September 26th, 2018
FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.9-Sep 14): Curexe’s New SmartPay Product & Front-line of Global Digital Payments with Johnathan Holland, Founder of Curexe
NCFA Canada | Sep 14, 2018
Ep9-Sep 14: Curexe's New SmartPay Product & Front-line of Global Digital Payments
About this episode: On this episode our host Manseeb Khan sits down with the CEO And founder of Curexe, so chat about their new product called SmartPay! They also talked about how A.I is going to touch the payments and every other industry, regulations that could be in place when accepting crypto and many more. Enjoy!
Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host
Guest: Johnathan Holland, Founder and CEO, Curexe
Bio: Johnathan Holland's experience comes from a decade of learning about capital markets and a relentless pursuit of providing better customer experiences in the payments and currency exchange industry. Johnathan’s advantage has been to look at the currency exchange industry in a new light, which enabled him to create a new, better way to empower the businesses that are underserved by their current solutions. Johnathan graduated from the 2016 cohort of the Next 36 accelerator program that helps young entrepreneurs build high impact businesses and is currently running the company out of the DMZ. LinkedIn profile
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Transcription of Interview
Manseeb Khan: Hey Everybody Manseeb Khan here and you are tuning in to the NCFA's newest podcast series Fintech Fridays. Today I have an absolutely incredible guest. I know I say this every week, but I truly, truly do have an incredible guest today. Today I'm Johnathan Holland the CEO and founder of Curexe and he's my boss. So, everybody please play nice.
Johnathan Holland: Johnathan how are you doing today man? I'm doing well Manny how's it going?
Manseeb Khan: I'm doing really well.
Manseeb Khan: So, for the audience who don't know who you really are could you just for a minute give us a little breakdown of who you are and essentially what Curexe does?
Johnathan Holland: So yes, basically I look at the world of banking like know technology hadn't really affected it in a meaningful way, it’s as one of the last industries to really be innovated. So about four years ago I decided to build this business basically out of necessity. I applied to all the banks. I wanted to be an investment banker. Nobody would give me an interview. So out of that I decided to build a foreign exchange business and out of that business. We essentially help small companies in need to send money to different countries and different currencies and then we launched another product which allows them to accept debit card payments online when I say debit card. I don't mean to Interac rails and definitely avoiding Visa, Mastercard rails and it allows any e-commerce business to integrate our one line of code. And you can accept debit card payments in 10 minutes. So, kind of built those two businesses and now we're starting to roll and feels good.
Manseeb Khan: Awesome, so the secondary product is under a whole different name which was originally. So, it's under SmartPay right. So initially started a SmartPay then you changed it to Curexe. Now back to SmartPay I guess. Why do you go back and forth like why don't you just kind of stick to one topic and is it? Are you building two different companies. Is it under a whole umbrella? How does it really work?
Johnathan Holland: Honestly Manny it’s a mess bro, so basically what I did is it started out as student currency exchange. So, I started the business it was to help international students pay for tuition around the world of course. From there I realized that it was hard enough to get banking relationships in our own country here in Canada let alone get relationships globally. Because I'd have to set up to accept money from India for someone in India to come to school in Canada and make those payments. So, it was student currency exchange and then it basically pivoted to what I called SmartPay. It ended being our legal name SmartPay incorporated and that was basically an online foreign exchange business for the small business owners that are out there. And then from there it essentially kind of changed. We kind of did it doing business under a name called Curexe C.U.R.E.X.E that ran for you know a number of years. And then when we launched this new debit card payment processing company which is still the same company is two different products now but because you know we still use that SmartPay name before, so that's what we brought back, we have a logo. You know we got the domain. So, it was easy to kind of jump into it. So, there's no real rhyme or reason it's just hop and the like name changes and pivots and all that kind of good stuff for the start-up.
Manseeb Khan: So, could you talk a little bit more of the whole debit processing side because I'm pretty sure probably not many people know of the fees that entails. If you're using Visa MasterCard and or PayPal as an online merchant, as an online seller. could you talk a little bit more of why you decided to just build a whole different system and kind of why we're doing this whole David versus Goliath.
Johnathan Holland: Yes definitely. Yeah like it came out of necessity from our customer. so, all of them had a need to make payments to international suppliers in different currencies that was Curexe the after the first product and then they all kept complaining about accepting PayPal payments and it wasn't necessarily PayPal that was the problem. The system works fine. The problem is the fees for the business keep in mind this should be clear. If you're an online shopper out there you don't ever pay anything. You never pay anything to PayPal or credit cards. When you're online shopping and the business owners always charge this two-point nine percent of their revenue that never seems to go away. But if you're accepting money from different countries PayPal is going to force you to exchange those different currencies from say U.S. dollars accepting U.S. customer payments back to Canadian if your bank accounts are in Canada. But with that conversion there's an added cost of three and a half percent, two to three and a half depending on different credit cards and stuff as well. So, a six-point four percent of your topline revenue. And if you look at a business with a net profit margin of 10 percent you're eating into a profit. So, the businesses were complaining we realized that we had the technology to basically make it easy to collect the information we needed, and we had the bank accounts and the bank relationships to be able to pull funds from an online shoppers account. So that's what we've done. We've made it very simple putting in your credit cards easy. I'll be honest I have good credit. I don't even think I would ever use my product. I always use credit card. I'm not a points junkie like some people. some people care about their points other people there's a percentage of the population that don't like getting in debt because they're starting to learn more or they don't even own a credit card at all for that reason they just don't want to be in debt but there's no option that's not viable to buy a product online, outside of credit card or PayPal. So, what do you do have to sign up for a PayPal account or if they don't offer PayPal you have to get a credit card. So, some people just don't shop, or they drop off in check-outs.
