This week, we bring you an interview with Jeff Weikert of Payveris to discuss how his company is helping change the landscape of mobile banking.
In this podcast episode, Jeff and Kenny discuss
- How innovation and agility thrive in a startup.
- Why the modern digital experience matters to today’s banking customers (especially millennials).
- What “alignment meetings” are, and how they can change everything.
SHOWNOTES / TRANSCRIPTION
Contact Jeff here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apply for our VentureClash Contest here: http://www.ventureclash.com/apply/
KENNY: Hey everybody! I’m Kenny Jahng. Thank you so much for joining us for this installment of the VentureClash Entrepreneurship podcast. I’m excited today because we are getting deep down and dirty with some of the entrepreneurs in the fintech, insurtech and digital health spaces with this podcast. Today, I’ve got the pleasure of having a conversation with Jeff Weikert of Payveris. He’s a fantastic conversation partner. I think you’ll see a very interesting journey of what Payveris to get to where they are today. Before joining Payveris, you’ve spent 30 years in the financial technology sector in a variety of executive roles — firms that you have heard of before, Deloitte & Touche Bank of America, Suntrust, Deluxe Corporation. He has been around the block and is a veteran in the space and now he is applying his expertise leading Payveris in this fintech venture startup. So, Jeff, welcome to the show today.
JEFF: It’s glad to be here.
KENNY: As we get started, I shared a little bit about your background. Why don’t we start with you personally. Tell us a little a bit about your story. How did you come from these big box, giant companies of the industry to a venture startup. Tell us a little bit about that journey, Jeff.
JEFF: Here. You’re right. I spend a long time working for larger, well-established companies for the first two-thirds of my career. I’ve had about a ten-year run at CheckFree, which is a smaller company, but it end up to be a billion dollar company. We were acquired by FiServ. I’ve had sort of a chance to step back and change gears. My kids were getting a little bit older. Some are going to college. I’ve had a chance to sort of get off the merry-go-round. I hook up with a startup out in Silicon Valley. They are doing a really unique solution around “smart payments”, and they were called Verient. I thought, “you know, why not?”. And they were a really great startup back then and had a really unique solution. Small company, about 12 people. I’ve had a chance to spent three years there. And I think that’s around 2007 or 2008, I started there. That’s where I got the bug to have a feel of a startup environment. It was fun to get out of the market, challenge yourself using your network. We were going after financial institutions and large entities like American Express, Chase, etc. And I spent three years there. That’s where I think I got it in my blood. After I left there, I’ve had a couple of other different companies. Then, the opportunity with Payveris present itself which really allowed me to get back into what is a young company that has a lot of promise. But also, we get back at the payments in which really where I enjoyed the most.
KENNY: Got it. You didn’t see any big culture clash going from corporate America to a 12-person startup to these small enterprises?
JEFF: Well, for sure, you know. The reason companies like ours exist is because of innovation. Big companies end up getting large based on customers and rightfully manage those and technically have trouble innovating. And that’s why all these companies are popping up because there’s lots of ideas out there. And big companies having trouble taking those ideas for a variety of reasons. I think the ability to create an idea and to be able to run with that idea and pave it along the way, that gives you that flexibility. It takes away a lot of the friction that you have for big companies where you have to go to a committee, present your idea with all the other departments that you have to get funding for your idea. And a lot of times, you run out of money or resources to do what you want to do. So, you’re kind of stimy. And in a startup, in a small company like Payveris, we’re a place of entrail and we can attack opportunities a lot faster, and gradual. We can do a lot of things that the market is already asking for. That’s the big difference, I think. The lack of friction. And in a small company, you are able to move fast.
KENNY: I don’t think I’ve ever met an entrepreneur who misses those days of committees and big meetings and all those layers of bureaucracy.
JEFF: That’s something I don’t miss. In the startup, you also, I think, in a big company you sometimes get lost when it comes to the impact you are bringing the company. You might have a spectacular day but the real sense of satisfaction isn’t as great as you can get in a small company. Here, if you have a good day, you’re actually thinking of the future of the company. There’s only 25 people so, every person has a big percentage versus 50,000 people. You got that sense of satisfaction. Much greater in a startup.
KENNY: Very well articulated. That significant piece is huge. Let’s talk about a little bit about your company. What does your company do in the FinTech space. What problem are you trying to solve and what’s the actual service or delivery you are promising to your customers?
