GlobalFintechSeries Interview with Atif Siddiqi, CEO and Founder at Branch
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenging time not just for business leaders but also for employees on the personal front, in fact, a recent Branch survey showed that 80% of a set of workers who were surveyed had less than 80% in savings to help with an emergency. This can especially be a cause for concern when the world is going through a health pandemic. As businesses redefine their core processes and transform their employee relations during this time, one aspect that should take priority includes the betterment of employee financial wellness plans. Atif Siddiqi, CEO and Founder at Branch shares more:
Tell us a little about yourself Atif…How did the idea of Branch come about and since starting out, how has the platform / journey evolved?
I’m from Southern California and started Branch out of Idealab, a technology incubator based in Pasadena, California. The original concept and idea for Branch stemmed from my own experiences in hourly work as a teenager. I saw that very little of that had changed and the lack of user-friendly technology available for hourly employees, even though they make up the vast majority of the workforce.
While we had started Branch as a mobile application to help workers view their schedules and pick up shifts to earn more income from their own devices, we saw they needed to do so because of financial challenges. These ranged from fluctuating income, limited or no access to credit to excessive overdraft fees. It was impacting their productivity and savings, and for employers, it was leading to high turnover. That let us to build financial services that better met their needs, starting with early access to earned wages.
Since then, Branch has evolved to provide tools and services that help workers grow financially, including fee-free checking accounts, auto-budgeting tool, and faster access to pay they’ve already earned. The mission of Branch remains the same – to create great technology that improves the lives of hourly workers.
The need for better employee benefits and employee payments processes especially during this Covid-19 is crucial for businesses, how have you seen global companies adjust to the new normal with this?
Employers are seeing many of the challenges workers are experiencing while working in a pandemic and are trying to find ways to support them. Especially within the hourly workforce, they’re struggling financially. Our recent Branch Report survey of over 3,000 hourly workers found 80 percent having less than $500 saved for an emergency and 52 percent with $0, a 12 percent increase from last year.
That’s why employers are turning to a financial wellness benefit like Branch, where they can enable employees to access a portion of their earned wages ahead of payday or same day payments of tips so that they’re better able to meet their financial concerns. At no cost to themselves or their employees, they’re finding a financial wellness benefit a tool that can increase stability for their employees at this time.
What according to you are the top must-have features HR teams should look for in a payroll processing solution? And how can teams optimize their payroll better – your top tips?
While traditional payroll processes have remained pretty consistent over the past few years, solutions have definitely optimized to keep up with this movement toward real-time payments. Look for one that offers different offerings that can integrate easily into your system. That allows you to maintain your current systems while adopting new and emerging technologies. Also, evaluate your payment methods — how much are they costing you? Traditional paper checks and paycards offer excess hassle so a system that can help eliminate those costs and easily onboard employees can become a major cost and time saver for both you and your employees.
We’d love to hear a few recent examples of how Branch has partnered with companies to enable better payment accessibility for employees?
Yes, we’re really excited to work with employers across industries who are offering Branch to help their workers access financial tools and services that can help them better meet their needs. We just announced a partnership with global customer care provider Continuum Global Solutions to offer Branch to over 6,000 employees across the US. Employees can sign-up for Branch’s digital wallet, which is backed by a zero-fee checking account, and then access a portion of their earned wages ahead of payday, instantly and for free. They can use the account for direct deposits, allowing them to avoid the cost of overdraft and maintenance fees associated with most traditional bank offerings. The application also offers auto-budgeting tools to help them manage their cash flow between paychecks.
We also recently partnered with Domino’s locations to support contactless payments of tips and mileage to their employees right after each shift. Especially as so many consumers are avoiding cash and opting to purchase and tip via credit card, locations would have to make extra trips to the bank to make sure their employees receive their tips in cash. With Branch, employees can get paid faster and have their funds pushed quickly onto their digital wallets, without having to wait or be concerned about losing cash. They can still access cash for free at over 40,000 locations through Branch’s partnership with the AllPoint ATM network. It’s a win-win for both employers and employees.
Given the overview of what fintech and payroll automation is starting to look like: how would you sum up this space and what it would be like in 2025?
It’s hard to predict where we’ll be even a year from now, but I am confident that a large portion of payroll automation will be driven by an integration or in partnership with multiple fintech solutions. I think a lot of the changes will also be employee-driven. Earned wage access has become an increasingly prevalent benefit due to employees requesting it from their employers over the past year. Processes will also become more inclusive as employers adopt solutions that bridge the gap for employees who are unbanked or underbanked.
It’ll also be unique to each organization — many times payroll administrators prefer not to automate certain processes. They’ll adopt the processes that balance efficiency for companies and an optimal experience for employees.
Before we wrap up, would you like to share specific finance management or business tips for Marketing and Sales or Finance teams struggling through this uncertain time due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
It’s a difficult time for both employers and employees. I think just understanding where your customers are coming from. This may mean they’re not ready for your product or want to ramp up on faster. It’s about tailoring your offerings to their needs and anticipating what’s next as much as possible.
Branch is a challenger bank that partners with employers to help Americans grow financially. Employers turn to Branch to reduce the costs of paper checks and paycards by offering Branch as a free financial wellness benefit and banking alternative. Employees that sign up with Branch can receive a zero-fee bank account, free instant access to earned wages, and auto-budgeting tools to help them manage their cash flow between paychecks.
Atif Siddiqi is the CEO and Founder at Branch