Had a very jolly evening on Wednesday night at a posh London Hotel when we won “one of the most sought-after prizes at a prestigious awards ceremony.” (According to the London Stock Exchange) This was for the “Most Threatening Non-Bank Competitor” (that’s quite a mouthful and what delicious irony) at the International Retail Banker Awards.
We were up against distinguished opposition such as Paypal, Vodafone, Wal-Mart and Prosper. There were lots of the great and the good of the banking industry at the awards ceremony and much talk in the acceptance speeches about the challenges banks face in restoring consumer trust, to which events like the failure of Northern Rock, Bear Stearns, continued tales of woe around US sub-prime losses, the resultant enormous write-downs at huge organisations like UBS and reduced bank liquidity have all contributed. The guest speaker also joked about how disconnected from consumers senior bankers were.
In my acceptance speech, while poking a little gentle fun about feeling very grown up to be spending the evening in a room full of bankers, I made a couple of serious points:
The decreasing consumer trust that so many had talked about was playing directly into our hands. Before we launched Zopa, we talked a lot about how an important challenge for our new, and therefore untrusted business would be to build that trust, given that banks were clearly trusted to be solid and secure if not always to look after their customers’ best interests, but little did we know how recent events would conspire to help us.
While we were delighted to be considered threatening by the banking industry I doubted whether too many in the room actually felt too threatened, perhaps more intrigued. I considered that if we were to be a threat it wouldn’t be because we were explicitly anti-bank, more that we were pro-consumer. Indeed if any of the banks would like to work with us in that pro-consumer mission we would be delighted to welcome them.
Enough seriousness, a thoroughly good time was had by all, or at least by me anyway - which can be evidenced by the fact that at some stage of the night that followed, at some venue in W1, I managed to lose our precious (and very tasteful) glass award. Oh dear, better take a look on eBay….