It would be understandable if Juli Spottiswood took December to play catch up on a busy year.
After all, the Syncapay CEO heads a company that has grown dramatically this year as a result of two things: the digital acceleration of the B2B payments space driven by the pandemic and the acquisition of two of the category’s most established companies, DaVinci and North Lane.
But she’s not. Other executives may be assessing the most disruptive year in recent business history. But Spottiswood has already moved on with a new vision for Syncapay and the business it operates in.
“We’re in a position to accelerate further,” she told PYMNTS. “Both companies were always focused on innovation and so the work that’s been done to kind of move into this digital environment is important, and we were ready for that going into this year.”
The merger of North Lane and DaVinci into the Syncapay family was sealed last week after it was first announced in late October. The combined businesses now operate through a holding company formed together with a new majority equity investment from funds advised by Centerbridge Partners.
Both, as Spottiswood said, have been focused on innovation in the B2B payments space. DaVinci prides itself on delivering advanced payment solutions, including virtual and physical prepaid and push pay for businesses and their customers. North Lane (formerly Wirecard, North America) is aimed at large enterprises managing customer, employee and corporate payouts and disbursements.
Taken together, Spottiswood said she is already seeing new possibilities. The way she saw 2020 centered on three trends. First, and most apparent, was the acceleration of digital payments. The second centered around choice; the need for recipients to get paid, how they want to be paid and when they want to be paid. The third is the continual shift away from paper checks for everything from disaster relief to incentive payments to payroll. So, it might seem to be counter-intuitive that a big part of Spottiswood’s vision is that for B2B, “it’s not just a payment.”
“Payments have always been viewed as a transaction,” she said. “You need to get money from point A to point B. Because of that view, there has been a lot of focus on speed, efficiency and cost. But what about the opportunity to actually have an engagement with that recipient at the time of payment? Anytime you’re giving somebody money, that’s a great time to engage with that recipient. And so, we as a company are very focused on the engagement aspect of the payment.”
She used an example to bring her point to life. Suppose a tire company ran a promotion in which the consumer got a $100 rebate with a set of four snow tires. Ten years ago, that transaction would have simply meant that the tire company cut a paper check after being alerted to the purchase and the case was closed. The payment was not engaging or branded.
Now look at how it would be handled within the Syncapay vision. The $100 rebate would be redeemed digitally. The consumer would be directed to a website where he or she would get information about other products, tips for driving in the snow and maybe even an opportunity to further engage with the brand via a loyalty program. The payment is an opportunity for further engagement, not a closed loop that cuts the consumer loose after an expensive purchase.
It’s a long way from the beginning of Spottiswood’s career in which corporate incentives and rebates were limited to open or closed loop gift cards.
“I still think it’s all about awareness, adoption and education,” she said. “Back when I worked for other companies in this space, the reason we existed was to educate and build awareness around these open-loop prepaid cards, and it took a while to get them adopted into the marketplace. When I think about companies still issuing checks today, it’s just about education and awareness and the message of why you can have a superior payment capability over simply issuing checks.”
And there’s another added attraction to the snow tire scenario Spottiswood described: It broadens the purpose of the payment and involves more divisions of the company. For example, the website and customer engagement elements involve marketing. The ability for the dealer to engage further may involve sales and operations.
Spottiswood said she believes B2B payments should be getting more attention from everyone in the C-suite from the CEO to the CFO to the CMO. And it all ties back to the new version of Syncapay with DaVinci and North Lane.
“I think that the combination of these two companies under the Syncapay umbrella gives us more scale,” she said. “It gives us more diversification. Coming together gives us a much broader vertical focus, and it gives us the ability to cross-sell the solutions and products that each company has built. So, I’m excited about what we can do from a feature functionality, scale and diversification standpoint.”