Written by Andrew Seale
It takes a small measure of insanity to flip the credit card industry on its head while building your company right in the financial heart of Canada. And yet that’s what Brim Financial is doing, launching its so-called credit card revolution from Toronto, ground zero for the country’s financial sector and home to one of the soundest banking systems in the world.
But what was founder Rasha Katabi to do? For 18 years she’s worked within the banking and consumer finance system, learning the nuances of the institutional structures that have defined the global financial landscape for over 20 years. And what better takeaway does that give you than how to disrupt it on home turf?
“Toronto’s an amazing city,” says Katabi. “We have incredible talent and an international (mindset) right here in our own backyard.”
Which is precisely what Brim needs to succeed – diversity of thought, diversity of skillset, and a predilection towards disruption. Katabi, who came up with the idea in 2015, has assembled a team of engineers, developers, and customer experience staff to build out a credit card platform that marries loyalty with payment and credit.
“The advantage for us is that we didn't have to deal with outdated banking systems or, adhere or maintain anything that's already in place,” says Katabi. “We started from scratch.”
Brim’s suite of credit cards, which went live in 2018, can be used anywhere that accepts Mastercard globally. Cardholders earn perks at 200 merchants, can leverage monthly installment payments on purchases over $500 made anywhere in the world, pay no foreign transaction fees, and get access to free wi-fi hotspots wherever they are. There’s insurance built-in and a budgeting platform to keep you on track.
“We turn what is usually a bank-centric financial service to a consumer-centric platform (putting) the flexibility, freedom, and control back into the consumer's hands,” says Katabi.
On the merchant side of things Brim seeks to woo small businesses with easy onboarding and built-in loyalty programs, the sort of things most entrepreneurs don’t have the time to design themselves. But being global means building global relationships, something Katabi says the company has done right from Toronto. “We have a very healthy mix of global brands and global merchants including retail as well as hotels (but also) locals down to the coffee shop at your corner.”
She credits the ability to do that, to get into the mind of its international cardholder base and build a relevant product, to being a part of the Toronto ecosystem. “We have incredibly talented people coming here from Korea, Brazil, India, Europe, it (gives us) an international perspective… but localized,” says Katabu. “And I don't think, you can ask for a better sort of mix than this city is able to attract.”
Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)