Integration, by its very definition, is collaborative. This month as The Fintech Times focuses on partnerships, we take a look at fintechs such as Plaid, Team8, Beanstalk and Protokol who use strong alliances to further innovation.
For open-banking platform Plaid, partnerships are essential to integration. Plaid connects to thousands of banks across the US, Canada and Europe, creating a single API for Fintech developers to build features and services. By its very nature, the company celebrates partnerships and is currently connects to more than 3000 apps, aggregating financial data from payments, savings accounts, pensions, investments, loans and mortgages.
For banking-as-a-service providers, a collaboration with Plaid means that they don’t have to worry about AIS (account information service ) and PIS (payment initiation service) functionality. This easily scalable method allows Plaid to partner across the globe, including with US fintechs such as Stripe and Dwolla.
Head of UK at Plaid, Keith Grose, said: “There are real mutual benefits to this shared connectivity and probably one of our best examples is a partnership with Stripe and Dwolla. Both specialise in allowing you to easily process and manage payments from credit and debit cards but a lot of payment management involves the bank account. We have a great relationship with both of them where anything that involves ACH transfers, or bank account information, we can easily do tokenized product access. A customer can easily, without changing their integration, get signed up and tokenised access to Plaid through a product partnership. We can’t build their functionality, they can’t build our functionality but together we provide a better service.”
APIs appear to be key to fintech partnerships
“Personally, I think the most interesting area for fintech innovation is around the smart use of APIs to bring more useful products and services to customers,” says Cem Eyi, founder of family-focused fintech app Beanstalk.
Beanstalk relies on several integrations and partnerships to work efficiently. “For example we have a round-up feature that allows users to see their recent debit card transactions and swipe to round-up to the nearest pound and have the “spare change” invested in their child’s Beanstalk Junior ISA,” says Eyi. “We partnered with open banking specialists, OpenWrks, to deliver this bit of functionality.”
Partnering with experts or other fintechs who specialise in solving specific problems means that companies like Beanstalk can launch faster with a better product and, says Eyi, “allows us to concentrate on the bits we are expert in, such as building our ‘invite’ tool to allow parents to leverage the grandparents and build a family network of savers.”
Payoneer founder partners with eToro chief product officer and Leumi Group CEO
Last month announced the launch of Team8 Fintech, bringing together Yuval Tal, founder of digital payments unicorn Payoneer, the former President & CEO of Israel’s largest bank Leumi Group, Rakefet Russak-Aminoach and ex-chief product officer of eToro, Ronen Assia. Together they will lead a company-building vehicle at venture group Team8, creating transformative financial technologies, empowering incumbents, existing fintechs and non-financial players to enhance their offerings and ensure they stay relevant.
Yuval himself started transforming online payments before the term fintech was coined. In the first dotcom boom, his first internet payments company BorderFree was snapped up by Pitney Bowes for $395m. Today, cross-border payments platform Payoneer is valued at over $1bn, assisting over 4m businesses, marketplaces and professionals to grow, pay and get paid as easily as they do locally. Using Covid-19 as a catalyst, the key players behind Team8 Fintech have used previous partnerships to make the leap forward as part of Team8.
Learning from previous experiences
Meanwhile, enterprise blockchain provider Protokol credits its former staff with the way it runs today. Protokol was founded by key members of ARK, a leading blockchain platform which, along with a dedicated community of developers, spent years, building a wide variety of different solutions for developers, projects and businesses. CEO Lars Rensing says, “Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of our business. Protokol was founded by key members of our parent company ARK, a leading blockchain platform which, having partnered with a dedicated community of developers, has spent years building a wide variety of different solutions for developers, projects and businesses around the world.”
Rensing continues, “We have poured everything we learned from the ARK and the wider community over the last three years into Protokol, and now we have a range of enterprise services and solutions underpinned by a powerful and adaptable enterprise-grade platform.”
As many of the original ARK team now work on Protokol, the platform benefits from the in-depth experience of ARK’s technology. This, says Rensing, “gives us a unique understanding of exactly how ARK’s blockchain platform can be applied to solve real-world problems for enterprises.”
The startup mindset
Though Plaid is now a decent size, Grose says it still retains a startup mentality and part of this is having a collaborative mindset. “Startups are used to working closely with each other and part of the startup mentality, he says, “is making tradeoffs on what you’re good at and what you should focus on. No fintech should try to do everything. You’re always going to spread yourself too thin. You should think, ‘What do we not do well and what do we do well and how can we find the right partners to plug those gaps?’”
While the consumer might not care about fintech partnerships, they ultimately benefit, says Grose: “Consumers care about having a great experience and if a partnership makes that happen then they care. That’s what should matter overall – whether the customer’s holistic experience is better, not whether you are the best brand.”