Simplifying Money Management With Amanda Orson Of Curve
With so many ways to pay for products and services, multiple credit cards, bank accounts, and and beyond… there has never been more consumers must keep track of in regards to their money. How can technology, and something like an app on your phone simplify this all? Amanda Orson, VP, Head of North America at Curve, joins the show to share how Curve is simplifying money management.
Payments & Fintech Insights In This Episode
- What money management challenges many consumers with multiple credit cards, bank accounts, and more, face.
- The story behind Curve, and how their app helps users keep track of finances more effectively.
- What Curve’s “Go Back In Time” tool is, and how it’s powerful for managing credit card charges.
- How the US market differs from Europe when it comes to breaking into it with a newer fintech tool.
- Amanda’s insights on the future of money management, payments, fintech, and beyond.
- With so much more!
Featured on the Show
- Connect with Amanda Orson: LinkedIn | Twitter
- Connect with Curve: LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- Connect with the Show: LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter
- Subscribe to the Show: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Show Hub
Scott: Hey, everyone. Scott here with you again and welcome to another episode of “PayPod: The Payments and Fintech Podcast.” I’m really looking forward to today’s show because we’re gonna be exploring something that impacts really everyone, money management. With so many ways to pay for products and services, multiple credit cards, bank accounts, and so on, there have never been so many different things to keep track of in regards to your money. How can technology and something like an app on your phone simplify this all?
Joining me on the show to explore is Amanda Orson, who is VP and head of North America at Curve. Curve is an innovative consumer lifestyle payments app which has seen exceptional consumer uptake across Europe with more than 2 million users, 84% of whom have referred new users to its service. And they’re now bringing their solutions to the U.S. There’s a lot to cover here. Let’s dive right in. Amanda, welcome to the show.
Amanda: Thank you for having me.
Scott: Thanks for being here. To kick things off, I’d like to set the stage if possible with a big question. How complex is money management for consumers these days? What’s the shape of the problems they may face when it comes to, you know, tracking and making payments, credit, debit, and merchant rewards?
Amanda: Right now the biggest problem is that you have so many different kinds of accounts spread out across so many different parts of your personal money journey. So for that, I mean, you probably think of your bank account, you’re probably thinking of your various credit accounts, you’re probably thinking of one off fintech accounts you may have, and then maybe also visualization layer like what you would find on You Need A Budget or Mint. There are so many different parts of the ways in which you are engaging with money that that itself is a problem. It’s very fragmented and with that fragmentation comes needless complexity. And a lot of things to track and manage over time, including something as normal as your passwords and logins. It’s a lot, it’s a lot of cognitive load.
Scott: You’re 100% correct and even as you were breaking that down, I’m busy thinking about sort of how myself and my wife, we manage our finances and she kind of does a lot of the budgeting, and she gets in there in Mint, and all of that. But then it’s like, “Oh, did you use this card? Oh, no. We’ve got rewards for this. We got to use this one for the restaurant,” and all of that. I mean, you just see how complex it can get. So okay, needless to say money management can be a challenge. Fortunately, Curve has an app for that. What’s the story behind Curve and how does it really help simplify things for consumers when it comes to payments and money management in general?
Amanda: So Curve is the slimmest digital wallet you’ll ever have. It’s all of your cards in one. In the UK and EU right now, that’s MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club, or Discover. In the U.S., that’ll be MasterCard and Visa and Discover. Not Amex yet. But all of those cards with one card as your points of contact to the world allows us to aggregate everything. And what we really seek to do in the future is to sort of be a hub from which you engage with your various financial payment products, financial products, and financial visualization tools.
So in the U.S. to break that down in real terms, the U.S. consumer has something like, seven different kinds of payment cards. You’re probably thinking credit and debit, which you’d be right, but there are also other esoteric payment cards. Store cards are very popular. I think by volume there’s actually more store credit cards out there than there are just credit cards period, but that has a unique and very small use case. There are the gas or fleet payment cards, and then there’s also things like your FSA or HSA payment card. Just a heck of a lot of cards. So what we’re trying to do with Curve is to basically give you simplicity, and clarity, and convenience by putting all of those things in one place, allowing you to track and manage both your spend and also your rewards to make sure that you have the ability to manage your cash flow intelligently.
We have a product called Go Back in Time which will allow you to change a payment that you wish you had allocated to a different card within one statement period. So if you want to manage your cash flow and make a mistake, you can go back and fix that. It gives you an all in one pane or feed if you will, in the app of how you’re spending across your various accounts. And in Europe where it’s much more popular, it also gives you better exchange rates or better FX rates. Now, travel isn’t something we do too too much up here in the U.S., but it is something that we will have available to us in the future once we come online and the world starts to open up and look a little bit more normal again.
