Why side-hustlers should be the new target market for SME digital banks

There really is no shortage of people in fintech espousing ideas and concepts like ’emotional banking’, ‘human banking’, ‘simple banking’ and ‘easy banking’.

And I get it, I really do. Banking in 2017 still remains, for the most part, the complete opposite of all of these things. So it is intellectually romantic to indulge the idea that we can start a bank fresh today that can truly translate these adjectives into actual products.

But here’s the problem I’m noticing. Everyone’s adjectives seem to be ending up as the same feature sets – mobile apps that help you categorise your spending habits, help you track where your money is spent. And while it’s a solid foundation, I can’t help but wonder whether this is enough anymore. Sure, this concept felt novel 3 or 4 years ago, but perhaps product developers and designers should be pushing the envelope just a tad more with their MVPs. It doesn’t get me excited when I hear about it, and I’m convinced we can collectively do better.

It also worries me that as a competitive advantage, this is pretty much dead. When everyones talking about, chances are, the ship has well and truly sailed.

The big connection that I think everyone is missing in digital banking, is the emergence of the “employee come side entrepreneur’. How often do you bump into millennials that are doing a side gig? Whether its driving Ubers, running workshops for General Assembly or freelancing in their weekends. In my case – all the time.

The reality is, these people need business banking apps that feel like consumer apps. It seems very few digital banks have isolated this market and considered it as a marketing and acquisition strategy. It is the perfect uncrowded, underserved entry point for a longer term consumer banking play.

The irony is, it’s all about inverting the traditional banking model. Once you have them on a great ‘side-hustler’ banking platform, chances are, you might actually earn the right to their personal banking. Generally banks do the reverse, starting with personal and moving to banking. As an attack tangent, a side-hustler angle has serious merit.

Wannabe digital banks need to stop looking at the Monzo’s of this world and trying to imitate. They need to think bigger and harder about the problems that really exist in the marketplace. And if they watch what is happening outside of the fintech and finance bubble, they will realise the nature of work is fundamentally changing, and therefore, so to must the financial system that underpins it.

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business.


  1. LateShift, a colleague/startup in the FinTech71 first class of companies, is launching in Q1 18, and the perfect answer to your questions. And smart banks are partnering up in droves. It’s a start.

  2. Did someone subscribe us to this via info?


    Patrick Green


  3. Great article Jessica and I completely agree that the nature of work is fundamentally changing and independent, gig based workers have many financial needs that are not met by mainstream banks needs. This is a big opportunity for FinTech and I’m personally and professionally very focused on it.

  4. Great post Jessica, this is a real unmet need as banks have no clue how to relate to gig economy workers. The solution is also out there as gig economy platforms (Uber, Amazon etc) offer data that can be used for credit models.

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