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The gateway that opens new business for ISVs

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The gateway that opens new business for ISVs

Using an API-led integrated digital payments gateway brings new opportunities for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to capitalise on emerging business models and add value to existing clients, argues Patrick Bermingham, CEO of Adflex.

In today’s competitive commercial environment, innovation and disruptive ideas are changing the business model across many industries.

A subscription-based approach for purchasing goods and services is becoming prevalent in business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) markets.

Cloud-based platforms are transforming the way businesses and customers interact. But this doesn’t lessen the complexity when it comes to the payments ecosystem.

Trading practices and business models differ widely from sector to sector, each with their own charging structures to deal with. In B2B payments it can be a fragmented cycle.

This presents opportunities for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to capitalise on new business ideas in commerce but also to improve the business tools they create by incorporating integrated payments processing.

By partnering with an integrated payment gateway provider, ISVs enable their clients to expand payments processing into a seamless flow of activity to process, reconcile and record payments into an existing platform interface.

ISVs that offer payments gateways capable of offering maximum versatility can empower their clients to do business quickly and seamlessly with as wide a range of customers and partners as possible.

Today, there are many touch points in manufacturing, business processes and the supply chain where an ISV can introduce digital payment integration to create value-added efficiency and simplicity in purchasing and payment acceptance.

The right integrated payments solution leverages state-of-the-art APIs, making it a fast and simple way for ISVs to integrate digital payments capabilities into their core offering. Take the example of just-in-time manufacturing. Software running process control logic units, for instance in automotive, engineering or food processing, triggers alerts for procurement of goods or services needed for delivery to the production line. That same trigger could be enhanced to include an integrated payments gateway, enabling instant card payment to the supplier.

Alternatively, a manufacturer could use this payment alert to request bids and offers from a wider connected marketplace, helping to drive greater cost efficiency. The digital payment sequence would comprise elements that confirm the buyer has agreed to pay using a procurement card and issues an electronic invoice.

Specialist aspects of billing for goods and services in advance but which then require reconciliation to show accurate credit card records to avoid customer confusion is another problem overcome by seamless integration of payments processing, and importantly can prevent friction with customers.

And with the introduction this year of PSD2 open banking reform across Europe, there will be more change in B2B payments, with greater flexibility to set up bank-to-bank payments and take advantage of cheaper processing. ISVs can stay ahead of new developments in the payments ecosystem by working with a platform that has user-friendly APIs to connect into acquirers and payment service providers (PSPs).

But to maximise the potential from integrating payment gateways into their software solutions, ISVs need to address key challenges in satisfying security, compliance and convenience.

In selecting an integrated payments gateway to partner with, it is vital that this is fully accredited to Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards and offers point-to-point encryption to protect card and account holder data during the transaction. Features such as secure card tokenisation and embedded hosted services are equally important. All this eliminates friction for the ISV and its customers, removes the burden to provide PCI compliance and speeds up development time-to-completion.

An online payment gateway that delivers a better experience and simplifies integration will be driven by user-friendly APIs and developer tools. These ensure the freedom and flexibility to offer more agile solutions to satisfy omni-channel business transactions and payment methods – be it card, bank-to-bank, BACs or Direct Debit – all managed through a simple API.

More sophisticated gateways will incorporate value-added capabilities to benefit the ISV and enhance its relationship with customers. The option to brand the gateway provides a seamless payment interface, enabling the ISV’s client to present its own digital payment page and complete transactions from within its own environment. Stock control and management can be improved by allowing payment to be authorised when product supply is limited or out of stock, enabling call-off payment in stages and so removing the headache of fragmented order-to-delivery workflows.

Working with an integrated digital payments provider also opens up opportunities for an ISV to create an additional income stream. It is possible to agree revenue sharing arrangements which permit the ISV to receive commission on digital payments processed. Other APIs will enable a portal to view ongoing transactions and maintain oversight of revenue-generating activity. The same API can instead create a portal for the ISV’s customer to monitor transactions again helping to build a good user experience and seamlessly integrate with other applications in the client’s business management processes.

