How the Hot 10 lister helps small and medium-sized companies to fire on all funding cylinders.
Andrea Reynolds knows exactly how important the right source of funding, at the right time, on the right terms, is to any business. She founded Swoop Funding because she also knows how hard it is to secure.
Reynolds is a chartered accountant who started her career with professional services firm KPMG in Dublin, specialising in financial services and working with clients that included banks and insurance companies.
She moved to London with KPMG in 1999 and quickly gravitated towards smaller, younger businesses. Within a few years she was walking the talk, having left to set up her own firm providing corporate finance consultancy to start ups.
“I could see how challenging and time consuming it was for these companies to raise funds. I understood that it’s not just about getting the loan, or the finance, it’s about getting the right blend, the right mixture of, for example, loan and equity investment,” says Reynolds.
It’s exactly the kind of activity that in larger firms is looked after by a chief financial officer. “The problem is that, while every business needs a financial advisor, not every business can afford one. Yet, if you are in a small business, you are busy enough finding customers without having to do all this as well,” she says.
At best, the result is hours spent googling. Reynolds reckoned there had to be a better way: “I felt sure the technology had advanced enough to provide a solution.” And it had.
In 2018, together with co-founder Ciaran Burke, a fellow KPMG alumnus, she developed Swoop Funding, a platform that prompts a business towards the debt finance, equity investment or grant award it doesn’t just need but is most likely to get.
The genius is that it integrates all of a user’s data points, including bank accounts, accounting software and Companies Registration Office information, to come up with guidance.
The platform analyses the data to establish key metrics such as a business’s debt/service coverage ratio (DSCR), a measurement of the cash flow available to pay current debt obligations.
“It’s the number every lending institution looks at before deciding whether to give you a loan or not, and yet nobody is aware of it. The result is that, too often the business gets declined for a loan it should never have applied for in the first place,” says Reynolds.
She is the first to admit that Swoop Funding’s own start-up journey was fuelled by timely access to the right supports.
One of its first wins was securing Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s trade and innovation agency.
Swoop went on to win an award from the open banking challenge, a competition funded by the main UK banks and managed by Nesta, an innovation fund. Earlier this year it secured £5 million from the RBS bailout fund.
All of its funding has helped fuel growth. Just over a year since its launch, Swoop Funding now has more than 1,000 providers on its website, including debt, equity and grant providers from across the UK and Ireland.
What makes the platform even more compelling is the fact that it provides a clear picture of a user’s spending behaviour and proactively identifies savings too, all the time improving its DSCR.
Swoop helps reduce its cost base by prompting significant savings across banking, insurance, foreign exchange, international payments and utilities. That frees up a business to do what it does best – making sales.
No business is too small. “We had one customer who had a turnover of £100,000. The owner paid his tech developers in Poland each month through his bank. Simply by switching to Transferwise Swoop helped him to save £7,000 a year,” says Reynolds, who could see the small and medium enterprise sector was ripe for such a product.
“Nobody thinks about the SME sector as a customer segment. It’s completely underserved and overcharged, despite the fact that every economy relies on them.”
Swoop Funding doesn’t add to their burden, it lightens it immeasurably. “Our product is free to use. We only get paid if we are successful, which is exactly as it should be.”
By October 2019, Swoop had generated €50 million in funding and savings for its users. Inclusion in The Fintech50s’s Hot Ten 2019 list, which marks it out as one of the world’s most innovative fintechs, rounds off a spectacular year.
Enterprise Ireland continues to play a key role in its development. “It has been incredible,” comments Reynolds, who says that having operations in both Ireland and the UK allows her to see the difference between supports on offer in Ireland and in the UK.
They are “poles apart”, she says. “Enterprise Ireland is recognised across Europe as the benchmark of best practice. Apart from the funding element, the really relevant support Enterprise Ireland provides is what makes the difference.”
“Swoop has a genuine competitive edge as a business but by being part of Enterprise Ireland, you get an additional advantage.”
