The time it takes for transactions to be processed and payments to be received is a shared pain point for businesses and consumers.
Volt, the real-time payments platform, is one solution looking to ease this burden by creating a singular open payments power grid. Speaking to Jordan Lawrence, the company’s co-founder and chief growth officer, we find out how Volt is accelerating the payments process.
Tell us more about your company and its purpose
We’re a London-based global real-time payments platform, forging the path by bringing together new generation account-to-account payments infrastructure to a single point of access. Our global real-time payment network is transforming how money moves on a global scale.
Volt integrates domestic networks as they launch, to a single point of access and one harmonised, international standard. This results in an open payments power grid with orchestration at its core, where money flows and conversion is expertly optimised.
Our mission is to continue building this orchestration layer that will ultimately make each real-time payments network interoperable and accessible globally. We are creating a global network for instantaneous, secure and cost-effective account-to-account payments.
What are some of your recent achievements you’d like to highlight?
It has to be our recent series B funding announcement, raising $60million four years after founding Volt which was an amazing achievement for us. Especially given the difficult market conditions for fintech funding. We’re thrilled to be working with IVP, and other investors, joining their portfolio of leading global brands. This funding success is a testament to our progress and our vision for real-time payments everywhere.
How did you get into the fintech industry?
It happened really organically. I have a background in teaching watersports and opened an online surf shop, The Waterboard, in the early 2000s, which grew into the largest in Europe. This was before fintech really existed as an industry, so through my e-commerce business, I had first-hand exposure to online payments as they started to take off.
After selling the business I moved to Amsterdam, which is of course one of Europe’s fintech hubs, and worked in a recruitment company for fintech and e-commerce. I later started my own business, PCN, a global fintech consulting, media, staffing and recruitment business which I sold after 12 years. Tom Greenwood, whom I co-founded Volt with, was a client of mine at PCN. He shared his vision for Volt with me and since then I’ve been firmly in the fintech industry.
What’s the best thing about working in the fintech industry?
The opportunity to change the world’s behaviour around payments. Visa and Mastercard have a duopoly on the finance industry. However, the technology that powers them was imagined and implemented in the 1950s. There’s a huge opportunity for us to be disruptors and ultimately make things fairer and make the payment space more competitive.
What frustrates you most about the fintech industry?
The overpromising that can be rife in this industry is what frustrates me the most. Everything moves so fast and there’s a lack of transparency into what works and what doesn’t, resulting in a lot of expectations not being met and technology not delivering, often through no fault of its own. It can be frustrating to hear about the buzz and noise around companies or products that haven’t delivered on their promises.
How have your previous roles influenced your career?
While at PCN, I built a network of people and customers that I still have, which has been hugely influential. Tom is a prime example. I also gained an understanding of the finance industry as a whole, even if I wasn’t working in it per se. I now have a holistic view of how real-time payments can help merchants and what their business model values the most.
Retailers are key beneficiaries of real-time payments, so my experience in running an online store was very influential to me co-founding Volt. I’ve lived through those pain points first-hand and understand why payments must be instantaneous. My previous e-commerce experience gave me a great insight in what we needed to build with Volt — what merchants need, what they don’t and the markets where real-time payments can truly make an impact.
What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
They’re not quite mistakes, but I’ve started five or six companies, and not all of them have been successful. Those that failed were all part of the learning curve and gave me insight that made starting Volt a success.
What has the future got in store for your company?
Building a global exchange for payments to ensure domestic payments aren’t inherently siloed within geographical borders. When you think about global e-commerce, and the international consumer bases many brands have, we need a global payment framework to support this. We’re aiming to piece together the whole world of real-time payments, linking 70 countries in the next two years.
Not only is the globality of payments vital, but paying and receiving said payment must also be instantaneous. Retailers offer free-return policies as a sale-driving tactic, which often leads to consumers buying ten different items, trying them all on, before keeping one and returning nine.
The refunds then take days, even weeks to return to the customer. This makes handling cash flow as a retailer far more difficult, especially for retailers with smaller inventories and receiving fewer sales.
For instance, Pix, is helping merchants in Brazil cut 28-day card settlement to just two seconds — also reducing costs by 80 per cent and eliminating chargebacks.
What are the next key talking points or challenges for your industry as a whole?
There are two that mean a lot to me; the environment and AI.
Firstly, the finance industry has a real opportunity to help the planet. By giving businesses and consumers more control over their money, they’re more likely to make sustainable purchases and payments. When a company has cash flow worries because refund settlements are taking 28 days and card fees are eating profits, making financial decisions with the environment in mind becomes harder.
But increasing the level of sustainability, as required to make a difference, will be challenging. Not everyone understands the benefits of real-time payments. We need more education. Particularly in developing nations, as they transition from societies where cash is king. Many countries in APAC need support in driving sustainable banking and investment; along with policymakers and regulators, private finance must also take responsibility for supporting these nations with climate action.
While I’m very proud of the progress our sector has made so far, there are many more ways to innovate to not only give users a better, more streamlined and optimised experience but also save the planet every step of the way.
With AI, we face an upheaval in the entire banking industry as we know it. But a positive one. AI will handle our finances with the level of speed and attention of your own personal finance team, and the power of AI opens up the market in new and exciting ways. With the democratisation of tools that analyse finances and help you make informed investment and savings decisions, finance becomes a lot fairer.