Ask a fintech founder: Trevor Marshall, Current

On building a new kind of neobank and helping Americans improve their financial life

Headshot of Current founder Trevor Marshall next to speech bubble graphics

For many Americans, especially those who are just starting to build a credit and financial history, access to traditional banking can be challenging. It can be hard to build credit without credit, and fees and can create barriers to financial progress.


Fintech entrepreneurs Trevor Marshall and Stuart Sopp see this problem as an opportunity to serve Americans who are traditionally overlooked by the banking industry. In 2015, they co-founded Current, a U.S.-based consumer fintech that eliminates credit checks and annual fees, and helps customers build credit with everyday purchases and get paid faster.


“We were both drawn to this idea of more open and accessible finance,” said Marshall.


“We provide banking, credit building and liquidity services for millions of Americans who lack quality access to financial services.”


Here, Marshall shares how Current is helping their customers build credit with limited debt risk and how Visa has helped them do it smarter, faster and safer.


What problem were you trying to solve when you started Current?

Marshall: We saw this opportunity of banks and credit companies not really serving many customers in the ways they expected. We also saw that the way that money worked was fundamentally changing and becoming more digital. We wanted to tackle both of these problems by creating a technology platform that could serve customers who previously didn't have access or had poor access to financial services with services that are far more convenient, transparent and overall improves their financial outcomes.


Who specifically are you trying to reach?

Marshall: We look at the progress-seekers. They are usually outside of the box of most banks’ credit products and services. We think there's about 50 million Americans who fall into that bucket. Many of them are living paycheck to paycheck. For our demographic, in particular, they're a bit younger than the folks who are at bigger institutions. The average age of our customer is late 20s. We see ourselves serving a lot of people as their first account experience, or even more commonly as a second following a poor banking experience.


How are you helping your customer advance vs. fall behind?

Marshall: It's our responsibility to make all of the tools available in a way that is accessible both from a cost and a digital experience standpoint. We created the Build Card, which is an on-ramp into the credit ecosystem for folks with 100 percent approval rates and very limited risk of going into debt, which is a big fear that our customers have. When you're working hourly jobs or multiple jobs or you're working gig work, it can be very difficult to even out cash flows when you don't have access to something like a revolving credit card, something that I and people in a slightly more credit-accessible demographic take for granted.


How is Visa helping you grow your business?

Marshall: We've had an awesome partnership with Visa across a wide product space. We created this innovative product in partnership with Visa, where consumers can basically grow their credit and become more credit visible, and gain better access to credit products. On the issuing side, we're a great partner of Visa DPS for debit transactions. We were the first company to launch on DPS Forward globally and do a full BIN migration onto it, which gives us really exceptional access to advanced networking messaging.  We're also very close on the brand side, so we issue Visa debit cards and Visa credit cards.


What's one thing you wish you knew when you started Current?

Marshall: In the nine years since we launched, I've grown a tremendous amount as an engineer. I've done that from working with some of the best people, hiring really well and learning a lot from the people on my team. It would be great to have all that knowledge back in time, but at the same time, I don't think that would've been possible. To know something at the beginning, I think, is an impossibility for a venture like this, where we really have just listened to what our customers are telling us and tried to follow that as our North Star as much as possible.


How would you say you differ from your competitors?

Marshall: The biggest differentiator from both a product and a business-strategy perspective is the fact that we've built out our own core. One of the things that allowed us to transition onto Visa Forward ahead of most people is that we were able to migrate it onto our own core. We've been able to create products that have never existed before. The Build Card product concept is only replicable if you build it from scratch, which is very hard to do. That's really our edge.


What keeps you up at night?

Marshall: My three-year-old sometimes [laughs]. It's not so much that it keeps us up at night, but we've actually found really good partnerships with credit card companies and banks who are looking to potentially augment some of their services with Current products. I would say the biggest opportunity, something that keeps me up almost in an excited way, is that there is this great product that we've built on this great platform we've built. How do we distribute this to tens of millions of households as quickly as possible? That is a huge, exciting opportunity.


What does success look like for you?

Marshall: Our mission is to improve the financial outcomes of our members. So success to me is when we're getting feedback from customers saying, "Your new transaction risk system totally stopped the fraud that I was seeing on my account." That's a very clear financial outcome. Reading people's stories about how they're working two or three jobs and how our liquidity products are the reason they're able to go beyond paycheck to paycheck. Ultimately, fulfilling that mission is success – all of the economic benefits come after that.


What excites you about the future of payments?

Marshall: We recently announced we're going to be launching with Visa+, which is a single payname that works across p2p payment apps. There's this trend toward faster money, and, especially in this push model, identity. How do you make sure that the person doing the payment is the person that they are? Identity is becoming more important as payments get faster because you need to have really good control over those things. This evolution has a huge requirement for data and just being smarter about risk, personalization and other enhancements to the experience. So you need to have a platform like Current, where you can deliver all of these in a digital way. I’m excited to be working closely with Visa on these developments. It'll serve our mission, which ultimately serves our business.

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Tag: Payment technology

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