Of course, it helps too that at every stage in Swoop Funding’s development, Reynolds has known where to turn, and when, for the right mix of investment, debt finance and grant funding.
“We’re like a case study for our own platform. We have used every form of funding available to a business of our size and stage. That’s what’s nice about Swoop – we’ve done it ourselves.”
Banks need to keep pace with customer expectations and fintech disruptors or risk being left behind.
According to the 2017 B2B Payments & Working Capital Management Survey, 45% of participants consider the quality of a bank’s B2B payments offering to be a critical factor when selecting a banking partner. Furthermore, for those focused on global expansion, the ability of banks to align their services with an enterprise’s own growth trajectory is important, with around 20% of survey respondents mentioning that they use alternative options for B2B cross-border payments.
Not only does this highlight that businesses are transitioning from inefficient and costly paper cheques to electronic payment methods, but also that banks have not been able to meet demand for innovation and simplicity in the international payments arena.
Meanwhile, corporates struggle with the fragmentation and complexity of cross-border payments. Navigating the multitude of payment options and identifying the most suitable ones while handling evolving compliance and regulatory requirements can prove to be frustrating.
A survey by Saxo Payments focused on cross-border B2B payments indicated that the costs associated with international payments are a major cause of dissatisfaction: 48% of respondents were unhappy with the fees charged, while 80% of businesses would consider changing providers to reduce costs. Other challenges cited include a perceived lack of transparency, foreign exchange rates variations and slow transactions. This prevailing discontent has been one of the primary factors underpinning the growth of fintechs, many of whom provide innovative solutions that help companies manage their payments more efficiently.
Gaps in knowledge sharing, where traditional banks are unable to meet requirements or guide companies regarding the best ways to execute global payments, can hamper progress. This has created an inefficient and unsustainable ecosystem that prompts companies to look for other options. Paytech firms are leveraging technologies such as platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide the building blocks for more efficient solutions. Technology-based platforms also deliver better value propositions and facilitate innovative business models.
For example, automated systems can identify and ensure fulfilment of all requisite payment protocols before initiating a payment process. TransferMate (Ireland) offers a range of global services for international payments that can be integrated with businesses’ accounting and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. With access to 117 currencies, 145 countries and transparent exchange rates, corporates can initiate secure and fast cross-border transfers.
According to Frost & Sullivan research titled ‘The Global PayTech Market: Driving Transaction Transformation’, a noteworthy growth opportunity in the coming years will be instant or real-time payments. Expected to be implemented globally, the massive adoption of mobile devices and mobile payments will underpin this trend. Previse (UK), which received £2 million in seed funding to develop its proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) solution, enables buyers to pay their suppliers as soon as an invoice comes in. Ripple (USA) offers a global real-time payment system that enables banks and financial institutions to send money globally using the power of Blockchain. Many such use cases of advanced technologies are being explored and will likely be adopted to further increase efficiency and reduce costs.
The value propositions and business models of paytech companies can vary considerably. However, they essentially all work towards creating a seamless and easy-to-execute system. Integration with existing systems, Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) transfers, FX conversion automation, marketplaces, payment gateways, automatic compliance and notifications are some of the benefits that paytech companies offer.
For instance, dynamic currency conversion (DCC) and multi-currency pricing (MCP) are technologies that enable banks and merchants to price goods and services in the local currency of their customers and receive payment in their chosen currency. It simplifies international sales, while offering a tailored, transparent shopping experience to consumers. Irish fintech firms working to reinvent global finance by developing innovative solutions for merchants and ATM networks include Fexco, MonexFS and Continuum Commerce.