JEFF: We are a digital payments company, and we sell our services to community banks and credit unions in the United States. And there are 13,000 banks and credit unions in the United States. It’s a big market. And our mission is really to make those community banks and credit unions relevant again in the payments domain. If you think about what’s happening in the market today, those kinds of institutions have been around for a long time. They were startup a long time ago. And banks a long time ago, people were trading chickens for goats. It’s like that in terms of currency. Obviously, it’s evolved over time and now we got a bit like plastic and things like that. But our mission is really to allow those banks and credit unions to provide their customers or like you and me in small businesses with a better user experience when they go to make payments. If you think about change in banks for the last years, you know, we didn’t have iPads and iPhones and smartphones.
KENNY: Yeah, for sure.
JEFF: But today, a lot of people with their primary banking use this fast for their iPads and they’re doing it whenever and wherever they want. So, that digital experience is super important, right now, to the banks. What’s happening to those banks is they’re getting squeezed by the technology companies. They were largely unregulated with these non-banks, so if you think like Paypal, they’re really not banks, they’re really not regulated but yet they’re doing a service or a function banks have really had own through all these years which is allowing me to move money from my account to make payments to a person or to a merchant, maybe some other accounts or institution. Those banks and credit unions are worried about it. They also worry about big companies like Walmart. It isn’t a bank either but people go in there to do bank type functions. And then if they’re small — smaller, regional size— they worried about the mega banks. You do that with resources to and take advantage of these devices, and create better user experiences. We call ourselves, payment plumbers. We advice through partners and direct places to create those better digital experiences so they can offer their customers a premium experience.
KENNY: Wow, that’s interesting. It’s a white label solution basically?
JEFF: Yes. We are sort of that behind-the-scene service so when you go out tonight to make a payment through whatever device you prefer, you take those experience to any platform whether you are using a phone or an ipad or laptop. It’s going to be the same experience with you. That gives you the total control and flexibility that you’re going to want as today’s consumer. People are still under the branches but it’s becoming less prevalent. I can think what I want to do tonight in the comfort of my own device of my choice, so why not let me do that. You gotta make sure the experience is really premium because if you think about younger people, they grew up with the smartphone in their hands and so they tend to rely on those.
KENNY: Yes, definitely.
JEFF: Shopping online, researching something or just communicating. So, there’s a lot of pressure in the community banks and credit union stuff.
KENNY: That’s fantastic. I remember, we were opening up an account locally. And, we are looking up for some local banks and the thing that was the deciding factor was, “do they have a mobile app that allows me to deposit checks at home with a camera” and if they didn’t have that, then, they’re off the consideration list. It’s amazing that there’s a need for that and companies like yours is stepping into that space.
JEFF: The legacy providers that have been around for a while, they tend to be slow to innovating around in some of these banks. You know, 15 to 20 years ago, they didn’t have to worry because other solutions didn’t exist, devices didn’t exist. It’s a simple world. Then we got brand new merchant stores. And then, one day the internet allows you to create a website. It provides a lot of information. Online banking was pretty simple. Today, on that same level, now it provides a variety of campaign offerings that they can offer to their customers but they’re all built on different methods for different purposes. And so the customer might do something online, in their laptop, that works different, looks different than what they get in the other experience. And that’s a problem because people don’t want that. They were on the same experience across the world. There’s a term, multi-channel or sort of that, with the same experience no maatter where you are and how much you are using. Naturally, it’s where we come in, offering platforms.
KENNY: That’s interesting. At what point in the actual timeline of electronic development in this company itself? And where’s the company today? How many employees? In terms of sales, etc.
JEFF: We’ve been experiencing phenomenal growth for the last two quarters with a hundred clients which is awesome for us. We’re up to about a 175 customers now all across the country, all banks and credit unions. We’re both on bankers or bankers that’s what we like to say. The company’s five years old now. It was birth on Western Bank in Connecticut. That’s where the platform started, really. And the banker invested a lot to create a great platform, all these solutions in a single platform. Payveris was part of this, we came out of the bank and we were able to offer a platform to credit unions and community banks in the United States. And so today we have about 25 employees. I have mentioned 175 customers. We also have 21 partners. And we use these partners as so they buy off credit unions and banks, things like mobile banking, online banking, core processors and so they take our capabilities and they build them in. If it’s a mobile banking company, they should have payments. You want to be able to use your phone for banking and so make payments, transfer money. So, they take our functionality and they invent it within their solution and they go out and market to community banks and credit unions. So that’s our model.
