Charles Green: Transforming the Financial Services Industry with Unparalleled Data Driven Insights

Comprehending and successfully utilizing data is vital to success in each part of today’s business – from improving internal efficiencies to providing stand-apart customer service and experience. RFi was established with a similar motive – to create a data driven market leading product that enabled clients to do this combined with providing them with exceptional customer service.

RFi Group is a global data-driven insights provider focused exclusively on financial services. It has a unique subscription service across 46 markets providing their 500 financial clients (banks, payment schemes, fintechs and technology companies) with customised insights based on its proprietary customer data. Its global primary research data covers over 500,000 consumers, 100,000 small business owners and corporate organisations. The company’s 100% year-on-year client renewal rate underpinned a 50% year-on-year growth for its first 10 years in operation and its rapid growth has continued with offices in Toronto, London, Singapore and Sydney.

An Insightful Leader

After a previous career founding and then selling a digital media business with several years in a variety of market research firms, Charles Green, Founder and CEO of RFi wanted to provide a valuable market-leading research solution with fantastic client experience. As the financial crisis began in 2007, Charles saw an opportunity to provide valuable, up-to-date customer data-driven insights, using a technology-based solution at a cost-effective price all combined with industry expertise, and so founded RFi.

Delivering Data-Driven Insights

As the rapid pace of technology and regulations like open banking brings unprecedented change to the industry as a whole, customer usage and attitudes are constantly changing and evolving. RFi Group provides a window into the mindset of the customer across segments, markets and life-stages giving its clients the data-driven insights they need to create winning market and product propositions.

Must-Have Experience for a Successful Business

After steering his first business through the 2000 tech crash, Charles learnt some hard and painful lessons about cash flow and cost management, about making sure that any product created should have real value and be a ‘must-have’ to meet the ever-changing market needs. Bootstrapping RFi for its first 10 years of rapid growth taught Charles about the need to focus on the client experience, the continuous innovation of the product based on client feedback, the need to pivot, change and adapt, the importance of making mistakes and learning from them rapidly in the evolution of the business without playing the blame game. It’s been an incredibly rewarding 13 years, and he has loved every minute and every challenge.

Integrating a Feedback Mechanism

All of the company’s product innovation and geographic growth has always been client-led. Its team has a built-in feedback mechanism within the product so that it is always evolving and developing to meet the market and its clients’ ever-changing needs. This client feedback is strengthened by constant client communication at a local, regional and global level to ensure they are constantly innovating to meet both their current and future requirements.

Recognition and Achievements

RFi Group is widely recognised among its clients as one of the leading players in the industry, with one global institution recently telling that the answer to every tricky question they had was ‘ask RFi – they’ll know the answer.’ Charles believes that this kind of feedback is a huge validation for the company.

From an achievement perspective, RFi Group was the first-ever company to be on the FAST 100 business list for 6 years in a row (recognising the fastest growing companies in Australia).  Charles is proud of the diversity within the company and has achieved a 50/ 50 male/ female split at every level of the company, including up to the board level – a feat that was finally achieved on International Women’s Day 2018!

Feedback is incredibly valuable to RFi Group and its most significant achievement is that after every report or presentation that RFi Group conducts, every client is polled to check that its insights answered their business questions and are being used in the business. It collects over 2,000 polls globally and 80% of clients give a score as 8, or 9 and 20% of clients give a score of10.  For RFi Group, the client’s feedback is itsmost important metric and this drives its 100% year-on-year subscription renewal rate.

Overcoming Hurdles

Charles believes any bootstrapped company that is growing rapidly, constantly experiences cash flow challenges and working capital requirements. As it opened offices overseas, they discovered the importance of both communication, which is further heightened by the tyranny of distance, and encoding cultural behaviors.  Charles made sure that all its offices have the same culture, operations, modes of doing business and behaviours as its head office as this is crucial to both RFi Group’s brand and model. He created a playbook of every aspect of the operation, “Otherwise one can end up in a horrible situation where a client is having completely different experiences with products and solution in one market than they do in another.  If your company fails to provide a consistent client experience or consistent product it can indelibly harm your reputation and thus your business. “It seems exciting to open overseas offices, however, Charles guides that one really should make sure that all the processes, behaviours and services are mapped out and documented to achieve a consistent experience across the world.

The 3 Cs: Culture, Communication and Collaboration

According to Charles, culture eats strategy for breakfast and if one can focus on creating the right culture, reinforcing that culture through the constant celebration of it, then the communication and collaboration within the company becomes significantly easier.

Communication and collaboration are absolutely key to successful teamwork and well-run teams will always outperform a gaggle of superstars.

Charles advises entrepreneurs to lead from the front and ensure that you always admit when you’re wrong or have made a mistake otherwise you can’t expect your team to do the same. “Communicating your ownership of the mistake is crucial, as is recognizing when something is not working and when one needs to improve a process or pivot completely. This really is essential to the success of the whole team.  As a leader you need to make sure every team member feels empowered to comment and input without fear of doing so or fear of speaking out, otherwise they are not genuinely collaborating,” he adds.

The Future with New Technologies

Charles feels the banking and payments industry is going through unprecedented change, thanks to new technologies, new regulations and new players emerging as a result. At the same time, the data and analytics industry has to keep up. Just as RFi Group uses data-driven insights to help its clients successfully navigate this change, RFi Group also needs to constantly focus on testing new technologies and developing new products that will allow the company to continually develop winning propositions.