There is an incredible ecosystem being built at Capital One. Spark Business, part of Capital One’s Small Business Banking solutions, really has it all. And if they don’t have it, they’re making it, or integrating it seamlessly. From Spark Business Checking and Savings to Spark Pay and a whole suite of ecommerce tools for online and on-the-go selling, Capital One has entered small business ecommerce with a wink and a smile – not to mention industry accolades for “Overall Most Innovative Product.”
Last week, the bank headed to SXSW, a premier destination for aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike, to create an experience specifically catered towards small business owners. To exemplify its commitment to small business success, Spark Business created an epicenter of all things small business with a series of inspirational, educational and engaging events, including a series of “Hot Talks” with leading entrepreneurs such as Anthony Bourdain. The activities were open to all small business owners, regardless of whether or not they had a badge, and were designed to celebrate the “secret sauce” that makes each small business unique.
Behind the scenes at Spark Business, directing traffic with passion and panache, is David Talach, SVP and Head of New Ventures for Small Business Banking. After a long and storied career at VeriFone and a stint as Director of Business Development at PayPal, Talach has landed at Capital One and is stoking the engines that will drive the company’s small business banking into the future.
I had the chance to catch up with Talach at the Spark Small Business House, where we discussed what’s next for Spark Business.
So, what do you do at Capital One?
I’ve been at Capital One for a year and a half supporting Small Business Banking. My entire world and what fills my heart, my vision and my scope is small business – specifically, any business that does up to $10 million in revenue a year. That’s pretty much “Main Street” America: startup companies, entrepreneurs, dentists, tech and professional services – the guy trying to start something new. My responsibility inside of small business banking, which we call Spark Business, is to lead business development and new ventures.
That means I look closely at our strategy and product offering to understand what commercial partnerships would help us best serve our customers. When I consider a small business owner, I ask, “What are some of the relationships that we can put in place that will benefit his or her day-to-day life?” There are a whole set of challenges that small business owners have to wrestle with, and it’s complex. My team is focused on how we prioritize those partnerships, and integrate them with our best in class products and platforms.
Beyond partnerships, I’m also focused on seeking what companies we want to acquire, like AmeriCommerce, a really impressive ecommerce business based in Houston, which joined Spark Business last year. They’ve given us the opportunity to expand beyond banking, lending, and mobile payments to now offer business owners the tools and capabilities to create an online store. Our goal is to deliver products and tools that matter most to businesses and make them work together seamlessly. We know e-commerce is a big priority for our customers, and through the acquisition of AmeriCommerce (which is now part of Spark Pay) we deliver it.
Where do you see the future of this? Where is it going?
We have a bold vision about where we think Small Business Banking should go – one that we’re validating against the needs and the pain points of small business owners. What we hear again and again is that the lifeblood of a small business owner is cash flow – they need an understanding of when money is coming in, how much is coming in, when it’s going out, and where it’s going. When we hear that every small business owner is trying to manage his or her cash flow, and when you look at the reality of how he or she is managing that, it becomes incredibly complex.
What this shows is an urgent need to make sure the “typical” solutions small business owners use for payroll, benefits, insurance, merchant services, access to capital, accounting, bookkeeping, etc., play nicely together.
We believe Capital One, specifically Spark Business, are well positioned to do this – mainly because cash flow typically comes from a bank account, and we manage that well. Those who have managed a small business know that you have to manage your balance from your accounting position versus your bank position, and sometimes those aren’t the same. By working with Xero, Quickbooks and other providers, we’re simplifying that.
That’s ultimately our vision: simplify everything and make a single destination where small business owners can manage all of the pieces that touch their cash flow.
I often hear from small businesses that banks want to lend them money when they already have money; however, when businesses need access to capital, it’s hard for them to get it. Do you to try to address that?
That is a hot question – and we know applying for loans can be an overwhelming and complex process for small business owners. At Capital One Spark Business, we want to see small business owners succeed, and part of that entails empowering business owners with products and tools that are transparent, intuitive and tailored for small businesses based on their needs and circumstances.
We’re focused on providing an easy and seamless digital experience (which takes some of the friction out of the loan process), and making sure that the way that we offer this experience is transparent in regards to pricing, fees and APRs. We offer a variety of loan types, including no-doc loans and SBA-backed loans, which provide certain features and benefits for business owners who may not qualify for conventional bank loans. We also partner with incredible organizations like Kiva and Grameen, which are committed to empowering smaller, less experienced businesses with access to capital in new innovative ways.
This is part of the transformation we’re undertaking by being here at SXSW, hiring people from Silicon Valley, moving to Agile, having designers, being empathetic and doing design thinking, among other things. All of these activities are part of an effort to change the perception that customers have of their bank, and engage and serve them in new, more innovative ways.
Spark Business and Capital One have been on this journey for a couple of years now, and we’re seeing good feedback from our small business owners in terms of what we put out there.
Presumably, by creating an ecosystem of information (i.e. what small businesses are doing with their HR, staff, invoicing, balance sheet, etc.) you’ll actually be better informed as to whether or not to give them a loan?
Of course, and it’s a two-sided relationship. Yes, it helps us make clear decisions and inform whether we’re able to extend more capital. But, moreover, it allows us to render that data back to business owners and give them analytics and insight into how their businesses are performing. That dashboard of notifications is something we can give back to our customers, and being able to deliver that value back to them is incredibly important.
There are a lot of words to explain this concept – but you can think of it as a one-stop shop. It’s a checking and savings relationship; it’s access to capital; it’s digital merchant services; Spark Pay in-store; Spark Pay Online Store; and then stitching these products together so they work well together.
Then, we create the ability for that suite of banking services to stitch well and talk to other best-of-breed solutions that we may not provide. For instance, all of the aforementioned accounting products, as well as some very unique solutions in invoicing and payroll. We are building our suite of banking products, and then doing our best to make sure that our suite of products plays well and brings together the larger ecosystem of solutions.
To small business owners, it’s a one-stop shop, but in reality, it’s a one-stop shop provided by a variety of companies. But instead of many disparate solutions that don’t connect, it’s a group of solutions that work well together, save time and enable business owners to focus on what they love. We want to solve business problems, instead of being part of the problem. It’s one service experience and one platform, and we’re well into executing that vision.
It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to sit down with David to not only hear about the activities geared towards small business owners at SXSW, but also about the future of Spark Business and the bank’s continued commitment to improving the lives of small business owners.
To learn more, be sure to check out http://www.capitalone.com/small-business-bank/.
Thank you Capital One Spark Business for sponsoring this post.