KENNY: Who do you see as your biggest competitor? I think on the consumer level, Venmo and PayPal are on the rise in terms individual peer to peer transactions. I don’t think they’ll ever be a serious competitor on what you guys do because the banking transactions are what you guys center around. Is it the bigger banks who invested in the mobile apps and platforms on the backend? Or is it other disruptors that you are keeping an eye out on the industry?
JEFF: There’s a lot of firms that are coming out with the next big thing around online banking, and mobile banking, so they are the disruptors and shaking space. We feel like we are tpace. Before us there have been digital payments created across the years. It’s time now with all the new technology and capabilities with a company like ours. Traditionally, we compete with the big companies like Pfizer. These are big companies. They have thousands of offerings. They’re global. They have a lot of things to worry about and so the banks decide, payments. All we do is payments. So, in a traditional sense we do compete with those guys. We kind of view it as a David and Goliath story, though. We are David but if you read the book David and Goliath. He knows that David has a lot of advantage with Goliath. He was faster; he had modern weapons; he had a different kind of a vision. This is why he defeated Goliath. And we are the same way. We have a more modern platform versus our competitors. We’re very quick in what we do, and we also have modern weapons which is our platform. That’s how we compete directly. Indirectly though, you go to talk to your typical bank CEO and say, “What are you worried about right now?” “We’re worried about a couple of things. One is slowly losing their franchise on payments. You got the Zenmos and the PayPals basically aren’t coming in and their taking control of that bank’s customers. And saying “hey, why don’t you use my app to move money from your account to another.” Well, that used to be the banks’ terms. And now, Zenmos and companies like that are coming in and it’s because they’re finding the customers where the customers and they’re offering the customers something they are not getting. So bank executive will say, we’re not worried about non-banks. In our market, we usually worry about mega banks. They’re bigger with resources. We’re basically coming in, look we can help you with all that with our solution. There’s definitely a meeting over and over again. The frustrated CEO of the bank is saying I wanted to create a better user experience but my legacy provider doesn’t offer that and so i don’t know where to get it. And we say, now you do. We are Payveris, we are on your side and everything we do is through the bank. It’s pretty simple because you trust the bank. They make a plan about our bank. That’s what you do — manage your money, pay your bills. We just want to provide better tools and better experience.
KENNY: I think you’re right. They want hassle free, high-integrity, mission critical experiences that are flawless, right? Amazing. What about on your rise to the top of this FinTech empire. You’ve had obviously some partners that you have relied or have support from. Can you tell us a little about some of the organizations or partners out there has been helpful in developing your story to a successful one?
JEFF: Yeah, that’s a great point. When the company started five years ago, it was really totally predicated on using distribution partners. We have a little bit of secret sauce and we are unknown accounts. And it helps get relationships with other providers who already have established customer bases and services. And we just become a part of their solution. But, payments are pretty critical if you think about their behavior. You, go log in here, and more than likely we’re going to be going in there make a payment and move money. Or you can also go there to find some information, give you a service, checks or something like that in which not many people are using. We’re in a perfect place right now because that’s what we do. We’re a money movement platform. Some of the partners that we have we take them to our website. They really propose modern solutions to companies like Amazon, offer global banking solution. They’re just like us, they’re funded by investors, they’re going out to the market, they’re filling their need, because buying large banks don’t really have mobile banking solution that’s the problem. That’s why people are looking for banks with mobile service providers. So, that’s an example of a company that is out there, offering a robust solution.
KENNY: That’s awesome to hear that. And also, being a startup also fords you to plug in to this startup community life, right? I think you guys also have gotten the attention of tech council recently. Tell us a little about that relationship or anything that’s come out of that.
JEFF: Tech council. We’ve been involved on and off over the last couple of years with them. They have some of our investors, but on board there’s Louis Hernandez, Chairman and CEO of Open Solutions for many years. He’s been very active there. So, I just started to get reinitiated with technology council. I am pretty excited they make us last year a technology company garage. It’s pretty nice actually, for us, being a small company and awareness is supercritical for us. And a lot of our biggest channels were getting worried that we’re here. So getting affiliated with Connecticut Technology Council. It’s really important. This is exposure. There’s other technology companies and that leads to business. And we hope to return the favor by offering those companies that help us, you know, we pay it back, pay it forward. That’s one example of relevant information as one of our investors here in Rocky Hill. They have been an investor for a number of years and reinvested in the company a couple of times now. They have become super supportive and helpful as well in terms of… not just the funding, that’s a big part of it, but they help us find good people. They introduce us in amazing programs. One on particular, they help us with our marketing, product and company positioning. They brought us really good resources that we haven’t had paid anything before.
