In the fast-paced world of fintech, few individuals boast a journey as diverse and impactful as Alex Twigg’s. He shares his remarkable story, from his humble beginnings in the UK to his pivotal role in transforming the banking landscape.
Join us as we explore his experiences, challenges, and triumphs, ultimately leading to the creation of innovative ventures like Judo Bank and his latest venture, Appeggio.
Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.
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A Childhood in the UK and Working in the Banking Sector
Alex begins by reflecting on his idyllic childhood in the UK, growing up in the Midlands. Despite the small-town charm, he was always drawn to the idea of exploring the world beyond the borders of his homeland.
After leaving school at 18, Alex took his father’s advice and joined a traditional UK bank, starting as a tea boy. Since his father was an electronic engineer, Alex got the opportunity to watch him build their first Apple computer on the dining room table. Alex also taught himself to code out of books at 8 years old.
Alex emphasizes the importance of traditional banking methods and the invaluable learning and on-the-job experiences he gained at the bank. As was the norm, he started at the lowest level and worked his way through three jobs and various roles and responsibilities before making it to the counter.
Alex remembers it as an apprenticeship going from printing checkbooks to securities investments and foreign exchange lending. Side-by-side, he took his banking exams, studying three nights a week at college.
The Neo-Bank Revolution
The turning point in Alex’s career came when he ventured into the world of neo-banking with the launch of Egg, a direct bank aiming to change the perception of banking in the UK. This marked a shift towards a more innovative and customer-centric approach, challenging traditional banking norms.
Egg was backed by Prudential Assurance, which was the biggest insurer in the UK. Alex remembers going all in to join the team and work on launching Egg, which was a fabulous experience for him, particularly because it was a new way of doing things.
Alex recalls that they started working on Egg around the dotcom boom. Since the infrastructure and technology did not exist, they spent time strapping together servers and building data centers. They were creating new technology and customer propositions.
Above all, Alex enjoyed the casual culture where employees wouldn’t be pulled up for opening the top button of their shirts on the hottest days. He also enjoyed working with the forward-thinking executive team where people could really flourish and grow.
After leaving Egg, Alex moved to Boston and worked for around two years at NTT Data Corporation, previously Keane International Inc. That’s when a headhunter contacted him with an offer to work in Australia.
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From Egg to UBank in Australia
Alex’s journey continued with a move to Australia, where he played a crucial role in establishing UBank, a neo-bank under the National Australia Bank. The experience of building a digital bank from scratch in a new market showcased the transformative power of technology in the banking sector.
Alex talks about the challenges they faced when building a bank within a bank. He encountered internal politics and resistance to his ideas and non-traditional working methods.
Alex likens it to entrepreneurship, where he was trying to decide what to build, create a brand, and a customer proposition. He also had to innovate around that proposition to take the product to the market.
At the same time, raising venture capital was easier since all they had to do was reach out to the internal committee.
Alex also talked about starting at the lower base without support mechanisms available to assist him. However, he went through the ideation and creation process with the drive and tenacity of an entrepreneur. Five years down the line, he decided to turn the page and move on.
Entrepreneurial Ventures and Judo Bank
Alex made the decision to leave UBank and embark on the journey of co-founding Judo Bank. This chapter highlights the challenges and triumphs of creating a bank that combines the personal touch of relationship banking with a modern, digitized approach.
Alex has an interesting story to tell about founding Judo Bank. At the time, two of Alex’s co-founders–Joseph Healy and David Hornery, were following the changes coming up at The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), which was issuing licenses to new banks.
Australia had just four major banks that owned 90% of the retail and commercial banking market. These banks had gone through the process of descaling and taking out costs from their organizations, focusing on cost savings.
The Royal Commission was looking into the ethical behavior of the banks in Australia, which made it the optimum time for new entrants in the banking sector. The objective was to enable face-to-face customer relationships in banking to help them with their businesses.
The new banks could help upcoming entrepreneurs build their capital structures so they could grow. The frontline banks did not extend much support unless these founders wanted to borrow large sums of $2M or more.
The Concept Behind Judo Bank
Alex and his co-founders came up with the idea to digitize all the processes behind the banker and eliminate the back office manual processes. That’s where the technology strategy for Judo Bank came in and continues to be the underlying concept of their service.
