the last few years. The consumers’ expectation of what financial data should be able to do for them has largely outpaced the level of innovation. This widened gap is exactly the market opportunity we are addressing.
All these factors combined give us good reason to believe that the market is just right for a subscription based financial fitness coach in your pocket where your financial credentials never leave your device.