Not every business tanked during the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t experience challenges.
Why didn’t the pandemic knock GPS off course?
In Shaun’s view, it was their quick response to the situation. He adds that the actual context of COVID-19 contributed toward their success in these three specific ways:
- Move away from cash: the COVID-19 pandemic drove people away from exchanging hard cash to using other payment methods. It opened opportunities for businesses in that space, including GPS as the go-between for card brands and payment schemes (VISA, Mastercard, etc.).
- Diverse client base: GPS powers companies across a wide range of verticals. This means that the disappearance of an entire industry, like travel or events, doesn’t entirely dry up their revenue stream. Their enablement of Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) and crypto-related companies bolstered them while some industries had no choice but to halt trade and operations completely.
- Clients helping their customers: GPS’s clients embraced each of the functions and features made available to them and in turn empowered their respective customers. One example of this is Starling’s companion card: a vulnerable person is able to grant a card with tight controls to someone else who may need to shop on their behalf.
The ‘people’ side of the pandemic
COVID-19 upset everything from revenue and operations to employment figures, compensation and hiring strategies. Shaun holds nothing back when he speaks about his pride in his entire team at GPS. It’s not just the lightning-fast uptake of remote work but also the daily grind that turned into hard yards for people in teams like IT, who ensured that everyone had what they needed to continue getting things done.
There are pros and cons to everything, and remote work is no different. The upside of no long commutes to and from work goes hand-in-hand with the fatigue from working for extended periods of time as a result.
“We’re no longer working from home. We’re sleeping in the office.” — Shaun Puckrin
Presenteeism is easy to deduce in person, but with remote work, everyone’s now trying to always be online to show that they’re there. After a while, if you’re not still making that effort to engage employees, they’re going to feel gradually more and more isolated. Communication with team members has to be a conscious priority.
The way forward
Centred around employee engagement, the decision will be something that accommodates as many people as possible. Shaun’s team are clear that they’re enthusiastic about a return to the office; however, it won’t be likely that they’ll spend all five working days on-site. The challenge he has identified is that there’s no settled hybrid model yet.
When everyone’s on Zoom, everyone’s visible and engaged on Zoom. With half the team together in person and the other half remote on any given day in the future, there’s no telling how efficient that’s really going to be in the long run. This is the challenge that Shaun believes they’ll grapple with the most as the pandemic draws to a close, and beyond.
The value of international payments
It’s becoming a universal requirement for GPS’s clients to develop an offering related to cross-border transactions and international payments. It’s no longer enough to specialize in one thing. As their customers’ needs and interests diversify and evolve, so too must GPS’s clients’ ability to cater for those.
Shaun speaks about a variety of features and functions: multi-wallets, FX solutions, B2B payments for businesses. The list goes on. The goal of any new function or feature is to create compelling customer experiences. The benefit that comes with it: because people value these services, it becomes a way to generate revenue.
Because there are more providers offering cross-border transaction functionality today, the traditional banking fee model for this is being proven to be almost a historical abuse of customers. It’s a competitive marketplace now but the bottom line is that people know there will be a fee and they’re happy to pay it.
With remote work rising, cross-border teams need money to move between countries. This makes FX cross-border payments a viable revenue stream for any company in the payment space.
“It’s the acceptance of the card around the world that makes it a great in and out product.” — Shaun Puckrin
What’s next for the cross-border ecosystem?
Shaun’s excited about the future of this space. He recognizes his team’s intervention more as providing access to tools that can be used to meet evolving customer needs, rather than directly delivering the answers. What does he believe is important?
- The democratization of cross-border payments.
- Transparency around what people pay and to whom.
- The evolution of FinTech regulation.
The challenger-bank-in-a-box solution
It’s not that easy to enter the market as a challenger brand today. Especially not with all the innovation that you’d need to compete with to really get attention from the market. By pre-packaging diverse features together for challenger brands to use, it enables them to compete without having to run that length of the marathon that preceded their entry to market.
With regards to incumbents using legacy systems, the approach is slightly different but the intent is the same. It would take some expertise to migrate away from a legacy system into a newer one that could support modern interests and needs, but it’s possible. Incumbents like this don’t need to rule themselves out of the race.
The other kind of challenger is entirely new to the FinTech space. It’s the unlikely entrant to the market. The travel brand or high-street retailer, Shaun explains, is now able to offer financial services to their customers: quickly, seamlessly, and competitively. Why wouldn’t they use GPS’s systems to further strengthen their relationship with their customers, by offering something useful, new and exciting in that context?
Challengers we should pay attention to
It’s not about the brands. It’s about the principles and actions we should observe. Is there a reason that financial services need to be offered to a certain community (or customer base)?
Shaun refers to the example of increasing support for the LBGTQI+ community in the US. It may not matter to someone who doesn’t identify with the challenges of this community, but being able to choose from a more diverse list of pronouns when filling in personal information may really be the dealbreaker that pulls someone away from a traditional bank and toward a challenger neo-bank that interacts with them in this way. A simple form field can convey a deeper message of care and consideration and it’s that which attracts market share.
Until next time!
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