Scott: Absolutely. As a follow up to all of that, can you walk us through the sign up and onboarding process a bit? What does that tend to look like? Because I find with all of these great fintech apps and payments apps, and things like, a sort of frictionless easy sign up process is really key. So I’m curious what’s the Curve process.
Amanda: So it is an app-based onboarding. You download the app. From within the app, you sign up like you would for almost any other financial account. Now, in the U.S., we will be a credit card. That is the distinguishing feature about the U.S. versus our UK counterparts. But it’s pretty seamless from end to end. It’s name, address, verify who you are, and I was able to complete it in under five minutes.
Scott: Okay. So I think that sounds pretty painless. That’s good. So I wanna actually walk back a little bit because you mentioned Go Back in Time which I just found was really, really interesting. So just to refresh everybody, if you use the wrong card for something, you can kinda make things right. You know, I was just saying earlier, my wife and I have that discussion of, “Oh, no. We get extra points for restaurants. So we should use this one.” They would have been really helpful if we… Because sometimes we use the wrong card. How does this all work? I’m curious about just the mechanisms of what’s happening there.
Amanda: So Go Back in Time allows you to move transactions made using your Curve card from one underlying payment card in your Curve app to another. So you would literally within the app, open up and select that transaction that you want to move to a different funding instrument. And from within that transaction level view, you just hit Go Back in Time and it pretty seamlessly in about 10, 20 seconds, takes the actual payment that you had committed to one funding card, refunds it, and then applies the payment to the funding card that you would prefer. Now, it is limited by statement period. So in the U.S. that’s roughly 30 days. I think in the UK it has been much longer than that, but I think it’s also come back down to about 30 days. And it allows you to basically manage your cash flow for whatever reason. So in your case, you’re talking about preserving loyalty or rewards for a category of spend that you prefer. In some cases, it’s literally to manage the cash, making sure that they have enough cash in the bank account, on their debit card when they put something to a debit card they didn’t intend to initially, or to manage their balances across their different payment card’s period, whether that’s credit or debit.
Scott: Right. So again, once again, pretty seamless there and I’m glad you answered the sort of timeframe because that was gonna be my next question. So it can be the kind of thing where maybe, you know, you made that payment at the restaurant, then you remember a couple days later, “Oh, wait. I need to reallocate that.” So that’s pretty cool. You’ve talked before about Curve having so much success in Europe and now you’re headed to the U.S., you’ve touched on maybe a few of the differences there. But overall, there are many fintechs and payments organizations who really either plan or have already tried to make their mark on the U.S. after global success. What are some of the challenges or maybe differences in breaking into the U.S.? And how are you guys approaching them?
Amanda: The challenges are that it’s a much bigger market and much, much more competitive. We’re something like 4% of the world’s population and one-third of it’s ad spend. So making noise and making a difference is the challenge at hand. But the use case for the product is so much more intuitive here because Americans’ payments and financial lives in general are much more fragmented than they are abroad. We have categorically many, many more credit cards and debit cards. I think we actually have passed the trillion credit card mark in the United States to put that in perspective. I think we have 175 million people that have credit cards at all. So it is really, really big and really, really fragmented. So we think that the opportunity is sort of implicit with this product. We are able to help people more seamlessly manage their incredibly fragmented financial lives with a layer of convenience and insight that they currently don’t have unless they’re stitching a lot of different kinds of accounts together, using tools like Mint and I’ll be very honest, personally I have a visualization tool that I’ve been using for many years, and I still use Excel because it doesn’t tie quite everything up into one. So there’s a lot.
From the challenge perspective, it’s definitely, it’s a different market than the EU and UK. This is apples and oranges. We have sort of a patchwork quilt of 50 different states worth of regulatory bodies potentially in addition to the SEC, depending on the product or the CFPB, depending on the product. So the regulatory environment and the legal environment is very different in the U.S. than in the UK and EU.
Scott: And you already were kind of answering this. But I was hoping you could tease it out a bit more because there’s so many folks out there that are starting new fintechs and offering revolutionary financial products that really changed the way businesses and consumers operate around payments or things like banking. One I think huge challenge and you alluded to it is when you are innovating, it’s encouraging that adoption and achieving that growth, once you get that adoption, that sustained usage. What’s Curve’s philosophy around getting people to adopt this newer tool? And how do you put that into action in terms of getting them to really change, you know, what they might have been doing previously even if it is much more inefficient?
Amanda: I honestly think that the biggest obstacle or challenge will be understanding or how to communicate what we do in a succinct fashion to an audience with an attention span. I think Americans right now, I think we had a study that said that we have the attention span of less than goldfish now. That’s the challenge and that’s the challenge I think for all businesses, not just ours uniquely. But trying to make the case that this is actually going to simplify your financial life is going to be the big challenge at hand.
