In May 2012, U.K. company MH Pillars Ltd. acquired the assets of Montreal-headquartered online payment processor AlertPay, redesigning the platform and launching Payza. Two months after the acquisition, new ownership handed the reins to payment industry veteran Alastair Graham, naming him to the newly created position of Payza CEO.
Graham hit the ground running, spearheading Payza’s global expansion efforts, including its entry into Bangladesh, where the firm recently introduced global bank transfer services. Designed to serve the nation’s growing freelance IT sector, the service streamlines the international remittance process, making it easier for foreign firms to pay Bangladeshi IT providers. Since launch, Payza has gained 250,000 new members in Bangladesh, and the country’s central bank has raised the receiving limits for international transfers from $500 to $2,000 per transaction in efforts to increase foreign remittances.
“In the global picture Bangladesh is a small but quickly growing market. It signifies our first presence in Asia-Pacific with the integration into local banking that we’re keen to expand,” Graham tells Paybefore. “It shows we can deliver this level of financial services in emerging markets, which we believe puts us at the forefront of the online payments market.”
And Bangladesh is only the beginning, according to Graham, who notes that Payza is interested in establishing similar services in India and other countries in the region. For Payza, opening new markets to e-commerce carries benefits for its entire global network by bringing new customers into the online payments arena. “Supporting emerging markets drives people into the online world,” notes Graham. “We’re bringing a whole load of new people into online financial services and empowering them to do business with our existing partners.”
Payza’s reach is global, operating in 197 countries and 21 different currencies, according to the company, which boasts a client roster of 9 million individual and 75,000 merchant members. Any individual can sign up on the company’s Website for a free Payza account, which can be loaded with funds via bank account, credit card, money order or certified check. Users then can use the account, known as Payza’s e-wallet, to shop or pay bills online or send money via the Internet by entering the recipient’s email address. Recipients can opt to transfer received funds to their bank accounts, use Payza’s e-wallet online or load money onto Payza’s Visa-branded prepaid card.
On the corporate side, Payza’s business members rely on the global payment platform for corporate disbursements that enable businesses to send payments to any number of employees, freelancers or affiliates across the globe. Additional functions include online management tools, fraud screening, currency exchange and dispute resolution.
Graham notes that one of Payza’s core values is placing an equal emphasis on all aspects of its business, thereby creating as many ways as possible for clients to use its platform. “We value e-commerce, disbursement and remittance facilities because they cross-pollinate how customers use our service,” he says. “If you only specialize in one, you close the opportunity for customers to use your platform in different ways. It’s our goal to create as many ways for customers to receive and spend money as possible.”
To fully integrate the Payza platform into new markets Graham is focusing on establishing partnerships with the local financial institutions with which users are already familiar. Such relationships are especially important in underserved markets, where linking a user’s local bank account to his or her Payza e-wallet enables online commerce to become a key part of that user’s everyday financial life. And in Bangladesh, Payza offers remittance services to those who lack a bank account with SimplySend, a remittance platform that enables a recipient to receive remitted funds in cash at 3,000 locations throughout the country.
“We understand the value of local knowledge and partnerships,” Graham notes. “The key to [success in emerging markets] is the amount of local financial services you’re tying in to your overall platform. That combination can reach an underserved community, including the unbanked.”
Not Jumping the Mobile Gun
As mobile continues to be hot in payments, many providers are scrambling to incorporate mobile into their offerings. Payza, however, has taken a more patient approach, opting to strengthen and expand its existing Web-based platform over making a hasty jump into mobile. While Payza does have a mobile-specific version of its Website that enables full functionality, the company remains focused on a Web-based platform in general, rather than specifically targeting mobile users.
“We support smart mobile [devices] that can provide a Web experience,” says Graham. “We’ve limited ourselves to that, because we’re doing so well and growing so much in our online business that we want to make sure we satisfy that demand.” And with Payza’s heavy focus on emerging markets, smart mobile devices are far from ubiquitous among its customers, many of whom are far more likely to have access to a computer than a smartphone.
The Fine Print
Payza’s fee structure is fairly simple; business and personal professional account holders pay 2.5 percent to receive transfers into their Payza e-wallets. Transferring funds from a Payza account to a personal bank account via bank wire carries a $15 fee, though Payza says that by the end of 2012, members in the United States will be able to withdraw funds from a Payza account to a bank account free of charge. Loading e-wallet funds onto Payza’s prepaid card, meanwhile, costs $1. Other card-related fees include a 50 cent POS usage charge, a $2.50 fee for ATM withdrawals and a 2.5 percent currency exchange fee.
According to Graham, the intersection of affordability and easy functionality with business profitability is where Payza thrives. “Ultimately, the key challenge is to make a cost-effective and simple solution that customers want, but is also economically viable for us as well,” he says. “That bit of problem-solving is what Payza is all about.”