This year’s ‘MPE Influencer of the Year’ Award awarded at MPE2020 will go to the most influential payment provider for the significant contribution to the growth and development of the merchant payments industry during the last year. A total of 14 finalists took part in the MPE Awards public vote, including Sumup, Switch, Nordic API Gateway and Bankingblocks amongst others. Interestingly, out of the 14 finalists only 2 were individuals and more interesting still, both are women. It is great to see that at least in the Fintech world, women are being recognised for their talents and achievements!
We had an opportunity to meet up with the CEO of Bankingblocks, Daria Rippingale to find out more about her, Bankingblocks and where they see the industry heading.
Daria, congratulations on winning MPE2020 Award’s Influencer of The Year! What does this recognition mean to Bankingblocks and you personally?
We are truly honoured to have won the Influencer of the Year award, both the company, and myself as the company CEO. As a small business on a mission to create positive disruption and break the barriers facing the payments industry, this recognition is so appreciated. MPE2020 (Merchant Payment Ecosystems) connects leaders, influencers and innovators from the entire payment ecosystem, in a way that is real, honest and truly useful. As an attendee and speaker at the event for a number of years, it is a great honour to not only be amongst the companies and individuals nominated but to actually win this special award.
Tell us about yourself, how did you start your career
I am an Australian who has been living in Europe for almost 5 years now. I live between Amsterdam and Brussels, where I am the CEO and Administrative delegate of a Belgium based Regulated Payment Institution, called Oonex SA (dba Bankingblocks). I started my career in Australia in my early 20s, and worked originally in a compliance support role before joining a larger Australian PSP and building my career in operational management, international payments and regulatory compliance. In 2015, after experiencing and understanding the challenges of payment companies in Europe (due to the very segmented nature of the banking and payments landscape here), I decided to take the plunge and relocate myself to launch a regulated payments business in Europe that solved the hassles so many companies were facing. In hindsight, this was quite a big move for a (then) 29 year old, but sometimes a drive for creating change can outweigh the reasonable mind – luckily for me, it was absolutely the right move!
What is Bankingblocks and what is your main selling point?
Bankingblocks is a wholesale, behind-the-scenes banking services provider for the fintech and payments sector. We have combined the traditional European PI, agency banking and acquiring licenses groups to create a stand-alone modular banking service for the fintech industry. We offer a large number of direct banking and payment services which any fintech or payments company can connect to, to issue real banking services to their customers.
We offer true, multicurrency IBANs, we are a SWIFT and SEPA member, card-scheme principal member and more. Our focus is on providing low cost, wholesale financial products to the wider fintech community, for them to package and offer their end customers.
Whilst many companies in the fintech banking space are focusing on technical advancements and technical innovation, our focus is on banking and payment service innovation – specifically; delivering the underlying banking products, acquiring and card issuing services that Fintechs and payment companies need (to plug into their technology ecosystems) to deliver real financial products to their customers. Technology is essential and technology is key, but without the right banking services (whether it be IBANS, multi-currency payments, integrated acquiring, issuing etc), many emerging fintech players are missing the essential ingredient they need for their businesses to move. If you use the analogy of a car (KISS principles people), technology companies and fintechs are the chassis, and Bankingblocks is the engine that makes their business move forward.
How did Bankingblocks start? How did you come up with your business idea?
As someone who has spent many years working in the payments industry, the biggest struggle and surprise for me has always been how difficult it is for payment and fintech companies to find a regulated financial institution partner who can actually service their businesses various needs. The majority of payment and fintech companies hold over 6 different contracts with banks, acquirers, issuers and 3rd party compliance service, just to provide simple, homogenized products. This is complex, costly, time consuming and ultimately affects the bottom line of these businesses, where they could be investing in delivering customer-focused products to modernise the finance world (which is what they set out to). The purpose of Bankingblocks was to create a regulated financial institution that was purpose built to service this growing market, where fintechs and payment companies could access all the banking, compliance and payment products they needed under one centralised contract, with modular products that allows them to expand and grow at their own pace. This is because Fintechs are IMPORTANT, and their success is so important to the future of finance. Our role is to give them the leg up they need to get to market and compete fast with a strong, regulated and respectable product.
Fintechs create the essential and innovative technical platforms that modern customers demand and need, but they are not receiving the support from traditional banks to deliver these. Whether it’s poor connectivity, concerns about market competition or a general disinterest and inability to help, fintech businesses are being increasingly impeded by traditional banks. Although there is widespread acceptance that fintechs will soon take over the customer-facing finance market, incumbent banks are still unequipped and unwilling to provide them the services they need to grow. Bankingblocks was created to solve this problem and power the future of fintechs: allowing these businesses to launch, grow and build, block by block.
There are a lot of BaaS providers around, what sets Bankingblocks apart?
The difference between Bankingblocks and other BaaS providers is that we offer the full end-to-end solution – not only the technology, but the underlying banking and payments services. As a regulated financial institution in Belgium, we have our own SORT code and BIC, are a direct SWIFT and SEPA member, card scheme principal member and payments acquirer. This means Bankingblocks grants fintechs access to Multi-currency IBANs, Payment Institution SubLicensing, acquiring, card issuing and cross-border payment services instantly through an easy integration and under a single contract. Through one simple connection and modular banking services Bankingblocks supports fintechs and payment companies to deliver the financial services their customers need, with a fully customisable set of available banking and payments services options. We are not just a banking technology service provider, but the banking and payments partner as well.
Tell us a bit more about Bankingblocks’ bottom-up banking approach and what does this mean for your clients?
When clients partner with us, they do not need to contract with other financial institutions or acquirers to gain access to financial products. We have designed our services to be ‘wholesale’ and centralised for growing fintech businesses – we sell at low cost, with full integration banking service, under one central contract. Bankingblocks is a truly modular service, and through the blocks that our partners can select, arrange and connect to, in any configuration, we allow fintechs and payments companies to integrate and deliver the specific licensed banking services they need, in line with their own growth plans.
What do you think will be the next major development in Fintech and where does Bankingblocks fit in?
Personally, I think the next major development in Fintech, will be the growth of banking-enablers (like Bankingblocks), financial institutions and banks which have been specifically developed to understand and support the needs of the growing fintech economy. The majority of banks in Europe are inherently regional in terms of the service offerings; built-for and catering to their domestic client base. Multi-national banks (especially those dipping their toes into the fintech banking world) are doing so from dedicated headquartered regions, meaning they are only supporting payment companies and fintechs in specific locations, with provision of local clearing services – not giving them access to their banks’ own inter-regional facilities
Despite widespread reluctance to support fintech and neo-banks a select few in Europe have tried to carve a niche. The most noticeable players are Barklays, ING and Credit Mutuel Arkea (Arkea). Since 2015, these banks have tried to differentiate themselves from traditional ‘incumbents’ by focusing on developing support and access services to regulated (EMI or PI) fintech players. This trend, and these banks, do have their utility; they provide basic underlying services for fintechs to access banking services – a trend that allowed and facilitated the European Fintech boom. However, as the market matures and demand for more services compile from fintech partners, these banks are fundamentally not able to keep up – the services demanded by growing fintechs are simply not on offer, and the strategic development to provide them simply isn’t worth the investment or risk for these major banks.
This is why I believe there is a huge gap in the market, and a big opportunity for major developments in the banking-services enabler sector – consolidated, purpose built financial services for fintech companies. This is our view of the future, and the market problem we are here to solve.