Dear banks: start thinking like the small businesses you serve


CW- people eating insects

It’s hard to believe that we’re less than 3 weeks into this D5 project. The team has achieved an unreal amount; more than 30 in-depth interviews with small business owners across Canada, a two-day workshop in Toronto where we were able to draw upon subject matter experts from across the Deloitte team and build 8 propositions that we’re currently testing with yet more SMEs. AND filming has begun for the documentaries!

I’m back in Vancouver, I sat down this morning to right a piece about ‘the process’, but got distracted by a video posted on one of our company slack channels. Bill Gross reflects on the many businesses that he has built over the course of his career, searching for the difference between the successes and the flops. it’s a good watch (

Spoiler alert, here’s the list in order of importance:  

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 3.21.39 PM.png



But what does this mean for businesses and banks?

I had a blast interviewing the SMEs- and met a diverse set of people doing awesome work. Highlights include Syd – bringing delicious and sustainable cricket-based protein energy bars to the west coast (, Adam- making your dog’s healthcare better than yours (, and Darren – directing extreme sports movies for Red Bull with DRONES– everyone’s dream job, right?  

They’re at different stages in their journeys but the chart above certainly resonates. They go into business because they are committed to solving a problem for their customers. They have spotted a gap, and lose sleep trying to hone the idea and execute against it.  Speed is of the essence and if you act too slowly someone else is going to eat your lunch.

Funding should be an enabler to growth, once you’ve cracked the top 4 criteria accessing capital to drive growth should be straight forward… right? It turns out financing is perhaps the most acute pain point, it delays progress and distracts entrepreneurs from the more important tasks. The other D5 blog posts have covered the problem in depth so I won’t dwell, but will leave this quote from a successful businessman I talked to: “on reflection when I started out I could have gotten better service and lower rates by going to a loan shark rather than my bank”

Canadian Banks, put your start-up hats on, we’re encouraging you to launch new ventures here, so let's address Gross' factors in order of importance:

  • The time is unequivocally right, see: PSD2 and the rate of finTech innovation outside of Canada (Check out CB Insights’ great report here)
  • Canada is awash with great talent
  • D5 has the ideas covered ;)
  • With a bit of creativity, we can make the business model work
  • It’s the least important, but hey… Canadian banks are the 4th most profitable in the world… the funding is there somewhere

And ironically, if you’re late to the party on this one it’s the small businesses & start-ups that you’re under-serving who are going to eat your lunch. Capiche?


Johnny Langton