During this year’s online Christmas shopping you may have noticed a new button at checkout from your favourite BNPL providers – “Pay Now”.
The pay in full option allows shoppers to initiate a direct bank transfer without pulling out a credit card. Both Klarna (through their acquisition of Sofort) and Affirm have launched theirs.
This begs the question… umm why?
Customer preference. “I thought the whole point of BNPL was to spread your payments out over time?” Merchants attract more shoppers, shoppers receive interest free loans. It’s a win-win.
Correct. But not all shoppers are looking to defer payments in installments or to the end of the month on their credit cards. By offering a one-click pay in full option, BNPLs widen their net to shoppers not interested in financing.
Regulation. As with all financial products, regulators are sensitive to marketing; particularly ensuring that consumers are not being encouraged to take on more than they can afford. A pay in full option sends a strong sign to both regulators and consumers that BNPLs are completely aligned with any payment preference.
Banking > Lending. BNPLs are expanding beyond POS finance to a full banking suite of products:
- Klarna recently launched virtual cards in the UK.
- Affirm launched a cash-back savings account.
- Afterpay is now part of the artist-formerly-known-as Square (Block), and will be integrated into their suite of small business banking solutions.
- PayPal has gone the opposite way, starting with checkout and expanding into BNPL themselves and through their acquisition of Paidy in Japan.
All four of these companies are converging around an online banking model that goes well beyond payments and lending.
Payment processing. Payments are a zero-sum game. At checkout, there can only be one winner per transaction. A shopper either pays with cash, cards, or more recently installments (over simplification). Visa and Mastercard have expressed concern that BNPL eats into the demand for revolving credit, and in turn their payment rails. A pay now option will take even more traffic away from these rails, allowing BNPLs to compete head to head with the payment titans.
Recent research by PERC has highlighted the issue of credit invisibility in Canada, defined as “persons with either no account payment history in their credit report (referred to as “no files”) or fewer than three accounts in their credit report (referred to as “thin files);”
In Canada, credit scores are calculated using payment history, outstanding debt, credit account history, recent inquiries and types of credit. However, according to research from Cornerstone Advisors, the ‘on-ramps’ to being credit visible are limited and come with challenges. The most common paths are:
- Credit cards:
- Collections: Collections as a point of entry into a credit system immediately sets the consumer at a disadvantage, since the first thing to identify them is a negative characteristic.
In general, Canadians under 25 tend to use credit cards at far lower rates. Those in that age group who do have a credit history have the highest percentage of credit scores below 520, according to Equifax Canada.
The rate and impact of credit invisibility in Canada is significant:
- 35.3% of Canadians are credit invisible vs. 19.3% in the US.
- the issue disproportionately affects immigrants, minority communities or younger individuals.
How are fintechs addressing this?
1. Access to alternative data
Canadian data aggregators provide lenders with access to non-traditional credit information that advanced firms can apply ML to in order to better adjudicate credit.
- Open banking data providers like Flinks and Inverite provide consumer transaction history information that allows fintech lenders to underwrite credit invisibles based on their cash flow instead of their credit score.
- Commercial data providers like Forward AI, Boss and Railz pull financial data from accounting systems, payroll, and point of sale terminals in order to give lenders a more fulsome picture of a businesses health.
2. Make alternative data mainstream
PERC Canada recommended that the CFPB explicitly include non-financial institutions in their definition of a ‘creditor’ in order to report positive payment data to credit bureaus. Credit reports that could ‘reward’ customers for paying telecommunications bills on time, for example, could make the credit system more forgiving in the future.
- Billi, for example, a Canadian fintech allows users to integrate on-time payments for their Amazon Prime and Netflix accounts into their credit reports in order to improve them.
Canadian credit bureaus have also taken active steps to being more inclusive of alternative data. A prime (no pun intended) example is Landlord Credit Bureau’s (LCB) and Equifax’s partnership to allow rent payments to count towards credit scores.
- Both as a way to reduce risk for landlords and give tenants a leg up in the market, this shared use of alternative data is “ninety-plus per cent….positive in nature, so overwhelmingly landlords use this to reward tenants,” LCB’s CEO, Zachary Killam said.
3. Create a better on ramp to credit building
Credit building loans can unlock credit for those with minimal histories or challenging track records. These are installment loans that only pay out once the customer has paid them off, and are offered by fintechs like as Spring, Marble and Refresh.
Essentially reverse loans, the reverse structure protects the lender, in the event that the customer doesn’t make all their payments. Over the course of the loan term, the customer’s payments are reported to the credit bureaus. Borrowell, which recently acquired Refresh’s credit building loan portfolio, is now one of the largest providers of this service in Canada.
So what’s the solution?
In order to drive meaningful change on the issue of credit invisibility, fintechs must continue to enable lenders to challenge the limitations of the credit system – by improving access to alternative data, normalizing its use and building better on-ramps to the credit system than collections and credit cards.
Credit invisibility is caused largely by structural issues within Canada’s data markets, but fintechs are starting to fill these gaps.
