Learn more about Linear Financial Technologies at: https://www.linearft.com/
Find Brian Geary on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-geary-63bb542/
JC: Welcome, everybody to another episode of the Future of BizTech. I’m your host, JC Granger. And I have another fantastic guest on the show with us today. And listen, if you end up loving this episode, please show your love and appreciation by following this podcast wherever you’re listening, and be sure to give it a five star review and you know, preferably with some nice comments in there, because that is how techies like you and I find cool podcasts like this one. And today I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing the president of Linear Financial Technologies, Brian Geary. Brian, thank you so much for coming on the show, tell the audience a little bit about yourself, and what is it that you do?
Brian: Thanks JC, and glad to be here thrilled to be talking about Linear here with you and your audience today. So what do we do, we are a SaaS infrastructure company really focused on the banking space. But there are some feature kind of segments that we’re going to talk about here. But we are providing the infrastructure to digitize and modernize their small business lending capabilities. So my background, I actually came from, from the banking space. So I, you know, started my career actually, I was in the military to begin with, but post Business School, landed at Citibank, and kind of saw firsthand that, you know, the way that that banks were helping to kind of serve this small business segment was still very kind of paper-based and very kind of friction-filled for both the Small Business customer and for the bank that was trying to process those. So I jumped over to one of the earlier kind of direct lending Fintechs in the space, which was called OnDeck capital. And then basically, kind of this company was kind of born out of that, where we took a lot of the technology that we have built over the years as that direct lender, and are using that to to license that to our clients, again, to really kind of digitize that experience or that end small business customer.
JC: That’s really cool. Well, let me ask you a question. So one, thank you for your service. Of course, were you doing something in the military that related to financial I mean, a lot of people think all military is you know, shoo, shoo, shoo, bullet bullet gun, and there’s, like 90% support, you know what I mean? So were you in a financial area that or is it completely unrelated? And if so, you know, what made you want to go into finance and out of the military?
Brian: Yeah, no, great question. It was probably not super related to financial services, to be honest with you. So I was in the Navy on the Surface Warfare side. So I was on a ship doing a couple of tours to the Persian Gulf, but actually, it’s one of my last, since in the military, I was working in the Pentagon for essentially, what was the head of kind of strategy for the Navy. So it was just exposed to some pretty interesting kind of thinking in a lot of that kind of just strategy that you’ve learned in business school, you know, kind of after that, but no, I mean, I think coming out of business school, when I was really looking for was a bit of general management focus, but also just really drawn to the financial services industry. Obviously, a lot of innovation has happened there over the last 10 years or so. So it’s been a cool time to be in the space.
JC: Well, that’s awesome. Now I took a preview of your website, and there was a screenshot on there that I really recognized, right? And it was this screenshot, basically, that had it was two squares next to each other. And it was it was like options for someone to click on as far as like, you know, what they’re applying for approval, like a consumer, it seemed like a consumer or business person was going to be you know, they could you know, ask like $50,000, like secured or unsecured, like it was this really user friendly interface. And so when I’ve seen this before, like in SBA stuff, I’ve seen it in like credit line stuff, I’ve seen, I’ve seen it when I click on some ad, you know, when it’s offering like credit cards, or whatever, it’s like real super easy interface. And the back end, I imagine what you guys are providing so and tell me if I’m wrong here, but are you guys essentially that backend that allows it to be so easy for a consumer or business person to you know, apply for a loan? Or to get a credit line? Or you know, things like that is? Are you guys behind that like that? Because we get as consumers? We get this all the time coming our way?
