Q&A with Chieu Cao, CEO of “financial wellness” startup Mintago
Mintago is a financial platform that aims to improve the “financial wellness” of employees. Founded in 2019 and based in Kent, UK, Mintago provides pension services designed to bring down National Insurance costs for businesses and employees.
Its pension dashboard and financial education library are currently available to users through employers and trusted partners.
In this Q&A, Mintago CEO and founder Chieu Cao explains how he launched the company, shares its funding strategy and reveals its future roadmap.
Where did the idea for Mintago come from?
Chieu Cao: I have always loved the idea of developing new and innovative solutions to problems. And given my previous experience with major tech companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, I identified a need to start using such technology to improve issues surrounding employee wellness. I made a promising start in tackling these issues after co-founding the employee experience platform, Perkbox, where I was CMO between 2010 and 2019. That business proved to be (and still is) highly successful, but I was ready for a new challenge and felt more could be done to tackle the leading causes of stress in the workplace – financial wellness.
Employees need greater transparency and control over their finances. For many, this is more important than any other benefit a company can offer. Yet it shocked me, for instance, to see a report from PwC that over half of employees felt financial challenges were the leading cause of stress within the workplace; this can in turn drive down productivity and workforce performance. With this in mind, we launched Mintago in 2019. We wanted to create a platform to grant employees access to tools that make it easy to take charge of their finances, zoning in on pensions in particular.
Mintago’s mission to improve financial wellness starts with workplace pensions. This is because pensions are one of the largest assets people own yet they are not managed properly. Employers sign up to Mintago, in turn giving their staff access to an online platform – from here they can control and improve their financial and pension position, adjust their pension contributions, establish a savings strategy and, crucially, track down lost pensions. They regain control of their pension, giving them peace of mind and enabling them to better plan for the future.
Importantly, the employer stands to benefit in other ways. Not only do they improve the financial wellbeing of their employees, but they can achieve significant national insurance tax savings by adopting our platform and embracing the salary sacrifice pension scheme.
Who is Mintago for?
CC: The beauty of Mintago is that it benefits both employers and employees.
Employers immediately benefit from Mintago by understanding all the savings they can make from tapping into the salary sacrifice pension scheme – wherein employees agree to reduce their gross earnings by a certain amount and in exchange, their employer agrees to pay the equivalent sum into their workplace pension.
This scheme is significantly underutilised, particularly by SMEs. In contrast, nine out of ten FTSE companies use the salary sacrifice pension scheme – clearly, smaller businesses need education and support about how they stand to benefit. Mintago essentially levels the playing field and enables SMEs to access savings by helping them to understand and then enrol in the scheme.
Meanwhile, as stated, employees receive vital tools to help them track down lost pensions and manage all their pension pots. Our unique pension hunter tool doesn’t just find which provider is holding their pension, but exactly how much that pension is worth – and unlike other similar tools, we don’t push users towards a specific pension solution or scheme. We simply provide them with all the information they need to help them make an informed decision about their retirement finances. This is a unique offering, making us the only independent pension hunter on the market.
What makes Mintago unique from its competitors?
CC: Our holistic approach to financial wellbeing allows employees to take control of their financial health, by updating their pension contributions directly through our platform, design their dream retirement and have an overall view of their financial & pension situation. This all while saving the employer the administrative burden of having to deal with it.
One of our key benefits is our Pension Hunter available to employees. In the market, most are only available via pension providers – which often means that, once a pension pot has been located, the owner will only be able to find out its value once they have already agreed to move the pension to said provider. We believe that savers deserve more autonomy over their pension decisions.
The only other independent pension hunting service is the Government’s pension tracing service, which is a limited service. However, it is left up to the individual to contact the provider and find out about their pension details, which can be a time-consuming process.
What are the main business challenges you have had to overcome?
CC: When we first launched Mintago, we knew we wanted to solve the issue of employee financial wellbeing, but were not sure how to best tackle such an expansive subject. Having researched the issue at length, we identified pensions as an area that desperately needed more attention.
We noticed that there was a false sense of security around people’s retirement finances, largely due to auto-enrolment. After all, many people sign up to their workplace pension scheme when they start a new job and give their pension pot little-to-no thought thereafter. This lack of engagement can be financially damaging later down the line, as it could lead to people unknowingly under saving for retirement or losing track of their pension pot altogether if they move jobs.
With this in mind, we decided to develop a more focussed approach to financial wellness, focusing more specifically on educating people about the importance of engaging with and managing their pensions. Through this, we were able to develop our employee pension hunter and management platform.
As more and more businesses began to sign up to our service, we found that employees saw real value in Mintago taking on the time-consuming task of tracking down all their lost pensions and showing them exactly how much they had lost. Better yet, we lay out all their pension information in a clear, jargon-free format, making it easy for them to engage with their pension.
Mintago also offers a more holistic financial wellness app, which helps users manage everything from credit cards and savings to investments. However, placing greater focus on pensions has meant we can stand out in the market and genuinely improve employee wellness.
What is your funding strategy?
CC: Mintago raised a total of £1m in its initial funding round, which has fuelled the development of the product and taken it to a revenue-generating position with average contract lengths of at least 12 months. With product-market fit now achieved with a proven go-to-market strategy and happy users, the company is kicking off the process of raising again to accelerate its growth.
So far growth has been achieved with no marketing spend, hence this is a huge untapped opportunity that management believes is now ready to push the button on. With a solid tech platform built as the foundation, the ability to easily enhance the value add we provide our users is there for Mintago as well, which we would be using the additional capital for.
Are you looking to hire in the near future?
CC: We are always looking for good people to join us now and in the future. There are certainly areas of potential growth within our engineering, sales, marketing and compliance teams.
What is the roadmap for Mintago?
CC: Mintago’s goal is to become the best financial wellbeing partner for employers and the most holistic, unbiased platform for employees. We work very closely with both employers and employees to ensure that our product is effective and engaging for both parties. Mintago is growing at pace, and we are constantly refining our offering to ensure we deliver the best possible service to our clients.
Our app for employees, for instance, stands to benefit their financial wellbeing in many other ways, – we will continue to explore how our platform can be improved to educate and support employees in their financial goals.
We also have a rapidly growing unit of the business, which helps IFAs track down their clients’ lost pensions – this ultimately sees us repurpose our existing pension hunter technology for IFAs and offers them the opportunity to transform the pension advice they can offer their clients by showing them, in real terms, how much they have saved in various pensions.
2022 will be an exciting year for the company, and we predict significant growth. More than that, we’re excited to work with more businesses across the UK to help them save money and empower their employees through improved financial wellbeing.