Banks team up to outflank fintechs for gig economy payments

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As the gig economy balloons, a private network is adding partners and geographies to separate itself in a fintech-dominated market.

Transpay contends a network of local banks connected via an API can enable same-day payouts directly to the contractors' bank accounts faster, securely, with externally assured compliance and and at less cost—a model designed to streamline compliance and remove third parties.

To expand its heft, the New York-based company has added Workana, a freelance platform that serves mostly workers in Latin America, Spain and the U.S., shortly after expanding its geographic reach to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. At Transpay's core is a 100-country network in which it has direct ties to local banks and clearing systems.

"It's a private network that we have built up over 30 years to build it out," said Peter Shore, a general manager at Transpay. "We are directly messaging with banks; there are no correspondent banks or wires."

Transpay's fees vary based on the receiving country, though there are no fee-extracting third parties to perform conversions or handle local documentation, Shore said, adding that also reduces processing time to about one day for funds availability.

And local banks are more likely to be in tune with changing regulations for contract workers. "In some cases there are limits on the size of the payments, or how many payments can be made in a month, for example," Shore said. "This can vary by country."

These days, many transactions know no border, such as a freelance photographer selling to a foreign publication, said Zil Bareisis, a senior analyst at Celent. These workers all need to get paid, but the international payments provided by banks are usually too expensive, leaving the market to providers like Payoneer and Hyperwallet.

"All of us are becoming merchants," Bareisis said. "The emerging and rapid growth of the sharing economy mean that many more individuals are starting to look like merchants."

In Latin America, the sharing economy is growing in Mexico and Workana's research estimates contract work is already more 30% of the U.S. workforce. Transpay also cites its own commissioned research of women contractors that found 48% of female contract workers in India prefer to receive payments directly in their bank accounts, though none get paid that way. The company also claims 41% of U.S. female contract workers say exorbitant fees are the biggest challenge for the sharing economy.

And globally, freelance work is expanding in most countries, and the types of work are becoming more diverse as programmers and creative class workers enter the gig economy in larger amounts, reducing the percentage of ride sharing drivers and other service sector workers that have dominated freelancing thus far..

For contractors and companies, there are still problems figuring out which payroll options cut out the most fees and time. The challenges are similar to other kinds of B2B payments or cross-border transactions seeking a smooth path, leading to different options such as blockchain or digital wallets to compensate workers who are in different countries and bill on widely different cycles.

"There are quite a few companies out there facilitating these types of cross-border mass payouts – a couple others that come to mind are companies like Western Union and Payoneer. But if you think about it, a company like Amazon and eBay is doing the same type of thing – cross-border mass payouts," said Talie Baker, a senior analyst at Aite Group. "In addition to the foreign exchange piece these companies also provide the KYC/AML compliance piece for cross border payments."

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