Interview with David Kay, CEO at Business Fuel


Meet David Kay, CEO at Business Fuel, a leading financial lender to South Africa’s SME market and part of the Genfin Group. Having spent much of his time in recent years across system innovation, tech development and customer UI and UX, he is a man who gets a kick out of building effective solutions with very little, and solving seemingly impossible problems. Branch Out was lucky enough to get a few minutes of David’s time and learn more about the business that has provided loan facilities of over R950 million to its SME clients. Describe yourself in 3 words. Father, adventurer, thinker. When I was a kid I wanted to be… That changed every year. From an archaeologist to a marine engineer. Much like my hobbies growing up, I bounced from one idea to the next quite quickly. Describe the Business Fuel business model in a few words We offer a more convenient and practical way for SME’s to access funding for their business, one not wrapped in red tape, complex forecasts or time consuming due diligence. Importantly, we provide certainty in outcome. Whether we can or cannot fund the business, at least the client will have that answer in a short space of time. This is incredibly beneficial to any business; uncertainty of available options creates missed opportunities. How is Business Fuel different from traditional banks? Firstly, our hands on service. Clients will engage directly with the team that is assessing their application and not navigating through call centres. Secondly the onboarding process and how we assess the business. We require very little documentation or effort from the client, we do the work while the client can continue running their business. It is an fully digital process. Thirdly, we do not require assets to be provided as collateral for the facility. This immediately opens the doors for many SME’s who otherwise would not be considered fundable by traditional lenders. We assess the business on how it performs, not on the amount of available assets it has. What are the main requirements for a business to be approved for a BF loan? That really depends on the performance of the business. All we need from the client to assess if we can help, are the last 12 months of bank statements for the business. This assessment we can make within a day and at no charge to the client. The past 18 months have been especially hard on SME’s. How has that impacted your business? As a lending company, one would expect to have taken a hard knock during the past 18 months. However, when lock downs started, we shifted our credit analysts’ focus to assisting existing clients with grace periods and payment plans. We decided to not take a blanket approach on all clients as other lenders may have done, instead assessing the needs of each client individually and offering a customised plan. This approach minimised the risk of clients defaulting much more than we were expecting and assisted them through that difficult time. How would you describe the company’s digital marketing strategy (in a nutshell)? We do like to understand what is happening in the space (we are quite a data-centric business), but ultimately it is important to partner with experts in the field and trust their experience while doing our part to ensure that they are properly briefed on who we are and what we do. Your view on the future landscape for online businesses in South Africa? Promising. I do believe it is important that any business that shifts more to online, retains that human element – don’t make your business now cold or intangible to your customers. Make sure that your customer service is brilliant. If a client reaches out, make sure they quickly can talk with someone who understands what is going on. Online platforms help with process, but it shouldn’t become the DNA of the business. When I’m not working, I’m… Trying my best to be a good father – I finally have realised just how hard it was for my parents. Outside of that, I love a good trail run or hike, playing a little guitar, going for a paddle. But over time I have built up too many hobbies and with two young kids, I just don’t have enough time to really do any of them. But I wouldn’t change it, my girls are awesome.