The future is one of ever more highly connected manufacturing, production and business workplaces where cloud-based services enable better management and financial control. As key players in this evolution, ISVs are ideally placed to take advantage of a perfect time for digital payments integration.

About the author

Patrick Bermingham is CEO at Adflex. He has over 20 years’ experience in the payments industry, overseeing the growth and development of Adflex as a premier B2B payments service provider. Prior to Adflex, Patrick was specialised in ERP system design and development primary targeting mail order and national distribution sectors.

Business

Can your company data make you famous?

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Can your company data make you famous? 1

By Kerry Gould, Associate Director, Speed Communications

Businesses gather and generate reams of data every day on everything from purchasing habits to customer behaviour. But too often, it gets ignored or restricted to ‘internal use’. Is this a big opportunity missed?

Perhaps more than in any other sector, finance and banking companies hold a goldmine of data. Of course, individual customer transactions are highly sensitive and need to be kept secure. But when these are collated into trends across an entire customer base, it can paint a compelling picture of people’s changing priorities. What are people spending money on? How are they using credit cards differently? Are they shifting their savings goals or looking at mortgages differently? And it’s not just consumer-facing businesses that can use their data to tell stories. It’s a growing area in the world of B2B marketing, especially for firms targeting the UK’s 5 million+ SMEs.

Insight in the COVID-19 era

Appetite to share data is increasing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, too. We’re already seeing companies step up and share this intelligence; barely a day goes by when there’s not a report on how people are changing and adapting. In an era when everyone is trying to be a ‘thought leader’, having this unique insight can really set a company apart and elevate its public profile.

There are some great examples out there. Barclaycard revealed in its SME Barometer that the number of small businesses actively taking payments has increased by 24 per cent since the start of lockdown, an indicator of recovery. Meanwhile, Bottomline revealed in its Business Payments Barometer that 89% of firms continued to pay its suppliers late and £164,000 was lost by the average mid-sized business to payment fraud.

These reports achieved media coverage in print and online, and likely to have been shared widely over social networks, been promoted in email newsletters, discussed in online webinars and provided talking points in customer meetings. In today’s multi-channel world, there are a plethora of ways to reach customers (and potential customers) and we know that a ‘layered approach’ to these communications stand the best chance of getting you noticed and remembered.

Commissioning a survey through an independent research agency is a tried and tested method for marketing and PR teams to gather insight to use for content marketing and news generation. But often, your company’s own proprietary data can be even more compelling. It’s based on actual facts and behaviours, immune from the public’s continually fluctuating opinions. Plus, it doesn’t cost you thousands of pounds to commission. If your company has a strong enough dataset that can tell a story or indicate a trend, it should absolutely be used.

Overcoming hurdles

Like all well-meaning initiatives, data-led PR doesn’t come without its challenges. Here, we tackle three.

  1. Getting buy in to go public
Kerry Gould

Kerry Gould

Sometimes, business stakeholders can be nervous about releasing data that may be deemed commercially sensitive, revealing market share or insight that competitors could take advantage of. In this case, it’s about considering risk versus reward. The marketing benefit for making yourself known could be offset by competitive intelligence that your rivals may have through other sources anyway. Ultimately, there’s often a compromise to be stuck and there may be some data that you can’t disclose. Bringing stakeholders on the journey with you from the start is often the best way to ascertain this.

  1. Organising reams of data

It can be overwhelming to organise complex data sets, gather trends from different silos, departments and platforms. Many finance companies have in-house data analysts and insight teams whose job this is, but for others, outsourcing to a specialist provider like Data Cubed or Beyond Analysis can be a helpful move. By building a dashboard that collates everything in one place, teams from across the business, and external PR or marketing agencies, can get access in real time.