Judo Bank aims to create a process that empowers banks to make real decisions by interacting with customers as needed. By the time the bank went to IPO, it was valued at $1.5B. And before the IPO, Alex and his co-founders raised $500M for Judo Bank.
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The fundraising was an incredible feat since the Australian VC community is nowhere as advanced as in other countries, especially for a small tech startup. And as Alex points out, this was a capital-hungry business with a huge ongoing need to raise funding.
He remembers how David traveled to the UK, the US, and the Middle East almost every week, trying to build relationships with VCs there. Alex has important lessons for entrepreneurs trying to raise capital. He recommends persistence, consistency, reliability, and the ability to execute on your promises.
These concepts kept them in business even when they were down the last dollars left in the bank. Alex recalls how they eventually found a group of family offices in Australia that kept them going.
International Ventures: Trust Bank in Singapore
Alex’s journey takes an international turn as he shares his experiences in Singapore, helping Standard Chartered Bank secure a digital license. The launch of Trust Bank, a joint venture with the FairPrice Group, exemplifies Alex’s ability to adapt his expertise to diverse geographies and market segments.
Alex recalls how he was due to relocate to Singapore and live there for two years, but then COVID hit, and he ended up building Trust Bank remotely. Interestingly, the bank got 1M customers in its first six weeks of operations.
A Shift to Software: Appeggio
The latest chapter in Alex’s entrepreneurial saga introduces Appeggio, a no-code platform that revolutionizes software development. He talks about his motivation behind transitioning from banking to software and how Appeggio addresses the limitations of existing no-code platforms.
As Alex explains, the downside of previous platforms was that companies had to continue working with developers since they did not own the applications.
However, companies also had to bear all the costs associated with building and maintaining the platform. From Judo Bank’s perspective, that wasn’t a problem because the bankers drove customer interactions.
However, other organizations’ customer interactions were driven by web or phone applications. The SaaS software landscape was quickly evolving, and platforms are turning to the Headless SaaS mode. They offer an API catalog, allowing customers to build their digital experience.
As a result, customers need to create a technology team that’s capable of building a digital experience on the APIs. With cofounder James Ladd, Appeggio was created, enabling non-technical folk to create digital experiences for customers and orchestrate over the APIs of Headless SaaS platforms.
The advantage of no-code platforms is that anyone can learn to use them and create websites and apps. Appeggio is an enterprise-grade citizen developer platform that enables users to design once and deploy to all of the platforms with the same effort.
Lessons Learned and Advice for Entrepreneurs
In this final chapter, Alex imparts valuable lessons learned throughout his journey. He emphasizes the resilience required to navigate the uncertainties of entrepreneurship and underscores the importance of open communication with family and partners for sustained support.
Alex credits his wife and family and the support they gave him through his entrepreneurial “adventures,” as he calls them.
Conclusion: A Legacy of Innovation
Alex Twigg’s journey from traditional banking to serial entrepreneurship is a testament to his vision, adaptability, and determination.
As he continues to shape the future of fintech with ventures like Appeggio, his legacy stands as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs navigating the ever-evolving landscape of innovation.
Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:
- Alex Twigg’s journey from starting as a tea boy in a traditional UK bank to becoming a serial entrepreneur in the fintech industry.
- Alex played a pivotal role in launching neo-banks, challenging traditional banking norms, and embracing innovative, customer-centric approaches.
- Judo Bank’s success story reflects the fusion of personalized relationship banking with modern, digitized strategies, setting it apart in the financial landscape.
- Alex’s ability to adapt and thrive in diverse geographies, from UBank in Australia to Trust Bank in Singapore, showcases his global impact on the banking sector.
- Appeggio, https://www.appeggio.com Alex’s latest venture, marks a shift from banking to software, introducing a next-generation no-code platform to revolutionize software development.
- Lessons from Alex emphasize the resilience required for entrepreneurs, navigating uncertainties, near-death experiences, and challenges inherent in building businesses.
- Alex Twigg’s legacy stands as an inspiration, illustrating the transformative power of innovation and adaptability in shaping the future of fintech.
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