Alexandre Prot (Qonto): "We are changing the rules of the game"
Since 2016, Qonto has aimed to revolutionize banking for the self-employed and VSE/SME owners.
Today, 300 people work in a pioneering startup that operates in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Its CEO and co-founder, Alexandre Prot, talks about his management model.
Leaders League: Why did you found Qonto?
Alexandre Prot: Four years ago, with Steve Anavi, we set ourselves the challenge of reinventing financial services and banking. We had already set up and run a first company between 2013 and 2016 in a different field. We knew the hell that entrepreneurs and small business owners go through managing their finances, their accounting and all the administrative tasks. Their cost in terms of time, mental load and money generates real frustration. When our company was acquired, we based our new project on our own experience and on more than a hundred interviews with self-employed people, craftsmen and SME managers.
What makes you innovative?
We target clients who already have accounts or companies that are just starting up. In France, there are more companies being created than people being born. This gives you an idea of the vibrancy of the market. The formula we use to attract customers is very simple: provide a great product. You can easily open an account online and make transactions in real time, etc. For example, the software can extract the VAT amount from a restaurant invoice based on a simple photo, thus simplifying the accounting work. We also have a very responsive customer service department, open seven days a week. Finally, we offer transparent pricing with packages starting at nine euros per month, with no commitment.
How do you go about recruiting?
We have deliberately built a team of non-banking experts. Our strength lies in reinventing financial services. Our first employees were mainly designers and developers who did not know much about this field.
"We know the hell that entrepreneurs and small business owners go through managing their finances, their accounting and administrative tasks"
Today, our size and our accreditation as a payment institution mean that we have to deal with specific regulatory issues. However, when it comes to the product, support and pricing, we are changing the rules of the game.
Tell us about your corporate culture.
This is a real issue, especially when you are growing so fast in a period where we are not all physically in the same place. We have four values: ambition, teamwork, expertise and integrity. As far as ambition is concerned, we are aiming for 500,000 customers by 2023, compared with 120,000 today, as well as a net promoter score [a customer satisfaction and loyalty indicator] of 75, compared with just under 70 at present, bearing in mind that traditional banks score close to zero. Teamwork and the notion of timing are also central. The various departments must work at the same pace to produce the best product as quickly as possible.
The question of personal development is also very important, is it not?
Absolutely. We put it at the heart of the company. By making sure our people grow, we guarantee the best service for our customers. We currently have 300 employees and could well reach 450 by the end of the year. In order to scale up our model, we need everyone to improve.
Is this also your case?
I have never had the sucess I am currently achieving. I learn every day. I have to constantly improve and, if possible, grow a little faster than the company. I also have to stay close to the teams and customers, to take an interest in their daily lives, while looking relatively far ahead so we can make make the right decisions and be where we want to be in five or ten years’ time. For example, I spend an hour a week looking at the tickets sent to our customer service department. I also think about long-term issues, such as remote work.
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