3 minutes, 33 seconds

25 May 2022

5 questions for Stitch Head of Product Partnerships Neha Kumar

by Thea Sokolowski, Head of Marketing & Communications​

Describe your job to a 10-year-old.

I build relationships with banks we would like to work with so we can build better products for our clients. The products Stitch builds help other companies create products that help people use money in different ways – to save so they can have more in the future, to invest, to buy things, and generally be able to move money and make payments.

What will bank-fintech relationships look like 10 years from now in Africa?

Today, fintechs are gaining a reputation for being credible and secure among customers who regularly use their products/services. At the same time, customers expect more and more that financial services will be embedded within their overall journey when using any product – and not a separate process that puts the main customer journey on hold. Banks are investing heavily in their ability to deliver more digital innovation to customers to work toward this. On this journey, time to market is critical and increases the desirability of forging partnerships.

In 10 years, I hope bank-fintech relationships will have taken today’s trends and learnings and internalised them to collectively put mechanisms in place that are aligned to answer the question, “How do we make it simpler for businesses to collect and make payments across Africa?”

What is the biggest lesson you learned that you find valuable today?

Don’t just focus on telling people what they want to hear – rather, tell them what they need to hear. We naturally make assumptions when we engage with people about what we think is important to them. When building a partnership, I could say what I think the other person wants to hear, based on those assumptions, in order to show them that we’re aligned or that I have a good understanding of their needs. Instead, today I focus more on what the other party doesn’t know, or may have a blindspot to, and force them to be more critical in their thinking. To me, that’s the real value add.

For example, we bring fintech use cases to the banks we partner with. We approach them and say, “Here are the problems fintechs are solving for, here is what fintechs are building and here are their biggest challenges that we can solve together.” That’s something additional we bring to the table that they don’t know.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever worked on?

When I worked with TechnoServe, I was running a business course in partnership with Mastercard for duka (small, informal shop) owners to help them understand the fundamentals of business basics – how to calculate revenue, how to save, how to open accounts, how to better use their savings – essentially helping them better access their money to use as they see fit. I got to engage with female business owners who were really entrepreneurial. This is how I began to truly understand what it is to be an entrepreneur.

We did a follow-up after the course to see what changed about the way they were using their savings, and their progress was inspiring. One of them had started a savings account for her children’s college education. Another had started a restaurant, and another had started a lending business.

All these women were making financial decisions that impacted the livelihoods of many (themselves, their children, their extended families) because they had access to information, access to data and the ability to make decisions that served them well.

What is your vision for what the continent will look like if Stitch has achieved its mission?

The African payments landscape is highly fragmented, with a multitude of payment methods. There is a lot of pain for businesses that have to integrate with all these methods individually.

By providing the infrastructure needed for these businesses to grow and scale, Stitch enables faster transactions, more efficiency and an increased ability for them to reach their potential.

To me, the result of this will be empowering African businesses to become global businesses, with the ability to focus on serving the financial needs of customers anywhere. These businesses will be powered by digital payments and data capabilities, while creating more jobs, improving livelihoods and truly contributing to increased financial inclusion.

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