Back in its heyday, the MCA industry began as credit card factoring. The original product was simple- purchase future credit card receivables, and collect a percentage of them every day: easy peasy. Then, the industry broadened into ACH, funding businesses that did not have credit card purchases and credit card receivables became less common.
But some funders still work with credit card payments through long-standing payment processor relationships. Cash Buoy is a Chicago-based MCA firm that uses a network of twelve major credit card processors and thousands of representatives from payments ISOs to fund old-fashioned MCAs. Co-Founder and president Sean Feighan would tell you that having connections in payments pays off for both merchants and ISOs.
“The whole point is to add value to their business. By doing split funding remittance,” Feighan said. “It’s a much more comfortable way for the merchant to pay back the advance, it gives them some breathing room on the ebbs and flows of their volume, as opposed to having that hard fixed daily ACH that doesn’t care if they were closed on Monday, are slow on Tuesday, or we’re in a global pandemic.”
Feighan attests that the CC model still works great. He said alongside co-founder Brian Batt, they started Cash Buoy to give ISOs a better option. He boasts a renewal rate of 90% on his CC products, and his default rates for standard MCAs are a “night and day difference” with CC splits.
But operating heavily within the payments realm requires some expertise, something that long-time veterans of the MCA space are fortunate to have accumulated from the era of the product’s origin.
Steven Hunter, a multi-decade industry vet explained where the MCA concept came from. Hunter worked at CAN Capital back in 2000 when it was still was called AdvanceMe when he and the data team developed one of the first credit card factoring products.
“The idea came across to build a credit card-based product, because a lot of the original development team other than myself, were the First Data guys,” Hunter said. “And they said ‘okay well what if we could factor future sales, instead of three invoices or accounts receivable or inventory’, which we all know how to factor those things, that’s been in place since biblical times.”
So they built a model, aiming to fund merchants and take out a small amount of money from their credit card splits. Merchants would never see the money hit their bank, and the product just felt like free investing money paid for off of the increase in future sales.
When restaurants and other merchants shut down during the pandemic or rolled back to 25% capacity, many ACH funders found out their customers could not keep up with the pre-set debits. While defaults were on the rise, Cash Buoy was getting paid back, Feighan said, at an admittedly slower rate but still seeing returns.
Feighan has intentionally shied away from ACH. Cash Buoy is modeled on his and Batts’ connections in the payments space. They founded Cash Buoy after five or six years of experience in on-boarding merchant accounts. Feighan said he tried brokering but became disappointed with the process of working with an outside funder.
“[Other firms] may not have the relationships to get split funding at national processors,” Feighan said. “Maybe they didn’t have enough business or money in the bank when they went through the application process with different processors to get true split funding accommodations.”
Hunter agreed that without payment connections it is hard to factor CCs these days. Shortly after AdvanceMe began CC splits, other firms caught up and began developing similar products, with slightly changed terms like automatic set ACH draws. Eventually, he said this made MCAs more loan-like as opposed to a real variable product.
In 2021, there are many reasons that firms adopt ACH right off the bat, he said.
“Well, several reasons one, not every company takes credit cards,” Hunter said. “The thing is that some credit card processors, I’m not going to name any names, are very hostile to the product and they will not actually help people. They won’t help you manage the remittance, they won’t split for you, because they consider you to be a competitor, afraid you will take a portion away.”
The final reason Hunter said is a lot less elegant. He said in order to make this work, as a direct funder, you have to exchange files with every credit card processor you work with every night on every deal you have.
“So you got to send them something out and say, populate this for us. ‘Joe’s Bait Shop, What did they do today? Today they did this much money, your split is 11%, here’s what’s coming to you,'” Hunter said. “Then you import that back into your system and Joe’s Bait Shop’s balance drops by this amount. Right, that’s hard. I mean it’s a pain in the ass to manage, and I have people who do nothing but exchange, you’ve got to have processors who work with you and you’ve got to have the expertise.”
Hunter now works as a consultant, known in the industry as a go-to for MCA funding help. As for Cash Buoy, after the pandemic year, things are only on the up and up. Covid could not have happened at a worse time right after a three-year bull run, Feighan said, but now that things are back, there are “high water funding amounts each month.”
“The biggest thing here in Cash Buoy are our partners, our ISO partners, and processors,” Feighan said. “And if anybody were to say, ‘tell me, what’s the most important thing to you, Cash Buoy,’ it is 100% Our agent partner program. That is number one. The whole point of the company was to be able to provide a ton of value to national processors and ISOs.”
1,000 people registered at the Southeast Acquirers Association 20th-anniversary conference Bonita Springs Florida: a smash hit in part due to the hybrid presentation model and deBanked’s video coverage, the executive board members of SEAA said. Treasurer John McCormick said next year in Atlanta would be even bigger, following a hybrid in-person venue with recordings and live streams that would pack over 1,000 participants in the show.
