payments

Borrower Didn’t Make Their Payment? Maybe They Just Forgot

November 18, 2022
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When borrowers gets squeezed, who will they pay first? According to a survey conducted by Lexop, American respondents ranked mortgage and rent payments as having the highest priority among recurring bills. Utilities (water, electricity, and gas) came second, car loans third, phone/internet bills fourth, and personal loan payments dead last. That may not be what lenders want to hear but the information could prove helpful in preparing for an economic downturn.

Notably, a missed payment may not even be a sign of financial stress. According to the same Lexop survey, 34% of respondents stated that the primary reason they had for being late on a bill was that they simply forgot. A majority also disclosed that they were late in paying because of other non-financial issues like invoicing errors, not having access to the bill, payment method issues, and more.

These seem like addressable issues especially since 35% of respondents wanted digital reminders via text or email. Less than 10% preferred they be reminded via phone call or snail mail.

“Empowering consumers to work with collectors toward meeting their payment goals is the best way to foster healthier business-customer relationships that will ultimately result in increased debt recovery and customer retention,” said Amir Tajkarimi, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Lexop, in a published statement related to the findings. Tajkarimi was a panelist on The Need for Speed in Payment & Collection at the Canadian Lenders Summit in Toronto this week. There, he explained that his firm was hyper focused on improving the collections user experience and emphasized that a missed payment is not always the result of a borrower not having the resources to pay.

The data revealed from the study is timely since 60% of respondents also shared that they were concerned about their ability to pay bills over the next 6 months.

Apple Pay Later?

June 15, 2022
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Apple PayApple is joining BNPL stalwarts Afterpay and Klarna with its own product called Apple Pay Later. Joining the Apple suite of finance products such as Apple Card, Apple Cash, and Apple Wallet, it is planned to launch in the fall of 2022 as a new feature in iOS 16. Apple will offer customers the ability to split their payments into four over a six-week period with no added interest or late fees. These payments can be deducted automatically or customers can choose to opt out and make the payments manually.

Customers will be able to link their debit cards to Apple Pay Later when making transactions but will only be able to borrow $1,000 at max. And the limit one gets depends on their Apple credit history. The new loan service will use Apple IDs to check payment history before purchases to prevent fraud and track one’s account information to determine if they’re eligible. Missing a few Apple Music payments might make an approval less likely. for example.

Buy Now Pay Later is becoming extremely popular. According to thefinancialbrand.com, BNPL is expected to skyrocket from 1.6 million users in 2018 to 59.3 million users in 2022 with the leading users being Millennials and Gen Z. Apple is entering the market with a competitive advantage since many retailers already offer Apple Pay.

SoFi Says it is Working With SMB Finance Companies

May 10, 2022
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SoFi StadiumSoFi may not exactly be in the small business lending market per se, but a digital payments company it acquired in April 2020, Galileo, has been put to good use.

“Galileo continues to expand its client base to include B2B and enterprise clients as adoption of modern cloud-based digital payments and banking has opened up new verticals and client types, use cases and opportunities,” said SoFi CEO Anthony Noto during the company’s Q1 earnings call. “For example, we launched two new clients in the first quarter that offer innovative working capital models for B2B and small- to medium-sized businesses.”

Noto said that they were not naming specific names at this time. “We will announce those [names] in conjunction with our partners as opposed to during our earnings call, but that’s increasingly a big channel for us, and we have a product pipeline to better serve the enterprise and SMB space holistically based on the demand we are seeing.”

SoFi reported a Q1 net loss of $110M, which it said was an improvement over the $177.6M net loss it recorded during the same period last year.

NovoPayment, Latina-founded BaaS Plans to Expand

April 21, 2022
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novopaymentNovopayment has raised $19 million in Series A financing, led by Fuel Venture Capital and IDC Ventures. The company, which offers digital banking, payment, and card solutions, is planning to grow and expand within current and further US markets while focusing on countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

CEO and Co-founder Anabel Perez stated, “We define a digital payment as the simple transfer of value from one payment account to another using a digital service such as a mobile device, POS, or computer.”

With the new funding, NovoPayment plans to continue increasing capabilities, introduce new features and functionalities, heighten security, and capitalize on US market opportunities. To accelerate their expansion of current offices in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and headquarters in Miami, they are adding over 100 new engineers, business development, and product experts to their team. Austin and San Francisco are the first two spots where the branching out will begin.

“Austin and San Francisco are huge hubs for tech innovation and we want to expand there to ensure we attract the best talent for our operations,” Perez discussed. “As we grow in those markets, we’ll assess if we need more boots on the ground in additional states.”

NovoPayment currently holds a strong placement in the LAC region and works with several US clients and partners. This places the company in the right position to broaden in these markets they already have successful track records in.

“Based on our ongoing discussions with clients, we have special insight into the challenges and technology gaps these markets face, and realize the potential to further connect the Americas with a common banking infrastructure. We will be growing our product offerings to enable new data and money flow solutions to account for the increasingly globalized, cloud-based world of financial services,” Perez explained.

As Miami is the “Latin America capital of the US,” NovoPayment holds an advantage as a native of South Florida with the tech scene gravitating towards this region. Miami has served as a gateway to other markets.

“Unlike other companies that are now playing catch up and rushing to the LatAm market, we have a strong foothold and reputation in 14 markets across the Americas,” said Perez. “Establishing those relationships, and understanding the nuances of each market, requires regional expertise that takes time to build.”

Q & A with Ryan McCurry of ACHWorks About the Future of Small Business Lending

February 22, 2022
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ACHWorksIn a recent chat, deBanked talked with Ryan McCurry, President of ACHWorks. McCurry discussed the future of his company, payments, small business financing, and the impact of digital assets on the industry.