The corporate cross-border payment cycle is complex and paytech companies can disrupt different parts of the value chain to improve customer experience. CurrencyCloud (United Kingdom) automates the entire payment lifecycle by eliminating the need for companies to build a payment infrastructure or conduct negotiations with banks to enable international payments. The cloud-based platform enables frictionless global payments and rapid launch with its application programming interface (API). Paytech firms can lower costs by leveraging streamlined process and online or branchless models. Take Flywire (United States), for example. The global payment and receivables solution provider can charge its customers currency exchange margins that are almost 50% lower than traditional banks because it has a streamlined system and low overhead infrastructure.
The innovative cross-border payment solutions offered by paytech start-ups are encouraging incumbents to redesign their solutions to meet customer demands and remain competitive. Banks are either collaborating with or investing in paytechs to access innovations and enhance their services. For example, AIB acquired a minority stake in cross-border B2B payments company TransferMate and, as part of a strategic partnership, will offer business customers a convenient and cost-effective way to send or collect funds globally. European banking giant ING also entered into a strategic partnership where TransferMate services will be available to the bank’s SME and corporate customers.
Going forward, as corporates increasingly use innovative services, they will benefit from cross-border payment trends that encompass instant payments, better FX rates and technology-based platforms that help to streamline processes, cut costs and reduce delays. Although some transactions may still require
the involvement of banking entities, paytech will reduce costly errors and complexity to ensure better customer service and agility.
Disruption across the financial services industry has led to an increased focus on creating a secure and seamless experience for customers. The Experian 2018 Global Fraud and Identity Report identifies online shopping and personal banking as the top two activities performed by consumers on mobile devices in their online interactions with businesses.
That’s why traditional methods for customer authentication such as passwords, PINs and tokens are obsolete; they are easy to forge and do not protect information from being stolen or compromised. Meanwhile, biometric-based security systems make forging difficult and are more accurate, cost-effective and scalable than traditional methods of authentication. New regulations made by the European Banking Authority recommended strong customer authentication (SCA) that uses strong multi-factor authentication (MFA) for certain payments, which will come into effect in September 2019.
Multiple options to strengthen authentication
Daon (Ireland) and its IdentityX platform enables an omni-channel approach to biometric authentication. Users can opt for a variety of combinations including traditional security measures such as passwords along with biometric parameters such as voice or facial recognition or fingerprint ID.
Over the years, a range of biometric authentication options have been launched, with banks typically using more than one method to deliver comprehensive security. These include:
Other innovative authentication methods include iris recognition and vein and heartbeat biometrics. Industry interest is evident with growing adoption and investment. Each of these solutions relies on the uniqueness of the associated features for individuals.
Towards a seamless and secure banking future
According to Frost & Sullivan research titled Biometrics in Financial Services, Forecast to 2022, security protocols impact customer trust. A focus on retaining goodwill and brand image are significant drivers to the adoption of biometrics solutions. Banks are introducing a variety of methods for consumer authentication to avoid hefty penalties in case a breach occurs. Additionally, with customer engagement becoming a cornerstone of good business practice, 75% of businesses surveyed in the Experian’s global fraud and identity report said they were open to adoption of advanced authentication and security measures if such solutions would not impact the digital experience of customers.
The move away from cash-based payments, coupled with biometrics such as thumbprints, and use of advanced technologies such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), can yield a more secure and easy-to-use payment service. Research by the Oxford University and Mastercard suggests that 92% of banking professionals and 93% of consumers favour adoption of biometric solutions. Most biometric solutions are designed to meet regulatory and compliance requirements. This makes it easier for companies to adopt, while application programming interfaces (APIs) make implementation relatively straightforward.
Although biometrics-based authentication solutions are finding favour across financial services industry stakeholders, experts caution against complete reliance, citing a hybrid approach that uses MFA as more secure. Instances of fraud with just one level of authentication prove that financial services solutions continue to be targeted by scammers, meaning that security measures must evolve.
For now, the use of biometrics will enhance authentication and customer experience, while solutions will improve as they are fed with additional data on individuals and their transactions. Combined with other game-changing trends – such as smartphones enabled with fingerprint authentication and facial recognition – the industry can move towards more secure and frictionless payments.