  1. Not having enough data

It may be that your business doesn’t generate reams of data or lacks a large enough sample size of customers. In this case, you can partner with an organisation that does. In the Jobs Recovery Tracker developed with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, we partnered with EMSI to tap into their database of live job vacancies. This helped to track the employment market amid COVID-19, generating masses of media coverage, insight to inform its content marketing and talking points for its upcoming REC 2020 conference.  This can sometimes be treated as a commercial arrangement but often considered a joint PR opportunity that’s win-win.

Data journalism is a growing discipline in the world of media, with news outlets dedicating talented people and resources to telling stories with numbers. The BBC and Guardian do it particularly well. With marketeers – particularly in data-rich industries like finance – waking up to the power it can hold for true thought leadership, the future is likely to be one ever more governed by data-led insight. How long before ‘data-PR’ becomes a discipline in its own right?

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Business

Advice for contractors closing down their contracting company

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Advice for contractors closing down their contracting company 2

By John Bell is Director of insolvency firm Clarke Bell, which he founded in 1994.

Contractors with a limited company/Personal Service Company (PSC) have been going through more than their fair share of turbulent times recently.

In the last two years contractors/PSCs have been bracing themselves for the impact that the new off-payroll legislation (IR35) will have on their lives and livelihoods, as the Government ploughed ahead with its plans to roll out the reforms to the private sector; as it, wrongly in many cases, believed some contractors should be deemed as employees and not genuine self-employed contractors.  Then came Covid-19 and once again those self-employed workers were dealt another blow as the pandemic left many without work overnight, albeit there was some relief as Off-Payroll was paused until April 2021.   And let’s not forget Brexit and all the uncertainty around it which is having a huge effect on a lot of businesses in the UK.

It has been a bumpy ride for businesses of all sizes over the last few months and, despite the emergency measures announced by the Chancellor in an effort to keep the economy afloat, not every contractor will want to carry on trading. Some will want to retire earlier than they’d previously planned – to get away from all the turmoil and ‘cash in’ all their hard earnings. Others, however, will have seen their income falling to such an extent that they are now having cash flow problems and are unable to pay some of their bills.   Some may be considering taking up a PAYE role for job security whilst others may be forced to put their retirement plans on hold and continue working until they feel confident that their pension pot will serve them well.

The combined effects of Brexit, Covid-19 and the new Off-Payroll tax have hit businesses hard and some company directors now think that closing down their company is the best course of action for them.

A Members’ Voluntary Liquidation is the best option for contractors

If a contractor is planning on moving into an employee/PAYE role, retiring or pursuing some other life or career plan then a Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL) is likely to be the most tax-efficient way to close a solvent company – particularly if the assets of a company are more than £25,000.

An MVL is an HMRC-approved process and a licensed insolvency practitioner must be appointed. While it may have a negative-sounding ring to it – with terms like ‘liquidation’ and ‘insolvency practitioner’ – there is nothing negative about it. Quite the opposite, in fact. By placing a company into an MVL it is a clear illustration that someone has been running a successful company.

An MVL allows a contractor to draw any remaining profit as a dividend, paying income tax on the dividend amount.  With the help of the licensed insolvency practitioner who will liquidate a company, the reserves can then be distributed as capital, which are then subject to capital gains tax (CGT) at either 18% or 28%.

Through an MVL, a contractor can also take advantage of Business Asset Disposal Relief, formerly known as Entrepreneurs’ Relief before 6 April 2020.  If someone qualifies for this relief, this can mean that CGT will be paid at a rate of 10% on qualifying assets, which can translate into considerable tax savings.  Each shareholder of the limited company could also benefit from a tax-free allowance of £11,000, the Annual Exempt Amount.  If there are multiple shareholders, this can be highly efficient.

To ascertain eligibility for Business Asset Disposal Relief / Entrepreneur’s Relief, contractors should speak to an accountant and also look at the Gov.uk website.

