Bringing open banking to the high seas with maritime finance startup SALT
A passionate sailor with sailing in his DNA, Joe has sailed a lot, hence his affinity with all things nautical. Digging deeper into what drives Joe, his journey into entrepreneurship and his passion for the boating industry is a compelling story. The one who is just getting started.
What is your background and professional background?
Joe’s experience in financial services began at the age of 19, when he joined the NatWest group. “It wasn’t necessarily on the agenda to stay long at NatWest, but I considered banking and finance a good start to my career,” he recalls, “However, I didn’t realize that after having held seven positions in some 16 years, sales manager, business development teams on the front line, the invaluable experience acquired would lead me here.
Providing financial advice in the commercial and retail sectors, Joe’s last five years at Nat West were involved in managing the pleasure marine portfolio for Lombard, which proved to be a turning point in his career. “As the market leader in personal yacht finance in the UK, Lombard’s book of hundreds of boat owners with loans clicked. It was a niche in financial services that I loved and which has also fueled my passion for sailing”.
With the growth of fintech mostly advancing over the past decade, Joe’s interest in the constant redesign of financial services has peaked. “Fintech has really transformed what was often seen as a pretty dry industry,” says Joe, “And it certainly invites investment and encourages young startups to seek improvements while trying to achieve something different in the financial landscape. With an ever-changing environment and constant evolution, finance and banking has become very different from the somewhat stagnant picture portrayed over the past few decades. Change fuels my enthusiasm. With an overriding desire to manage its own business and having played with different generic businesses, such as a street food company selling arepas, Joe realized that any goal had to be scalable while indulging his skills and passion.
How was SALT born?
In November 2020, Joe took a leap of faith amid the pandemic, embarking on a sabbatical from NatWest, with plans for a grand adventure, despite naysayers doubting his precarious timing! Undeterred, luck smiled and, securing a volunteer crew place on a Westerly 31, he sailed from Gosport to the Canary Islands and the Caribbean. “We left on the 5the November and it took about two months of sailing,” recalls Joe. “It’s hard to explain, but it was truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. The majesty of nature on the ocean – catching the first watch under a canopy of stars – c was such an amazing experience. It also gave me plenty of time to think clearly about my plans. In the end, I realized that my main interest was the maritime industry, combined with an enthusiasm for how fintech is improving the financial experience in other sectors. Uniting the two to deliver a product that would allow people to enjoy the wonders of being on the water by improving the ease and accessibility of financing for boating just made sense to me. And so, as I sailed across the Atlantic, I scribbled down some ideas, made a business plan, and quickly SALT was born. Handing in my resignation when I returned, my thoughts were simply that I had survived the Atlantic, so I could survive this decision! “.
What will SALT offer consumers?
Joe continues to explain that what SALT platform will provide is dual. “First, it creates specific accessibility to finance, with the base model giving customers a new option. Currently in the UK, boat finance is a niche offering with very little choice, so SALT will offer a digital option that matches both current lifestyles and technology. Customers can use the app to get marine finance quotes anytime, using open banking technology for customer convenience.
Second, SALT aims to go beyond the mere service of a finance provider. In the not too distant future after launch, we expect there will be options to add insurance, warranty, moorings, surveyors and more. The SALT app will essentially become a one-stop-shop for professional services that get consumers out on the water with the simplicity and ease of being the main movers. But it does not stop there. Once purchased and a boat is in use, the app is where all documentation is stored, with access to certificates, registration and important information at the push of a button .
There is also an open door for countless partnerships to evolve in the tech-driven marine space with like-minded entertainment providers who could potentially collaborate with SALT to deliver a range of spin-off digital opportunities for customers to respond to the request. Cross-benefit options will further promote navigation accessibility from several different angles, whether related to ownership or rental, and these relationships will all focus on the same goal. Obviously, the SALT unlimited model goes far beyond just getting a loan, it seems to be becoming the complete package and much more than just drawing the line to buying a boat with a completion date.
How are the projects progressing?
Attracting investors was a new business and an exercise Joe embraced: “Thinking something is a good idea and convincing people to part with funds are two separate things, but the first round of investors was an experience. very positive overall. Securing five early stage investors was exhilarating and they will now share the success as SALT progresses. The investment allowed us to move forward with developing the technology, setting up the compliance team, our FCA application and building a framework of policies to deliver our new brand. July will see the second funding round open to a new set of investors who want a piece of SALT stock. Described by Joe, “It’s really about putting fuel into the rocket that we’ve built, the next step will be the launch”
As it stands, SALT’s application is in the capable hands of the FCA and the company can get going once a lending license is granted, which is expected to be the case this year. “However, it allowed time where work can be done to maximize the platform and ensure plenty of testing is done with any startup issues smoothed out.” Joe confirms. In the meantime, he intends to keep the wider industry informed of developments, build momentum around the SALT brand, and then get the ball rolling once the process is complete.
Do you have any tips for startups?
When asked about advice for similar startups, Joe is somewhat reserved: “Only time will tell if this was the right decision, although I certainly think so,” he says. “At the end of the day, what I found important was to remember something that’s a cliché, but definitely applies. Remember, it’s about the journey and not the destination. I can draw a parallel with my trip across the Atlantic, the trip was definitely the most important part, so SALT evolves. Our journey goes on forever, so push to achieve your goals and aim for the stars is always worth a try”.
Note: Salt, through its group company Salt Money Ltd (company no. 14001838), has applied for full authorization from the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) to operate a consumer credit provider under the authorization of “unrestricted loan”. Salt does not currently offer any regulated or unregulated lending services until these authorizations have been finalized.