Finch Capital, an Amsterdam-based venture firm, has funded the creation of a payments fintech called Nomu Pay that is being sewn together out of a series of domestic businesses of the failed Wirecard.
The VC has brought Peter Burridge in to run the new business. Burridge has a long track record in technology, having served as president of a company called Hyperwallet that he sold to PayPal, among other roles.
Burridge is meant to run Nomu Pay from Singapore, but he spoke with DigFin from his native New Zealand, where he is in the queue to receive a COVID-19 vaccination so he can relocate.
“We can engineer a better solution,” he said, citing various pain points that companies face transmitting money across borders. “There’s always a story.”
Making room in the market
Does Asia need another payments fintech? We seem to be awash in them.
“There’s ample space in the marketplace,” Burridge said. A handful of tech or e-commerce companies have figured out their payments strategy – but these are exceptions, he argues.
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“Grab has done a great job of building a payments engine to support its business,” Burridge said. “But not all technology companies have done that. They don’t have the licenses in all markets, or they don’t have the ability to provide stored value facilities to everyone in their ecosystem.”
While many companies do have mobile wallets, these are often branded the same as the underlying commerce platform. Very few can achieve the sort of scale and ease of use of an Alipay or a PayPal. They are constrained by local compliance demands, or they may not have enough business in a given market to justify a banking relationship or leave enough funds on deposit to get a payments license.
Nomu Pay will focus on helping merchants make payouts. It’s not a consumer or remittance app. It is a tech layer that connects an e-commerce company with bank accounts in Nomu’s given markets so its clients can pay their contractors, suppliers, gig workers, and so on.
He contrasted this with a fintech like Payoneer, which does that, but also signs up credit-cardholders to bring them to merchants. “They’re many-to-many, whereas we are a one-to-many business,” Burridge said.
Nomu Pay will target global companies looking to enter Asia, or Asian businesses that operate cross-border. Although it won’t try to service local companies that operate domestically, the rise of e-commerce is blurring the lines for retailers.
“They are now putting their products on different marketplaces,” he said of such companies. “Their customers can be from anywhere. Are they still a domestic business?”
Citing his experience with PayPal, Burridge says these companies lack a complete payments service when they operate in “hard” markets where they lack the footprint to build their own solutions. He says the PayPal experience, including its ease of use, the way it keeps users on top of money movements, and how it tokenizes payments, is still rare to find in many local markets.
His mandate is to turn the acquired bits of Wirecard into a provider that can do that.
Wirecard past and present
Wirecard was a German payments processor that expanded throughout Asia, setting up a regional headquarters in Singapore in 2007. It served as the rails for many fintechs and e-commerce companies, pioneering pre-paid debit cards for these companies. By 2018, it was serving 280,000 companies with integrated payment methods, both online and via point-of-sale machines, and reported transaction volumes of $125 billion.
But the business was a fraud: in 2020 E1.9 billion of its assets were revealed to be missing. Its former CEO was arrested, and its COO remains on the run.
By August last year, Wirecard and its subsidiaries were placed under insolvency administration and continued to operate. Burridge declined to say how many customers remained, transacting what level of volumes, at the businesses coming under the Nomu Pay brand. He said he couldn’t comment because these acquisitions are still in process and require regulatory approval.
Nomu Pay’s goal is to create a business spanning Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. It is now negotiating the acquisition of Wirecard’s businesses in the Philippines, Thailand, and Turkey. It has already bought the Hong Kong and Malaysia businesses.
The deals are meant to include local licenses, although ensuring this remains part of the negotiation process. But they also bring customers and teams. Although Wirecard lost both people and clients in the wake of its scandal, these entities are active. Burridge says trying to cobble together entire teams from scratch would take a long time: finding people in compliance, treasury, managers are all necessary in each market. And the businesses bring real clients.
“Nomu Pay is a startup,” he said, “but at the same time we’re an established company with technology, licenses, teams, and customers.” These businesses can process payments in-store or digitally. “It’s a good start. And we can deliver new services to existing clients without having to go through another integration process.”
He says the company will look to acquire assets in Europe in due course.