The past year has been a rollercoaster for BankEdge, as it has been for many other businesses worldwide. Just as we were getting traction, COVID stopped us in our tracks. Fortunately, assistance from Advance Queensland with some unprecedented RBA action provided a way forward.
In May 2020, BankEdge was one of just 12 businesses to be awarded a highly coveted spot in the Queensland Government’s Ignite Ideas Fund. Since its inception in 2016, the Ignite Ideas Fund has provided commercialisation funding to 350 Queensland based businesses to help bring their products and services to market.
Administered by the state Government’s commercialisation arm, Advance Queensland, the program has been a game changer for BankEdge. BankEdge just completed our final report after a successful Ignite Ideas Fund project.
$100,000 LinkedIn post
It was just by chance that a LinkedIn notification highlighted the imminent closing date for the expression of interest for the Ignite Ideas Fund .
“Why not?” I thought. “I’ll cap it at 3 days of work.”
The imminent closing date ensured that I made quick work of my long shot application for the competitive (and generous) grant. This was only stage one. It was a two-stage process, with around 600 businesses whittled down to 120 who were invited to submit a full application, for which I was one. As a numbers man, I quickly looked up existing rounds and was delighted to realise I had approximately a 30-50% chance of success. Or so I thought.
After three weeks of November late nights writing and coffees, I hit send and waited. Unbeknown to us, everything was about to change.
Waiting for a response for a grant is tricky, you are grateful to have been considered but are left wondering if the outcome of those tireless nights will have amounted to nothing. End of February, well past the expected date, it looked pretty clear the answer was a “thanks but no thanks”, or more to the point, “COVID uncertainty has squashed any budget for this”.
COVID – a brick wall
In March, the only news I seemed to be receiving was about economic downturn, lockdown and doomsday predictions. It took me about 10 minutes to realise everything I was working towards with BankEdge had come to an immediate halt.
Not only was the market dislocation so large that risk-reward and ‘fair pricing’ models broke down, but the very question was no longer “what is a fair rate?” but rather “will you still provide funding?!”.
Businesses and CFOs were in no position to negotiate. Tools were dropped, product development halted and meetings and interstate trips cancelled.
Home-schooling 3 kids took its toll during the days, but we got there. I was quickly caught up to speed on proper-nouns, strategies for partitioning 1s, 10s and 100s, and names of shapes I had long since forgotten.
Bedtime LinkedIn delivers again
What does one do after a day of Grade 2 maths and kindy sight words lessons? Trawl LinkedIn for something of substance, of course.
I began reading an article about the Reserve Bank’s Term Funding Facility (TFF). Lying in bed, I realised that the TFF was possibly the most significant piece of bank margin pricing impacts to have ever hit the market. Transparent funding, so clear it’s outlined in legislation, was soon to replace the challenge of a dislocated market with no pricing reference points (since banks were not able to issue offshore wholesale funding).
BankEdge was back. And more important than ever in helping customers understand their margins.
Home-schooling and late-night coding
Immediate work began updating algorithms and writing new ones to cope with COVID times.
I again found myself working late nights supported by caffeine. Incorporating the extreme COVID pricing impact was difficult and conceptually challenging. But when it finally worked it was exhilarating that the platform could provide quantified and verifiable signals on exactly how much the TFF should help businesses’ margins! It could provide detailed and transparent break down of the market, regulatory, structural and bank driven variables, which had never been done before.
Within days of firing up the platform and getting the algorithms to work, the email arrived.
“Congratulations – you have been successful in the grant.” We were one of just 12 businesses, I later learned.
However, this was on the condition the business is still operating and able to help with the post covid business recovery. BankEdge was able to accept the Ignite Ideas Fund grant, which helped kickstart BankEdge in the new COVID era. Had this email arrived two weeks earlier, the answer would have been different. Despite the uncertainty in COVID times, the TFF provided some stability that grounded banks, businesses and BankEdge.
It is cliché, but the very thing that completely stopped BankEdge in its tracks, also provided an amazing opportunity to launch forward from. With the help of the Ignite Ideas Fund grant, the past 12 months has propelled BankEdge into new COVID era of credit, margins and bank negotiations.
Similar to the post-Global Financial Crisis era, demand for bank pricing transparency and assistance will be strong as opportunistic oligopolies are politely yet firmly asked to ‘do the fair thing’.
I am thankful for the opportunities and support Ignite Ideas Funds has given BankEdge. Government programs are notorious for their slow-moving bureaucratic process that many small businesses cannot afford. The Advance QLD program was the opposite to this. It was focused on outcome rather than process. The account manager assigned to my business was incredibly proactive, helpful and showed a genuine interest in seeing the project and business succeed. Thanks Alan.
Hopefully, the BankEdge story will be someone else’s $100,000 notification with Ignite Ideas Fund Round 8 expression of interest applications closing 22 July 2021.
Thank you, Advance Queensland, your support won’t be forgotten and is just the start!