Brian: Yeah, yeah, exactly. That is us. In a nutshell, we are behind the scenes, I would say our technology is white labeled. So it’s always the clients kind of name and you know, kind of look and feel that you would see in that digital experience. In many cases, we’re hosting that application that you’re actually interfacing with, it’s still just you know, has the the bank or the clients name on it. And then once you’ve actually kind of go through and submit that application, that’s where really the magic of our SaaS platform kind of takes over. So we have integrated to a ton of data sources. And really what we’re trying to do is automate as much as possible, of that lending experience behind the scenes. And so if I can paint the picture for a second, if you kind of go back in time, five years ago, if you were a small business and wanted to apply maybe 10 years ago, you wanted to apply for a small business loan, you had to go into the branch, they handed you a paper application, you took that home, you filled it out, and you came back to the branch with that, plus, probably, you know, at least five different sets of documents, my tax returns, my financial statements, my resume, and a number of other things, which that banker then took, they gave it to someone else who probably keyed the information in behind the scenes and maybe a week or two later, you might receive a decision. So obviously, you know tons of friction in that process. For kind of everyone involved, that, again, that’s where our platform comes in. So once an application comes in, we have all these automated data sources that we go out and pool, and then it really just trying to surface, if a judgmental decision is required from someone within the bank, then we surface that quickly. So they can either look at a document, or make it a judgment call, so they can kind of quickly get you through to be approved.
Brian: For smaller dollar loans, you know, a lot of our clients are using us to automatically approve customers or decline. And then for as you get up into, call it like above $250,000 you know, loans and lines and more complex products, then there will be a human behind the scenes that has to kind of step in, in certain cases, or really trying to make it as like, as easy as possible for them to help kind of make that decision. So you can get that answer back in like a day or two versus having it be, you know, a week or two in the past.
JC: So who is your perfect client? I mean, obviously, I could tell you, you can work for me, I do this for any bank or any financial institution. But is it only banks? Is there a certain size? I mean, again, I’m sure you could take a lot. But like, if you had to, you know, gun to your head, you have to pick one avatar of a client, like who is the best one who gets the most benefit out of hiring you initially?
Brian: Yeah, I think our primary customer segment today is Super Regional and regional banks. So I think they get a ton of benefit, because they have a higher volume of small business customers that are coming to them for loans. And they have a number of products that they are helping to serve for them. That’s the number one. So I’ll stop my answer there. But there are some some other kind of segments that we’re going into in the future as well.
JC: So tell me how you even became part of the President. So you’re not the co founder or whatnot. And we talked about in the pre interview that there was a way that you came to be part of linear financials, let’s hear that story you know, where did you start off? And then how did you become the president of Linear?
Brian: Yeah, so this kind of ties into almost like the progression of what’s happened in small business lending. So, you know, for a long time, if you wanted a small business loan, you had to go to a bank, call it kind of 10-12 years ago, there was this crop of Fintechs, that popped up, that were direct to the small business in terms of lending in some ways, they were almost trying to, to kind of displace the banks in this kind of small business lending space. So I joined one of those companies coming out of the banking world, which was called On Deck. And so they had a pretty good run over a number of years, and still, you know, are going today in that kind of direct lending model. And so I was an employee there helping them to kind of grow their franchise. And then we really had this idea of, Hey, we are building a lot of great technology. And there’s a segment of the market that as that kind of FinTech lender, we were having a hard time serving, which is really that kind of very prime, bankable customer, because a lot of the fintechs, they had to get capital from other sources. And so it was expensive, and so the loans that they were making to these to the end kind of small business customers are more expensive than what a bank can make, therefore, kind of serving that almost like second tier of kind of a risk down from from what would typically be kind of bankable.
Brian: And so we have this idea of like, hey, let’s take the technology that we have have started to build, let’s turn that really into a SaaS platform, so we can have multiple clients on it. And then let’s take that and license it, you know, back to the banking world. We’ll have a much broader reach in being able to serve small business customers, and creating a very valuable company in the process. So that was kind of our path, we actually formed a company called OD X, which was a spin out of On Deck. And then recently about earlier this year, we merged that with a company that was called Fundation to create Linear Financial Technologies. So those two paths of coming together, were actually very similar foundation actually started as a direct lender, it pivoted to this kind of lending technology model, where their clients were also in the banking space. And so we’ve kind of merged together to become the leader in the space, so we have a number of clients again, in this kind of Super Regional regional bank space, and a really the kind of the player in that space to play a beat.
