By Todd Ablowitz
Double Diamond Group LLC
At The Electronic Transactions Association's October 2014 Strategic Leadership Forum, I moderated a panel on the changing acquiring landscape, and how technology and technology solutions and services are permeating payments throughout the various channels and verticals. What really struck me was that none of the companies on the panel would admit they were a payment company. All four companies said they were tech companies, despite some of them originating from payments.
Global investments in financial services technology (fintech) ventures have more than tripled during the last five years – from under $930 million in 2008 to more than $2.97 billion in 2013. This shows that value is being placed on technology in the financial services industry by the market and by the investor community. We are in a time of opportunity with disruptions in commerce never imagined when the mag stripe was introduced more than 50 years ago.
This increase in interest among the investment community is evidence that fintech companies are shaping the industry. It also demonstrates the fundamental shift from traditional payments to the integration of payments into so many more things than purely making and receiving payments, and now merchants and consumers are helping to drive it. "As an innovative company actively engaged in the business of offering integrated, SaaS solutions to SMBs, we're proud to call ourselves a payments company, albeit a fintech payment company," said Jeremy Wing, President at Payscape Advisors.
The tools and services that technologies and technology companies have given to payments have created a larger sphere of what payments is and can be. Going forward, it is all about integration, data and a consultative approach versus a commodity.
"PayPal probably gets credit for starting the revolution," Wing said. "Today, fintech companies are pushing the payments industry to the next level."
Companies like Payscape are vertically integrating their industry segments, combining payments, technology and services to deliver a seamless experience for the merchant, and often the consumer. Payscape owns RegPoint Solutions, which helps camps, schools, nonprofits and event companies manage the registration process. Its web-based platform is designed to deliver a high-value service to customers, leveraging integration with payments to make the experience seamless. Another example, MindBody, is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for yoga studios, fitness parlors, salons, spas and other service businesses. MindBody uses a SaaS-based approach to integrate online booking, POS, marketing, payments and other services.
This type of integration is taken even further with the marketplace model. This model takes the deep technical, payments, and services integration, and adds the two-sided market, connecting merchant partners with consumers to drive enormous value.
There is a rapid emergence of the marketplace model, proliferating through many industries. Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Care.com are marketplaces disrupting their vertical markets, while companies like WePay are focused on providing payments through slick application programming interfaces leveraging a full-service payment facilitator model for those marketplaces.
What is most interesting is that technology companies are starting to enter the payments industry, and companies that were historically payment companies are evolving to become technology companies as well as some becoming full-service marketplaces, and the payoff can be huge, with multibillion dollar valuations for some of these players.
For years, legacy business models, inertia, and the complexity of payments restricted growth in the payments industry, allowing, at most, a slow evolution. With today's foundation of the Internet, mobility, cloud computing, and new business models, we see a much more rapid convergence of technology, payments and services that puts fintech on a path of revolutionary change, or at least hyper-evolution. I think we can all agree it will be fun to watch.
Todd Ablowitz, President of Double Diamond Group LLC, is a respected industry leader with more than 15 years of experience working with the acquiring and payments industry's top brands, as well as up-and coming technology innovators. Ablowitz established Double Diamond Group in 2008, and he and his team have a unique blend of experience, connections and know-how to help clients solve their most critical business challenges. Investors, analysts and industry watchers frequently rely on Ablowitz and Double Diamond Group for expert advice, trend insights and consulting on payments and payments innovations including emerging technology trends and mobile payments.
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