Independent Software Vendors create new technological products that are designed to serve certain audiences by solving their urgent problems and answering their need to streamline business processes. ISVs seek to provide fail-safe, scalable, and cost-effective for developing products. Some of the vendors tackle niche markets, others create products that can serve wider audiences. SaaSProducts offered by ISVs become indispensable for businesses daily operations as they get incorporated in client management, marketing, supplier & logistics management, employee management and more. The ISVs aim to provide great value and ease of use of it’s customers. More often than not, ISVs face the challenge of incorporation of financial services into their product to make it more convenient and, thus, more competitive.
Financial services that are most often looked for by ISVs are:
Billing & Account Payables Management
Account Payables Management
Additional financial service on the rise among ISVs are
Banking as a service (BaaS)
ISVs are put to the test of identifying the best Finance as a Service (FaaS) provider to enrich the capacity of their product. Despite the ongoing effort to provide more transparency, increase awareness, and educate the general public, financial services are still often seen as complex and unclear for non experts . In addition, as the demand increases, new players appear on the market offering a variety of services. Greater number of FS providers to choose from is, of course, good news, however, the election process becomes more complex.
It is crucial for ISVs to make an educated choice and pick FS providers that are best suited for the vendor’s needs. ‘Vendor’s Needs’, ISV business needs, are keywords for the success of the evaluation process. This may sound self evident, but in practice, many businesses do not dwell enough on the crucial questions that will set them on the path to success. In this post I will share 5 self assessment questions for ISVs looking to incorporate Financial Services Applications.
1. Why are you incorporating Financial Services into your product?
It is evident that your main goal is to help users resolve a problem.
Now let’s define if this is a peripheral flow or a core flow within your product. Are you interested in getting involved in bits and bites of the solution?
If you are looking for minimal involvement then this is a peripheral need. You are basically looking for a FS partner that will make ‘the problem go away’ while the client will get all the needs answered.
If you are looking to control the process (reduce friction, have full transparency, be able to manage parts of the process) then it is one of your core needs. In such a case, you will look for a partner that will provide not only technical rails but also guidance and education as well as flexibility and willingness to adapt to your needs.
Note, the profit can be had in both cases. For the peripheral services you may get a certain referral fee or revenue share for each successful onboarding of a new customer to the FS. Even if the FS does not bring you much profit by itself it raises the overall client satisfaction of your product, which in turn can be then monetized. The more involved you are, the more profit you may gain from the FS, however, you may also be required to invest more not only from the technical infrastructure perspective, but also from the operational perspective. If the FS is entangled with your core product flows this will be worth the investment.
2. Which client base will be served by financial services?
The FS solutions will vary depending on the business model (B2B/B2C/P2P) and vertical. Many FS providers focus on a particular type of service to a certain type(s) of customers. Many will prefer to work with niche players or narrow down the number of verticals served to better manage the risk and regulatory requirements. For example, if you want to offer short term loans or insurance, there is a difference between loans/insurance to business clients and private persons. The service may also differ between retail, travel, or construction verticals.
If you decide that you must resolve customer problems across numerous client types, you may want to look deeper into these services and prioritize them. This will help you shape the plan of action in case you cannot find one single FS partner to cover all ends.
Also, consider that while the challenge may be similar for different client groups the product flows may differ due to the requirements. So not only you may need multiple partners, but you may also treat these processes differently on your end.
3. What does the end-to-end user journey look like with the FS incorporated?
We already agreed that your main goal is to find a solution for your customer. Now let’s envision how that singular problem you are fixing fits into the context of financial flow. I define a financial service as the ability to move money or make operations with money. There is a lot of regulation involved in these areas. Sometimes you cannot do action B if action A was not performed.
Following the previous example, if your goal is to provide short term loans to a certain population you may find out that it is impossible to carry out such an operation without the customer having a registered bank account. You may then find out that you are serving a population that is heavily unbanked. Such discovery may lead you to a conclusion that you need an FS partner that can provide banking services as well as loan management. In addition, once the loan is given it may be that your client needs to transfer these funds to their suppliers, which is an additional step in the process. Moreover, you and /or your FS partner may be interested to control the way your customer uses the loaned funds.
At this point , you have much more clarity of the situation: Three different services are needed to create a good journey (for the client and your business). When you review the financial service providers you can identify which parts of the puzzle they can help you with.
4. What are your target markets for financial services?
Many ISVs are operating in multiple markets and strive to provide equally good service to customers around the globe. Incorporating financial services brings complexity as each market has different laws and regulations that apply to financial services.
First, prioritize your markets. The wish to rollout the best possible product ‘globally’ is an ambitious but unrealistic goal when dealing with financial services. If you want to provide best in class service you need to invest time in each market. I recommend prioritizing 1-3 markets, focusing on one market at a time.
Next, embrace the difference. As mentioned above the regulations and laws differ between markets, the FS providers’ technical abilities and partnership models may also differ greatly. Understand constraints in each market and make the best choice accordingly. In some cases you will find that it is better to use the peripheral setup outsourcing most of the operation to your FS partner or other local player.
5. How fast do you need the financial product to launch?
Launching financial services may be time consuming. The more involved you are in the process the more time it may require to launch, especially, if you plan to be involved in the operational side of things. If the time is of essence, you may want to consider the ‘quick and dirty’ approach and launch the service in the peripheral mode first. Once the product rolled out you may tap into the process gradually taking over parts of the flow. For such a strategy it is better to find a partner that will be able to handle both models and pass the reins over to your team gradually. For example, if you are planning to offer integrated payments services and obtain a payment facilitation license, consider partnering with a provider that can support both whitelable payment facilitation and full payment facilitation models, thus, allowing you to launch fast and gradually take over the payment facilitator role.
To rollout in multiple markets, plan your technological infrastructure as an agnostic and modular layer that will be able to connect with multiple providers and adjust to the requirement in various markets. For example, if your goal to launch payment facilitation in the US, EU, and Brazil, consider that while the underwriting process exists in each one of the jurisdictions and the essence of the flow is the same, there are differences between the onboarding templates and the verification tools that you may need.
The five questions above will help you start the discussion about the best approach to the financial services integration for your ISV product. It is advisable to have a discussion led by the product team collecting inputs from the stakeholders including finance and legal departments, the involvement of these departments at the early stages is crucial ( and in this FS may be different from other services included in your suite). The clear statement of your business goals, timeframes, desired level of involvement, risk appetite will help you outline the characteristics of the perfect partner to launch an incorporated financial service with. Once you formulate your requirement it can be passed on to FS providers initiating a fruitful discussion with clear objectives.