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Ixaris Joins Global Payments Platform Nium



London-based payments optimization company Ixaris has agreed to be acquired by Nium, a global payments platform based in Singapore. Terms of the purchase were not immediately available. The acquisition is expected to be finalized in Q3 of this year.

Founded in 2002 by Alex Mifsud, Ixaris made its Finovate debut at FinovateFall in 2010. In the years since, Ixaris has focused its technology on optimizing payments for the travel sector, offering flexible payment and funding options to help airlines and online travel agents lower fees, earn rebates, and streamline the reconciliation process. Ixaris issued more than 10 million virtual cards in 2019 and, since inception, has processed 24 million transactions for a total payment volume of $7 billion (£5 billion). The issuer of Europe’s first virtual prepaid card in 2003, Ixaris has served more than 200 customers in more than 40 countries to date.

Ixaris Group CEO Mark Anthony Spiteri underscored the importance of – and opportunity in – payment optimization in the travel industry. “As part of the Nium family, we can offer the broadest portfolio of virtual card offerings to travel businesses across the globe,” Spiteri said. “All aspects of our company, from our technologies to our people, perfectly complement Nium and we look forward to increasing our geographic footprint to new regions, including the United States.”

Spiteri took over as CEO of Ixaris in May 2020. He wrote in a blog post at the company’s website that the combination of Ixaris’ virtual card issuance capabilities with Nium’s single API connection to the world’s payment infrastructure will provide “an even broader suite of payment services” for customers of both companies.

To this end, the timing of the acquisition could turn out to be especially auspicious. Spiteri noted that the post-COVID resumption of international travel, a sector he valued at $326 billion (£230 billion), should create major opportunities for his company. “As international travel takes off again in 2021, and the industry ramps up investment in solutions to improve front-end travel experiences and back-end processes,” he said, “we are ready to continue to drive its revolution.”

With more than 130 million customers, Singapore’s Nium is an international B2B payments platform that enables banks, payment providers, travel companies, and other businesses to collect and disburse funds in local currencies in 100+ countries, as well as issue virtual and physical cards globally. A member of the CB Insights Fintech 250, Nium was founded in 2015 by Michael Bermingham and Prajit Nanu.

Photo by TheWonderOfLife from Pexels

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Fintech Veteran Frank Rotman Talks Building Wealth with Investments, Real Estate, Business Ownership



Frank Rotman, who claims to be a 27+ year Fintech veteran and the Co-founder of QED Investors, notes that small businesses are quite important to our communities.

Rotman points out that minority-owned small businesses do not have equal access to capital and the appropriate tools. He also asks whether this is solvable.

Rotman adds that we have all heard about how SMEs are considered the “backbone” of the US economy. He reveals that a quick review of the facts shows that this statement is “very much true.” At present, there are numerous registered SMEs that employ millions of people across the country, Rotman confirms.

He adds:

“While it may seem like big companies hold all the power, it’s undeniable that SMEs play a critical role in their success. Smaller firms supply critical goods and services to big companies. They’re customers of big companies. And they’re catalysts for innovation and change. Without SMEs, our daily lives wouldn’t be the same. Small Businesses are at the heart of Main Street and foundational to how we operate as a country. And it shouldn’t be overlooked that when you buy from a Small Business, an actual person does a happy dance.”

Rotman claims that the good news is that “new business formation isn’t slowing down.” It is actually speeding up, he adds while noting that numerous SMEs are launched every year. He points out that the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak during 2020/2021 may be seen and is verifiable by examining the relevant data. He adds that significantly more people are now wanting to “be their own bosses” and a lot more are also interested in owning their own business.

Rotman adds:

“@HelloAlice is tackling this problem head on. Their service helps SME owners access financial resources, source free business education, find new customers and interact with helpful fellow SME owners. Their goal is to improve the success rate of their members. And the mission is a noble one, especially with regards to the role small business ownership has on closing the gap of wealth inequality.”

Rotman further notes that out out the primary pillars of building wealth (investments, real estate and business ownership), “two require large amounts of initial capital to be put to work as a starting condition for the strategy to work” and from there, compounding “does its magic over decades.”

He adds that in contrast, business ownership is “a path to self-sufficiency and wealth fueled in large part by grit and determination.” He also acknowledges that launching a business “isn’t free, but there are many “capital light” and “capital efficient” businesses that can be assembled and started easily.”

