No man is an island when it comes to fintech, and in the pursuit of a better world driven by better financial services, it’s clear that standing together means progressing together. This September at The Fintech Times, we’ll be delving into every corner of what it means to be a fintech ecosystem. We’ve dedicated the entire month to investigating what makes a successful fintech ecosystem, how fintechs can work together more effectively, as well as providing a regional view of some of the industry’s best examples of community collaboration.
In our third instalment of fintech partnerships, the debut topic in our September-long coverage of fintech ecosystems, here we’re honing in on payment partnerships specifically, and how they’re enabling new customer journeys, a higher level of innovation and financial access for all.
To better gauge the benefits of payment partnerships, we’ve welcomed a range of on-the-ground industry professionals, who together paint a fascinating picture of what happens when the right companies come together for the sake of fintech.
Modernising underserved payment processes
Opening our conversation, Robin Gregg, CEO of the fintech company RoadSync, discusses how the payment partner was created out of the need to modernise payments for the $800billion trucking and logistics industries.
“Today, it’s addressing supply chain challenges through innovative financial technology for the entire supply chain ecosystem, including warehouses, carriers, brokers, repair/tow merchants and drivers,” she explains.
For Gregg, the past two years have made it clear that our supply chain infrastructure is in crisis.
“Fintech and payment partners in the industry solve one piece of that puzzle by modernising payment processes for an industry historically underserved by technology that makes digital transactions possible,” she continues.
“They do this in a few key ways. They expand the payment options available for businesses across the entire supply chain, they ensure industry-standard payment methods are more accessible and they address the complexities of logistics needs through purpose-built, industry-specific solutions.”
Gregg goes on to specify how incorporating payment partnerships into the supply chain can modernise existing forms of payments, including making them easier, faster, more secure and transparent for reconciliation and insight.
“Ultimately, this strengthens and streamlines payment data, giving businesses better operational insights through these partnerships and technology integrations.”
“The supply chain industry has traditionally been underserved by technology solutions that fit their exact needs,” she explains.
“By providing solutions that closely mirror consumer payment experiences like Venmo, PayPal and Square, RoadSync and other payment partners make it easier to adopt and create efficiencies in a historically technologically lagging industry.”
Payment partnerships make the customer experience better
Carrying on our discussion, Kevin Ostrander, chief revenue officer of One Inc, a digital payments network for the insurance sector, considers the changing preferences of the consumer, increased competition and technology-led innovations as factors that have disrupted the payment industry.
“This has led many traditional software companies to consider additional avenues to offer more innovative payment solutions, to differentiate themselves, and offer their clients paths to optimise the customer experiences their consumers are demanding,” he explains.
In regards to the collaboration of payment partnerships, Ostrander describes how they “can bring rewarding benefits with opportunities to quickly transform the customer experience. Developing a seamless integration with a leading fintech drives advantages.”
Describing these advantages, he cites ‘a new level of convenience’, ‘increasing operational efficiencies, ‘accelerating overall performance’ and ‘improving security/compliance’ as positive outcomes.
Ostrander points to the insurance industry as an example of the benefits strategic payment partner alliances can provide.
“By seamlessly embedding payment technology within core insurance operating systems – the software provider can increase the level of service it provides the carrier’s consumer with optimised digital payment capabilities,” he continues.
“Examples of this include the ability to pay claims digitally, leveraging complex workflows and offering emerging payment channels without having to invest significant internal resources from their core team to build homegrown payment applications.”
Ostrander goes on to say how network tokenisation represents another example of how insurance companies are leveraging partnerships with other digital payment providers.
“Tokenisation is the process of replacing sensitive data with unique identification symbols that retain all the essential information about the data without compromising its security,” he explains.
For Ostrander, the matter of partnering with payment providers falls a little closer to home. The network announced in April that it was to team up with Visa to leverage its Token ID solution to help increase policyholder renewals and reduce costs.
Good work, not guesswork
Developing on the latter example of Ostrander, Sara Xi, chief product officer at the fintech API solution Prime Trust, affirms the rapidly changing face of the finance world, which is giving consumers more options when choosing where to store their assets and how to transact with peers and businesses.
“Yet, an issue some organisations have come to face is how to ensure they are providing the services their users want. In the age of the new digital economy, this challenge has only grown,” she comments.
“As the line between cash and digital assets as a method of payment gets blurred, businesses of all types are searching for the most versatile payment infrastructure to support how their customers choose to pay.”
