Digital B2B prepaid provider sees chance for European growth

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Payments provider B4B Payments has been authorized to become an e-money institution in the U.K., and is seeking a license in Lithuania so the company can advance its prepaid card business throughout Europe.

With the e-money approval from the Financial Conduct Authority in the U.K., London-based B4B also became a Mastercard principal member to issue branded cards electronically.

B4B hopes to position itself as a prepaid card issuer for businesses, issuing electronic money in the form of prepaid cards for its business clients to use to make supply-chain payments to third parties.

B4B will seek similar e-money transmitter authorization in Lithuania, where it has opened a branch office in Vilnius, just two months after it opened a U.S. branch in Boston. Lithuania has been working to become a European fintech hub for several years as many companies sought new licensing as a Brexit hedge.

European Union (EU), right, and Lithuanian national flags hang outside the entrance to the headquarters of Lithuania's central bank, also known as the Lietuvos Bankas, in Vilnius, Lithuania.

B4B says the dual authorization of e-money Institution licenses would allow it to "Brexit-proof" the company because it will be able to continue to do business throughout Europe.

In addition, B4B says it finds itself in a position to potentially help companies that were blindsided by the downfall of Wirecard following a German regulatory investigation of the practices of that company's auditors.

It did not take long after Wirecard's insolvency filing in June for three of the biggest lenders to the German payments company to report significant income losses when reporting earnings two months later.

Steadily, various banks and lenders have dropped associations with Wirecard, including recently BBVA-backed Solarisbank AG in Germany.

"It is likely that many companies that were clients of Wirecard may come to B4B for assistance, but we would only take such clients that fit our risk profile and are complementary," said Paul Swinton, CEO and founder of B4B. "We do not intend to become a BIN sponsor in the mold of Wirecard card solutions."

No European court is forcing Wirecard U.K. to do anything about its clients at this time, as the parent German company continues its closure.

Still, the FCA action of temporarily suspending all cards associated with Wirecard forced many clients to leave or actively pursue other avenues, Swinton noted. "B4B Payments is taking its own programs under its own licenses, which has been long on the road map, but became a necessity due to the situation," he added.

As part of the process, B4B joined Mastercard as a principal member E-money Institution, allowing the company to change its status to where it can issue its own cards and offer prepaid business cards and payment solutions throughout Europe.

B4B payments has provided prepaid solutions to its clients for 14 years and says the relationship with Mastercard will further help it service former Wirecard customers seeking new card issuers.

“We are delighted to be expanding our relationship with B4B Payments as they continue to innovate in the commercial space," Edoardo Volta, head of fintech in the U.K. and Ireland for Mastercard, said in a press release. "Our worldwide acceptance network and solid experience in the fintech space will ensure we are able to support their global ambitions and future success.”

B4B Payments is operated through Payment Card Solutions Ltd. in the U.K.

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B-to-B payments Compliance U.K. Lithuania Europe