Rotman clarifies:

“This by no means suggests that starting a business has been universally solved or that the startup world is one of equality and fairness. The opposite is true. Sourcing and procuring startup and working capital for local and minority owned businesses is a major issue.”

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Unpicking the Australian open banking opportunity



In the journey towards widespread global open banking adoption, Australia is cutting a unique path of its own.

The core difference between open banking in Australia and, say, the UK, is the local government’s top-down policy-led approach through the Consumer Data Right (CDR).

Essentially the CDR gave Australians the right to access not just all their financial data but also their utility, telecoms data and more, over a series of phases in the coming years.

This groundwork covers a broad scope of financial products, everything from mortgages and personal loans to credit cards and business accounts.

And, after a slow start, momentum seems to be growing as open banking reaches its 2nd birthday.

Two of the country’s largest banks, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), are both expected to launch their first open banking use cases later this year.

Australia’s end goal is clearly far more ambitious than where open banking currently is in Europe—where policymakers are still wrestling over the first step of expanding from banking data to other financial products.

Yet this great ambition brings with it more complexity.

Australia’s state of play

“We have a government that is really playing the long game, in terms of the benefits they’re looking for,” says Gareth Gumbley, CEO and Founder of Frollo.

“And we have a much richer and deeper data set to work with because of that.”

Frollo is the Australian equivalent of an Account Information Service Provider (AISP), making it easy for fintechs and banks, like ANZ, to access open banking data and then use it to create products or services.

The hold-up, according to Gumbley, is the lack of accredited data recipients, i.e. those who can ingest the data which the big banks are exposing.

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Visa Reveals that its Practical Business Skills Platform has Been Offering Valuable Educational Resources to SMEs



Small and micro businesses (SMBs) account for over 90% of global businesses, and more than half or around 50% of global employment, and contribute over 60% of the GDP of developing nations, the Visa (NYSE:V) team writes in a blog post.

However, 2020 was quite a challenging year for many of these smaller firms, the Visa blog notes while adding that consumers adapted their spending habits quickly “in order to respond to shutdowns and that meant going digital.”

And SMBs that did not accept digital or online payments were “faced with the need to adapt quickly to keep their businesses afloat,” the Visa team reveals while noting that now, as a consumer shift to digital becomes the norm, the SMB community “needs support transforming their businesses to digital, ultimately improving their economic livelihoods and creating a ripple effect throughout their communities.”

Enter Practical Business Skills (PBS), an international online platform offering free-of-cost education resources to assist small business owners with making “confident, informed decisions” to expand their business operations.

As noted by Visa, PBS helps with supporting the digital transformation of businesses and several Visa partners are “rebranding it to support their business strategies.” It is currently available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish, the payments giant confirmed.

Visa’s SVP of Social Impact Beth Hurvitz recently connected with two Fintech partners, Pratyush Prasanna, Head of Payment at Gojek, a leading tech firm serving consumers across Southeast Asia, and Josh Bowen, Chief Operating Officer at Simba, a U.S. based mobile banking and international money transfers app.

They discussed how they’re using PBS to “advance their social impact and help their customers get back to business and thrive in a post-pandemic world.”

Responding to a question about how the Gojek platform supports micro, small and medium-size businesses (MSMEs) that are planning to go digital,  Prasanna said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shift in customer behavior and in order for businesses to survive they must have a presence online. Gojek provides comprehensive tools for merchants of all business types and sizes to grow their business through a digital transformation that is rooted in every aspect of their business, from discovery to implementing effective business operations to payment management and financial education.”

In response to a comment from Hurvitz about how around 10-12 million US residents are currently unbanked and among this group the percentage of immigrants is actually the highest and a question about how is Simba closing the gap, Bowen noted:

“There are more than 50MM first-generation immigrants living in the U.S., earning a total of $1.5T and saving $400B. They create 25 percent of new small businesses and lead 40 percent of Fortune 500 businesses. Despite this, immigrants are often overlooked and misunderstood by traditional banks. Simba is a platform of financial services to support immigrants on their journey to pursue prosperity. Today, we’re starting with a digital bank, money transfers, and financial education. This includes no-fee banking and free international money transfers.”

When asked about how their dual-branded PBS site has been supporting their business and community, Bowen revealed:

“We all know that financial services and products alone are not enough to empower people to become financially healthy. Simba is coupling our financial education tools and Practical Business Skills to offer a platform to our customers for growing their financial and business management skills.”