 

Q (Adam Zaki): Your company recently announced an acquisiton. How does this move help take ACHWorks to where the company wants to go?

A (Ryan McCurry): We are excited to share that ACHWorks was acquired by VeriCheck Inc. on December 31, 2021. VeriCheck Inc. (VCI) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Commercial Bank of California (CBC), who has been one of ACHWorks’ sponsor banks for nearly 20 years.

The acquisition brings more resources, both in terms of staffing and capital to ACHWorks’ business efforts. Conversely, ACHWorks’ sales approach, market specializations and diverse technical capabilities will support VCI’s growth goals. By combining the teams and technology, we believe we will compound our benefits to reach an even higher level of success together.

The great news with this acquisition is that where ACHWorks was weak, VCI is strong. Likewise, ACHWorks has some unique technology and expertise that VCI hadn’t leveraged before and can now capitalize upon.

Furthermore, VCI relies heavily on partnerships with ISO’s and third party gateways for processing ACH payments with a high number of merchants across all sectors, whereas ACHWorks tends to specialize in a few verticals while maintaining direct sales and direct relationships with all merchants – even when the merchant is utilizing an integrated software partner.

Q: Are ACH payments here to stay? With so many ideas floating around in this space, what is the future of ACH?

A: The future of the ACH as a payment system is strong and growing quickly. In 2021, the ACH network grew by 29.1 billion payments valued at $72.6 trillion dollars. Same Day ACH grew by 74% over 2020 and total volume was up almost 9%, continuing a 7-year growth trend. Business-to-business ACH payments grew at a rate above 20% and 33% over the last two years, respectively.

We believe the ACH payments space is going to continue to grow and become a more widely used payment rail, and our acquisition is evidence of that growth.

Q: What is the biggest issue your company is currently overcoming?

A: There are always challenges facing the payments industry. Naturally, as a fintech industry, payments companies regularly face emerging technology, regulatory or legislative activity, and ongoing cybercrime.

Currently, our focus is blending the VCI and ACHWorks teams and evolution of our joint technology. We are pleased to share that VCI hired the entire ACHWorks operational team, and is retaining all of our existing technology and benefits to our clients. Bringing the two platforms and teams together will have exponential benefits for clients and partners moving forward.

Q: The small business financing industry is becoming less reliant on the traditional sales models. How will ACHWorks combat this? Will you help the funders/brokers innovate to help secure the current infrastructure or seek new tech clients that are stepping into the space?

A: There’s the old saying that change is the one constant. Initially, business finance companies only wanted ACH for reoccurring daily debits, and as merchant demographics changed weekly or custom payment frequencies have become more prevalent. However, now about half of our business finance clients use ACHWorks’ technology not just for debiting merchant receivables, but also for sending ACH Credits to merchants for funding a deal, automating syndication payments for participation rates or paying commissions to brokers.

Likewise, ACHWorks offered Same Day ACH capability to our clients on the first day it become available on the ACH Network. The use of Same Day ACH has been slowly increasing as funders utilize it both to fund merchants or to act on a merchants request to charge them today (most common on distressed accounts).

As the funder / broker relationship continues to evolve, ACHWorks will be there to help facilitate the movement of the funds. We hope to leverage our unique status of being owned by a bank to bring new technologies to the business finance industry and other spaces that are under-supported by traditional payment processors. We are excited for these new capabilities to come and will keep the deBanked community updated as we have more to share.

Q: There seems to be a lot of payments companies across fintech. The elephant in the room at Money 20/20 in October was the ‘payments bubble’ taking place. What is your take on this? Is fintech looking too much into payment processing innovation?

A: Automobiles have been around for about 140 years, and yet innovation continues to happen. They have seen the switch from steam to electric, to internal combustion and back to electric. Computer technology has only been common in business usage since the 50’s and the internet has only been heavily used since the late 90’s. When I started in this business, we used to mail our software to clients on a series of 14 floppy disks. I would argue that the innovation and evolution of payments and fintech is only in its infancy.

As technology continues to permeate all walks of life, we expect to see payments leveraged to make commerce more organic with far less friction. Most payment processors I speak with feel that we are the original “fintech” and that the newly emerging “fintech” market is just utilizing the infrastructure we put in place.

Q: Are cryptocurrencies a topic of conversation in your office? Blockchain tech offers major benefits in the payments world. Do you or your company have any thoughts on how this could be leveraged?

A: You can’t escape crypto, it invades all conversations these days. However, our focus is on working with fiat currency and regulated payment channels because we process ACH payments through the Federal Reserve utilizing State or Nationally chartered banks. Don Singer, the CEO of VCI and I were discussing this topic previously, and he told me crypto is the new shiny sports car, or personal aircraft, but we work on the rail road. ACH is not as sexy as crypto, but it moves nearly all of the money in the U.S. Those debit card, credit card, Venmo, Zelle and real time payments systems are just the messaging systems, the money is being moved later that day, and it’s being moved via ACH.

Buy Now Pay… Now?

December 22, 2021
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Main Street Small BusinessesDuring 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.

How to Think About Credit Invisibility

July 29, 2021

Authored by:
Lily Cook, Researcher at Canadian Lenders Association
Tal Schwartz, Senior Advisor at Canadian Lenders Association

credit invisibleRecent 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:
  • 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.

  • 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.

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.

CC Splits Still Make Profits, Payments Knowledgeable Funders Benefit

June 15, 2021
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paymentsBack 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 CC MODEL STILL WORKS GREAT

“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.

split paymentsSteven 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.

OTHER FUNDERS MAY NOT HAVE THE RELATIONSHIPS

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.

SOME CREDIT CARD PROCESSORS ARE VERY HOSTILE TO THE 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.”

technologyThe 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.”