Last night Salesforce released its report for the 4th quarter and showed that it generated more than 7 billion USD in income. Salesforce was the main inspiration for me when I decided to start Bricknode in 2009.
Salesforce was one of the first companies in the world to offer a cloud-based Software as a Service to businesses and started in 1998. Salesforce began with a CRM application and to offer it they had to build a core cloud application infrastructure. As the years progressed Salesforce started offering the core infrastructure called Force.com. It also expanded into other product areas together with its marketplace offering and promoting their API for others to use and expand upon.
This is extremely similar to what Bricknode is doing, we started with Bricknode Broker for what is called financial intermediaries. These are banks, brokers and FinTechs which distributes financial products and acts as an intermediary between the issuers of these products and the consumers.
When developing Bricknode Broker we too had to create a core, we call this the operating system for finance. The main challenge for Salesforce in 1998 was technology since there were no infrastructure available for offering cloud based software.
For Bricknode the pure technology behind cloud infrastructure has never been the main challenge. Instead, the challenge was to invent how the so-called financial domain objects should be represented in code in a scalable and generic manner as to not “hard-code” stuff and get us into a dead end. Another challenge was regulations, in 2010 both potential customers and regulators told us that it was not possible to have financial applications running in the cloud…how wrong they were.
Many have failed along this journey and not taken the time to create a real granular transaction engine as the base. It took Bricknode between 2009 – 2021 to do this right and test every aspect of our invention with multiple real life customer cases. It took Salesforce about 10 years to build up the core technology and launch into a real core software provider in the cloud for a whole industry.
Just as Salesforce did when they launched Force.com in 2008, Bricknode is now morphing into being a multi-product company based on a strong core system, which customers can use to build their own applications through our API.
Our own research shows that a majority of neobanks are choosing to use a SaaS provider as their core when it comes to offering financial services and we think this trend will continue to expand. The Bricknode core now covers everything from investments and loans to wealth management and you can basically build anything related to finance on top of our operating system.
During the last few years we have been able to build a number of new killer applications within specialised areas like Bricknode Deposits and Bricknode Fund Manager which are scheduled to be released to the market during 2022. On top of this we are also developing an application for mass adoption globally that does not require the user to be a regulated company. It will help every company around the world to organise their finances and automate administrative activities around this including accounting, reporting and keeping up to date with all of their investments and liabilities. This will be a “must-have” addition for companies to connect to their regular accounting systems so stay tuned!
Salesforce, together with many software companies, have seen their share price fall more than 40% since the end of 2021 even though they continue to show unbelievable long-term growth. The scalability of the offerings are governed by how dynamic and generic they are, if the solutions are custom made for each customer then the scalability of future profits does not exist. A while back I wrote my thoughts on how to value a SaaS company which you can read here.
The gross margins for Salesforce are at 75% while the total operating margin is at 3.5%. If the system is built right the total operating margins could eventually go to +50% but that would mean that the company would slow down its investments into future growth and in reality, borrow from itself which Salesforce is not interested in.
For the last 10 years Salesforce has grown its annual revenues by 25 – 35% each year, this is what having a long-term view can do for a company, like the view that Salesforce founder Marc Benioff has had all the time. Salesforce has become a purpose driven company that does good things for the world and is a great inspiration for today’s entrepreneurs!
By focusing on products and helping customers reach their goals my dream is to make Bricknode into a Salesforce for finance. I love building software that I can use myself and with the coming mass market offering from Bricknode we are truly closing the circle of building the network between financial service providers and financial service consumers where we are driving change to a more efficient and user-friendly way of consuming and delivering valuable financial services to companies and individuals.
As I and Co-CEO Erik Hagelin wrote in the last quarterly report, 2022 is when we use our newly acquired body at Bricknode (going from around 20 to 40 staff members) to launch all our new products on top of our great core and establishing ourselves as the premier software, network and infrastructure provider to the financial industry and all its stakeholders, consumers and providers alike.
This is what really motivates me personally to burn the midnight oil and be highly engaged in coding our applications!
Just as Elon Musk is now able to help Ukraine with internet, I hope one day that Bricknode will be a global powerhouse for good and make an impact through technology!
Financial institutions, at least in the Nordic region, is still used to buying core business software like back office and broker solutions that are delivered to them on a server of their own and installed by a team of consultants while paying a large up-front fee. In 1999 Salesforce was launched and the way business software was sold was at least in my mind changed forever.
