The recent pandemic has led to era-defining changes to the world of work and employment. However, what hasn’t changed yet is the methods of paying independent workers or freelancers and the payment security available to them or their clients.
Invoicing on the completion of work and typically being paid on 30-day terms often results in late and non-payment for freelancers, with time being wasted on chasing payments, cash flow strains and mental stress. Where freelancers request an upfront deposit to protect their interests, there is often tension, with clients also questioning legitimacy in an absence of payment protection. WondaPay wants to change this.
JJ Rathour is founder and CEO of Wondapay, a secure payment holding service that seeks to provide the trust layer between freelancers and their clients.
What has been the traditional company response to financial technology innovations nationally?
The response is slow to say the least. In every company, a ‘system’ develops over time, through trial, error, refinement, investment, development, and training. This makes change difficult. Both procedurally and psychologically. There is an innate reluctance to do things differently because it is perceived as making more work. Despite the fact that Fintech can often bring a whole range of additional gains for businesses, this is still a big hurdle faced by the industry.
How has this changed over the past few years?
Digital strategy is permeating through all aspects of business. And in an intensely competitive environment, all potential opportunities for improvement need to be considered. This commercial pressure and imperative combined with a digital-first staff coming through the ranks would suggest that attitudes about change. If not with a dramatic widespread adoption of fintech in the short term, with at least, different approaches to doing things being more deeply considered.
Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?
Openness with the founding team has led to genuine collaboration, rather than a single senior person or team setting the agenda that everyone else is expected to follow through slavishly. It’s surprising how insightful or inspiring ideas can make all the difference in an organisation where everyone’s opinions matter.
What FinTech ideas have been implemented?
We seek to use WondaPay with all our suppliers, which means they get paid immediately on delivery for their services. Fundamental to WondaPay is Open Banking and account-to-account payments.
What benefits have these brought?
The benefits mean no more ‘payment cycles’, mistakes or delays in processing invoices, or answering queries from anxious freelancers – all of which are operational facts. More importantly, in people-terms, prompt payment reassures our freelance contractors that we are good-payers and professional though they are, it makes us certain that we are receiving their very best work.
Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?
FinTech is an incredibly competitive, fast-moving, expensive and well-funded industry. However, the particular challenge we see is in hiring exceptional people in a relatively limited labour pool. We are genuinely fortunate to be working in a cutting-edge business space and to be benefitting from all the excitement that entails. But we realised at an early stage that some of the skills we require don’t even seem to have a formal name. As an example, we require a CTO who is conversant with technology development, Open Banking and regulatory space. Yes, we have an awesome tech development team. We work with Truelayer and we have a 40-year veteran of financial compliance as a WondaPay director. But what we need is someone who can bring all that together. Where do you even advertise for a person like that?
Then, of course, we’ve got the additional issues of Brexit and financial passporting. But we’d need another whole interview to get to the bottom of those headaches!
Can these challenges be aided by FinTech?
Regrettably, FinTech cannot aid our hiring challenges. Our only real recourse is to hope that the prospect of individual projects will attract the interest and intellectual curiosity of awesome new hires.
A cri de coeur: Brexit, financial passporting and an under-resourced FCA are proving significant impediments in London retaining its FinTech lead. This lead should not be taken for granted as other jurisdictions are positioning themselves to attract investment and people.