Hi Idriss, nice to meet you. Can you tell us about your background?
I have a finance background, graduating with a bachelor of commerce from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. I grew up in the Montreal area. The plan was always to come back and work in the city.
After a few months in an analytical role in commercial banking, I attended a Queen’s Young Alumni networking event, where I met Alyssa, RateHub’s co-founder and CEO. The timing couldn’t have been better, as she was looking for a bilingual partner to grow the company’s presence in Quebec.
What is the story behind RateHub.ca?
RateHub launched in 2010 as a mortgage rate comparison website, with an easy-to-navigate platform and sophisticated mortgage rate calculator that helped its users compare a variety of rates, easily connecting them to mortgage brokers, credit unions and banks. Its mortgage calculators are unique, and stand out from the competition because they calculate the total cost of home ownership. Everything from mandatory Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) insurance, to land transfer taxes and first-time home buyer credits, are included in both the monthly payment and affordability calculators.
Five years after launching, RateHub diversified into three new financial product verticals – credit card, Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) and savings accounts – and this year launched free online credit scores. RateHub’s calculators and comparison tools are highly competitive because they generate personalised recommendations. For example, our newly launched free credit score tool will allow us to direct our users to products they are more likely to qualify for.
What is your current funding strategy?
RateHub’s founders bootstrapped the company’s launch and didn’t go after major capital investments, which isn’t your typical startup story. We scaled our growth through some savvy profit reinvestments, business acquisitions and expanding our product vertical lines. We’ve also focused on some of the amazing grants available through the Canadian government that are in place to support technology innovation in this country, and other grants and credits to support the level of youth and STEM hiring we do at RateHub.
What is your business model? Is it solely based on intermediation?
We focus on profitable customer acquisition online for financial products. We provide our users with the best online tools, calculators and education materials to help them make the best decision when it comes to financial products. We give Canadians the opportunity to compare thousands of rates from hundreds of providers with just a few clicks, at home.
On the flip-side, we supply leads to banks and other providers, which is especially vital to those smaller providers or new entrants who are trying to gain market share.
What is something RateHub does well to educate consumers on various financial and insurance products?
For each product line on RateHub.ca, we have robust education centres to help build the knowledge of our users around that financial product. These education centres allow Canadians to dive a little bit deeper into topics around buying, moving or refinancing a home, or to help explain the many types of credit card on the market, for example. We supplement this evergreen educational content with daily blog posts. That’s where we’ll try to answer more specific questions or address certain topics that are important to our users, as well as cover breaking news and other events that are important to our financially curious customer base. We take pride in our education centres and blog content, which is updated daily.
How important is the Quebec/French-speaking market for the company?
Having boots on the ground has allowed RateHub to grow our French presence, and partner with Quebec-based lenders and financial institutions. We’re very excited to be currently working on a number of new initiatives for the French market, and hope to help even more users make informed financial decisions.
What’s next for RateHub in 2017?
The financial industry is in the midst of a major overhaul: branches are closing and big players are investing in digital. Fintech companies are continuing to enter the space with innovative products. Alongside, the rate comparison space (for mortgages and other financial service products) will continue to grow as it has been doing in the past. More Canadians go online every year to access information on financial products, and as more millennials purchase homes, their search will always begin online.
With last year’s multiple rule changes around mortgages in Canada, for example, the Canadian mortgage market continues to evolve, and we will focus on innovation and improving the customer experience for our users.
There’s still huge opportunities to further digitise and automate a lot of the financial processes in this country, and our users can look to RateHub to be a leader there.
Photo: RateHub; Crew, Unsplash