11:FS report card: a round up of a fantastic first year

 David M. Brear photo
David M. Brear Group CEO
5min read

I used to hate when my parents came into high school for the annual speech from my teachers that I should be trying a lot harder. Unlike my report cards at school, I think the 11:FS end of year report would read pretty damn well as every single person that has worked for 11:FS couldn’t have done more to make it a success over the last year.

11:FS - a challenger consultancy, turning the dial up to 11

We started 11:FS in 2016, not as a company but a movement of people who believed in an industry that has been pretty underwhelming at changing its destiny to date. Despite billions being spent and armies of people working on digital transformation, the banking industry is still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to technology, business models and approaches to change management. At 11:FS we have created a collective of people who have shaped the course of the industry to date and continue to do so. From people who have moved the dial for the traditional banking organisations like Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, HSBC and UBS as well those who have set the destiny of the new breed like Monzo, Starling, Tandem and Nutmeg. We have been dubbed “a challenger consultancy in a world of challenger banks". This blend of understanding of how hard it is to move the dial in a culture within a bank and knowing the path to building something where there was nothing, is a range and depth of experience that no consultancy or research house on the planet can claim to have - but we do. Us… little old 11:FS.

My personal highlights

  • The first bank that asked us to rebuild their entire banking systems for them (more details on this to follow in due course)
  • Hitting number one in the business charts in the US and UK on iTunes
  • Interviewing Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays on our podcast
  • The first subscriber to 11:FS Pulse - our one-of-a-kind competitor insights platform, that allows you to easily see who is doing digital best and to stay on top of trends
  • Business health check with Gary Vaynerchuk
  • First live podcast recording at Money 2020 Europe

Where it all began

The process for the company formation started in April 2015 when I quit what I lovingly call my last real job. :) Having worked in a big bank, a big insurer, a smaller design and user testing company, a large Indian offshoring outfit and a rather large research and management consultancy house I’d seen financial services from pretty much every angle I needed to in order to understand the overall problem. Almost every company in the financial services industry wants to make their customers’ lives better but struggle to move beyond what they want to do into a consolidated method of how to do it that their organisation can buy into and get behind. We have banks who know what they need to do but can’t (in most cases), and the companies wanting to advise them on what to do have almost as many cultural, behavioural and expertise problems as the banks themselves.
“The blind aren’t quite leading the blind, but one of them for sure has their eyes closed and the other might be sleeping at best.”

We became the change we wanted to see

The timing did and still does feel right for a major alternative to the traditional supplier to banks to step in and show them how to do things rather differently. We often talk at 11:FS about the definition of madness in banking being financial services companies using the same suppliers and expecting a different outcome. The first time you can mask your disappointment that something that went wrong with the project, but if the 10th identical “McStrategy” still leaves you hungry then you need to take a look at not only what you’re doing but with whom. Fundamentally, there are not enough people in big consultancy companies who have actually been there and done it. What banks need is consultants that have either built a new company that kicks ass or helped to strategically improve the destiny of a large one. With that in mind, we decided to become the consultancy we thought the industry needed. We felt the desire to go it alone and the potential to do much better ourselves than we ever would working for someone else.
Meaghan Johnson, Research Director and co-founder: What attracted me to 11:FS was our collective goal to become the disruptor amongst the existing Consulting and Research companies. Working so closely with the leading minds in the industry was an absolute no brainer and I am still star struck by the level of talent we continue to bring into 11:FS. On multiple occasions banks have compared us to the banking disrupters and genuinely welcome the way in which we challenge their thinking. To say this is both exciting and refreshing is an understatement!

From humble beginnings...

We started off with 5 co-founders, myself, Jason Bates, Simon Taylor, Meaghan Johnson, Ross Methven and a Non-Executive Director: Chris Skinner. We had a kick ass team of people who had been there and done it but that was it: 11:FS kicked off with no solid brand, completely self funding everything we have done; our first podcast had no audience and terrible equipment and we did not even have an office for the first 5 months of our existence! Since then, we have rapidly grown through the life stages of a startup, climbing each hurdle as we came to it.

...To a global audience

In our first year, we have delivered a massive amount of hugely exciting work for some of the biggest brands in financial services and technology industries, we built a benchmarking tool, 11:FS Pulse, and took it to market where it is now being used in some of the biggest banks on the planet. We built a podcast network in FinTech Insider that is being downloaded in more than 180 countries a week, continually riding high in most of the iTunes Podcast charts and is changing the way people consume FinTech and Banking news on a daily basis.
Barbara Somlai, Senior Product Designer: [I was keen to join 11:FS as] they are a company and a team with extensive fintech expertise but a humble attitude and a new model of client engagement that empowers the team to own decisions and ship impactful products.
11:FS is now made up of more than 40 people from 7 different countries, and growing all the time. By my reckoning we are about at year 4 of our plan after just the first year - a remarkable achievement.
Simon Taylor, co-founder and Blockchain lead: I wanted to be part of this journey because financial services needs to break the cycle of same old thinking, same old vendors, same old outcomes. We needed to create a way to do things differently. To walk the walk and help others do the same. We're just getting started.

What is the secret to our success?

We’re authentic We’re not corporate, we don’t wear suits, we say what we think and no other company has a proposition as varied as ours. We’re at once a consultancy, a research and insight provider, banking and software architects, a media company, an investor, and myriad of keynote speakers. We’re credible We put our money where our mouths are. All of us have the industry experience behind us to deliver incredible changes, products and services for clients in weeks, not days to change banking for the better, not just for the banks but for their customers. We really have “been there and done that”. We use B2C for B2B We occupy a traditionally B2B space and industry, but through our podcast and other face to face speaking opportunities and interviews we make fintech more accessible for everyone, and use traditionally B2C methods in our marketing. Don’t believe me, check out our Twitter! Our biggest asset is our people
  • Through Jason Bates we have someone who has shaped the destiny of Monzo, one of the best challenger banks in the UK, as well as a raft of experience consulting for some of the biggest companies on the planet and making some of the coolest ones
  • Simon Taylor is a thought leader and mastermind in all things blockchain and cryptocurrencies who previously established Barclays as one of the leaders in blockchain thought and action and also advises central banks and governments on the same.
  • Ross Methven and Meaghan Johnson have pioneered the 11:FS Pulse product, drawing on their wealth of experience to take it to market, promote it and sell it so that our research tool is now being used by some of the biggest names in the business.
  • Chris Skinner, our Non-Executive Director, is a self-confessed “author, speaker and troublemaker”, and prolific blogger at the Finanser.com and one of the best and most well known commentators on fintech and the banking industry, as well as a regular co-host on Fintech Insider.
  • For full details on the rest our amazing team, check out their bios here.
In conclusion I'm so proud of what we have done but mainly I’m proud of what started 11:FS and what still permeates everyone who works here, and that's a desire to make things fundamentally better for the customers in this industry. We started this company to do amazing work for amazing clients that changes the industry. For that first year I’d give us a A+ and I’m looking forward to everything Year 2 brings. For more on 11:FS, please check out our services pages, follow us on Twitter, or download our podcast Fintech Insider.
 David M. Brear
About the author

David M. Brear

David is the CEO of 11:FS and since his dream of being a sportsperson was crushed (along with the ligaments in his knee!) and he had to get a proper job. He has worked in pretty much every angle of the financial services industry but never lost that competitive desire to win.