Novo CEO Talks Small Business Banking With Charlie Stephens
Our CEO and Co-Founder Michael Rangel recently sat down with Charlie Stephens, Host of LeadersLive on #LinkedInLive. He shared his story, the idea behind Novo, and why our company culture is so special. From a personal tragedy to a business revolution, here is the skinny on the conversation Michael and Charlie recently had.
Charlie visited our office in the Flatiron neighborhood of downtown Manhattan and set up some cameras. The scene sees the two sitting on a couch with the Novo office in the background. Charlie kicked off the conversation by asking Michael about his finance background. “You were a finance guy,” Charlie said. “You were doing some trading. You were not really in the startup world. How did you get into this job?”
How Michael Got Into Small Business Banking
Michael starts by sharing how he got into finance at a very young age. He worked for a relatively small management shop and became the head trader. He also managed billions of dollars in assets under management (AUM). It was a small shop with a bit over 20 employees, and they were managing more than $20 billion. This meant that each person had to wear many hats.
Michael was one of those people. He traded in operations, took part in accounting practices, compliance, and research. Michael recalls how, in “accounting, I got to see the toolsets that were made available to businesses from a banking perspective… I was totally blown away.” And he realized that while his company had these tools, most small businesses don’t have access to them.
One of the leading pain points small businesses have is poor cash flow management. And this is directly linked to not having the right tools. It was this issue that led to the inception of Novo. He wanted to build something that would save small biz owners time and money. This move would also help a business with more financial transparency.
The Near-Death Experience That Changed It All
Charlie asked Michael if there was a particular experience, mentor, or lesson that shaped him at that point in his life.
I have a pretty different kind of backstory where I definitely had a moment that shifted… I just had a really crazy experience where I was in this near-death accident, ejected from a car, lost my best friend, where I really just had that man in the mirror moment. It was like holy crap, I legit… almost died.
Before this tragedy happened, Michael thought he had to meet more people and make more money before he could start his own business. However, it was then he realized the right time to start a business doesn’t exist. The time was now.
He recovered from his injuries and reached out to Novo Co-Founder and CEO Tyler McIntyre. The two had been talking about launching a business together for a while, and they both wanted to address the banking pain points that small business owners face. They saw what was happening across the pond with challenger banks, and realized they could do the same in the U.S.
What Does Novo Actually Do?
When Charlie asked Michael about how Novo helps small businesses, Michael had a simple response. “We just make small banking really easy for small businesses,” Michael said. “For entrepreneurs, for freelancers, people in the gig economy.”
Small business owners have been using banking tools for their personal finances. However, they haven’t had access to the right tools for their professional lives. Business tools are clunky, especially for small biz, and there are certain industry regulations why they hadn’t gotten better. And this is where Novo comes in.
The goal is to bring the simplicity that exists in personal banking to small business banking. Plus, prospective customers can apply directly from their phones. “We make it really easy,” Michael says. “You can apply for your bank account on your mobile phone–the average Novo customer finishes in 10 minutes, as opposed to hours in a bank branch, or sitting around waiting for days or weeks.”
Once a customer gets their account, they get a debit card. They can also process transfers with just a few taps on their phones, or they can mail a paper check out to a vendor. It’s all about making sure the customer has options.
The Novo Small Business Culture
Naturally, Charlie asked Michael to share some insight into the Novo culture. And Michael is not shy when it comes to talking about the importance of fostering the right culture:
It’s something we really, really, really, really, really focus on, and I really can’t emphasize that enough… If you ask 20 people what the definition of a small business is, you’re gonna get, most likely, 20 different definitions. But one thing that stays true is most small businesses consider themselves underdogs.
Novo is made up of employees from different companies and industries. Each person brings a unique set of skills that serves as an asset for the business. Michael believes that Novo embody the mentality of the underdog as we go up against big banks.
Similarly, our customers are mavericks who go up against larger forces. These include big department stores, large tech companies, and restaurant chains. We know what it’s like to go head to head with these types of companies, which is why we’re able to help small businesses do the same.
The Novo footprint is all about helping out small businesses with the right banking platform and the tools they need to succeed. As someone who embraces the underdog mentality, Michael loves bringing like-minded individuals to the Novo family. By doing so, we can all work together to solve the biggest banking issues that startup founders, small biz owners, and freelancers face.