JC: That’s awesome. Well, let me ask a question or what is it? So you know, if we have, you know, someone who’s who works for regional bank listening, for example, right? We get a lot of tech people on here, so get us on the tech side. What is it, you know, walk us through what it’s like to actually go on and to use this. Can someone go on and sign up and start playing around with it? Is it something where they have to get a demo first is more enterprise style, because it sounds like a pretty intricate thing, but and then you set them up on your platform? So let’s talk about the platform itself and how does someone – a regional bank, even just start that process? How do they even get this to help them?
Brian: Yeah, listen, from the high level our platform is it’s very you know kinda moderate so it’s AWS hosted, it’s modular, but it typically is, you know, clients, we obviously we have a business development team, but usually they’re in the market and having a conversation with us. Probably I would say more on the enterprise, you’re kind of sales side of your comment will come in, have a conversation, understand what their needs are, give them a demo. And then as they are interested in moving forward, we basically set them up on implementation projects, those typically take, you know, between three to six months, let’s say to get someone live and leveraging the platform, mostly because there’s integration points that we have to build between our platform and, and our client system.
JC: A lot of API calls, you know stuff like that..
Brian: Exactly. It’s a lot of API calls, you know, primarily for on the front end of the experience, let’s say you are an existing clients, you know, a customer of a bank today, if we want to have like a single sign-on where you can use your credentials, we have all this data on you, we can import that into our platform. That’s one typical integration point. And then the second is on, once you’ve actually gone through the process, you close that loan, or checking accounts that you want to take out will board that back into the bank’s typical kind of like core or servicing platform. So they could take it from there and have it kind of live with the rest of their products that they’re serving the customers with.
JC: Very cool. All right. So magic question. Of course, The Future of Biztech, we got to talk about the future, right?
JC: I want to talk about the industry first. You know, the banking, you know, we’ve had multiple financial clients, right? Because I own a marketing agency. That’s my thing. I’m a marketing guy by trade. But I’m also that tech nerd who was, you know, having AOL while when I was 12. In my dad’s basement, that kind of thing. Like I have that story, right? I’m that kid.
JC: So let’s talk about where it’s where it’s going. The audience is interested, I’m interested. So as your industry, you have competitors, of course that do similar-ish things, right? Do you see any external factors in the market or legislation because you’re in a regulated industry, in that 5-10 year mark, where you see things, just hockey sticking in one direction or another?
Brian: Yeah, this is so if I go back to the comments, I was making the progression of the industry, I’ll get to the future in a second. So we, if you went through, you know, that bank was the original, you had FinTech lenders coming in, we as a technology company, are helping those banks to compete with the fintechs give them the same, like great digital customer experience. And the next wave of lending that we’re seeing already happening today, and I think it’s going to accelerate in the future is you have a lot of these software platforms that are out there today, giving you one example – Shopify, right? Like if you’re an e commerce seller, and you need a place to let someone kind of host your website, you get a Shopify, but Shopify is also giving you payments, and helping you with inventory and a number of other things almost like help you on your business. That’s one example of this kind of vertical software industry that is out there, where they are also starting to add funding or other financial services products as part of their ecosystem. And so we’re seeing a lot of that today, where are these, you know, typical, like, like very, you know, traditional kind of software platforms that have nothing to do with financial services, but they have a base small business clients data on those clients, they’re really trying to embed financial services, especially kind of lending in our case as an ancillary product, or an add on product to help kind of grow those customers that are on their platform, and to make them kind of sticky with their ecosystem. So we are seeing that happen today, we are involved in a number of those relationships, where we’re helping those software platforms to embed a lending experience into into their platform. And at the end of the day, you know, they may be funding alone, we may bring one of our summer banking clients in to fund the loan, the funding part, we figure out kind of as a secondary, but what they’re looking for is that digital experience in offering lending or financial services as part of their ecosystem, so I think you’re gonna see more and more of that happening, where you’re seeing the kind of mindshare shift of the small business customers it’s happening in consumer as well but definitely in small business is going to gravitating to these kind of software platforms and are starting to embed lending within that as well, which is just kind of just enhancing the overall kind of value prop that they have to customers.
