As an established PR and content marketing agency for fintech and innovative payments companies, we have seen the evolution of digital payments practically from its inception. In today’s market, payments is a critical element of the customer journey, not just the last step in a transaction. The influx of new fintech players offering fast, convenient, secure payments experiences has disrupted customer expectations. To keep up, virtually all companies, fintech and non-fintech alike, are turning into “payments companies.”
Our own Jennifer Tramontana sat down with Sheree Thornsberry, a 25 year veteran of the payments industry and Payments and Financial Services Practice Lead at our client The ROIG Group. They discussed how the embedded finance future is shaping the product and marketing decisions being made by both fintechs and non-financial companies in 2022.
JENNIFER: As I’m sure you’re aware, Sheree, the total addressable market for embedded finance is predicted to top $7 trillion globally by 2026. That’s twice the combined value of the world’s top 30 banks today. It seems like almost any business can enter the fray. What factors do you see driving this move?
SHEREE: A major shift toward the digitization of financial services accelerated over the past two years has opened the door for fintechs and other businesses to fundamentally reshape the payments system. Now, even non-financial businesses can make complex payments and other financial services simply disappear into the background of a solution they offer to a customer, both B2C and B2B. This gives virtually any business the opportunity to add innovative payments capabilities into their existing customer experiences.
JENNIFER: Right. Savvy fintechs innovated digital financial technology to make fast, easy payments an essential aspect of the customer experience. This was the genesis of embedded finance. To that same end, PR and content marketing in the fintech space made technology products relatable, exciting and essential to buyers, further fueling the shift in customer expectations. But now that every brand feels compelled to offer a payments experience, how should new entrants approach this complex proposition?
SHEREE: Many companies, fintech and non-fintech alike, don’t invest the time to plan for this major undertaking properly. They often have to step back after they have committed to a product offering because they are struggling to get it off the ground, make the product scalable or recognize the revenue opportunity they anticipated. Companies also fail to appreciate the fact that adding payments capabilities isn’t just a new product, it is a line of business and could involve a fundamental shift in their business model. Before adding payments services, enterprises need to assess whether they can integrate this service into their larger business operation or if they will need to seek out and partner with a third party embedded payments provider.
JENNIFER: We encourage our clients to ask themselves: are you trying to become a financial technology company? Or are you simply hoping to add payments capabilities to your already-existing business model? This decision has a major impact on how we approach brand awareness in our PR efforts as well. But let’s assume a business is hoping to create a payments product in-house. How do you and The ROIG Group help them plan for the transition from non-payments provider to payments provider?
SHEREE: We know that a new payments solution touches almost every department. It must be embraced by company leaders as a customer-centric benefit. Companies should view payments as another aspect of consistent, quality customer service and support.
Once businesses have the right mindset around payments, we encourage them to “slow down to speed up.” Take time to develop internal strategy, organizational readiness and a roadmap for execution. Here are some broad questions we ask companies to answer before they decide to add payments as a line of business:
- What is your business case? What are your key enterprise financial metrics that support adding payments? Is there too much work for little return?
- Who is your target market? Do you plan to address commercial markets, consumers, or both? Where does it fit into your current customer model, and where might it fit with your prospects?
- How do your current capabilities stack up against what you need? Where are you going to have a stall point? Do you have the resources to support a new business line?
- What is the appetite for risk for this new line of business? Does your business culture support change? Payments, and integrating a new offering, both come with risk. Is your team prepared?
- What are your valuation objectives and does payments contribute to those? Consider where payments fit into your current model. How will new capabilities impact your valuation goals?
JENNIFER: We advise fintechs launching payments capabilities to utilize brand awareness and content to uncover buyer intent and create demand. In this market where every company is a payments company, even the most innovative fintechs with an exciting payments offering sometimes need help finding their audience and telling their story. Often, companies will need to seek PR and marketing partners to elevate brand storytelling, spotlight executives and products and form connections with buyers. This kind of PR and content marketing partnership yields invaluable owned content that supports lead generation and lead nurturing.
SHEREE: Having a PR and content plan to support a new payments product launch helps ensure that the product will have life through those all-important early days in the market. Businesses should consider partnering with a PR firm that understands B2B content marketing and the fintech and payments media landscape.
JENNIFER: You’ve mentioned partnering twice now, Sheree. We know it’s a tall order for a company to launch a payments offering entirely on their own, no matter how detailed their strategic planning might be. So, what do you tell clients who come to you with this now-ubiquitous question of build, buy or partner?
SHEREE: For a fintech, it is rare to be prepared to be vertically integrated into the ecosystem right away. And non-fintech companies often don’t have the internal capabilities to fully support an embedded payments offering. So it is an important question.
Generally I advise:
- Buy talent: people are your greatest assets. Likely the talent you need does not exist in house. Financial services is not the same as payments and the existing team may not have the payments knowledge and operating experience required.
- Build to showcase your core capabilities: design your payments offering to support the value your enterprise is already delivering to the market.
- Partner for services that you need from experts: It’s almost impossible to build everything in-house or acquire and onboard fast enough. Partnerships in payments are necessary and you will likely find yourself working with “frenemies.”
JENNIFER: Great advice, Sheree. Do you have any final thoughts for our fintech and non-fintech readers?
SHEREE: Payments is much more than a product. Whether companies build, buy or partner their way into the payments market, it is important to treat this expansion with the proper attention it deserves. This includes a strategic framework that has executive buy-in, and transformational leadership willing to make the right resource investments. Before diving in to payments, it never hurts to consult with a third party who understands the ecosystem.
Sheree Thornsberry is the Payments and Financial Services Practice Lead at The ROIG Group. She is an accomplished executive with over 25 years of leadership experience in the Payments business. Sheree has tremendous breadth of expertise in business line management coupled with depth of experience in program management, banking, sales, product and marketing.