KENNY: It’s an exciting story so far. Tell us a little bit about what’s the next step, what’s the next chapter in the Payveris story? Where do you want to go from here, in the next year and next two years?
JEFF: One of the things that I love about Payveris the reason I join is because we have a very great and unique model, and we value processes and market. And we have a platform that nobody else does it like that. Today we have things like bill payment. So, think of it this way. You can pay yourself by moving money from your bank account and vice versa. You can pay another person. You can pay a biller. Another case would be paying a merchant. And so, after we close the session and if you want to pay a cup of coffee, you can use the Payveris mobile wallet to pay a merchant. We continue to see the platform extend and how it innovate pays. Business to business payments. Like 70 percent of all payments today that are B2B. Imagine a time, instead of picking up your phone and typing in a payment you can just skip into it and attain my goal. A lot of innovation is yet to come and that’s one of the things our customers sign up with us. If you ask them, “why do you like Payveris?” “It’s because they got a vision. We love it!”
KENNY: That’s the fun part to be in. That inflection point where the graph changes. Great. So, are you ready to close this interview? So, everyone always wants to know how CEOs and leaders of the top level tend to do so much more than everyone else. Can you share a little bit more about your personal productivity, secret sauces. Is there are digital resource or productivity approach philosophy in terms of getting your work done or collaborating with teams. Is there something you can share with us today?
JEFF: There are a couple of things that I think are important. One of the things we use and it’s a company wide tool, SalesForce.com. That’s a pretty prevalent market. We really make use of that. See what’s coming and forecasting. SalesForces is a tool that everybody’s using. When we started, only salespeople are using it, but now pretty much the whole company and we are using it for customers. What I think is important is in a dynamic environment, wherein small companies that, you can’t say the accurate number. It’s easy to get out of line. From the product marketing sales and development. It’s easy for one part of the company to be in a different line. And that’s not good. So have regular and a lot of meetings, special appointments, set your strategy and make sure you do the same thing. But that’s not enough. You make sure you revisit your company. It’s kinda like counting your pulse. You got to check your pulse. And that’s something I’m trying to do more.
KENNY: That’s one of the things where you probably want to do it more often when you feel comfortable doing, right? Making sure you’re doing it often.
JEFF: It’s really important. If you get out of the line, that means you all are not going in the same direction.
KENNY: Second question what author, speaker, innovator, thought leader in the industry or business in general is catching your attention, that you’re following that you respect a lot, right now.
JEFF: There’s a lot of payment Orion publications, American Banker, of course, it’s something that we look at often. There’s Payments.com. There’s also sorts of a payment information out there. There are a lot of work about payments. So, we look at all that. I like Digital Transactions a lot. It’s a publication out of Chicago. The editor there is John Stuart. He does a really nice job. Payments is a big category. You got bill payment. You got merchant payment. They cover some of that. They oftentimes have some very stimulating articles and I think a little bit more edgy around what’s happening in the payments space. I am not afraid to be critical in the space. If we’re doing something questionable, we’re not afraid to call it out.
KENNY: Sounds authentic. I like that kind of approach. Last question is if people wants to get in touch with you what’s the best method to do that?
JEFF: Well, you know, in today’s world, we’re on 24 by 7. I can’t tell you how… Well, I actually turn off, maybe when I’m in an airplane, I can’t talk to anybody right now. But e-mail’s always the easiest and most efficient because we’re pretty much checking e-mails around the clock, except when we’re sleeping and everybody’s on the go. You can’t promise a lot. So, in any given time, you find some time to talk but a lot of time you just can’t quite have that conversation. So, e-mail is still the baseline. It’s staple for me. I’m constantly on the phone, talking to different people. Our company, even though we are small, we’re talking to different people across the country. We even got a resource in Hawaii. So, we cross a lot of timezones and have a lot of calls as well. E-mail’s probably the easiest.
KENNY: Awesome. Thank you so much for taking part of your day to share with us the Payveris story. It’s exciting to hear where you have come from and where you’re going. I’d love to check in with you. See where you guys are at the next milestone. But really appreciate the time you spend with us today in the VentureClash podcast.
JEFF: Thanks Kenny, I appreciate you offering to do this and I really enjoyed it.
KENNY: Awesome. And for everybody who has been listening, check out our website at VentureClash.com You’ll find this episode as well as all others from our podcast series interviewing startup venture opportunities across Fintech, Insurtech and the digital health spaces, as well as learning about our 5 million dollar venture competition for VentureClash. I’m Kenny Jahng, the host of this podcast. Thank you so much for coming and we’ll catch you on the next episode.