PODCAST EP 47
Simon chats with Ben Crow, COO of WLTH.
WLTH is a digital platform that helps you track all of your assets and assists you to better manage your money. You can find out more about WLTH here: https://wlth.com.au/
You can contact Ben Crow here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becrow/?originalSubdomain=au
Simon Dell: So, welcome to the show, Ben Crow. How are you?
Ben Crow: Yeah, good. Thanks, Simon. Thanks for having me.
Simon Dell: You’re in Brisbane as well, aren’t you?
Ben Crow: Yeah, I am.
Simon Dell: Cool, awesome. Well, I’ve had people from all around the country, so it’s nice to get someone back in Brisbane this week. Just for everyone’s benefit, I’ve done an introduction about you, but it’s always good to hear what you do and who you are from your perspective. So, do you want to give us the quick 60 seconds as to what you’re doing, and who you work for, and all those kind of bits and pieces?
Ben Crow: Yeah, for sure. So, working for WLTH in Brisbane. We are a digital portfolio manager, which is a fintech product to simplify the way that everyone manages their finances. So, within the WLTH platform, we get live feeds from bank institutions, superfunds, managed funds, share portfolios. It allows you to do your tax tagging, categorization of spending, set goals and objectives.
Basically, it’s somewhere where you can track all your finances in one place and calculate your overall net position and keep on top of that.
Simon Dell: Cool. We’ll talk a little bit about that later because as I normally do with these things, I kind of want to go sort of right back to the start with you. You had that job to start with, the one that everyone sits there and goes, “I wish I had that job.” And I think you worked for them twice, but you did a fair bit of work with Red Bull, didn’t you?
Ben Crow: Yeah, I did. That’s where I sort of started things off in a marketing sense. When I was at university, I was a student brand manager with them for around four years in Australia.
Simon Dell: Was that here in Brisbane or was that somewhere else?
Ben Crow: Yeah, it was. It was in Brisbane, working with the Queensland State marketing team.
Simon Dell: And for anyone that looks at your LinkedIn profile, I would stress to people, open up the little ‘More’ button on what Ben did on the student brand manager, and you’ll sit there and you’ll just go, “You lucky, lucky bastard.” Because there looks like there were some awesome experiences there from a Red Bull perspective.
Ben Crow: Yeah. I mean, it’s one of those brands, isn’t it? You see all the stuff on TV, and YouTube, and things like that, and I was lucky enough to be part of a lot of it. Got to travel around Australia, and work on some really cool projects, and sort of putting my foot into the marketing world as such. Yeah, it was a pretty good way to kick things off.
Simon Dell: I’m going to ask you about a couple of them because I’ve never heard of a couple of them. The first one is the Red Bull Rope Swing. Explain to me what the hell that was.
Ben Crow: That was an event over off Moreton Island. It was one of the national events that they came up with, and it was around Australian culture, and rope swinging into creeks. And from there, it kind of grew into a project over at Moreton Island, got a big budge and people were swinging off and getting scored on their dismounts, I guess.
Simon Dell: I don’t even want to think about that. The other one I was looking at was the Red Bull Wreckers Yard, which I’m kind of guessing what that is, but you’re going to have to tell me as to exactly what that entailed.
Ben Crow: Yeah. It was a street art competition. We got a number of graffiti artists from around Queensland. That rolled out into an international event, actually. There were a lot of street artists that are performing in a set amount of time, and they had to create a piece in around 60 seconds from memory. And then from there, the winner was judged and sort of went through a round-by-round.
Simon Dell: I won’t get you to go into these, but there was Cliff Diving, X-Fighters, Manny Mania, Thre3Style, Quiksilver Pro, Schoolies. I guess if you’re a student brand manager, you were in that kind of 18 to 21-year-old age bracket yourself at that point. I mean, that just must’ve been the most fun job in the world, wasn’t it, at that time?
Ben Crow: Yeah, it was a great job to get through uni. I mean, you get a lot of people that are still working in coffee shops and things like that, so I was very lucky to have that experience and learn a lot at that time in my career, very early stage. It’s definitely given me the grounding to get to where I am today.
Simon Dell: You also then did some stuff in Qatar later on. Again, I’ll read these. Red Bull Flying Bach, Red Bull Game On, Red Bull Game On again, Red Bull Wings Academy, all sorts of stuff there. I guess the question I want to ask is two-fold here. Talk to me about that Red Bull brand, because that strikes me as one of those brands that has forever managed to stick to its core beliefs. How does it feel working for it at that time?
