There are many startups in Australia trying to change the way big institutions work. The latest to hop on the bandwagon is Brisbane-based startup dfinanz.
Founded by Peter Coco and Tim Blomfield, both former bankers, as well as Rory O’Ferrall and Aito Satrustegui, dfinanz is a financial social network that aims to help consumers better understand banking and whether they are getting a fair deal.
The platform, which has been self-funded, was originally conceived as a way for banks to be more transparent with consumers about their products and rates.
The idea came to Coco, who was most recently a Foreign Exchange Markets Specialist for a Big Four bank, when he wondered why, unlike other financial markets, the only way to get information about consumer finance was to go through a stack of documents or approach a third party.
Looking to create a platform focused on price discovery, he set about trying to get transparency from the banks themselves. Despite his experience and reputation in the banking industry, and some initially positive conversations, Coco was unsuccessful.
At this point the startup pivoted, and dfinanz became a social network where users would share their own data instead and, hopefully, put pressure on the banks to participate.
There are two sides to the dfinanz platform: the pure social media side, where users can share news and information about finance and banking, and the side focusing on home loans, known as the Fair Rate List.
Here users upload details about the interest rates on their home loan, allowing others to compare and contrast their own. Users are also asked to supply what their ‘Fair Rate’ would be, that is, the rate that would convince them to refinance their home loan.
The platform launched three weeks ago, and has seen 56 entries in its Fair Rate List so far. Another 1,000 or so users are active on the social network.
The startup hopes to put in place a strategy that will turn dfinanz into a transactional platform in the near future, by connecting banks with users who are interested in refinancing their home loans. dfinanz would collect a fee, around $100, from the bank before sending a contact. The sum would then go to the user’s chosen charity after the refinancing was completed.
“We also charge a small percentage to the bank per loan successfully refinanced, however this is much less to what they are currently paying to mortgage brokers,” Coco said.
Coco said that dfinanz is not looking to compete with mortgage brokers but rather provide another way for consumers to get more information about their finances.
With dfinanz’s COO, Aitor Satrustegui, working in Spain, the platform is currently available in English and Spanish, and has seen users across both language markets.
“We’re a global platform now…the social network is open to anybody anywhere. Our focus right at the moment is the Australian market because that’s where we’re located, but the Spanish market is a very interesting market for us. That being said, our users really determine where we go from here,” Coco said.
For Coco, much of what the startup does in the future – including monetising, expanding the platform, and finding investment – will depend on which way users go and how fast the platform grows.
“We’re quite structured in our approach and we want to make sure that we get our first focus being the home loan market well and truly under control before we start committing ourselves to any other directions,” he said.
“That being said, we are very, very conscious about the fact that this framework readily lends itself to other financial products and not just limited to credit products as well.”