Why the 'all-in-one' channel is rising in B2B payments
If advancing business-to-business payments technology, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, has taught the payments industry anything, it is this: Delivering every payment service a company may need through a cloud-based, API-driven platform is not only possible — it's become vital.
While a business seeking payments and business management services could piece together what it needs from a few different providers, it's increasingly easier to find fintechs and startups demonstrating how all services can funnel through one platform.
Non-bank disbursement vendors have become adept at integrating their vital financial services functions into internal systems, sometimes eliminating the need for companies to dive so deeply into a banking relationship.
Businesses that operate as "new economy disbursers," or those engaged heavily into the gig economy, have specific gaps they are trying to fill when selecting a payments vendor, said Erika Baumann, senior wholesale banking analyst for Aite Group.
Those gaps cover real-time payments capabilities, easy implementation, increased security, payment choice, recipient portal, payer portal and intelligent payment routing, Baumann said.
"During the pandemic, it has become more obvious that it is important to automate as much of the payment process as possible," Baumann added. "The importance of electronic and real-time payments has also been emphasized. I expect there to be a considerable amount of activity in the market of modernization and assessment of current payment strategies within organizations."
From that standpoint, executives at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Qolo feel the timing is right to launch a B2B payments hub and tout it as a platform that provides any aspect of payments or business management a business client would need in the new economy.
With an executive team whose members have worked together in other roles for more than 20 years, Qolo is launching a B2B payments hub that includes real-time payment processing, SmartFX to help secure best foreign exchange rates, SmartWire for cross-border transfers, data security and compliance with all GDPR and U.S. regulations, and other processing or consumer-product features.
Qolo, which stands for Quality of Life Organization, was created in 2018 to help companies manage a growing digital economy and take advantage of new ways to move money and improve processes, CEO Patricia Montesi said.
"We formed this company because we were trying to address anywhere in which there are multiple handoffs of money, whether bill of lading, contracts, or proof of delivery," Montesi said. "Any time any of those tasks go off digital and become manual, the inefficiencies are ripe for the taking."
The executive team at Qolo — CEO Montesi, president Steven Bishop, chief product and strategy officer Darren Beyer and chief operating officer Robert Pincus — has designed, built and launched seven payment and loyalty platforms in the past and taken more than 500 loyalty, prepaid card and B2B payment programs to market.
But the ease with which money can move via smartphones or online for consumers is serving as the perfect example that B2B providers have to embrace in their services.
"We believe the advancements in P2P is what is driving everything today," Montesi said. "The only thing moving faster is consumer expectations."
Qolo client Josh Bagley had an interesting take on how his company has changed its payment processes through the various services, the type of transformation that can occur when money is simply moving faster and can be managed more accurately.
"Qolo lets me be my own PayPal," said Bagley, CEO of BlueBanc, a neobank targeting global marketplaces and gig economy companies. "We are partnering with Qolo to transform the payments experience and global disbursements for our clients."
Montesi feels Qolo differentiates itself from competitors in that way, supporting companies globally to deliver speed and security for gig worker payouts, neobanking processes, and wages access in complex or international marketplaces. The company provides card processing, cross-border foreign exchange capabilities, real-time card fulfillment and a rules-based, flexible account structure.
"Qolo will never be a name that is consumer-facing, but we will support consumers through a marketplace, or through gift cards, as all of those things are in our portfolio," Montesi added. "We have an ability to do card-not-present acquiring, but do it directly as our own processor, making us different from the payfac model. We have our hooks into payment gateways, but not for reselling, as we want to control it and own it."
The platform supports transaction processing across Accel, American Express, Interlink, Mastercard Cirrus, MoneyPass, Plus, Star, AFFN, Co-op, Mastercard Banknet, Mastercard Maestro, NYCE, Pulse and Visa networks.
Overall, the ability to establish a payments company as a "provide-it-all" solution is becoming more common, Aite's Baumann said, and Qolo falls into that category.
"The solutions are for sure maturing and the new economy market disbursers provide a good gauge on where the industry needs to go, as they are more likely to leap-frog payment technology," Baumann said.