Prasanna added:

“UMKM Bisa!,” the result of Gojek and Visa’s collaboration, empowers our MSME merchants to grow their business with a set of business insights in the form of interactive videos, infographics, and e-learning modules. The digital format enabled us to reach more merchants — 900,000 merchants within 4 weeks, which is impossible to replicate in offline training. Not just scale, but e-learning also allowed our merchants to learn at their own pace.”

While commenting on how the “digital divide” that keeps millions of people from gaining access to  services that may help elevate their economic potential, Prasanna said that the COVID-19 outbreak accelerated consumer behavior towards all-digital and Fintech services.

He reveals that one of their challenges is to effectively extend support to MSMEs as they work towards transforming from their “traditional reliance on cash to successfully digitizing their business.”

He adds:

“The “stay at home” economy means almost all transactions of goods are coming from online channels but at the same time only 16 percent of MSMEs conduct their business through an online platform. The gap is huge and MSMEs need to go online with their business to not only survive but also thrive. The challenge is to not only bring their business to online channels but also to adopt technology solutions to transform all aspects of their business to digital, starting from operational, marketing, logistics, inventory management, etc.”

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Big Data

The next level of E-commerce payment processing



By Jack M. Germain

What can you do to improve your digital commerce game? The first rule of the digital shelf is to make sure your products can be found. Some might say it’s mission impossible. Unless, of course, you use digital shelf analytics (DSA). Get the eBook Today!

E-commerce merchants are literally at the mercy of the digital checkout systems tied to their web stores. For retailers, what happens on the other side of the “pay” button is critical to avoiding denied approvals.

Online sellers cannot survive without a strong checkout page. Meanwhile, the payment system that runs much of the online transactions is 40 years old. Some investors have taken notice. A new behind-the-scenes payment system is slowly taking over.

For instance, Fast, a startup that provides online checkout and identity products, announced recently that it closed a $102 million Series B funding event led by Stripe, a previous investor in the company. Stripe, an online payments giant, also led Fast’s Series A last year, a deal worth $20 million. Fast says it has raised $124 million to date.

Credorax, a payment provider for cross-border processing of e-commerce and omnichannel payments, peeled back the curtain for the E-Commerce Times to reveal the ins and outs of what happens behind the pay button.

The process can be a dizzying integration of numerous moving parts. Authentication, currency conversions, and approval rates all must work together to ensure a quick and complete transaction so merchants can bring their business to the next level.

How fast money moves in a transitioning digital economy is a sign of efficiency and health. So what does it mean when $18 trillion in U.S. business-to-business payments takes days to clear and land in bank accounts?

For merchants, it means lost efficiency and lost time to put cash to work. For consumers, such delays mean they do not have access to funds that many of them need right now. For both parties, it also means failed transactions.

“Unsurprisingly, payment acceptance and authorization are among the most significant hurdles that any merchant must overcome,” Igal Rotem, CEO of Credorax, told the E-Commerce Times.

Money in Slow Motion

This process is changing slowly. However, big movements this year could start to happen as the first new payment system to be unleashed in the U.S. in 40 years picks up momentum.

Developed by The Clearing House, RTP (Real-Time Payments) is backed by major U.S. banks and has been adopted by nearly 40 percent of large enterprises in the U.S., according to Dimitri Dadiomov, co-CEO and founder of payments operations platform Modern Treasury.

RTP represents the new frontier for payments and will likely become the new standard. Already, more than one-third (36 percent) of large enterprises in the U.S. use Real-Time Payments, which was launched in 2017 in the United States. However, beyond U.S. borders, RTP is in much bigger use.

Modern Treasury supports RTP and enables companies to more easily work with banks. The process results in automating and speeding up payments. Modern Treasury recently secured $38 million in venture funding and is growing more than 24 percent a month, according to Dadiomov.

RTP’s prominence is likely to expand, he predicted. Levvel Research’s “2021 Real-Time Payments Market Report,” showed that 66 percent of companies in the U.S. indicate they are likely to adopt RTP in the next two years. The technology has already gained momentum in other countries.

Modern Treasury supports RTP for corporate customers looking to speed up Automated Clearing House (ACH) or wire payouts. ACH is a banking network that coordinates electronic payments. ACH, wire payments, and checks account for 76 percent of all money flow in the U.S., said Dadiomov.

“Those are technologies that have not had major updates for decades. Payments are slow, cumbersome to process, and do not enable real-time views into cash. RTP is a big step to speeding up and modernizing payments, accounting, and money movement,” he explained.

