Jun 13, 2023

Creating a New Fintech Category & Being Acquired – a Case Study

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer


In the rapidly evolving world of fintech, standing out from the competition is crucial for success. One strategy that has proven to be highly effective is category creation. By defining a new category, establishing an emotional connection with customers, and aligning with the values of their target audience, fintech companies can drive growth, attract investment, and revolutionise the industry. 

And in our latest podcast, I dive into a case study on category creation with Dr. Christine Bailey. After she joined Passfort, they repositioned the company, raised a Series A, and Moody’s Corporation acquired them. Quite a journey! 

Today’s Guest

Who they are: Dr. Christine Bailey is Senior Director & Head of KYC Marketing, Europe and Africa at Moody’s Corporation

A bit of background: Christine has had a glittering career in B2B marketing. She’s a TEDx speaker, author of Customer Insight Strategies, and a champion of diversity, inclusion, and gender balance in the workplace, sitting on the advisory board of EWPN (European Women in Payments Network).

Where you can find Christine:

Connect with Christine on LinkedIn 

Prefer Video? Watch a full video of the podcast here…

What Stage Was Passfort at When Christine Joined?

Christine joined Passfort in March 2021 as their Chief Marketing Officer. The company operated in the fintech and regtech space, offering know-your-customer (KYC) solutions to organisations in the crypto, payments, and card solutions sectors (to name a few). 

Christine goes on to explain:

“So when I joined, there were about 50 people, and there were a lot of similar companies about that size in the UK. So there was really nothing that stood out. It was 50 people; they didn’t have their Series A funding yet, and they’d been around since about 2016. And I joined at the point where they were really ready to scale their go-to-market. So the product was very stable, and they were ready to scale their sales and marketing.”

“So my remit was really to establish a category. I wouldn’t say that’s why I was brought in, but that’s what I said they needed to do, which was to establish a really strong positioning and category for themselves within fintech, with the aim then of attracting Series A funding and growing the business.”

Why Was Creating a New Fintech Category the Right Path for Passfort?

Understanding Category Creation

Category creation refers to the process of defining a new market category that sets a company apart from its competitors. Entrepreneurs with vision, such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs, have embraced category creation as a result of the book “Play Bigger.” These trailblazers have disrupted industries by introducing innovative products and services that resonate with customers on a deep level.

The Impact of Category Creation

By establishing a unique category, companies unlock untapped potential and position themselves for accelerated growth. Christine explains:

“A few facts about why this really matters are that, according to the Play Bigger research, 21% of the Fortune 100’s fastest-growing companies are category creators, and they’ve got three times the market cap growth of fast-growing companies. So that’s why having a clear category is really important because you’ve got to dare to be different.”

The Power of Emotional Connection

Simon Sinek’s acclaimed TED Talk, “Starting With Why,” emphasises the importance of companies clearly articulating their purpose and was a big influence on Christine’s thinking. Successful category creators not only communicate what they do and how they do it but also why they do it. And this emotional connection is a powerful tool for building brand loyalty and attracting customers who align with a company’s mission.

Furthermore, companies often overlook the significance of defining their “who.” By identifying the target audience and aligning with their values and aspirations, a company can establish a deep and meaningful connection. The category becomes an embodiment of the audience’s identity, further fueling their loyalty and engagement.

Steps to Create a New Fintech Category

In the fintech industry, where competition is fierce, category creation presents a unique opportunity to differentiate. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Fintech companies must navigate regulatory frameworks and compliance, build trust with customers, and demonstrate their ability to innovate. 

Understanding the Vision

As the first step to creating a new category, Christine sat down with the founders and senior stakeholders at Passfort and asked, “What’s your big vision? What are you trying to do? What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?”

This was to understand whether they were trying to solve a problem with an existing solution or whether they’d found a new use case for their existing solution. And, is what they’re doing unique?

Articulating the Who, What, Why, How…

The next step was to work with the same team to articulate the who, what, why, and how. And Christine and her team used a messaging board to help articulate this. This process was iterative, working on the messaging in-house and then testing it externally with the market. Plus, they also looked at all their competitors to understand how they were articulating their how, what, why, and how.

After this exercise, they had:

  • An understanding of the categories used by their rivals
  • How clearly and consistently those competitors were articulating their differentiation on their website and social channels
  • A list of phrases not to use e.g. ‘world-class’, ‘innovative solutions’
  • A clear message for Passfort that was differentiated and resonated with their audience

Take the Message to the Market

Once the messaging was in place, Christine commissioned some primary research to validate the new value proposition and used the results of the survey to support the message when they took it to market.

This included:

  • Created a new logo, brand and website, working with a colour psychologist to align their new colours to their messaging
  • The CEO wrote a new story for the company
  • Used the new messaging at events like Money 20/20 and during interviews on Sky News
  • The Head of People created a new onboarding programme for new employees which told the Passfort story 

Build the Revenue Marketing Engine

Alongside this, Christine was building a revenue-marketing engine to help fuel the pipeline and drive growth. And a key exercise was defining their ideal customer profile (ICP). Christine explains:

“We were really specific about the target audience because nobody can afford to waste a single penny of their marketing budget. And the way to do that is to be really clear about who you’re going after.”

Once the ICP was clear, Christine and her team started to build out the data, ensure their CRM was connected to their marketing automation platform, build dashboards to track metrics, and then start to create and execute integrated demand generation marketing campaigns. Those campaigns included events, email marketing, organic and paid social, blogs, and podcasts.

Hire a Marketing Team

Moving the needle on revenue growth is impossible without having the right team in place. So Christine, especially after Passfort’s successful Series A round, started to build her marketing team. One way to do this is to work with a specialist B2B fintech recruitment agency.

When she joined, she had someone in place who looked after the marketing operations function and someone who created content. And then she added the following roles:

  • Revenue marketer
  • Designer 
  • Events manager
  • Communications specialist 
  • International marketer with language skills 

What Was the Impact of Creating a New Fintech Category?

Creating a new category is a company-wide exercise. No one team is solely responsible for doing this. And to do it successfully, it requires a lot of alignment, collaboration, and strong leadership from the top.

But the impact can be dramatic, as was the case for Passfort. Some highlights include:

  1. Pipeline contribution from marketing went from 10% to 50% in 9 months
  2. $16 million Series A
  3. Moody’s Corporation acquired Passfort 

A few other highlights to look out for in this episode:

  1. Christine’s important tips if you’re about to embark on creating a new category
  2. Challenges with creating a new Fintech category 
  3. What traits and attributes Christine looks for when hiring B2B marketers