Great Service Through Transformation: Our Interview with Sandbox Banking

by Molly Hoffmeyer

The world is now beginning to come through to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we do, SixThirty has been keeping in close touch with both Corporate Partners and Portfolio Companies, and helping each to capitalize on trends that are emerging as a result.

One trend that we’re hearing with regularity, from both incumbents and startups, is the need to innovate faster, to rapidly deploy new solutions.

Enter Sandbox Banking, whose offers banks a “universal adaptor” that plugs into banking systems allowing their clients to easily connect to a growing catalogue of fintech applications. We had an opportunity to speak with Co-Founder & CEO, Ravi Balasubramanian to discuss how the unexpected changes in 2020 have impacted Sandbox.

MH: 2020 hasn’t been the year that anyone expected, how has that impacted you at Sandbox?

RB: From a day to day operations standpoint, we’ve been fortunate in that it hasn’t had much of an impact. We have always been fully remote, so overall this situation has validated that this was a good choice for us.

It has also allowed us to be more responsive to our customers, to help them through the transition. So, while the day-to-day wasn’t a big disruption for us, it was important that we be able to empathize with our customers.

Recognizing this, we doubled-down on providing great customer service to our clients. For example, we helped our clients think through the processes of how to increase their digital transformation efforts, such as meeting via Zoom to fill out loan applications, while making the right information & applications visible that the banker needs without constantly changing screens around or revealing other, unintended information.

MH: In an environment that has changed so much since the beginning of the year, how are your customers/potential customers looking at the shift to digital transformation?

RB: We think that it is still a little early, as many of our customers have had their plates very full with PPP, and keeping their business running. So while they have recognized and shared the importance of digital transformation, they are still in the process of identifying the multi-year or multi-quarter change, and how to implement it.

MH: So how have these competing priorities impacted the demand that you’re seeing for Sandbox’s solutions?

RB: Well, we have not seen a negative sales impact at this point, most banks are still actively looking for digital implementation tools. What we’ve seen with our customers is that there is a game of Tetris that is being played internally: changing priorities, and a focus on allocating resources. Still learning the operational impact on what they’ve already planned. Expect 2nd half to be more strategic.

MH: How have you kept your pipeline growing in these challenging times, has your go-to-market strategy had to shift as a result?

RB: For us, the top of funnel hasn’t been impacted, and we haven’t seen a drop off in interest. Actually, we’re continuing to see growing interest in Sandbox Banking’s offerings. We are focused on being strategic, and using our resources to ensure we’re well positioned for both short-term and long-term growth.

Our partnership with nCino has continued to be very impactful, and we’re working with current clients to add new solutions and features, to continue to build strong, sticky relationships.

MH: Clearly, your offering at Sandbox is truly horizontal, as the universal adapter, but when you began you focused specifically on the banking vertical, tell me about your decision to focus here.

RB: We went this way for several reasons — firstly, looking at the competitive landscape, there is a lot of generalist competition for systems integration, from consultants to more general ESB solutions, but there were certain markets that were clearly underserved.

The SMB financial services market was one of these markets. What we heard from the market was that the existing solutions were too expensive and too generalized. We saw an opportunity here — integrations not as a service, but a product. We knew that if we brought the right product, with the right integrations, that we would have a really sticky, valuable solution for our target client base.

We wanted to integrate with the actual systems that our target customers use, plus the fintech integrations that they wanted. So, we connect into the most complex products out there. This is the real value of our vertical focus — the most complex areas of the market, still today, are completely manual. By integrating with different service providers, we make the experience less manual and more reusable for our clients, and provide insights back to them from the systems that they’re using to help sell more and be more productive.

As we look at expansion markets, we have identified a few with similar characteristics to banking.

MH: It sounds like you’re still very much in growth mode, where is Sandbox Banking attacking next?

RB: Our next areas of focus, after banking, are wealth management and insurance. We absolutely will continue to add more features in the commercial & retail banking space, as this is our bread & butter, but also see excellent growth opportunities in these adjacent two markets.

In both insurance and wealth management, we’re starting off with the more complex areas, where solutions aren’t completely vanilla, and where companies are trying to offer new products quickly — these types of complex integrations are our strength, places where we can cut down on the manual work.

For example, we’re also working with another SixThirty portfolio company, Lapetus, on the insurance side right now. Specifically, we’re helping one of their customers to integrate all of their custodian feeds. This initial use-case will help us refine our strategy in insurance and wealth management.

We also like these markets because of their interconnectedness with the banking space, so this allows us to not only expand into new markets but also build on our current core product offering.

STL #venture firm investing in the most innovative ideas across globe. #fintech #insurtech #digitalhealth #cybersecurity