The financial services sector, led until recently by traditional banks, is undergoing a period of unprecedented change and disruption. Technology, as well as consumer demand for innovative services, are driving fintech startups, while regulators are proactively participating to create a level playing field. One such move is the introduction of the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which came into effect in January 2018 and recognises new and emerging payment providers by creating a secure and competitive environment in which they can compete with the industry behemoths.
According to the 2018 World Payments Report, an executive survey by Capgemini and BNP Paribas, 21.4% of respondents indicated complete PSD2 compliance, while 18% are in an implementation stage. PSD2 has extended the scope of payment providers by enabling new companies to participate, improving transparency of payment fees and curbing transaction costs.
The focus of PSD2 on open banking and application programming interfaces (APIs) is ultimately driving innovation for the benefit of consumers. It allows third-party providers (TPPs) – upon customer approval – to access their bank account data and offer value-added payment services, which in turn will accelerate industry disruption. New interaction models now meet customer demands for real-time, customised and seamless payment experiences.
PSD2 requires banks to open their payment infrastructure and customer data to TPPs, thus taking away their privilege over direct customer engagement. The subsequent shift in competition manifests itself with the growing presence of fintechs, technology firms, retailers and telecommunications providers in the payment ecosystem. Incumbents are evolving with new business models, innovations and collaborations to sustain relevance. For example, UniCredit (Italy) launched Buddybank, a mobile-only ‘conversational banking’ model, with claims that 75% of its customers are new to the group. UniCredit plans to use customer feedback and information to improve other parts of the business. Similarly, credit card companies Visa and Mastercard are actively seeking collaborations to develop new services and identify other revenue sources.
While new industry participants innovate based on their newfound access to customer data, consumers are increasingly using online and mobile banking and payments. The natural progression is visible with the adoption of advanced features such as personal finance management, instant and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments. Fire (Ireland) is a Payment Initiation Service Provider (PISP) that provides business and personal customers with digital accounts and debit cards and enables users to easily pay funds directly to another
Fire (Ireland) is a Payment Initiation Service Provider (PISP) that provides business and personal customers with digital accounts and debit cards and enables users to easily pay funds directly to another person or business in the Eurozone or UK without sharing any account or card details. For instance, utility billers can add a ‘pay from your account’ link to emails, enabling people to click and pay from their accounts without using a card.
PSD2 goes beyond enabling Access to Account (XS2A) for third-party payment providers; the guidelines focus on many other aspects to ensure customer protection. Some of the other influences are:
APIs are effective, standardised and easy-to-use interfaces. TPPs offer their core capabilities via APIs and benefit from access to data to further improve solutions. Companies that integrate APIs benefit from easy implementation, testing and lower innovation cost. N26 (Germany) is a mobile-only, pan-European bank that provides consumers with a single digital platform for all banking needs. It integrates APIs from many partners and customers can access new services without any fees. APIs help to scale and add value as well as fit well in companies’ compliance and strategic plans.
With game-changing technologies and business models, the linear model of the payments industry that customers and banks once operated in has ceased to exist. Today, the industry is a complex web with multiple industry participants, many associated and complementary services, and a focus on creating a seamless and personalised payments experience for the user.
