Meet the Croydon tech company that the Financial Times has described as “an antidote to Wonga”

By - Wednesday 6th April, 2016

Jonny Rose introduces the man with the mission to render payday loans companies obsolete

Photo by Frank Mukahanana, used with permission.

As Frank Mukahanana, founder and CEO of peer-to-peer lending platform QuidCycle, introduces me to his team in Sussex Innovation Centre Croydon it’s hard to not be excited about his recent ascent.

Since I first met him two years ago, Mukahanana’s team has grown by five times (his latest hire has moved all the way from Belgium to Croydon), QuidCycle has won a plethora of awards, and the Financial Times has described the company as “an antidote to Wonga”.

Showing me around a room in SINC which has been made into a professional-looking green screen studio, Mukahanana explains that he is also working on a series of financial literacy videos which aim to be “not just educational, but also inspirational”. Look out, Working Lunch.

From investment banker to tech entrepreneur

As I sit down with a very relaxed Mukahanana in QuidCycle’s boardroom, opposite a wall annotated with financial models and business strategy, it becomes clear that it wasn’t always this way.

Back in 2007, Frank was a frustrated investment-banker-turned-financial-advisor for middle-income families.

Having left the toils of investment banking (“I was having to re-introduce myself to my children every two weeks”), Mukahanana had hoped that becoming a financial advisor would see him doing more good in the world – instead he found the reality to be a little less plain-sailing. To his surprise, clients were often staggeringly financially illiterate:

“My clients were all very clever with high-paying jobs and good degrees, yet they had no idea how money works, how to invest, or – more importantly – how to get out of a never-ending cycle of credit card payments”

Many of his clients looked on the outside to be stable and financially-secure, but personal finance for these families would always turn out to be a “deck of cards that could collapse at any time”.

Mukahanana saw that the traditional financial advisor model and products would not be sufficient to either deliver the large educational piece that these families required to understand their money or to see the returns necessary to pay off or restructure their debts. From then, Mukahanana began exploring alternative models.

“I realised that this financial debt timebomb was not going to change unless I got to call the shots in the financial solutions offered”

The birth of QuidCycle

Poring over myriad academic research papers, talking to peers and scouring the web eventually led Mukahanana to discovering and settling for a peer-to-peer lending model – which, at this point, was still in the initial stages of entering the popular vernacular.

Peer-to-peer lending refers to a service or market place that brings individual borrowers and lenders together, bypassing traditional banks. The idea is that each gets a better rate: lenders receive more interest than they would get from a bank savings account, while borrowers pay less than on a bank loan.

Emboldened by the technology revolution and the comparative ease with which marketplace businesses could be created online, Mukahanana went back into investment banking to raise money for what would eventually become QuidCycle.

“Mukahanana is not just a man with a fintech company – he’s a man with a mission”

Launched in 2013, the service aims to ease responsible borrowers out of revolving credit cards by refinancing that debt at a lower interest rate. The platform gives borrowers access to online financial training, as well as annual access to a financial adviser. QuidCycle also offers financial incentives to borrowers who stay on track with their repayments, and who take advantage of the educational facilities at their disposal. If these criteria are met, borrowers’ interest rates will continue to fall. Ultimately, Mukahanana hopes to render payday loans companies obsolete.

Improving financial literacy, inventing a new ISA and changing legislation

Today, Mukahanana is not just a man with a growing fintech company –he’s a man with a mission.

In 2014, he joined the board of the UK Crowdfunding Association, where he has responsibility for leading all things relating to taxation for the industry. He recently saw successes in the inclusion of peer-to-peer and debt-based investments into Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs), giving industry a firmer footing to offer an even more credible alternative. This new “Innovative Finance ISA” launches on 6th April. Mukahanana’s work in reforming investment and consumer debt also sees him working closely with HMRC and Inland Revenue.

Most excitingly, Mukahanana has big plans for Croydon this year – which I cannot reveal under pain of death. As such, Frank is typical of the entrepreneurs that are moving to and scaling up in Croydon Tech City: energetic, gracious visionaries that are innovating for the common good, both globally and locally.

To attend the next Croydon Tech City event on Thursday 21st April at 7pm, please register here.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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