Assembly Payments is on the move – at home and abroad.

In Asia, several banks and their corporate customers are in the early stages of a Proof of Value project – a ‘request to pay’ service aimed at cross-border corporate customers. In Sydney, the FinTech has moved into larger offices twice over the past year as total staff numbers have jumped beyond 140.

It marks a significant achievement for a startup founded in 2013 (then known as PromisePay) with four staff and a single goal: to allow online marketplaces to facilitate payments between users.

“Assembly noticed significant gaps in the payments landscape, and has developed significant value beyond just the payment,” says co-founder and chief technology officer Simon Jones.

“When we started out, marketplaces were just starting to take off and a lot of them weren't even offering payments – they were just trying to bring parties together. We were able to show them how they could take a clip of the transactions and provide their customers with a trusted payments solution.”

The company’s customers include well-known names such as Carsales, AirTasker, HiPages and Fergus, but its technology and customer base is rapidly expanding.

A flexible and nimble approach
It is the flexibility of Assembly’s payment platform that has produced a range of payment solutions across a far broader remit.

As well as its ‘request to pay’ service, which conceptually allows a corporate’s invoice information to appear directly in their customers’ bank portals, it is now integrating Westpac’s merchant terminals with retailers’ point-of-sale software, removing the need for payment amounts to be entered twice.

Jones points to the crucial role played by its digital wallet. Every user and every transaction automatically generates a digital wallet. The digital wallets for transactions allow for simple and complex workflows.
“Banks and larger corporate customers have complex payment workflows including the splitting of funds, collection of fees, and disbursements to suppliers based on approvals and agreed milestones. We often find customers come to us with unique workflows that we haven’t seen before, and with a few tweaks we’re able to support their business model.”

The ‘request to pay’ service, which will reduce fraud and improve reconciliation processes, made Assembly a finalist in last year’s SWIFT gpi Industry Challenge held in Singapore. SWIFT gpi makes cross-border transactions faster and easier to track – a system that Assembly’s ‘request to pay’ service will make use of (a similar service will be launched via BPAY’s Osko but that is for Australian bank customers).

“We’ve worked closely with the partner banks and their corporate customers over the last few months to understand their requirements and to ensure we are solving the right problems.”

Making bank-FinTech partnerships work
Westpac’s venture capital fund Reinventure Group took an equity stake in the business in mid-2015 and the relationship has built to the point where Westpac itself also took a direct equity stake earlier this year.

Jones says several Westpac employees, who were having difficulty getting a startup off the ground within the bank, came across to Assembly in late-2017. It included senior bank executives who helped keep the lines of communication open between Assembly and Westpac.

"It took a while before we could really make use of that connection into the bank,” he says. “Even within the bank they weren't sure how the relationships were going to work with these FinTechs – Assembly set the precedent for other investments.”

While the marriage of a nimble FinTech player and established bank with a large customer base makes sense, the practicalities have also been challenging.

“Some of the requirements on us are bank-level because we're dealing with bank customers,” Jones says. “That's always difficult because we don't have the resources that the banks have and yet we are still held to that same high standard.”

Jones says Assembly recently completed a merchant terminal/POS integration pilot and is now certifying about 90 POS company partners. If the merchant chooses a Westpac terminal, the integration will save merchants and their staff hours of time double entering transaction amounts in their POS system and then again in their Eftpos terminal.

A separate project involves creating an omni-channel merchant dashboard, which will produce analytics and insights across all of their payment channels such as third-party apps, ecommerce, in-store, marketplaces.
“We want the merchant dashboard to be the centre of the merchant’s universe. Our goal is to build a single reconciliation, billing, and settlement solution for those merchants through that omni-channel dashboard: that's the next best thing for us.”

Assembly is now hoping to export many of its ideas further abroad and to build a relationship with offshore banks.

"We're looking to replicate what we've been doing with Westpac with other banks globally. We've got an exclusivity here in Australia with Westpac but we’re having conversations with a number of banks to provide similar services to their customers.

"When I started out I had no idea it would be anywhere near as big as this. We had a big vision and we've never really let go of that.”
This article represents the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BPAY.
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