中国，2018年11月1日 – 香港金融科技周为全球领先的三家爱尔兰金融科技公司提供平台，为香港特别行政区和中国大陆的公司建立战略伙伴关系爱尔兰。这些合作协议均彰显出爱尔兰在全球发展金融科技创新的优势。作为金融，科技及投资者活动的全球枢纽，已经迅速发展成为金融科技创新的温床。
三家爱尔兰公司Global Shares，了解您的客户及CurrencyFair与一些香港企业达成合作协议，建立合作伙伴关系，这将加速其在亚太地区，特别是在中国大陆和香港的业务增长。这三家公司亦同时获全球 第二大金融科技公司投资者（按交易量计）Enterprise Ireland提供支持。
Global Shares曾荣获德勤「年度最佳金融科技公司」奖，为全球企业提供领先的股权薪酬管理方案。该公司今日宣布将与寰盈国际建立战略伙伴关系，为新经济公司提供员工持股计划管理，股票交易，全球合规，财务报告及资产管理服务。寰盈国际是香港和中国大陆最大的在线经纪公司之一。未来5年，该协议将实现价值逾1500万美元的营收继今年。 早前开设香港办事处后，全球股票今日亦宣布在北京开设新的办事处，进一步扩大在亚洲的业务。
Enterprise Ireland是爱尔兰政府的贸易和创新机构和全球第三大风险投资者（按交易量计），当中获得其支持的14家爱尔兰金融科技公司均参与了本周举行的香港金融科技周，一 展爱尔兰金融科技的实力。这些爱尔兰公司将在#IrishAdvantage品牌下展示其代表着监管科技，支付，银行业，保险科技，云端通讯及生物识别技术等众多金融科技的领域的优势。
爱尔兰商业，企业暨创新部部长Heather Humphreys就这些协议表示：「Enterprise Ireland客户公司正在以前所未有的速度在全球市场成功争取新合作协议。Global Shares，了解您的客户及CurrencyFair今天在香港金融科技周达成的这些协议反映了爱尔兰金融科技公司能够为全球合作伙伴创造的巨大价值。对于爱尔兰金融科技的优势能够获得世界各地公司的认可，我们感到十分振奋。」
Enterprise Ireland行政总裁Julie Sinnamon就这些新的合作伙伴关系表示：「金融科技在亚洲的急速发展为爱尔兰公司提供极好的机会，透过建立战略伙伴关系促进增长，就像我们在此次香港金融科技周所见证的一些伙伴合作般。这些交易只是爱尔兰金融科技帮助企业加速增长，增加营收的其中一些方式。除此之外，他们亦可协助企业改善服务得以改善，增加就业机会，以及为投资组合实现增长。今天宣布的合作协议正彰显了爱尔兰作为金融科技创新重要来源的声誉，以及爱尔兰金融科技公司在为亚太地区的合作伙伴提供解决方案方面所发挥的重要作用」。
Enterprise Ireland 爱尔兰亚太地区金融科技与金融服务领导慕海斐（Mo Harvey）在谈到爱尔兰金融科技公司在香港的发展时指出：「香港作为亚洲最大的金融中心，在金融科技部署方面是亚洲最具前瞻性的城市之一。过去，爱尔兰金融科技公司在香港的发展格外出色.20多家爱尔兰金融科技公司在香港均非常活跃，重点公司包括Fexco，Daon，了解您的客户，CurrencyFair，Intuition Publishing，Fenergo， Fineos，Tax Back International，Corvil，Global Shares及Financial Risk Solutions。当中，这些公司已成功争取与香港一些国际知名金融服务公司，例如汇丰银行，渣打银行及中国银行，以及证券及期货事务监察委员会和香港赛马会等香港机构合作。」
|Know Your Customer||Know Your Customer 提供全面数码化的身份认证方案，能高速及准确地核实个人和企业背景。||监管科技|
|Global Shares||Global Shares是全球领先的股权薪酬管理软件供货商，为全球100多个国家的公司及其员工提供股权计划管理，全球托管，股权交易和财务报告服务。||金融服务|
Enterprise Ireland是爱尔兰政府的贸易和创新机构。作为主要的资本投资者，我们投资于最具创新性, 贯穿不同发展阶段的爱尔兰公司，并将其与多个行业的国际客户联系起来。我们在全球拥有30多个办事处，我们的行业专家团队与国际企业密切接触，以了解和解决他们的业务需求。详情请浏覧：https://irishadvantage.com/why-work-with-us
Stephanie Choi 蔡晓恩
电话：+852 9100 4747