Joseph Healy’s start-up SME lender has settled on a name, Judo Capital, and is expected to open its doors before the end of the year.
Healy, who led National Australia Bank’s business bank until Andrew Thorburn became group chief executive in 2014, was unavailable for comment. However, it appears that Judo will initially rely on market funding until it gets a banking licence.
The experience of UK lenders Aldermore and Shawbrook, founded in 2009 and 2011, shows that global capital is prepared to back credible challengers in the SME segment, with Judo said to have the luxury of choice when it comes to potential debt and equity partners.
The company name, Judo, was registered with ASIC in the middle of last month. While there’s a website up and running, it’s limited to information about Judo and its six founders. Apart from Healy, a former NAB colleague David Hornery is the co-chief executive.
The other founders include 25-year NAB business banking veteran Tim Alexander, Standard Chartered executive general manager Chris Bayliss, NAB’s ex-head of Asia banking Kate Keenan and former Woolworths group services manager and head of the NAB online bank Ubank, Alex Twigg.
If Judo follows the Aldermore model, it will serve customers online, by telephone and face-to-face through a network of regional offices.
Its website says it will operate a flat structure that’s “streamlined, efficient and responsive” so that customer proposals will be turned around in five days.
Each application, it says, will be assessed on its merits, rather than relying on “complex, slow-moving processes often based on automated credit scoring systems”.
The target market is businesses with an annual turnover of up to $20 million.
Healy made it clear to this column back in May that the then-unnamed Judo would not be a fintech company: technology would be an enabler but would not define the company.
Its point of difference — in an era where SME dissatisfaction with the service levels offered by incumbent banks is extreme — will be the old relationship model.
“All businesses are unique and need to be treated individually,” the Judo website says.
“That means not having rigid views of industry ‘sectors’, or being weighed down by slow-moving legacy systems and red-tape.”
If you’re wondering “why Judo?”, it’s all about the art of competing and beating larger opponents.
Richard Gluyas’ next Four Pillars column will appear in Tuesday’s paper