JC: What about at the more micro level because you mentioned Shopify right? Does your or even industry – do you see the industry whether it be your company or not you know if I go and buy you know something expensive on Shopify, now I don’t know if this already exists because it’s probably back end you know, so if I go own a website and I want to buy something expensive I’ve started to see this trend now where all of a sudden I’m being offered payment plans zero interest wants to just like, hey, six payments like Amazon has it built in already that I’ve already gotten? I mean, and sometimes I do sometimes I don’t depending on how much I’m buying. I’m way too addicted Amazon, I can’t even talk about that right now. Like every other day is Christmas on my doorstep. It’s ridiculous. Okay, so but that being said, you know, even they have these offers of like, no payment plans. Does your system work? Or does the industry in general – are you guys the ones responsible for these different websites that are now being able to offer these payment plans, you know, in that are you guys doing that, that that micro level, rather than just the really big bank level?
Brian: Yeah, no, absolutely. So, you know, what you’re describing is kind of broadly known as buy now pay later, which is blowing up, you know, in the FinTech industry, obviously, you know, a firm and other companies are..
JC: It seems like everybody wins, to be honest like..
Brian: I mean it’s in some ways it’s replacing credit card spend. It’s giving customers control over that purchase that they’re making. And when they pay it back, and it’s, you know, if you’re getting 0% interest, it’s sometimes that’s kind of subsidized by the seller, but agreed, it’s a win win proposition. So we are seeing buy now pay later come to the Small Business segment. So the end customer is a small business, we’re starting to see that that trend start to kind of take root there as well. So I think, you know, over the next five years, that there’s going to be massive growth in the buy now pay later small business segment, consumer is already there, and will continue to grow small business, it’s just kind of starting to churn. And we’re gonna, that’s going to be a very, very big offering. And so yes, like that, that is a place where we are playing, where, as I mentioned before, like we’re helping the banks digitize their offering, or we’re helping these software platforms with that almost like embedded finance or buy now pay later type of experience to be able to offer that as well. So that’s an area that we’re playing in for sure.
JC: That’s really cool. See that I like see, I like these real world applications to technologies that people may not understand right away, right? Like I love saying, Okay, well, this is what you’re doing over here. But like, here’s how we actually end up interacting with it, which I think is cool. Okay, so now let’s, that’s the industry, let’s talk about Linear now, I want to know, because my audience does like to have the inside scoop. I promised them that, right? So you got to give me something here, okay. And again, remember, there’s a little bit of delay between when we record and when we drop so. So it what’s on your roadmap, what’s coming out soon, additional to what you’re doing now that you’re really excited about from a technology standpoint, and we’re just service, you know, generally.
Brian: So I’ll give you a give you one scoop here that we have not really talked about too publicly.
JC: Yes. All right.
Brian: Okay, so we, you know, we’ve talked about lending and account opening, which is the kind of core of our business, we also have a terrific analytics team on our side. And so what we’ve been working over the past couple years on, is, you know, fraud, especially in the small business space is not being solved all that well. So there are data providers..
JC: Sow what kind of frauds, there are many types of fraud. So you’re talking about, like someone’s stealing someone’s credit card? Or are you talking about, you know, contract breaches? Like, what kind of fraud? Are you specifically talking about?
Brian: The fraud that I’m talking about is it’s kind of impersonating. You know, another small business, basically.
JC: Like a corporate identity theft..
Brian: You’re faking some credentials to apply for a loan?
Brian: You know, $100,000 comes into your bank account, and then poof, you’re gone. You never make a payment.
JC: Oh, wow.
Brian: You’re basically faking credentials. There’s lots of ways to do that. So we won’t go into that.
JC: We won’t teach anyone on the show how to do it, but it’s happening. Yeah.
Brian: All the ways you can do that. But that is a very big problem in the both consumer and small business lending space, where, where you’re using fraudulent techniques to gain access to capital, taking the money and disappearing.