Off-Payroll (IR35), Brexit and Covid-19 are all things that are likely to have a huge impact on contractors and their limited companies and most firms of Insolvency Practitioners will offer free and confidential advice.

My advice to contractors is to talk to their accountant and help decide whether an informal strike-off or an MVL is the best option.  If a contractor is having serious cashflow problems then an insolvent liquidation might be the best option.

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How we as female entrepreneurs can inspire and educate the next generation of female leaders

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How we as female entrepreneurs can inspire and educate the next generation of female leaders 3

By Vaishali Shah, serial entrepreneur at Creativeid

There is tremendous enthusiasm and aspiration amongst the next generation of women who are passionate about being successful in their chosen career, whether it’s running their own business or rising to the top in the company they choose to work in. It is up to those of us who are already in the shoes they want to fill to be the role models and help them along the way. They need our support and guidance and access to tools and resources.

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship found that only 39% of women felt they had the capabilities to start a business compared to 55% of men because they did not fully believe in their entrepreneurial skills. The Review also found that only 30% of women said they already knew an entrepreneur compared to 38% of men.

Here are some ideas and suggestions of how those of us who are successful women in business can help and support the next generation of leaders:

Mentoring – connecting the leaders of the future with experienced and established entrepreneurs and leaders in their industry who know the steps and have already overcome the challenges. Meeting on a regular basis (in person or via video technology), answering questions, offering resources and helping them to define their vision clearly while pointing out opportunities would be extremely beneficial.

Female only networks – most events, especially in the financial and banking sector, are attended by a majority of men. This can be a bit daunting for women who tend to feel isolated. Unfortunately, there are very few female-only business networking groups. We need many more. Women have a different networking style than men. A female only network can give members a safe place to network, build confidence and relationships, while sharing some of the challenges they are facing and ask for guidance and support.

Panel discussions – invite successful female entrepreneurs and leaders from different industries to share their journeys to success. Their challenges, how they overcame them, what kept them going and any nuggets that could inspire the leaders-in-waiting. This could be run around International Women’s Day in March, for example.

Vaishali Shah

Vaishali Shah

Workshops/seminars – offer a seminar or workshop on topics that give valuable information on various aspects of running a business for entrepreneurs. In the workplace, have a system in place for ongoing training, development and engagement. Providing support, tools and resources will help to develop female talent. Make the workshops free or low cost so there is no barrier to entry. Help them to formulate a clear vision and a strong ‘why’ for their vision. This vision and ‘why’ will carry them through the tough times and be an important reminder and motivation to stay the course.

Recommendations – emphasise the importance and benefit of continual learning. Suggest podcasts, webinars or books to listen to or read. Being open to others’ experiences and ideas will help to educate and inspire them. People who achieve great success have a thirst for knowledge and are eager to learn from others.

Confidence and encouragement – give the next generation of leaders a sense of their own value and the value they bring to their market by the products and services they offer. They fill a need – they bring value. Help them understand that setbacks are a part of any business, but they should not be considered failures, rather, as gaining experience. Using setbacks as stepping stones towards their goal is what differentiates those who achieve great success from those who let setbacks define who they are, thus diminishing their chances of success.

Time for them – running or working in a fast-paced business can be all consuming, demanding and overwhelming at times, especially if they’re ambitious and want to get ahead. Teach women in business the importance of taking time out for themselves every day and to celebrate even the smallest success. Taking time out may seem counter intuitive, however it gives the mind time to relax and be open to inspiration and creativity and therefore being more productive.

Dame Karren Brady says – “If you have passion, drive and an entrepreneurial spirit, being female shouldn’t prevent you from getting where you want to be, and sometimes we must have the determination not to let it”.

Whether the next generation of female leaders are students about to embark on their business career, already running their own business or those in employment, we who have the experience and knowledge can play a crucial role in their climbing the ladder of success.

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