People of WePay: Sireesh Potireddy, Director of Product Management
You have been in the payments industry for many years while working at companies like Paypal and Groupon. What made you choose WePay and what appeals to you about its product?
When I was at Groupon, the company had built an in-house system for payment processing with local brick and mortar merchants. We quickly realized that creating a successful and profitable payments platform is very hard. After a short period, Groupon decided that it was not a strategic part of their priorities and decided to spin it off. When I looked at WePay, I saw that they were essentially solving the problem that Groupon was facing. I respected that. WePay succeeded where Groupon failed through scale and planning. It impressed me how they enabled marketplaces and platforms to provide payment services to their merchants without sacrificing branding and flexibility, and that they took on the infrastructure, risk and compliance challenges.
The most appealing aspect to me is how payments solutions like ours can meet the many needs of small businesses. Using software as a core business asset is a trend eating the world and most small businesses will be making the transition from paper to digital. Thus, they are likely to partner with a digital platform to meet their objectives. Most of these small businesses are going to use a software provider and are looking for a one-stop shop solution for everything that they do, with payments included in that. I believe that this is where the industry is headed.
What aspect of your role really impacts how we are able to delight our customers?
The deep partnerships that we build with our platform partners are truly unique. When they have specific business needs, we work with them very closely to come up with solutions that help them to reach their goals. We strive to ensure that every product feature can be completely white-labeled while still managing all risk and compliance dimensions.
For example, we are partnering with Apple and Google to enable Apple Pay / Android Pay to improve mobile checkout conversion. We also have several enhancements in our ACH product to make it easier for our platform partners to collect payments by ACH, especially for large ticket items where the credit card fees can be prohibitive. We try to eliminate as many pain points as possible for our partners.
As a specialist in omni-channel commerce, can you describe your experience working with payments and how that relates to the different channels?
Omni-channel commerce essentially means providing a consistent seamless experience to customers and merchants irrespective of whether the transaction happens online, through a mobile device or in-person. While at Paypal, I worked on a number of initiatives related to bringing the familiar online PayPal shopping experience to in-person point of sale (POS) at brick and mortar stores. At Groupon, I worked on both online and offline commerce. Here at WePay, while historically we were predominantly dealing with online commerce, we expanded into offline commerce with the introduction of our mPOS reader. We are now looking into supporting full fledged payment terminals or pin-pads that small businesses with brick and mortar stores can use.
What is the difference in your approach with each channel?
The fundamental difference between online and offline boils down to two factors – hardware dependency (card readers) and fraud/risk. With online commerce, we focus a lot on reducing the friction for onboarding merchants and accepting payments while still managing risk and detecting fraud. For offline payments, fraud is less of a concern especially with the introduction of EMV in the US. But the main complexity is in supporting card readers – selecting the right payment terminals that works for merchants and the various payment types such as EMV, Apple Pay etc
Among the many players in the payments industry, with whom do you work most closely? Can you shed light on the various relationships you build?
We work very closely with our processing partners like Vantiv to continuously enhance and optimize our processing capabilities. We partner very closely in launching new programs such as OptBlue by American Express, faster settlement methods for merchants such as same day ACH and instant payouts to merchant’s bank accounts. We also work directly with Apple and Google in enabling Apple Pay / Android Pay for our platform partners. We also work with Payment Terminal Providers such as Poynt in providing card present processing capabilities.
What is a difficult challenge facing the payments industry?
Basic payment processing is becoming more and more a commodity. So the biggest challenge to any company in the payments industry is how they can build a unique value-added service such as a better experience, better risk technology etc that provides value to their customers and enables them to differentiate from the rest. Our platform partners are providing value by deeply integrating payments into their core offering and making it easy for merchants to run their business. We are providing value by enabling our platform partners to easily provide payments services without having to take on the risk and regulatory overhead.
From your perspective, where do you see the payments industry in the next decade?
I predict that the traditional merchant account where merchants go through a time consuming up-front underwriting process will be replaced completely with a more continuous risk-based underwriting process. PayPal was one of the first to adopt this model and made accepting online payments easy. But a point of friction was that customers were required to sign up for a PayPal account. In later years, companies like Stripe and Square enabled merchants to start accepting payments easily and with more control over the customer experience. Now we see many SaaS platforms and marketplaces providing the same level of experiences to their merchants.
On the consumer side, the way that they pay will change as mobile devices continue to proliferate and new technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), bots, and as better risk and authentication models arise. One example of this is Apple Pay, where you can make a payment conveniently using your mobile phone with additional security through biometric authentication and device specific card numbers. Companies like Visa, Mastercard, PayPal are continuously experimenting and deploying a variety of payment experiences such as Selfie payments, QR codes etc. Not all solutions will gain traction, but there probably will be better versions and advancements in the customer payment experience that are both convenient and secure.