The FinTech industry is rising, and has been reshaping the financial sector by improving the quality of services, cutting costs and providing feature packed services to the consumer within the least possible time frame. The FinTech industry is versatile and has been evident from a variety of industries ranging from payments to wealth management. Intuiting immense scope and opportunities, Sureswipe entered the FinTech industry with a mission to connect the digital economies and create a platform for themselves as well as for other nimble startups to simplify the customer interaction, thus increasing the ultimate customer experience. By focusing on the customer, they are solving financial services problems related to access, affordability and broad based inclusion. They provide products and services in an innovative way so that incumbent banks with their closed organizational mindset, legacy infrastructure and systems are unable to compete with them. They strictly believe in focusing and mastering one product or service at a time.
Simplifying the Shopping Experience
Sureswipe’s advanced card payment solutions, have attracted thousands of independent retailers across South Africa to use Sureswipe every day. By enabling them to accept card payments, they have become the heartbeat of their business. In short, they are making card payment acceptance easy and accessible to all independent retailers and simplifying the shopping experience for consumers. As a business, shared values that keep clients at the center are important and is their prime focus. Being a member of Tradebridge they are fortunate to have shareholders who are as passionate and dedicated as they are for simplifying the lives of their clients and employees.
Inception of Sureswipe’s Journey
Sureswipe’s inception story is not a typical entrepreneurial story starting with borrowings from family out of a garage, but rather its an interesting intrapreneurial story. In the mid-2000’s the private medical aid market was rapidly changing, medical benefit to members was reducing and doctors who historically received payment for services from a medical aid needed the ability to accept alternative payment methods, such as bank card payments, direct from patients. At that time card acceptance was not new but it was uncommon in a doctor’s practice. Healthbridge (a Tradebridge group company) and a processor of medical aid claims identified this growing need and in 2007 launched Sureswipe to doctors as an add-on product to their medical aid claim processing.
An Exceptional Entrepreneur
Paul Kent, MD of Sureswipe, started his career as an account manager at Healthbridge in the year 2000. But soon at Sureswipe, Paul and his team were able to study the market needs and quickly realized that the opportunity was not only in healthcare but at independent retailers in general. This intuition acted as a catalyst for them, and in 2008 together with a small team who were passionate about making a difference to small businesses across the country Paul founded Sureswipe.
It proved to be a great match for him, because after spending many hours in his grandfather’s store as a young boy and working in a men’s clothing store on weekends during his high school days, Paul could easily understand the challenges of retail and he quickly became empathetic to independent retailers. As they were receiving a raw deal of exceptionally poor service coupled with exorbitant fees. Paul was ready to enter this market segment, which was eagerly waiting for disruption.
Paul always believed that in business, timing and focus is important, and in the early years, he and his team solely focused on their efforts on smaller businesses who were ignored by the banks. When they entered the market, typical service from incumbent banks was; more than 30 days to install a machine and on-site repairs took more than 7 days to get resolved. Taking it as a challenge and extensively working on it created a lot of excitement within their team, and as a result, Paul and his team were able to prove themselves as a challenger brand.
Providing out-of-the-box Services
Sureswipe’s idea of one contract and one point of contact for acquiring card acceptance services, hardware, connectivity, call center and on-site support was the main differentiator. It enabled them to provide card acceptance solutions at a much lower cost as compared to other competitors and with significantly better service. This ethos of “making it easy to work with Sureswipe” is the point of focus of everything they do. Since their establishment, they have expanded their offerings from stand-alone and portable card machines to adding a mobile or mPOS option in 2015. And now they are ready to launch a payment solution suitable for integration into any point of sale software. Their philosophy is to provide best payment acceptance methods for the consumers, and providing better solutions for clients as with their changing business needs.
Exploring the Ocean of Opportunities by Overcoming Protectionism
Despite the FinTech opportunity, Sureswipe’s team thinks that the regulation and protectionism are the biggest hindrances to growth. As often, Payment Service Providers (PSPs) are too reliant on banks to access the payment infrastructure, introducing unnecessary costs, limiting the speed of innovation and reducing reliability. So, at Sureswipe they believe that consumer demands will force access and regulation to gain pace with the FinTech innovation.
Within FinTech, or more specifically within the payment sector, there is immense opportunity. Cash is still the king and regarded as the biggest competitor. Reducing or removing cash from the system is the biggest opportunity. To compete with cash funds the retailers experience needs to mimic cash, but due to legacy infrastructure, the payment by card to a merchant takes 2 days or longer to process, and proves to be inefficient when compared to cash which is immediate. Taking this consumer problem as their opportunity, Sureswipe sees a lot of opportunity to iron-out the benefits and reducing the time lag by offering real-time payments.
Building the Right Culture for Providing the Best Payment Solutions
At Sureswipe, the team is dedicated to understand the importance of building the right culture and they are passionate about offering the best payment solution, but to do that effectively, they give stress on having the right team.
Being responsible for people’s money is a crucial task, which is why they have taken the time to cultivate a high performance environment for the entire team. The management has high expectations on the team for extracting a high performance whilst recognizing employees who have taken the initiative, and have given their team a room to self-manage and optimize their own performance.
Creating a Homely Work Culture
Emphasizing on creating an employee friendly work culture, Paul says: “By looking at some of the most successful businesses we know the importance of making sure that work doesn’t feel like every day is Monday morning. We have created a fun environment for our employees to make sure that they feel relaxed and inspired to do their best work. I can honestly say that on most days we do have a bit of fun.”
While a great product is incredibly important, service is also a major differentiator in the FinTech industry. Employees that are excited about the product and their clients are key to the way companies conduct business.
Taking pride of their work culture Paul often says: “If you have an opportunity to visit our office you will experience the friendliness of our staff. I often receive comments from visiting clients or suppliers whom while sitting in the reception area are greeted by every staff member. This is rarely found and is part of our culture that we hold onto very dearly.”
A Visionary Leader’s Advice to the Budding FinTech Startups
Providing valuable advice for the budding entrepreneurs, Paul says: “When I’m asked to give advice to Fintech start-ups I often refer them to a quote from Reid Hoffman (co-founder of Linkedin) who says, “first move advantage doesn’t go to the first company that launches, it goes to the first company that scales”. When we launched, competition was limited, and we were allowed time to learn.
Looking back if I could change one thing it would be the time it took us to scale. In the early days, we should have increased our distribution network by two, three or even 10 times. The opportunity was available and while we have a great growth story, in hindsight it could have been phenomenal.
Looking for a Positive Future
At Sureswipe, they believe that the future is all about consolidation and collaboration. To succeed in the payment acceptance sector, one needs volume and in a very competitive market, this is achieved through organic growth, new markets and acquisitions. By amalgamating all of these, Sureswipe is marching ahead towards a great future.