Digital Banking for Small Businesses During COVID-19

Cameron Peake is the CEO and co-founder of Azlo, which provides digital banking and business services for small businesses, founders, freelancers, to help them get started and navigate their full entrepreneurial journey. Azlo doesn't have branches, and that means their cost structure is really different compared to big banks, so they can serve a broader range of customers. {Much smaller ones with different economics} Customers also get free business bank accounts with no minimum balances and all digital onboarding, including flow payments, invoicing, and also content and networking, to help them from a more holistic perspective. 

Azlo was built from day one for small businesses, so the services were built from the ground up. They also help navigate the craziness of the small business journey with content and webinars, whether it's about PPP, helping you understand how to pivot your business in the era of COVID, or something else, they want to help you across that journey.

Azlo is best able to serve businesses at what they call a ‘pivot inflection point’. A large portion of the businesses that work with Azlo are new companies, and in that sense, they’re not taking business from big banks. Big banks don't always do a great job of serving earlier stage customers — they have high fees, a lot of hoops to jump through, etc. So Azlo is really well set up to serve this other demographic of businesses.

But there is another type of business Azlo helps, and it’s the one that’s been operating at a more basic level for a while and is looking to make some changes. Azlo helps guide businesses through those unknowns. 

Ensuring Security

“Across our product, there are bank level standards for how you operate. Whether that's how you treat your customers or whether that's with respect to security. And so we follow all of those baseline standards that need to be in place to make sure that you have a safe and secure experience,” Cameron commented.

But on a more granular level, they use BBVA as a banking partner on the backend. This is a strong national bank and Cameron is excited to have them as a core partner as well. “I know that that helps provide a lot of security, whether it's respect to the FDI insurance that we bring, or just the kind of systems that we interact with on that end as well.”

COVID-19 and Banking

Cameron talked to us about the importance of being flexible and responsive to your customers, especially in the current climate. “And I think we, as all sorts of business owners, need to have kind of one eye to the future and one eye around what's going on today. But COVID impacted us as much as it impacted any small business owner out there, any small company out there. And we did a couple of, what I think, are really important things to be responsive that I think can apply across the board.”

Cameron and the Azlo team saw a lot of existing business owners really struggling coming out of COVID. As many as 80% expected to lose vast amounts of their income or their revenue. This was back in March just as everything was starting to happen, so one thing they did quickly was recognize that their biggest issue was access to capital. And so within a span of about five day they spun up a program to support access to PPP funds. They also created a kind of educational and networking series to support their customers' businesses as they thought about pivoting or thought about how they might be able to serve new markets.

But on the flip side, they also saw a ton of new applications come in. A lot of people in this era of COVID are turning towards self-employment as a way to make ends meet, so Azlo has seen incredible new volumes and has also pivoted their own business to be really responsive to that influx as well. “And so I think that the takeaway for me in this very recent lesson is you need to listen to your customers. Understand what's going on in the market and be flexible and agile enough to be able to address those needs quickly, because that's going to position you for success.” Important final words from Cameron. 

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