One of the things that I think that we can do is really try to narrow in on a focus group of one type of consumer that we can really solve problems for and make sure that we absolutely knock it out of the park for that group, and then move into ever more tangential groups from there. I have been telling my colleagues in the UK which is 66 million people I think, but we’re 330 million very different kinds of people here in the United States, that you don’t attack the U.S. market by attacking as a mass, unless you already have built in distribution like Apple or Amazon. The way that you sort of get to market is by solving one problem for one discrete audience and doing a really good job of it, and then moving into another discrete problem for another discrete audience. And then slowly over time sort of aggregating these individual audiences into an accretive pull. And that forms sort of a halo effect of people who like your product and are willing to talk about it to friends. So that’s the way that I’m approaching the problem here in the U.S. is basically how do I make one kind of customer’s life much easier in a meaningful way such that they wanna be able… Would rather talk about that than something else and they pass it along to friends.
Scott: Right. And I think that goes back to it in my intro, there was that stat, 84% of your users in Europe have referred new users to the service. And so I think you’re spot on there. It makes so much sense that if you do such a fantastic job of solving one type of consumer’s problem, then when they’re out at the restaurant or whatever with their friends, they’ll say, “Oh, yeah. I’m using this Curve app here. Check it out.” That kind of thing, right?
Scott: So that’s that piece that’s encouraging the adoption. You mentioned noise and we were talking about attention spans and things like that. It’s an uphill battle for payments and fintechs to really break through that noise, I think, and really increase that brand awareness, and put themselves on the map. So what do you think the keys are to really just improving brand awareness in payments or fintech? Any specific high level strategies that maybe even any fintech could consider exploring no matter what market they’re pursuing?
Amanda: Yeah. I definitely think that there’s a trend and we see this in the challenger bank segment right now of niche like, go niche and really try to nail one niche, and then move into something that’s a little bit larger than that niche. That’s gonna be a trend that goes on for some time because there are so many banks and now so many challenger banks in the fintech category that I think that without having one core audience segment that absolutely loves you and is brand-aware, it’s very difficult to grow. The customer acquisition cost is pretty high. I don’t think that I’m giving away anything and we need to find ways to achieve referral and organic growth in order to bring that customer acquisition cost or cap down. So that’s always going to be sort of top of mind is all marketing and advertising roads lead to the realm what moves the needle and word of mouth? What do I have to do to make this product good enough that you tell a friend, or you pitch a parent on the soccer field, or you go home and you’re really excited, and tell your wife? What do I need to do to make you so passionately happy with this product that you spend time and go out of your way sharing it with someone else? That’s really the key.
Scott: Yeah. And I think too, back to your earlier point when you’re kind of focusing on nailing it with one specific type of consumer, that really helps you because I think where people run into trouble as if they go in and they wanna just kind of do this marketing machine gun thing, and like, “Well, let’s just spread the message, spread the message.” If you aren’t being really targeted and really intentional with reaching the potential customers who could really have the most impact for your brand and tell their friends, and all this, then you’re fighting a really big uphill battle there, right?
Amanda: A hundred percent. And if I can be pointed without naming names, I think this has been a big part of the struggle for the other European and UK-based fintechs that have come to the U.S. and have not been successful is that they can expand in other parts of the world, and their product is magnitudes of order better than whatever the incumbents are. And so for that kinds of expansion, growth is very easy. They are so much better than that which exists. In the U.S., our banks are pretty great and getting through with something that is a step change better is very difficult especially if your marketing strategy is spray and pray. You really do have to be differentiated in order to actually tackle this market and you really do have to focus on one core audience segment. You’re just not gonna be able to have a field of dreams marketing strategy, you know. I will build it and they will come. That’s just not gonna work here.
Scott: Right, right. Spot on. As we sort of wind down our discussion here, I always like to look to the future. So if we turn our attention to the future, what do you see in the long-term future for money management itself? In 5 to 10 years, what technologies, solutions may continue to impact it?
Amanda: There are only so many forms of value, right? It’s a finite list. I wanna say it’s maybe 8 to 12 different kinds of items. And aggregation and disaggregation are two. So I think the aggregation is just an obvious place where we’re gonna see some growth because our financial lives are so incredibly fragmented. Looking a little bit more narrower in scope, I do think that right now something like 50 million Americans have crypto, 100 million or so we think in the world. So the U.S. is leading the market on that, but it’s still very early days. And I believe that the crypto curious market is many magnitudes of order larger than the currently holding crypto market.
So I think that within the next five years that will be a little bit like, you know, where we were at the internet in the ’90s where it started out with some niche forums and then AOL, instant messenger came along, and suddenly the internet became a thing with multiple search engines. I think that we’re still in the very early messaging forums state of crypto adoption worldwide, but even in the United States. So we’ll see a lot more that way and honestly, I think that we’re gonna see a lot of aggregation in the fintech space. There are a lot of different kinds of players who have different…related, but slightly different audiences or related, but slightly different products. And it just seems obvious that there’s going to be some roll up into something that looks like a few winners in each category.