Ben Crow: Red Bull, it’s one of those brands I’d always, growing up, watching the videos, and really into surfing and all those kind of things. And you always see it around, and to work with them was…
As you’d imagine, it was a great culture, it was work hard, play hard culture, and everyone got along really well and got to meet some amazing people who have gone on especially from the Australian team into bigger opportunities overseas, and really sort of have gone really high up in the marketing department globally with Red Bull.
And working with them, and learning from them was great. And then the events, and the athletes, and the different things that you do in that role, it was an exciting place to work, and as fun as probably most people would imagine.
Simon Dell: How would they maintain brand consistency? I mean, you’re doing all sorts of different events in all sorts of different places around the world. Some of them involving flight, some of them involving water. What was it that was consistent about every single one of the events that they did?
Ben Crow: Just brand guidelines. The brand guidelines were so strict. Everyone worshipped them. The way every event was rolled out was in a specific way. You wouldn’t step away from the global brand guidelines. It was something that was very strict and enforced across the business. I guess the reporting side of things was where you wouldn’t want something to be in a position that wasn’t supposed to be or using one of the branded bits of material incorrectly.
Simon Dell: Can you give us an example? I mean, I guess a lot of people don’t get to work with brands that have got that reputation, that sort of size, and also that sort of strictness. I, years ago, read the brand guidelines for Jack Daniels which was just the design guidelines, and that was 74 pages long, and was pretty much ‘don’t do anything that isn’t in black and white.’ Obviously, it was a bit deeper and more in-depth than that. But can you give us an example of one of the things that they tried to enforce as their brand guidelines?
Ben Crow: It’s supporting different events and aligning the brand with sports events, places where you would expect to see Red Bull, and really dominate that space. And even the way the bull is positioned in certain things, whether it’s on-premise, or at a sports event, and the different way the logo looks, and just even using the logo was something that doesn’t really get used as such on collateral and things like that.
There are a lot of different things, and as a learning in a marketing sense, in the way of brand, and looking after a brand, it was massive for me to get that experience earlier on.
Simon Dell: The concept of doing experiential marketing, I kind of think that that’s sort of started in that mid-2000, closing to 2010, so kind of that sort of period when you were working for them. Experiential marketing is a marketing channel.
There’s probably a lot of business owners out there, a lot of marketing managers that are sitting and going, “We’d like to do experiential marketing but we don’t have the budgets that Red Bull have. We don’t have the international brand that Red Bull has.” Would you have any advice as to how a smaller business or a medium-sized business could do something in that experiential space that might be impactful in terms of their growth?
Ben Crow: Yeah, for sure. I think it’s just important working out who they’re targeting. If you can do a specific event that is targeted at an audience that you can do something for them, that gives them that experience with your brand, and lets them sort of touch and feel your brand, and they’re able to walk away from that going, “Wow, that brand’s thought about me, done something in a specific way.” It doesn’t have to be a huge scale event.
I think if you get the right people in the right place and you’re able to talk to them in a way that is how they’d like to be spoken to and give them that personal experience for a brand, that’s extremely powerful in itself, and I think that’s the way that you can do these things on a smaller scale with less of a budget.
Simon Dell: You ended up working in Qatar. You ended up in London. What took you from events to finance?
Ben Crow: The transition over to finance, when I left Qatar and moved to London, I was just interviewing around in London. There are a lot of opportunities. It’s a huge city, and the fintech scene over there was something that really interested me.
After working with someone like Red Bull, I looked at finance in a bit of a different way. Whereas the fintech scene, the startup space over in London, I was meeting with a few different companies that were offering all these work perks that I hadn’t really seen before.
I think company culture after working at Red Bull was something that’s very high on my list of things, especially going through a job because you want to be around like-minded people. You want to enjoy going to work, and I think that’s what I learned massively working for Red Bull.
I got the same experience with WorldFirst, which is a foreign exchange company over in London, walked in, and the company culture was great. Everyone I met were amazing, and I really got a really positive vibe when I went into their offices. I was meeting with them and I just knew it was the right kind of place for me, and I think it was that company fit that transitioned me over into it.
