Financial Times

A plug-and-play fintech platform with the Goldman seal of approval

By: Lauran Noona
Published: April 22, 2019
Link: Original story at Financial Times

Imagine if you could build a digital loan platform in a couple of hours, without writing a single line of code? Or create an entire digital banking engine in a couple of months without any programming skills? That's the brave new world held forth by Unqork, a Manhattan-based fintech that's just raised $22m in a Series A fundraising round led by Goldman Sachs.

Founded in 2017 by Gary Hoberman, a former global chief information officer at MetLife who was once Citigroup's youngest-ever managing director, Unqork describes itself as a "no code software-as-a-service" platform. The secret sauce is Unqork’s Designer — the platform’s drag & drop central nervous system — which allows users to quickly create applications for things like opening bank accounts, applying for loans and taking out insurance policies.

The beauty of the system is its speed and simplicity. Mr Hoberman says one of his best "deployment team leads" has a background in fashion and industry. "I will bring her with me to a bank where she can, without any help from an engineer, create any of the most complex systems you could dream of," he says.

For its first few years, Unqork's pitch was that they would build the initial system for a bank or insurance company, and then hand it over and teach the client how to add new functionality. Then, along came Goldman.

"They were the first to say, 'we want to use it without you'," says Mr Hoberman, recalling how Goldman said they wanted Unqork's technology "to empower our business and build the applications they've been waiting while engineers focus their time and attention on critical items of competitive advantage".

In a press release announcing the Goldman investment, Rana Yared, a managing director at the bank's principal strategic investments division, said that "the evolving nature of the financial services and insurance industries requires a fundamental change to how we structure and operate workflows."

"Unqork is at the forefront of disrupting exactly that," she added. Goldman uses Unqork for some parts of its Marcus consumer bank, though it won't say exactly which parts, or what else it does with the platform.

Another major bank has also gone down the Goldman route, using Unqork's technology as an enterprise platform and building on it from scratch. Mr Hoberman dances around the longer term jobs implications of a technology that can do in hours what used to take teams of engineers months.

It's an issue likely to come up at more financial services institutions if Unqork's momentum holds up. Revenue grew by more than 50 per cent sequentially every quarter in 2018, as it sold its wares to 17 clients, across the US, Canada, Asia and Latin America.

"Europe is our expansion market, which we are directly targeting," says Mr Hoberman, adding that Japan is also a very important market since it has a spectacularly high "paper per person" ratio in financial services, which means big gains can be made from digitising processes.

That will mean adding another 100 or so staff in the coming months to the 65-strong full-time team that Unqork has at the moment. There are also medium term plans to set up a European office, and Unqork is on the hunt for an urgently-needed new home in Manhattan. "There's no more space to put a single desk in our office," said Mr Hoberman, "and the line for the bathroom went round the corner this morning."