Financial IT catches up with Myles Dawson, UK Country Manager of Adyen to talk about industry trends, the mission of Adyen and the changes brought by it.
Financial IT: To start, we would like to hear about your background and Adyen. What was your journey like to get where you are?
Myles Dawson: My background is sales, I’ve led business development teams for a number of tech companies including Rackspace, where I was responsible for the international expansion of their foray into the Enterprise space.
With Adyen, I saw an opportunity to join a company with a truly global outlook, which was doing really exciting things in a market in much need of innovation. Typically considered to be the least exciting division within banks, the payments sector used to suffer from poor service and high fees. Merchants had to sign long-term contracts for payment services that were difficult to set up and lacked even the most basic features.
Adyen was founded in Amsterdam in 2006 with a view to redesign the way businesses accept payments from anywhere in the world, using the same technical platform and administrative back office interface. The team has since expanded to include some of the most highly skilled payment experts in the industry, with offices globally ensuring a local approach everywhere.
We have been growing at a rapid pace ever since and are currently powering payments for over 4500 brands worldwide. Most recently, it’s been tremendously rewarding to lead on some huge local wins, including Burberry, Jack Wills and Topshop, to name a few.
Financial IT: What have been the major challenges for Adyen? How have you addressed them?
Myles: Our goal was to take over and own every step of the payment process, with an end-to-end solution that encompassed what had traditionally been carried out by a range of different parties. A lot of work had to be put into ensuring every aspect was handled comprehensively, particularly for sensitive processes involving risk and global transaction conversion.
Growing as quickly as we have from a single hub in Amsterdam to a worldwide operation worth $2.3bn has been the major hurdle to overcome, as the viability of our solution always depended on truly global-reaching capabilities and extraordinary talent across many different cultures. We’ve had to balance the global scope of modern commerce whilst understanding the intricacies of how business is done across all those regions. This has meant establishing a presence in every market, in order to develop an in-depth knowledge of local shopping trends, to ensure we achieve the highest conversion rates for our merchants.
As a technology company handling end-to-end transactions, we had to ensure our platform was solid and bug-free. Adyen’s first years as a business were spent fine-tuning our core technology to ensure it’s ready to support fast growth. Since then, we’ve constantly been innovating new features, enabling cross-channel shopping experiences and adding local acquiring capabilities and new alternative payment methods.
Financial IT: Adyen surges transaction volume to $90 billion in 2016. What are the most influential factors of these impressive results that are doubling year-over-year?
Myles: Probably most significant is the expansion of our global footprint, especially in some of the fastest growing countries. We’ve been able to take great strides in these markets by understanding how people like to pay regionally and making sure our platform supports the preferred local payment methods.
In China, for instance, there’s a huge appetite for mobile payments, so we’ve been quick to add the likes of Apple Pay, Android Pay, WeChat Pay and Alipay to our platform. Our success has generally been dependent on our ability to support our customers worldwide across the entire channel spectrum, providing a platform with a single point of reconciliation for every transaction. This is testament of how game-changing companies like Netflix and Spotify have been able to sustain such rapid growth.
In-store payments were also a big driver of our growth in 2016. We were delighted to add a number of huge retailers to our list of customers, including the likes of Burberry, Topshop and Jack Wills. Today, Adyen handles in-store and omnichannel payments for many of the UK’s top retailers, reaching around a third of all shoppers. These companies want to provide the best possible customer service and offer new shopping experiences, and an omnichannel platform like ours means they’re able to support all the emerging payment methods their customers want to use.
Financial IT: Going forward, what are the major milestones you have for Adyen?
Myles: Our business goals hinge on working closely with our customers to provide the highest conversion rates, hence ensuring business success. Now that we have a presence in every market, we can pursue this goal with a more bottom-up approach which is tailored to regional needs and trends, allowing us to grow transaction volumes organically within each country.
This will also ensure that our growth is truly global. Last year, 10% of the transactions we processed came from Asia Pacific, whereas over 50% came from Europe, which obviously makes up a far smaller percentage of the global population. As more businesses outside of Europe grow and look to scale-up globally they’ll want a global omnichannel payments platform. If we can see this growth reflected proportionally in our transaction growth, we’ll know we’re doing the right thing.
Financial IT: The digital revolution is reshaping the payments sector tremendously. In your opinion, how will the payments industry evolve over the next few years?
Myles: We can obviously expect ‘emerging’ payment methods of recent years to become increasingly mainstream. Consumers are now relying on their mobile phones to pay for goods and it’s reasonable to expect that these payments will make up the majority of transactions in markets such as the UK and Australia this year.
Conversational commerce is another emerging trend which we can expect to see a lot more of over the next few years. By this I mean apps which people use for direct conversations with brands, such as Facebook Messenger and Snapchat, becoming a platform for payments. China is at the forefront of this trend with the likes of WeChat Pay, but we can expect some of the most popular messaging apps really pushing in-app payments, as they look to monetise their services.
But beyond this, I think success in the payments industry will come to those who can broaden the payment experience beyond just the method itself. Merchants are increasingly recognising the value of personalised services, such as loyalty rewards, customised payment and delivery options, as well as targeted offers. Payment platforms which can integrate such services in a manner which makes it simple for the merchant and customer to take advantage of will no doubt be sought after.
This emphasis on customer experience will be shaped partly by the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which is due to be implemented across Europe in 2018. PSD2 will essentially open up the industry, and we’ll see customer expectations raised as everyone from established banks to new fintech start-ups compete to offer the best shopper experience, while also juggling customer protection within the new authentication framework outlined in the directive.
Financial IT: As an industry leader, could you suggest what should the start-ups entering the field consider to be viable?
Myles: I think a lot of start-ups could benefit from taking a more people-focused approach. As a start-up with limited capital and resources, it’s the people who are driven to do things differently that are your biggest assets – they are what gives your company the advantage over your competitors, no matter how big they are. If you want these people to realise their full potential, and you want to attract even more talent who are able to drive growth, you need a culture which offers individuals the freedom, empowerment and ultimately the environment they need to innovate.
This emphasis on people shouldn’t be lost when scaling up. I think one of the big reasons for Adyen’s success has been because we haven’t lowered the bar in terms of the quality of talent we recruit and most importantly their attitude and fit to our culture.