Being over in London in that peak fintech boom in the UK and Europe as well really wet my appetite for it. To be able to come back to Australia, and stay in the industry, and see some of the trends and things that have been going on overseas, it’s an exciting time to be back in Australia. I mean, it’s the last 12 to 18 months have been some huge changes in the fintech space in Australia.
Simon Dell: You worked in brand marketing for WorldFirst. Give us an idea of some of the things that you did with those guys.
Ben Crow: Again, it was more along the lines of online advertising. It was different. You’re working with a number of different clients. They had a private client desk, a corporate desk, and also an e-commerce desk. So, doing events and activations, different events there, targeting all different groups of people, online advertising.
Predominantly my role was making sure the brand products were consistent across the board, and making sure everything sort of looked and felt the same. We’re able to sort of get that message across clearly in a unified way.
Simon Dell: What brought you back to Australia?
Ben Crow: Brodie and Drew, the co-founders of WLTH, I’ve known for a while. I had met with them probably a year or so before coming back. They said, “We’ve got a few things in the pipeline. Would you be interested potentially coming back?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course. Australia’s my home.”
I grew up here, and rainy, miserable London was probably starting to get a bit on my nerves. It was just that conversation, and it was always in the back of my mind. And then once they sort of completed and had WLTH at a point where they were ready to press go, that’s when they reached out and said, “Would you be interested in coming back?” And I jumped at the opportunity, so here I am.
Simon Dell: You’ve got a couple of roles there. So, you’re working with WLTH. But also, there’s an organization called Propalytics. Explain that and explain how that fits in with WLTH.
Ben Crow: WLTH is the overarching brand. The WLTH digital portfolio manager is the hero product, and then Propalytics is our latest platform that we’ve released. It’s online at the moment, but we’re building out the app still at the moment. It’s a property calculations tool for industry professionals and sophisticated investors. So, anyone with a property portfolio, you can work out all your different calculations within there, change the number of the variables around to work out if said investment is best for you.
Simon Dell: How’s that? What’s the revenue model for you guys? Do you charge people to use that platform?
Ben Crow: Yeah, that’s right. It’s a subscription model. There’s an investor level which is just for individuals to use for their property, and then also a business model as well for companies looking to use it for their staff. It’s done on per person subscription, so different businesses can get a number of licenses for all their staff, for example.
Simon Dell: The same is true for WLTH as well, that subscription model?
Ben Crow: That’s right.
Simon Dell: This may be before your time, part of what you’ve done there, but how did you guys decide on the models that you went to market with, whether it was subscription, or freemium, or premium? I noticed with WLTH that there’s a free version on there. How did you decide that that was the way that it should be priced?
Ben Crow: It’s just a number of conversations, different platforms that people use as well that are out there, that may not have the full capabilities of what WLTH does. Just sort of doing a lot of market analysis and really talking with our target audience, people that would be using the platform, and work out something.
For WLTH, it’s $29 a month. We want something that’s achievable or obtainable for everyday Australians to use as a way of simplifying the way they’re managing their finances. There’s spreadsheets and things like that out there that some people use. That can be expensive and do the calculations within there. But with all the API feeds and things that WLTH does have, that’s how we’ve priced it. It’s affordable for everyone with a number of assets and things like that to track that for themselves.
Simon Dell: I’m guessing with an app like yours, once people start using it, it’s probably something that they are consistently using moving forward. They’re not necessarily chopping and changing to different apps. They’re using it a lot.
Ben Crow: That’s it. With WLTH, when you’re getting the live feed from your bank account, and your property information, and things like that. Once you’ve input that data, those feeds will keep coming through. Within that, once you’ve loaded in that information, then you want to keep going back in. You want to categorize your spending, and work out your budgets.
You want to do your tax tagging within there so at the end of financial year, you’re not going through your bank statements highlighting certain things to be able to claim. It’s something like most people, if they had an Excel spreadsheet, for example, they’d update that weekly or every couple of weeks just to keep on top of things. And going into your WLTH platform, it’s no different. That’s just keeping on top of your finances as well is really important. WLTH just simplifies that for everyone.
Simon Dell: This is a very broad question. How do you market fintech products? How do you reach out to your end user? Obviously, you’re not at Red Bull anymore. You can’t fly a plane under some sort of obstacle and put your brand all over it. How do you reach out to your end user?
