As millennials living in the technology age, we’re inundated with targeted ads for products and services that leave us wondering which institution truthfully has our best interests in mind.
Many of us have also been grandfathered into a financial institution by our parents or guardians, like when I got my first debit card. 13-year-old me wasn’t asking questions like, “is there a rewards program?” Or “what is my interest rate?” All I cared about was having enough money to buy a giant pretzel at the mall after school.
As I took on a proactive approach to my long-term personal finances and goals, I was overwhelmed by the options available. Recently, I was introduced to Brim Financial, an innovative, super rewarding and simplified banking experience that is actually tailored to me. I had the opportunity to interview Brim’s CEO, Rasha Katabi, who leads an incredibly talented and dedicated team pushing the limits of what we expect from financial institutions.
Rasha is building a company with a “for us, by us” mentality at its core that traditional companies seldom subscribe to. Our discussion was like a therapy session, as she touched on the pain points of loyalty and banking we all experience today, and how Brim solves for this. Talk about taking the term “put your money where your mouth is” to a whole new level.
Rasha, you’ve tapped into a market of millennial and gen-z professionals who don’t just value ease of use but also rewards. What Brim feature do your users value most and why do they choose you over other institutions?
Brim is a new financial tech company built entirely from the ground up with the consumer in the heart of our ecosystem. We’re very excited about what we’re able to offer consumers and if it’s not something we love to use, we would never put it out there for someone else. We work very hard at providing amazing benefits and rewards platform with unlimited and uncapped value to our consumers. We’ve made sure that our rewards are super relevant to all aspects of your lives, from your daily coffee to your dry-cleaning all the way to your favourite retailers. Our rewards program extends to vacations, home rentals, car rentals, airlines, and hotels as well. You name it, it’s there. What truly makes us better than other cards is our rewards. While consumers are used to earning 1%, 2% or 3%, Brim helps consumers earn up to 30% back in points.
That’s it. It’s very practical, with no fluff.
Exactly. By cutting out a lot of the middlemen in the structure and delivery, more value flows directly to our customers.
Institutions and banks have been around for decades. What gave you the courage and inspiration to branch out on your own and how did you conduct the market research required?
I’ve worked in financial institutions for over 20 years so I came into this with a deep understanding of the space and the industry. I know what works, what doesn’t, and what the industry needs in order to get better. So with Brim, we set out to “fix” exactly what we thought was broken, and uncover a lot of value that could be delivered back to the consumer when it previously wasn’t. That’s really at the centre of our ecosystem. Brim’s state-of-the-art platform not only has a seamless user experience, but it also considers everything from safety to security and gives the user full control over their card and features. If you lose your card, you can lock your card in real-time right in the Brim App. You can also block online transactions while continuing to use your physical card in-person at Starbucks, or at any restaurant knowing that no one else is using your card online. You have solid visibility and control over what you’re using your card for, and the rewards that you’re getting are tailored to your lifestyle. Brim recognizes that each user is unique, with different interests and spending habits and offers something special for everyone. It really is unparalleled in the market.
I love that. What has influenced how you operate your business outside of the services you provide? Can you speak to your work culture, your focus, your momentum, and your motivation?
I think it’s important to listen to what consumers are saying and then deliver on exactly that. At Brim, we have a very diverse and dedicated team that represents our target market and I really think that is the essence of what differentiates us from traditional financial institutions out there. It drives a ton of innovation. It drives an experience that is relevant to all of us. It really speaks to exactly what we all want and what we’re looking for, and we do that organically because the team is building the platform that they all want to use. Everyone around us uses it, even our suppliers and partners.
How do you stay up to date on industry news?
Even when I’m super busy building this business, I read two hours a day. If it means I go to bed past midnight, I still do it. It’s my curiosity that fuels this habit of making sure that I’ve dedicated time every single day to keep up. Whether it is podcasts, articles or other sources, I am continuously learning about trends and best practices both in Canada and globally.
Now that’s a principle for good business. You have a tight-knit group of highly impressive talent at Brim. What is most important to you in being a successful leader?
I think that the key to hiring a great team is recognizing that everyone needs to be on the same level when it comes to dedication, energy and passion. After that, the culture kind of takes care of itself and it becomes a virtuous circle. That is the nature of our team and the office. When you’re working with a dedicated talent pool like this, your role as a leader is to enable them to have space where they can execute their vision, run with it, and ultimately deliver all of their ideas they want to bring to life.
Absolutely. I also know about your involvement as a philanthropist, and that you sit as an advisor for SickKids Foundation. Why is this work important to you?
I think everything comes full circle. An important element of Brim Financial’s global success outside of Toronto is a result of the success we’ve seen here first that enabled us to grow. What’s better than for us to give back to this community than to actually contribute to the SickKids Foundation? They are an incredible institution at their core. They not only serve our local community and Ontario but also work very closely with all children’s hospitals across Canada and the world.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
The road is never a straight line between A and B. There are always turns, so remember the two most important things are hard work and resilience. If you keep working hard and trusting in what you do, things will come together.
What is the most valuable advice that you’ve been given or received?
I’ve received a lot of advice. Trust in your essence, believe in yourself and make sure that you surround yourself with the network of mentors and neighbours who are proud of you and will help you achieve your professional goals.
Amazing. I think we could all benefit from that advice. Oh, and a Brim card!