An interview with Shuli Mantsur, Director of Partnerships at BECOME
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Become (formerly Lending Express) is a technology company dedicated to creating a better world of funding for small-to-medium businesses. The company uses its proprietary technology to automatically nurture each business throughout the funding cycle by providing a unique financial profile called LendingScore™, where the business can learn funding essentials, improve its funding odds, unlock new funding opportunities and claim its optimal funding solution.
Recently named to Business Insider’s list of the 10 Hottest Fintech Startups in the world, Become is rapidly growing with over 125,000 loyal business members registered through its platform. The company has built an ecosystem of more than 50 leading lenders and Fintech partners such as OnDeck, Kabbage and BlueVine and has facilitated over $160 million in tailored business loans to date.
I chatted with Shuli Mantsur, Become’s Director of Partnerships, about how the company’s approach to partnership benefits their members and partners.
Before we dig into partnerships and financial technology companies, tell us briefly about your path to your role at Become.
I started at Become as Head of Training. Thereafter, I led our US division as Head of Sales and Partnerships. Showing an affinity and aptitude for partnerships, I was made Director of Partnerships in August of 2018 and the rest is history.
As a financial tech company that helps small-to-medium businesses get funding, what types of companies do you partner with?
We essentially have three types of partnerships here at Become.
We partner with business lenders from all risk positions and with many different products in order to provide funding solutions to a wide variety of small businesses, no matter their business industry.
We also partner with non-lenders that offer alternative business financing solutions, such as credit cards, so that businesses that do not yet qualify for a loan can still access funding options.
Another type of partnership we look for is those which will improve and streamline the customer’s experience and results. For example, we partner with Plaid in the US and Proviso in Australia to enable our customers to securely link their bank accounts to their loan applications, which in turn helps improve their funding odds and bring them the most relevant funding options. Through our partnership with Experian, we’re able to automatically verify customers’ credit score data, further speeding up and optimizing the application process.
What do you look for when thinking about the optimal partners for the customers using your platform?
The reputability of our partners is most important to us, as is their ability to provide quick and easy funding approvals. Aside from this, we also look at how tech savvy the partner is, and how adaptive they are to change and adopting new practices.
Do they have the ability to utilize the digital bank documents that we generate through our bank data aggregator, Plaid? Is the partner using a PDF reader of some sort?
Some companies are very big and any change is a very big deal and requires a lot of permissions and resources. Others are very happy to receive feedback and take action immediately.
How do the partnerships you form help provide small-to-medium businesses with quick and easy access to their optimal funding solution? And how do partnerships help you deliver a seamless end-to-end customer experience on your platform?
Basically, we look to maximize how much we can automate and how fast we can get an approval out. This makes for the best customer experience because the faster and more seamless the risk assessment process is, the happier the customer.
For example, our partnership with Plaid, which enables our customers to link their bank accounts to their loan applications, gives real-time access to financial data that not only speeds up the application process but also helps our customers continuously improve their funding odds and options. Our algorithms automatically and instantly know as soon as a customer’s financial health improves and, as soon as they qualify for funding, we unlock the right solution for them, from the right partner.
It sounds like you leverage strategic partnerships that will benefit your customers, i.e. with lenders. Do you also view partnerships as a way to get leads and acquire customers?
Partnerships create a win-win situation, to the benefit of our customers as well as our partners. Aside from speeding up the whole process, helping customers improve their funding odds and unlocking better loans or funding solutions, we’re also able to help our partners gain high-quality, pre-qualified customers that want to access funding.
What are the three most important qualities or considerations needed to build and maintain strong partner relationships?
Human connection – You need to make sure that there is synergy on a personal level. Partners are humans and humans are interesting bundles of energy and experience. By treating each other as humans, and not tools, we are able to do our jobs happily and effectively. How much my partner and I like each other has a direct correlation to how well the partnership functions.
Trust – Be transparent, honest and open in every interaction with your partners. This builds trust which is the foundation of every strong partnership.
Have ‘chutzpah’ – This means to have audacity, which is a mantra of mine. I believe in being direct with partners and I never beat around the bush. Directness leads to productivity, action and mutual respect.
How are advances in technology and machine learning changing the landscape of finance and partnership?
Technology and machine-learning have the ability to analyze complex patterns in each business’s profile, including personal and business financials, revenue, credit score and more to comprehensively assess the business’s creditworthiness. By looking at the bigger picture, using real-time data, this enables financial technology companies like Become to provide a proactive solution to small businesses, helping them not only improve their funding odds but also automatically and instantly unlock better funding options as their financial health improves. The technology then matches businesses with the optimal partner in the system based on multiple parameters and criteria. Thanks to such technology, each business gets a funding solution best suited to their profile and needs, and each partner gains customers that fit their optimal requirements.
At Become, our 50+ lenders and fintech partners each offer unique funding products and services, and have different qualification criteria. Our technology takes these thousands of variables into account to quickly find the perfect match, something that a human could simply not achieve in a short period of time.
Read more about how Partnerize can help financial institutions manage and scale partnership programs.