Ben Crow: It’s different in fintech. The space is a really interesting one. Social media is a big way to get in front of people, and online as well, but I think it’s really important, getting PR and things out there as well. Within a press release, you can say a lot more than say in a digital ad.
In that way, the PR side of things is really important, and you can get your message out there. You can give people more trust in the platform. It’s like if you can explain things better and get in front of people, then that creates trust. And then also, within the whole fintech industry and such in Australia, it’s a big group of companies that are all getting to that point where the big ones like Afterpay and you see a lot of these new banks like Up and Xinja coming through.
It’s about everyone working together and building the awareness. I mean, if someone’s using a fintech product for home loans, then they’re probably going to be more aligned to use something like WLTH as well, for example. It’s finding the right people as well and being really targeted with who we’re going after.
Simon Dell: You mentioned using social media. What are you guys doing from a content point of view? What works for you on social media?
Ben Crow: Obviously, Facebook advertising. We’re sharing a lot of content through our blog, and then also Instagram as well, working across those platforms predominantly. We’ve got a Twitter account as well, which is a great way. Twitter has been a good way to get messaging out there, and also to keep on top of what’s going on in the industry.
I think there’s so much every day in the tech space, in fintech as well. There’s a lot out there and it’s just important to stay relevant and be a part of those conversations.
Simon Dell: That’s interesting that you’re using Instagram and you’re using Instagram as a fintech product in a platform that’s very visual.
Ben Crow: It’s around educating people. There’s so many features within WLTH. There’s so much that you can do on there, and it’s just getting across different ways that you can use the app, for example.
Everyone’s on their phone scanning through Instagram, and if you’re scrolling through and you can see there’s an app that you can download on your phone to manage your finances better, if you can get that message in front of someone at the right time, the right place, then that’s really powerful.
Simon Dell: Is your target market someone who is just not managing their finances particularly well or somebody that’s kind of got a fairly decent idea about what they’re doing, but they just want a better platform, or is it a bit of both?
Ben Crow: A bit of both. There’s some people that maybe haven’t really looked at the way they’re managing their finances. It might be because they don’t want to set up an Excel spreadsheet, and constantly update it, and track it. And then with the API feeds, it makes it much easier to be able to do that.
You just load in the information once and it pulls through consistently for you. And then there’s also the other people that have had Excel spreadsheets for 10-15 years that have a number of properties, and they’ve got shares and stuff all over the place. They probably have loans with different lenders. They got a number of bank accounts.
And instead of having to go and check where they’re at across four different bank institutions, and then check their share portfolio and everything, they can have a lot of information in one place. So, all they have to do is log in, and it’s all there, live feeding for them, and they’ll be able to have access to all that basically at the touch of a button with thumb or facial recognition these days.
Simon Dell: Is there any particular marketing channels that you guys have used that just didn’t work, just didn’t get a return on investment, that you’ve sort of abandoned?
Ben Crow: Not so much. I guess in the sort of startup space, you got to be pretty smart about what you’re doing. So, we haven’t thrown a huge amount of money at anything that hasn’t worked. I guess it’s all learning, but it’s kind of dipping your toe in the water and see how that goes. And then if something is returning well, then allocate more budget to that.
Simon Dell: Last three questions, and you can’t say Red Bull for this one. I’m interested to hear some of the other brands that you admire or that you aspire to emulate. And they may be things that you purchase, or they may just be luxury items, whatever it is. Just interested in what constitutes a good brand for you out there.
Ben Crow: Something that stands out for me when I was over in the UK, you see a lot of these fintech startups, and some of them have gone absolutely viral and enormous now. Monzo comes to mind. They’ve got a cool logo. It’s kind of really bright, it jumps out, and the bank card is a fluro orange bank card.
If someone was spending money on a Monzo card, you’d know about it. When I used to use it over in London, you’d buy a beer or something, and tap your card, and the bartender would be like, “Oh, what’s that? I haven’t seen anything like that before.” And those kind of things would come into Australia as well.
Like, Up Banking in Australia is doing some really cool stuff. Their product is amazing, and same with Xinja, who is another challenger bank, new bank in Australia. They’ve got the same kind of idea. They’ve got the bright cards that stand out, and Pelican as well, which is an international money card. They’re the ones that are jumping out to me in Australia in that fintech space.