“To have our biggest show on the West Coast of Florida was really gratifying,” he said. “We registered over 1,000 and were just shy of that number with check-ins. I think we’ll [surpass that] next year in Atlanta, which will be a great celebration for our board and advisory committee.”
McCormick helped co-found the organization along with Audrey Blackmon and Judy Foster in 2001. In March, he talked with deBanked, describing the difficult choice to go back in person full capacity, a decision that turned into a major win. Derek Vowels, director of partner solutions at Aliaswire and SEAA board member, thanked Cypress Planning Group for the venue support and deBanked for helping produce the in-person and online hybrid model.
Everyone rose to the occasion, Vowels told Green Sheet, thanking Sean Murray, deBanked chief editor, publisher, and deBanked reporter Johny Fernandez, who conducted live interviews at the conference. “Attendees can view every breakout session, presentation, and popular CBD panel on the app and web portal for the rest of the calendar year,” he said. “Going forward, hybrid events that combine face-to-face meetings with recordings will be the norm.”
Alongside live streaming from the show floor on May 25th from 9 am to after 6 pm, Sean and Johny pored through interviews with industry experts.
Shawn Smith, the CEO of Dedicated Commercial Recovery, met with Sean to talk about the new post-covid environment in the B2B space and Florida golf.
Aviv Baron, the founder of Direct Payment Group, talked with Sean about changes in merchant spending, payment processing, cannabis, and drop shipping trends in the past year.
And automated accounts receivable fintech CEO Garima Shah talked with Johny about her firm Biller Genie, and the world opening for business after a year of covid.
deBanked is looking forward to the new year as covid restrictions lift and events come back in person.
Paysend, a UK-based international payments processor, landed a $125 million Series B investment round led by London-based One Peak Partners. Paysend said it would use the funds to invest in its infrastructure, cutting the costs of sending funds toward a goal of $5.4 billion in savings towards customers by 2025.
Founded in 2017, The firm focuses on helping consumers and merchants send payments worldwide in any currency. To date, the firm said it had reached more than 3.7 million consumers and firms, connecting 110 countries.
“Paysend’s vision is to develop the next generation integrated global payment ecosystem for consumers and SMEs,” Paysend CEO Ronnie Millar said. “Our innovative technology is connecting 12bn cards worldwide to pay and send instantly anywhere, anyhow. Any currency – we call this Money for the Future.”
Paysend supports connections between 12 billion cards globally across Mastercard, Visa, China UnionPay, and local card schemes and provides over 40 payment methods for online SMEs. McKinsey’s 2019 Global Payments Report valued the untapped card to card international payments market at an estimated $133tn.
“We are excited by Paysend’s enormous growth potential,” Humbert de Liedekerke, a managing Partner at One Peak, said. “Paysend has built an exceptional payments platform by maintaining an unwavering focus on its customers and constantly innovating.”
More than a thousand people are attending the 20th annual SEAA conference in Bonita Springs, FL that started on Monday. The show is a staple of the payments industry.
“It’s a changing game every minute,” said SEAA board member Derek Vowels about what’s going on in payments .
The packed event has more than 90 companies exhibiting. The “Flamingo” level sponsors include American Express, IRIS CRM, Worldpay, Cardconnect, and Electronic Merchant Systems.
deBanked has been streaming live at debanked.com/tv/. Attendees are saying that it’s great to be back in person.
The May 25th Live Stream schedule is as follows:
9:00 – 10:45am,
3:00 – 4:00pm
5:00 – 6:30pm
Opening 9 minutes from May 24th:
May 24th LIVE schedule: 4:45pm – 6:30pm
May 25th LIVE schedule: 9:00 – 10:45am, 3:00 – 4:00pm, 5:00 – 6:30pm
deBanked will be streaming live from the Southeast Acquirers Association conference on May 24th and 25th in Bonita Springs, FL. The payments show celebrating its 20th anniversary is expected to have nearly 800 people IN PERSON.
The livestream will be available at scheduled times at deBanked.com/tv/. We will be speaking with executives across the payments and small business finance industries.
PayPal launched Checkout with Crypto, allowing users to use Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, or Bitcoin Cash to checkout at more than 29 million PayPal merchants.
“As the use of digital payments and digital currencies accelerates, the introduction of Checkout with Crypto continues our focus on driving mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies,” CEO and President Dan Schulman said. “Enabling cryptocurrencies to make purchases at businesses around the world is the next chapter in driving the ubiquity and mass acceptance of digital currencies.”
The transactions will be settled in cash by PayPal automatically, and the firm said it does not plan on holding the coins and will likely sell the balance off. PayPal had previously offered to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies on their platform through a partnership with Paxos Trust Company.
PayPal said it added crypto purchasing to engage more customers with online merchants and make their purchasing platform more accessible.
How will the transactions be taxed? The terms and conditions state that PayPal will provide 1099 forms and report to the IRS, but “it is your responsibility to determine what taxes, if any, apply to transactions you make.”
A lot of Crypto news happened at once. Yesterday, Visa announced a USD Coin program, aiming to allow transactions to be settled through a stable coin backed by the USD.