Financeit’s CEO Michael Garrity on Building a Company That Changes Lives
Photo by Mauricio Calero
This Toronto-based fintech company is changing the game, one project at a time.
For about ten years now, Canadian startup Financeit has been quietly revolutionizing how big-budget projects are funded and facilitated. Serving financial institutions, merchants, and the everyday consumer through a straightforward interface, Financeit is demystifying funding big purchases. Its tale just might be the industry’s best untold story. A mobile-friendly lending service that values transparency and compassion, Financeit is the beating heart at the centre of something that has traditionally been apathetic.
Financeit’s CEO, Michael Garrity, believes that commerce should be in service of the people, not an end in itself. It has been through his values-driven company that he’s been able to build a company that changes lives.
How would you best describe Financeit’s offerings?
Financeit enables big purchases to be broken down into monthly payments where the transaction is. We’ve focused on enabling payment plans at the doorstep with people who are doing renovations on their house and more. We wanted to be simple and easy to use, almost effortless — this is the concept behind what we’ve tried to do with merchants, which is why we’ve now grown into the number one point of sale lending company in all of Canada.
Who are your consumers, and how do they differ from each other?
We really have three customers. We have financial institutions, as well as over 7,000 merchants that rely on us to power sales in their business every day. They’re probably our most important customer because if they don’t offer our service, no one will ever hear about us. You can only be offered a payment plan from a merchant who’s on our system. So they are the tip of the spear for us and we spend a lot of time focused on what their needs are. There’s an industry, especially in home services, that really hasn’t used point of sale in lending and payment plans very much. It’s relatively new to them, so we spend a ton of time educating that industry on how [to] use the tool.
And then on the consumer side, most consumers are used to a payment plan. You buy a car with a payment plan, you buy a house with a payment plan. You put money on a credit card and pay a minimum payment every month until you can get it paid off. Canadians understand how to make smaller payments on bigger ticket purchases. It’s not a thing that we needed to educate people very much on. The education was just to build trust with us.
What are some of the misconceptions around financing and building trust that you are looking to dispel?
In the past, merchants were essentially required to pay for the service. [Finance companies would] go to a merchant and they’d say, “All right, you should offer a payment plan to your customer. We have a free program that you can use.” But the interest rates would be so high, a customer would never buy it. So they would say, “You should buy our rate down to something reasonable. You should offer 1.9 APR financing or you should tell the customer [not to] pay for six months.” Those are tricks, and they cost money. Merchants were always having to pay the finance company to be able to put a rate in front of a customer that was reasonable.
We came to the industry and said, “We’re going to have a free program that’s reasonable for the customer.”
We actually make less money than typical finance companies. That’s a compromise. Most people are in the business of making as much money as they possibly can. We chose to make less money by not tricking people and play the long game where we’re going to build up enough capacity, flow and efficiency that will ultimately make us a profitable company. But it will take time.
Today, it’s easy to make customer service automated for efficiency, but the human experience is also vital. How important is that human touch to your business?
We are relentless in focusing on user experience (UX). For us, it isn’t just the interaction they have on the application. It’s the interaction that they have when they call our call center with a problem. For example, in Fort McMurray when we had the big fires a few years ago, we had a lot of customers that were there that had borrowed money for ATVs and motorcycles. They didn’t have a home. They were living out of a hotel in Edmonton. They didn’t have a job because the fires had destroyed their income. And it was at that moment where we said, “We can enforce that these people make their monthly payments or we can go to our lenders and say, we’re going to give everybody two months relief so they can get back on their feet, into a home, and figure out how they’re going to make the next payment.” User experience for us isn’t just about technology, it’s about the way that customers experience us as a company.
What are the core values that you lead by?
We’ve always been values driven. Personality is one of them. We have a sense of humour and we’re quirky. We care about diversity in the workplace and diversity by gender, ethnicity, and age. These things matter to us. Drive is also a value that’s really important. We have to wake up every day and just want to go faster. Trust is something that we lead with as well. We’re in the business of taking personal information from people. Keeping that information protected and secure is a key component of what we have to do everyday.
What are some exciting things that you have coming up?
Our mission is better commerce for better living. Our focus is on new services companies, but there’s a lot more than just sales for people in home services. We’ve moved into lead generation to help people create those opportunities that go into the top of the funnel that they can then fulfill. Once a lead comes in, there are also questions to ask around your process for managing it: how quickly you get back to the customer, how to create an invoice, how you show financing on an invoice. All those things are workflow, software, and technology. We’ve moved into that business as well.
So, we’re helping people in the industry with bigger problems than just financing. We’re going into the US market with a bigger solution set. We’re not going to just do point of sale lending in a simple and easy way. We’re actually going to help you solve leads and workflows. [It’s a] very holistic approach with the biggest clients in the industry. That’s really what’s exciting and different about us these days.