I mean, brand-wise, Apple is always there. You look at their stores, they just stand out. They always have. They always will. Their products just look so slick, and that, for me, always stood out. Even Bose, it’s like you walk past a Bose store and it has that same kind of feel as an Apple store: minimal, got the products in there to test, it serves its purpose. That, for me, is something that’s always stood out. I really enjoy going into those kind of stores.
Simon Dell: I always used to be a Bose fan, and then I bought a pair of those Bose headphones. I got the normal ones, the ones that come in silver, and I’ve got some running headphones as well. The running ones are great. The silver ones have just fallen apart. It’s really disappointing. I should post a photo. I probably will.
I’ll make a mental note now that I’ve got to post a photo about it on Instagram. I was really disappointed, so much so that I’m kind of edging on the point of taking them into the store and going, “Yeah. It hasn’t quite worked out as well as I thought, but I don’t know whether…” Personally, I don’t know whether that’s just me mistreating them.
Ben Crow: I had a pair that broke, actually. And funny you say that. I took them into the store and said, “They’re broken.” And they basically worked out from the buyer ID when I bought them and gave me a brand new pair at a substantially discounted cost based on when I bought them. So, even if that’s outside of warranty, that service for a luxury item is something as well that’s always stayed with me. I’m actually wearing a pair right now while we do this.
Simon Dell: So am I. I’m actually wearing that right now. Did you know what? There’s a second thing that disappointed me about Bose, was when you get the running ones, they’ve got a cable that links the two earpieces together, which most running ones do have. On that cable is a little clip that you clip to the back of your shirt to hold them in place, or if they fell out, that kind of thing.
That clip broke. The plastic just snapped one day, and I took it in and said to them, “Look here, the plastic snapped. Have you got any replacements?” And they got a replacement out the drawer and they charged me $5 for it. That to me didn’t make any sense. I was like, “You know what? Just give me the thing, and it’s a $5 clip that’s probably cost you 30 cents to make in China.”
I could go on about that all day. So, second to last question. As you know, I’ll do another question on top of that one about favourite brands. You’re in the fintech space. Obviously, one of the things that’s impacting the fintech space is cryptocurrency. Give us your 30 seconds on cryptocurrency.
Ben Crow: It’s there. I feel like it’s here to stay. There’s still so much money tied up globally in crypto. I, like many others, got into it probably at the wrong time, but it’s one of those things that I feel like it’ll be around for a long time. I’ve got a lot of friends that work in the space. They’re super passionate about it, and a lot of people working in the space are some of the smartest minds in the world. So, sit on the fence with it, but I think it’s here to stay.
Simon Dell: Cool. I kind of got into it slightly at the right time, but I should’ve got out of it at December 2016 or 2017 or whatever it was when it was right at its peak. Anyway, yeah, that’s what this game is about, isn’t it? Finance.
Ben Crow: Exactly.
Simon Dell: Okay, second to last question: What’s next for you guys? What’s on the horizon for you guys as a business?
Ben Crow: We are in the final stages with Propalytics, get that all completed and we’ll be doing a launch, rollout campaign around that ideally in the next couple of months. That’s next on the agenda for us.
With WLTH, we’re constantly updating tech, always looking to grow the product and work on user experience, just make sure the platform keeps evolving. You can’t stay still on the tech space. You’ve got to keep up-to-date with everything, even if that is just making it a little bit simpler for clients to use and navigate. Just keep on top of things consistently with WLTH, and then Propalytics, I guess. They’re the two big ones for us.
Simon Dell: Cool. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Last question: If people want to get a hold of you, what’s the best place to get in contact?
Ben Crow: For sure. LinkedIn. My name’s just Ben Crow on LinkedIn. Feel free to get in touch, add me on LinkedIn, or [email protected]
Simon Dell: You’re saying that WLTH has its own Twitter as well?
Ben Crow: Yes.
Simon Dell: Worth following that. You guys are sending out educational stuff.
Ben Crow: We do. We’ve got a Fintech Five email that goes out each week, and we kind of look at key person of the week, company of the week, some different stories that have grabbed our attention, and then just quotes and things like that. It’s just like a mail out we do to our whole database. They can also sign up for that on the bottom of our blog as well if you’d like to keep up-to-date.
Simon Dell: Awesome. Ben, thank you very much for your time today. I really appreciate you being on the show. Good luck with everything that you’ve got next year. Thanks very much.
Ben Crow: Awesome, thanks for having me.
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