Xi describes this as a requirement, not an option, in today’s market.
“The ability to accept both fiat and digital assets as means of payment is not a hurdle, but rather a differentiator where businesses can seize the opportunity to expand their customer base.”
Through payment partnerships, she explains how payment rails infrastructure providers can help businesses scale faster.
“Working with providers experienced with both traditional fiat payment rails as well as digital assets, the guesswork of integrating with each payment rail significantly reduced or even eliminated.
“Payment partners who understand the business use cases can help create a flexible payment ecosystem that accepts whatever assets consumers prefer to pay with.
“As businesses grow, these payment partners can stay ahead of their needs, help them scale and advise them on fraud and risk mitigation.”
Xi concludes by pointing out how businesses needn’t worry about meeting compliance and security requirements on their own when working with an experienced payment partner.
She adds that “an experienced payment partner invests in the subject matter, expertise and technology to ensure such requirements are met at all times via product updates,” an element Xi sees as invaluable amid ever-changing regulations and best practices.
An enabler of innovation
Jim Chow, VP of partnerships and business development at Volante Technologies, a provider of cloud payments and financial messaging solutions, describes innovation as key to financial institutions (FIs) that pursue market share, as it allows for differentiation, customer stickiness and profitability.
Despite this ambition, Chow explains how these institutions are not well positioned for innovation, “given many of them run on old and rigid legacy banking applications that are not flexible nor agile to support new services functionality easily and quickly for their customers.”
He points out how this inability to innovate is generating a rise in fintech partnerships.
“Done right, these can create value and innovation on a scale greater than the sum of the individual parts of the partnership,” comments Chow.
“The core of the FI experience centres around money movement and payments. The whole payments experience is ripe for innovation, both for the end customers of the FIs and for the operational experience internally within the FIs.
“Leveraging technology innovations in the last few years around cloud, APIs, microservices, analytics and AI/ML to see how to reinvent traditional payments and payments processing from both the end customer point-of-view as well as the FI’s point-of-view will be key. Cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) models are particularly well suited to such partnerships, because these days payment fintechs thrive in the cloud.”
To ensure ‘fresh eyes’ and innovative thinking, Chow emphasises how it’s “important to embrace a very collaborative two-way approach to partnerships and partner ecosystems with global consulting firms and SIs, regional SIs, modern banking ISVs, and technology partners where ‘the more brains the better’ approach is used to ensure continuous infusion of new perspectives, ideas, and diverse point-of-views.”
He continues: “The reason this works is that fintech brings the ‘tech’ into ‘fin’ both in terms of innovative product sets and in terms of cultures built around agility, speed, and innovation; financial institutions provide essential ground cover in the form of expertise in compliance and trusted customer relationships.”
Wealth creation for the many
For Gayathri Rajan, chief product officer at the fractional investing infrastructure provider DriveWealth, “the best partnerships aren’t just fueled by smart business sense – they’re driven by a mission.”
In regards to her company, its mission is centred on improving financial access to the world’s underserved communities.
Rajan admits that it’s a mission that’s easier said than done. “Historically, high minimums and whole share purchases prevented access to US equities for many,” she explains.
The company became the first company in the world to launch real-time fractional trading in US equities.
“DriveWealth sparked an investing revolution by working with our partners to introduce fractional investing, helping people build their investment portfolio with as little as $1.”
Rajan reveals that the company and its partners have been successful in this endeavour, which has been indicated by a surge of first-time investors.
She explains how this demographic accounts for “about 20% of investors who traded through our platform around during the first half of 2022. Millennials particularly led the charge during this time, opening the largest percentage of accounts of all generations at 46 per cent.”
Its partnerships with fintechs like Block Inc.’s Cash App, Revolut and Sproutfi have provided this new segment of investors with access to wealth-creating markets using the smartphones they already own.
“What’s inspiring to see is how these firms are not just opening access, but are serving to redefine the investing experience for their customers.
“For example, using DriveWealth’s APIs, our partners can offer stock rewards and stock round-ups to help first-time investors start investing as they spend.
“DriveWealth and our partners are at the cusp of redefining investing for all – to make investing as simple as making a payment using your mobile phone.
“The mission of opening financial access to everyone isn’t an easy one, but we are on the path to achieving this collectively with global fintech partnerships and a new way of solving an age-old problem,” she continues.