JC: Wow, okay.
Brian: And so that’s what we so we have actually developed, it’s really an AI-based model that is looking for anomalies in the data. So we can better predict when a customer is coming in, if they’re actually fraudulent. And so it just is a very, very high level of how to think about that. If you’re a small business, you probably have some footprint that we can kind of determine that you exist, you probably have a credit score, you have a LinkedIn page, your business, may have a website, you’ve had reviews, things like that. And so what we’re doing is going out and pulling all this data and bringing it back in. And it’s very obvious if wait, they don’t have a website or LinkedIn or any reviews. There’s some funky data that we’re seeing in the credit report, etc. That kind of you pull all that together, and then you determine like, Hey, we should look into this further to determine if it’s that we’re calling that Linear Defense. And we haven’t launched it kind of formally yet. But that’s something what we’re working on.
JC: I got to tell you, Brian, because I love what Linear is doing but that, right there is, in my opinion, single handedly the coolest thing I’ve heard from the finance industry in a very, very long time. Because here’s how you got my tail wagging when you said AI. And so I think it’s fantastic because you’re you’re basically and people think you know, a lot of people get in this mindset that you know, that if a bank gets hit, it’s a victimless crime, right? Because it’s insured and screw them right? Like, you know, bank robbers come in, you know, don’t worry about it, it’s insured and that’s that’s all fine. But what people don’t understand about that equation farther down the line, is that okay, fine. Yes, it’s insured. But these things happen enough, insurance rates have to go up and the businesses can only take so much of that before they even start passing the consumers. So it’s really not, you are actually in a being the victim, whether you like it or not, right? Because these costs are going to come wrapping all around and come right back to you eventually, or they’re gonna come in the form of bigger restrictions, because they got, you know, you know, screwed, so to speak. So now all of a sudden, you’re having to jump through more hoops as a business owner, and you might not get the funding you need when you need it. So there’s a lot of victims in this, and I love that you guys have figured out how to integrate an AI, especially the way you’re doing it, you’re going into real world applications of where business exists, not just in the document, you know, I could go and I could probably sign up on the Secretary of State for Colorado with minimal information.
JC: And then most banks, if it’s under a certain amount, it’s like under 50 grand, there’s no credit checks, there’s not many it’s very minimal paperwork, right? And so I can see what you’re talking about, I never considered that people make a living, you know, abusing the system and fraudulent. I’m sure they don’t get away with it forever, that, you know, there’s a lot of paper show with what they’re doing. So but yeah, it’s really cool. It sounds like your software takes a more holistic look at this applicant, and can create red flags for the financial institution. If something’s not adding up, you’re like, Okay, but if you’re really in business, wouldn’t you have this, this and this, and then I click into that, and then if you know, the less people were doing that it actually saves all of us money- banks, insurance companies, which no one really cares about. But eventually, you know, ergo, it saves me and you, money in our fees, that we’re paying banks, and also in the time in the process, and maybe even things that we need, because it was interesting to hear something else I see and tell me if you agree or disagree, I want to know, if your product really takes off the way I think that absolutely could here, then it sounds like it could actually decrease because if you’re supplementing security with AI, they can look at things and reduce risk, then sometimes they can ask for less formalized things from you to apply for things because they have these other factors that they know are rock solid, I’ve already noticed in the last, you know, three or four years applications that I’ve done have become a lot less work for me, they just don’t need as much. And I never, I wonder why. But I imagine they have other things that they’re cross referencing. And it sounds like yours could really take the market in a direction where it could make applying for a loan not only for businesses, but even personal, you know, a lot more streamlined just because hey, if you’re on the grid, we’re going to take a look at that also, right? If we if we if we see that you’re you’re actually real, then we don’t necessarily need this, this and this, we’re like, okay, it’s cool. I mean, is that, am I right or wrong?
