How to be a financial services business that delivers more

Be the fastest or the greatest with our upfront advice on finding your superpower.

Being a successful financial services business takes almost superhuman ability.

You need the super speed of Flash to innovate and get products and services to market faster.

Hulk’s exponential strength to handle the regulation that’s thrown at you.

The elastic resilience of Mister Fantastic in the face of constant disruption and change.

The agility of Spider-Man to exceed consumer expectations.

And an Alfred or Q by your side to help you keep up with technology.

If it’s all starting to feel like mission impossible, we’re here to save the day.

In episode seven of the Upfront podcast, we asked how financial services businesses can overcome their weaknesses and find their superpower.

Joining us to answer that was John Winters, co-founder and CEO of the online investing app Superhero. Before creating Superhero, John worked in traditional stockbroking and wealth management. As someone who’s been on both sides, he has some brilliant observations and advice to share about the industry, innovation and building a business that people love.

Read on for John’s tips. And listen to this episode Hulk Smash in full here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Don't be a hero

Ok, let’s be clear. While we’re here to help you find your superpower, you’re not the hero in this story. Your customer is.

As John said on the podcast, “the industry has always thought of itself as the superhero, and it’s becoming more obvious that it’s the other way around. The customer is the superhero, and we need to give them the power to be successful.”

That, says John, is how the industry will collectively find its superpower. So, Avengers assemble.

“As an industry, we need to put the customer at the centre of every decision. When it comes to making business and product decisions, a customer-first approach is probably what’s missing. The industry needs to look at itself and how it can improve.”

It’s time to get your big pants on, find your X-ray vision and seek truth, justice and a better tomorrow.

“Hopefully, we see some of the big legacy banks and institutions follow in our footsteps and put out products that drive successful outcomes for everyday people, rather than drive successful outcomes for their business. If we can drive that vision of when you’re successful, we’re successful, the world will be a better place.”

Face your fears

You might be a big tough financial institution, but we know your weakness. And like Superman and Kryptonite, you need to face it.

“Major financial institutions are so risk averse, it works against them,” says John. “You hear the likes of Elon Musk saying fail, failure is succeeding. Big legacy businesses don’t accept that sort of failure. That’s what’s positioned start-ups and scale-ups to be biting off pieces of the financial services industry and really disrupting. They might not go and disrupt JP Morgan or Commonwealth Bank of Australia in its entirety, but they are able to bite off and disrupt business units within those behemoth businesses.”

Want to bite back and fight your arch nemesis? Well, you’re going to have to stop battling your inner demons. It starts by lowering your standards and expectations.

“Certainly, in our business, there were multiple points of failure and days when we were almost there, and then we weren’t. Financial institutions typically are bad innovators because everything has to be perfect, everything has to work the first time, and it drives away innovation and the ability to bring out new products.”

If we can drive that vision of when you're successful, we're successful, the world will be a better place.

Change your reality

John spoke openly on the podcast about the frustrations he experienced when working in traditional investing and stockbroking, particularly his concerns around conflicted remuneration. The fact is, if something doesn’t feel right, change it. As John did.

“It’s $13 trillion of people’s retirement assets where they basically say, hand over your money, we’ll take it from here. It doesn’t take a huge amount of common sense to realise there’s something wrong in that picture. That’s what I’m trying to change.”

We’ve talked previously on the podcast about the customer experience in financial services and how it can sometimes feel like it’s stuck in an alternate dimension, something John likens to the days of CDs, DVDs and taxis before streaming music, TV and Uber came along. Where others see this as a problem, John sees an opportunity:

“The financial services space is so old school, there are still major institutions running everything off a spreadsheet, and that’s really exciting because that’s just opportunity.”

And it doesn’t take much for something newer and simpler to Hulk Smash the incumbents out of the park.

“We came to market with a really simple message. We were $5 flat fee brokerage. Our nearest competitor was twice the price. The banks were four times the price. But the user experience was simple. Signing up took about three minutes. We did all the email ID verification on the way in, and you could instantly deposit funds which no-one else offered at the time, and not many platforms have in Australia today. Everything was real-time and a really simple user experience. There was no Jimmy in the back office emailing us the account numbers the next day.”

Sorry, Jimmy.

Get a kick-ass sidekick

If you’ve got dreams to be masters of the multiverse or even the metaverse, you’re going to need to assemble the right team. Or find a sidekick as John did in his co-founder, Wayne Baskin.

“The benefit of us being co-founders is we don’t share the same skill set. We have very different roles in the business. The tech focus is what I knew I needed. I certainly would not have been able to build what I built without Wayne, and I think he’d agree that works both ways.”

Clearly, finding the right partner can make all the difference in helping an idea become reality. You know your limits, so find the right one who can take you further.

“It was really around the tech. How do we get this going? How do we build a scalable platform that can handle high volumes of transactions and high volumes of customers, even though we had none of the regulatory licenses in place at the time? We knew we were going to get there, we knew that we needed to build something pretty special, and it was outside my wheelhouse.”

Giving yourselves superhero names is entirely optional.

“I’ve been tagged with the Hulk. There have been a couple of moments when I’ve turned green. My co-founder has named himself Iron Man.” says Hulk’s alter-ego, John.


With great power comes great responsibility, and for John, that means having a duty to empower and educate people on their finances to help society progress.

“There’s a big opportunity to bring new and existing opportunities for customers, to improve people’s lives and successfully build their wealth. Education is a major piece of that,” says John.

Even better if you can alter perceptions and make good things happen through an invisible force and mind control. Or, failing that, an app.

“We’ve got a huge strategy around education within our app - contextual education. We want to try and help lift financial literacy across our customer base almost without them realising. I think there’s going to be new products that come into the market that will really change the way the world looks at financial services, and that will be pretty exciting.”

The last Word

If the financial services industry were an Avenger, its unique power would be its ability to create better futures for people. It can protect people from what life throws at them, provide strength, security and reassurance, and help people get wealthier so that they can live out their dreams and be happy. It's definitely one of the good guys. But it could be even better if financial services businesses put customers first and work on empowering them through more compelling products, services, experiences and education. Then they'll find their superpower and, to paraphrase Hugh Jackman, they can be the best there is at what they do.

Listen to the Upfront episode Hulk Smash in full here or wherever you get your podcasts.