I am myself a Software as a Service junkie and an avid user of Atlassian, Salesforce, Office 365…you name it. In my opinion there is no reason for every “buying” software where you get a DVD or some other form of deliverable because the value of this piece of code has already depreciated to almost zero.
There is absolutely no value in software if it is not being constantly developed and has a team of developers behind it to make automatic upgrades and increase the usability of the software. This is for the same reasons why you should never own any asset that is depreciating because that is in fact a liability. For example, don’t own a car, lease it! Don’t own software, lease it!
This is why we at Bricknode are offering a completely online based software platform now without any contract terms. You sign up for almost nothing and you can cancel the service within the first 30 days and get your money back. If you want to cancel later, fine, just send a cancellation and you are off the hook.
Now, back to actually paying for what you use. My colleagues know that I absolutely love Atlassian, I use it for most of my companies that I participate in. For my smallest company I pay $30 per month and for my largest company I pay $2,000 per month and guess what, those fees correctly reflect the value I am getting from the subscription for each company.
The same thing goes for Bricknode, where else can you get a complete brokerage solution including back office, broker interface and customer portal for $70 per month? If you have 20,000 customers and you use a lot of add-ons you will be paying above $10,000 per month but that should reflect the value that you are getting from using the software or something is wrong with your or our business model.
Imagine that a financial institution would like to offer a new product, maybe they would like to offer online trading of shares to their customers or distribution of mutual funds. For $70 per month they can have a complete system up and running with Bricknode the same day it is ordered. They can try it on a few customers, see if the business is promising, if not they can just discontinue the service and cancel the software.
I think that everyone building a FinTech company should think in this manner and work with monthly fees like this, remember, if the incentive is not there for developers to incrementally improve their software service there is no value for customers or the company producing the software. Without ongoing development and with the current speed that the financial world and regulatory environment is moving any financial software will be dead in 3 months. Well…maybe a little bit exaggerated but you get the picture!
A very interesting article was published in the Financial Times which was reported upon by various media like Veckans Affärer. Facebook could become the ultimate player within the financial industry who really understands how to use the Internet for conducting social banking and for the future maybe social trading?
Facebook has made a lot of smart moves lately where it has used its money to quickly make acquisitions instead of trying to develop everything itself. It definitely grasps the importance of time to market. With its global reach the company could become the fastest established financial institution ever. In an industry where numerous companies are struggling to establish a technical standard of their own and gain acceptance, could Facebook accomplish this by offering standardised banking API’s?
The next few years will continue to boost the financial technology shift into cloud solutions for financial companies and Bricknode is right in the middle of it!
If you manage or own a financial advisory firm; or if you are running a financial institution with financial advisory as one of your business segments you should be reading this article.
Lets start by specifying some of your greatest pains with regards to your financial advisors.
Now, lets address one by one and look at how I think technology can offer a solution to each one of them.
The absolute greatest challenge for a financial advisor is how to leverage their time and this is one segment where technology really can help.
A great example of this is the effort by Danske Bank to start offering eMeetings. By utilising technology in the advisory process you could have customers pre-fill a lot of the questionnaires which you need in order to conduct the advisory process. The advisory tool could then present a few default packages based on the economic situation of the customer in relation to their risk appetite.
A simplified advisory process could look like this:
As a manager or owner of a financial advisory business you can never be absolutely sure that your advisors are fulfilling all of their regulatory requirements unless you have a strict technical process in place. Using a customer acquisition software service you could configure the process ad-hoc and get some ease of mind while at the same time increasing productivity.
To build company value as a financial advisor you have to be able to measure the effectiveness of your advisory process while at the same time being able to replicate it throughout your whole staff of advisors.
You constantly have to develop and adapt your process to the changing needs of your customers and the global environment. By utilising an integrated cloud based solution you could constantly configure your process and measure the results for both your advisors and your end customers.
Bricknode has embarked on the journey of working with financial advisors in order to create scalable value and increase competitiveness among small and mid-sized advisors. Please give us feedback on our Advisory module and Customer acquisition module!
Bricknode offers a complete cloud based solution for financial services firms. SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions are revolutionising how the financial services industry uses software. Bricknode has created a brand new solution since 2010 leveraging the latest available technology!