Brian: No, that’s exactly what we do. I mean, we’re doing that today, for a normal application where we’re asking for less documents upfront from the customer, because we can go and pull all those things from third party sources. Absolutely. I love that. And I think that the next evolution of that is what we were just talking about, where you actually incorporate an AI model, especially for fraud, where that really kind of gives you this like Confidence Index score of like, do I think this customer is fraudulent or not? So that you can use, there’s lots of applications for that. So that’s.
JC: So you know, I’ve been in business 11 years, and it’s like, you know, with that kind of history of good history of being in business, I feel like I should have to prove less things. You know, like, not that I want someone who’s a startup to have to go crazy enough to find a million things. But what I’m saying is, I think, with time and experience and being on the grid, so to speak that long, and having a track record, I think you’ve earned and deserve the path to get easier as you go. And not just state is just as hard every single day, no matter how good you’ve been doing, you know, and showing that you’re a valid, responsible business owner. So I think that’s really cool, that technology is going I love it. So I’m gonna ask you one more question here. You are one of my guests, who have you been through a lot of different aspects of business, right? So you know, you’ve worked in corporate, you did do a weather merger and everything. So I’m going to ask you a question for the audience here. What was either the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in business? Or the best piece of advice that you could possibly give the audience? Based on everything you’ve been through? What would that be?
Brian: Oh, that is a tough question.
JC: See I didn’t give you that but in the end.
Brian: Got it. Appreciate it. Yeah, so thinking about what I actually heard, like, early in my career, which is stuck with me, for whatever reason, is that feedback is a gift. And so I use that a lot. Like I’ll say that to folks on my team, you know, if you think about, like sports teams, or things like that, like they’re always being coached, they’re always being kind of, you know, like, given kind of feedback and critiquing and you get better with that over time. If you’re kind of in business, sometimes you’re just kind of on your own, like figuring things out. And so I really do like to, you know, give feedback but always constructive in the fact that we can always be kind of getting, you know, doing better or getting better over time. So…
JC: I like that and you know, when I some of the advice I give to our, you know, tech clients, especially SaaS as I say, use surveys a lot if you can. Use questions that pop up, you know, any customers you have, you know, have a little chat box in their dashboard that just pops as a “Hey, how are you liking this one particular feature, right?” And because you’re in this bubble, when you make something, you’re in this bubble, right? And having that outside perspective, especially when people have used it is a big deal. But I also encourage having outside perspective, people have never used it because there’s two sets of fresh eyes. people only think it’s one and people think oh, that’s what our customers think so yeah, but they’re, they’re like one step into that bubble to now, right? They’re halfway in that bubble. And I find this asking people who have never heard of it just saying listen, here’s my website, you know, you open the website and they have to read it for like 10 seconds and you slam it shut and say okay, what do we do? Right? And if they can’t tell you that your your message isn’t isn’t simple enough, right? And so I think that’s really great advice that you’re giving because feedback is huge. And helps you see what what you’re not seeing right? It makes the blind see again, so.. okay, so let me ask you this here, how can people reach you or the company itself so the company first like website, all that good stuff, if a regional bank or anyone in financial industry are looking to start one is listening right now? Where would they go to kind of check out this technology that they might be able to use?
Brian: Yeah, so the website is linearft.com. And you know, if you want to find me, I’m on LinkedIn as well, Brian Geary.
JC: Brian with an “I”, right?
Brian: With an “I”. Yep.
JC: Okay, just making sure right. Awesome. Okay, well, let’s say for everyone listening out there again, if you liked what you heard today, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, give it a five star rating throw in some cool comments, especially about Brian here. So other techies like us can find it and enjoy learning about all these amazing and helpful b2b software’s in the market today, Brian Geary, thank you so much for being on the show today. I think it’s awesome what you’re doing and I am so excited to see what happens with the linear defense program. It’s defense, right? Yeah, defense.
Brian: Yes exactly.
JC: Oh man, I love the name, too. Of course, it’s linear defense coming from a military guy. A Navy guy. I come from an Air Force family and I did a little reserve action here so I see what you did there. Awesome. Thanks, Brian. Have a good one, sir.
Brian: All right. Thanks, JC thanks.