Are SaaS platforms challenging banks for a piece of the payments pie?

Attributed to: Ralph Dangelmaier, Global CEO of BlueSnap

 

The finance industry is at a tipping point with software firms on the brink of becoming banks. This may seem like a farfetched idea, but now that software platforms come equipped with payment capabilities, their SME customers may want to receive more financial products from these platforms.

This is part of the wider trend of ‘embedded finance’ – when companies which aren’t banks incorporate financial services such as lending, insurance, and payments into their product.

Software firms are particularly leveraging ‘embedded payments’ – where the ability to accept and process payments comes with the software itself. Think of a school consolidating all the payments a parent would make for their children – tuition, books, extracurricular activities – in one software platform. This trend has exploded in popularity because there’s a desire among companies, and their customers, for everything from products to payments to happen under one roof.

With the market value of embedded payments expected to reach £2.08 trillion by 2026 and customers becoming increasingly married to their software, let’s look at how we ended up at this turning point in payments.

How chasing convenience puts money in platforms’ hands

Ralph Dangelmaier

The growth of embedded payments is propelled by the need for ease, trust, and convenience. As platforms are selling payments hand-in-hand with their software, customers don’t need to integrate with additional service providers just to accept payments. And they’re already bought into using the platform for its other functions.

Not only is this kind of back-end reconciliation easy and convenient but it helps software platforms generate revenue too. That’s because software companies that embed payments become Payment Facilitators (a.k.a PayFacs) – allowing them to monetize transactions that happen within their platform.

By selling payments, software firms can see up to a fivefold increase in value per client. Rather than depending on software subscriptions alone, these platforms now receive a cut of every transaction that’s facilitated using their software too. This provides them and the businesses they serve with a mutual incentive – shared profits.

Software platforms are passionate about helping their customers create the most easy-to-use experience to drive a higher volume of transactions. Of course, there are many ways to launch new revenue streams, but why leave money sitting on the table when all you have to do is become convenience-obsessed?

Why finance teams want software and payments in one  

As a payment expert who’s worked in a bank’s back office, I know how important a financial software stack can be. In its highest form, it can steer a business’ entire financial strategy.

Often these stacks are well curated, but the biggest drawback is the manual collection of data across platforms. Trying to build a financial picture of a business using your ERP, CRM, human resource and billing system can involve hours of laborious data entry.

For everyday finance teams, this isn’t an efficient use of time. They need to be able to pull data swiftly to advise their executives on financial strategies. CFOs are also under pressure to choose the right software stack to streamline processes and ensure payments ROI.

That’s why payment technology that removes the manual work for finance teams – to get from A to B more quickly – is growing in popularity.

Software firms using embedded payments are saving them hassle and time. Not only that, it helps the key financial decision makers of SMEs stay in a constant state of financial planning, where they can change their strategy whatever the market conditions may be.

The end of traditional banking for SMEs?

Increasingly, SMEs are struggling to get the payments support they need from traditional banks. The ‘higher risk, lower return’ view of the small business market among banks leaves software platforms in a ripe position for a takeover.

There are over 90,000 software companies in the UK alone. With nearly half of software platforms (48%) turning to embedded payments to gain a source of competitive advantage, this figure could represent a threat to corporate banking as we know it.

SMEs don’t have the deep pockets that multinational businesses have. The Amazons and BMWs of the world have long reaped the benefits of a corporate account with a large bank – and the round the clock support this offers.

But SMEs face high conversion fees and often receive minimal support chasing late payments, leaving them between a rock and a hard place. If these businesses can save money by moving from banks to software platforms, then banks are at risk of losing their position over the middle market.

Looming regulation

Until now banks have been able to defend their position because safety and security is key. Once platforms become regulated, then what? It won’t be long before regulators eye up the software industry as their next big focus.

But regulatory bodies like the FCA, PRA and more favour ‘controlled innovation’, so this will take time.

Currently, to process transactions in Europe, businesses must go down the lengthy and costly process of becoming Payment Service Providers (PSPs). That’s why many software platforms are choosing to partner with a licensed payment provider which sells the payment package to them, instead.

In fact, 89% of software platforms choose to work with PSPs rather than become a PayFac themselves. It makes sense when it’s taken more than a year for some platforms to begin processing payments on their own.

Given the sizable financial risk of processing your own payments and the administrative burden this brings, it’s no wonder software firms are looking to fintech for a better way.

After all, it’s not just about processing the payments. A partnership with a payment technology partner comes complete with support in onboarding, underwriting, compliance, risk, payouts and customer support.

In short, software platforms see the benefits of selling payments and are primed to become the next big financial players.

Not only is there revenue for the taking but their customers benefit as well. With software platforms ready to offer SMEs a banking alternative and a superior customer experience, they’re offering a truly win-win solution for all involved. And it’s payment technology partners that can help them make this vision a reality.

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