New Benefits, Less Risk

RTP enables financial institutions and businesses to send and receive payments in real time. The process is much faster than checks, ACH, or wires, which can take up to three days to clear. Each year, more than $18.5 trillion in B2B payments are sent in the U.S., and half of them are still via paper check, noted Dadiomov.

Other than speed, RTP differs from the way B2B payments are made today in that it enables three new processes.

One is better data to drive better insights. With non-RTP transactions, vendors, at best, may see their clients’ payments post to their bank account. RTP enables data to transfer with the payment, so companies get visibility into invoices, dates, purchase orders, and more.

“This gives companies an advantage in responding to customer needs and has potential to improve their finance function and decision making,” said Dadiomov.

The second new process provides for continuous availability. RTP is always available. This provides merchants with more flexibility than traditional banking hours that constrain non-RTP payments.

The third benefit is the mitigated risk of payment failure. RTP payments are irrevocable. Payment instructions are not sent unless there are sufficient funds. This reduces the risk of payment exceptions.

Making Online Checkouts Seamless

From a merchant’s viewpoint, three levels of optimization are needed for a seamless checkout experience. They are improvements to checkout, integration, and issuer responses, offered Credorax’s Rotem.

They can provide a customer with the most seamless experience, increasing the likelihood of completing a purchase. This also will make it easy for merchants to keep track of their transactions and get the most from their shoppers.

Checkout optimization reduces the number of steps a consumer needs to take when paying for goods online. Fewer steps mean less frustration and fewer abandoned baskets.

“Offering customers preferred local payment methods and multiple currency options is vital to ensuring customers have a convenient and familiar checkout experience, no matter which country they are shopping in,” said Rotem.

Integration optimization means not making consumers insert their credit card details into a website they do not trust. So ensuring a payment gateway that is properly configured and integrated into the checkout process with the same look and feel as the rest of the experience is critical.

That optimization should include the authorization process and structured data that informs merchants about their business transactions. This way, merchants can quickly identify where any declines come from in the processing chain, what the reason for it is, and oversee the smooth flow of transactions.

Issuer optimization is the final cog in the payment wheel. Once payment has passed through the gateway and the acquirer, the final decision on whether to authorize a transaction ultimately sits with the issuer.

“Interestingly, each issuer has its own rules. They are complicated and change regularly, which makes them difficult to keep track of,” Rotem observed. “To combat this, merchants must continually educate themselves on how issuers think and understand their reasons for declining the transactions in the territories they trade.”

Behind the Pay Curtain

What happens on the other side of the pay button is critical. A maze of steps must execute without glitches to complete transactions successfully. Even if a customer commits to a purchase, enters the details, and clicks the pay button, the order will not necessarily be successful, as all sorts of variables such as authorization rates come into play here, Rotem cautioned.

Multiple parties are involved in every transaction. Each has the power to cause a transaction to fail and impact a merchant’s approval rates. That is why it is so vital that merchants work with a payments partner that looks after this process for them.

“However, this is the part of the process that customers never see. They do not understand why their transaction was declined has nothing to do with the merchant or retailer. But unfortunately, at this point, as far as the customer is concerned, the damage is done,” he explained.

Customers cannot be expected to go to the effort of trying to shop again with a merchant with whom they could not complete the transaction process, he reasoned.

“That is why it is critical that merchants optimize their payments process. Because, by not doing so, they risk losing out on conversions, and the cumulative impact of those conversions further down the line,” he said.

The RTP Edge

RTP is inevitable because the speed of business and economies is only getting faster. RTP is all about expediency as payments occur instantly, noted Modern Treasury’s Dadiomov.

Companies cited immediate access to funds as the most appealing benefit of RTP, the Levvel report found. Also, 76 percent of companies believe RTP will provide them with a competitive advantage.

As more companies adopt, others will, too, in order to stay competitive. In addition to RTP, the Federal Reserve is forging ahead with its real-time payment system, FedNow, which is expected in 2023 or 2024.

For consumers, real-time payments will mean instant access to funds with no more waiting for checks to clear. For some consumers who live paycheck to paycheck, that could reduce the need for expensive, short-term loans or reduce chances of bank overdrafts.

In addition, RTP will speed up operational requirements of foundational back-office processes like accounts receivable and accounts payable, potentially leading to lower costs. It goes without saying that these savings can result in increased incremental value for their customers. 

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