Scott: I couldn’t agree more and I’m glad that you brought up crypto as well because I do think that also kind of connects to what we’re talking about here, this kind of aggregation. And there are something like, last I looked, well over 1,500 different types of cryptocurrencies. Now, obviously, a lot of those are gonna fall away and things. But when you think about these new technologies, these new ways of paying or even having, you know, types of currency, it’s almost gonna be a necessity to be able to manage all of that, right?
Amanda: Oh, absolutely. Right now we see that there’s such adoption in the last… Since the pandemic, basically. There’s been such widespread adoption of things in non-fiat currency. That horse is fully out of the barn. It’s not coming back and will only continue to gain speed. So I think that more… I like to call it the parent pass. Once your mom starts asking you, it’s reached mass adoption.
Scott: Yes, exactly.
Amanda: And when your parents start asking you like, “How do I get Bitcoin,” we’re right there. We’re on the cusp, but we’re not there yet. It’s still very early days.
Scott: Yeah, exactly. And to your point there, I’m just thinking back of the early 2000s and things like this when there’s all this social media explosion, and that first time my father asked me, “What’s Facebook?” And I was like, “Oh, boy.”
Amanda: Oh, gosh.
Scott: Keeping our attention on the future, what do you see in the future for Curve? Any specific features, partnerships, or otherwise on the horizon and especially as you continue to break into the U.S. that you can share of course, that our listeners might find to be interesting?
Amanda: I can’t disclose specifics yet, but I recognize that we only have so many at bats as a startup. So we’re swinging for the fences and we have a few strategic partnerships that I have my eye on.
Scott: Love it. It’s gonna be exciting to see. All right, Amanda. We have a segment we like to do on every show. It’s five questions. It’s rapid fire. Are you ready?
Amanda: I’m ready.
Scott: Make a prediction about the future of payments or money management that you expect will happen in the next 12 to 24 months. So more short-term.
Amanda: I think that high yield savings accounts will continue to lose customers to people that buy crypto and stake in DeFi yield for much higher APYs.
Scott: Oh, I like that prediction. What’s one cool piece of payment or finance related technology that you’ve come across recently unrelated directly to your company that impressed you?
Amanda: On the B2B front, I really like this company called Proof. They basically allow you to integrate or with their system you can add your phone number and then it autopopulates the customer’s information, name, address, etc.
Scott: In the next five years, most Americans will make a purchase with either Bitcoin, Apple Pay, something else entirely. Which one do you think and why?
Amanda: I think most Americans have probably already made a purchase with either Google or Apple Pay. I think that will probably be the… By mass market share, that’s gonna be the clear winner.
Scott: What’s one piece of advice you would have for someone who’s considering the payments or fintech industry as a career?
Amanda: Don’t assume that you can’t become involved just because you don’t necessarily have a fintech background. I certainly do not and it’s amazing how quickly you learn if you’re deeply enmeshed in it. So I would say, don’t think of it as a barrier if you’re not in the space yet. There is so much more to go, there is so much growth ahead. Everything is fintech. So just jump in.
Scott: Amanda, to piggyback on that, I think that’s fantastic advice. When I first came across the payments industry, I didn’t know a thing about it and I was helping with a podcast. And so you just kinda go and you learn. And I’ve learned so much in the years since then. So really good advice there. Last question. What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
Amanda: Oh, gosh. There are so many great pieces of advice. I don’t think I could probably give you my best in rapid fire fashion, but I could definitely give you something that’s sort of top of mind right now. I would say right now everybody is facing a mass exodus or a mass questioning of their employer or employee bases. And being a people first always culture really, really helps. We know that there’s gonna be a lot of people and that people are making different decisions because they thought about things a little bit differently during the course of the pandemic. And generally speaking, if you have your employee’s best interest at heart and you find ways to be flexible, you’ll be surprised at how much of that you might win.
Scott: Fantastic. Amanda, thank you so, so much for joining me on the show today, sharing Curve’s story and really some fantastic insights on money management and breaking into the U.S. And before I let you go, if folks wanna find out more about Curve and the things that you guys are doing especially here in the U.S., where can they do that? Where should they go?
Amanda: curve.com/us and just going to curve.com should bring you there if you’re in the United States.
Scott: Awesome. Thanks again, Amanda.
Amanda: Thank you.
Curve is on a mission to simplify the way people spend, send, see and save money. We are focused on an ambitious opportunity fuelled by a couple of trends starting to play out in the market, from fragmentation of financial services to new convergence layers for the customer experience. We believe the end-game will be a connected world of money, tailored individually for each customer. We’re building this end game – an Operating System for Money.