Manseeb Khan: Yeah, I think it's I think it's a lack of education thing. right? I think it's like now kind of what you have mentioned of what you mentioned right. Like people are getting a lot more smarter and knowing a little bit more of how credit score works. What you should and shouldn't do when you get a credit card and just like what good credit really doesn't like how much it opens so much more doorways right. So, it's incredible. You guys are ,we are kind of providing a not only a great system to help business owners save a crap ton of money that can go right back into the business. Help them grow but you're also providing a very good education behind them and like teaching people. hey that's not the only way you can do it. There’re other ways you can do it and we're building a system to help you understand that.
Johnathan Holland: That's definitely right
Manseeb Khan: Could you talk a little bit more of the regulations behind this and just regulations being a money service business in general?
Johnathan Holland: So, we have these special bank accounts that essentially that allow us to pull money from any Canadian or U.S. bank account. now because we have that capability there's a lot of responsibility that goes with that. So, we're registered what's called a money service business as a money service business. We're very highly regulated it's Fintrac in Canada, FinCEN in the U.S. They basically have very strict rules that apply when you're dealing with money launderers out there, terrorist financing. There's a lot of like global sanctions list that we scrape, screen names that we need to make sure that the bad guys aren't able to move money around with our system and the regulations make sure that we're reporting and at least giving them all the information that they need that if there was a deep investigation that they would be able to at least maybe track down those individuals the bad guys, the bad actors and then do something about it. So, what happens is Fintrac or FinCEN and we'll collaborate with law enforcement and they'll be able to essentially help stop terrorism or funding I guess of terrorism and money laundering. as well which is obviously a big issue with lots of criminal organizations and the bad stuff that can happen with that. So, we're very regulated. We have annual reviews there's like every two years we ever review from our federal regulator which is a very serious kind of event and we just always have to make sure we're on top of this stuff for moral issues and for the laws that we have to follow the law.
Manseeb Khan: So being a money service business you're definitely going to deal with a lot of fraud or have you have a way higher potential risk of fraud. Could you talk a little bit more what fraud prevention you're putting in place and talk a little bit more of what you're seeing that's there. And like pretty much the loopholes or fraud prevention your kind of hoping that kind of gets filled in moving forward?
Johnathan Holland: Yeah, no absolute fraud happens. money service business is a broad term, so money service business could be that little kiosk in the mall. where you can go to exchange or Canadians in euros before you go to Europe. I mean you could wash money through that stuff, but fraud is probably less prevalent. Assuming they check the Bills under lighting and everything because there could be against counterfeit. But with online money transfer businesses there's always that risk right. I mean you can create a business fairly easily get it registered open up an online store start accepting payments with no intention of paying the people basically just ripping off shoppers never send in products out. So, us as a business we have to be able to combat against this stuff, so we have a really strict analysis on the business. How long have they been in business? Identify all the individuals in the business pull Corp reports from different sources who can make sure the business is legitimate. We'll even go as far as talking to their end customers making sure that things are smooth. So we do a lot of in-depth stuff that a fraudster pretty much can't avoid which is what really helps us kind of combat against these guys and then outside of that a lot of fancy technology stuff or we track IP address as we screen different computers we have different recording systems and being very vague here for a reason because the deeper I go, the more knowledge I'm giving out there and then these fraudsters because there's an entire industry around the stuff that there's conferences that I've been that, that explain to me there's conferences for hackers and how to rip off credit card lists like you know all this stuff that's happening so the conventions in Vegas to teach people how to rip people off with their credit cards right.
So, the credit cards are very easy to rip off. Luckily your credit card company reimburses you of course at no cost to them. And shoppers don't realize it. But if somebody steals your credit card but has a product from the store. Visa MasterCard or not out the money. That's why their stock charts a 45 degree angle up and to the right. Essentially the business owner loses that money. So, this could be a small business owner. You know you name it. That are now out funds and that's a loss of they have on their books. so, it's definitely a serious thing. That's why people should be very diligent about making very secure passwords my passwords are anywhere from 25 characters to 64 characters. Random numbers letters and symbols. It has to be that way. Use a password manager that makes it easy. You don't have to be typing anything off the piece of paper and type it in and it makes your life easier and safer and then you're helping business owners that are out there as well because the fraud that happens in this industry it's amazing what they've came up with to fraud systems and everything so that there's a lot of stuff that we do. I just want to make sure I don't give away too much. Yeah nation's nerve. Can somewhat crack the code which they sill. We have endpoints that are manually can't but still helps.
Manseeb Khan: Right .Canada has been on the up of A.I. so do you see I guess A.I playing a role in helping Curexe and other businesses like Curexe in the future
Johnathan Holland: No absolutely. I mean AI is going to touch every industry I think in a very meaningful way especially in the payment side now. The ones that have the most advantage are the ones with the most data. So, you have to work with banks, you have to work with organizations that are willing to share data. Visa ,MasterCard have built some pretty good rules you'll notice now if you go on a trip oftentimes will say you don't have to call the credit card company. It's because you probably booked it through flight through a booking thing and they're sharing the data back and forth. There's such a good thing for the end customer. But yeah, I mean in general there's a lot of interesting things going on in the space from that angle and we're all just doing. We can I mean A.I will change a lot of this and I've haven't seen a lot of very developed A.I that really has helped us this besides maybe Visa MasterCard and what they do. Keep in mind online shopper it doesn't matter how you pay you never to charge anything. you never get frauded any money. You'll ultimately get your money back. I mean if there is a unique scenario where there was big complications that just make sure like I said Protect your passwords securely. What happens is we'll take a longer period of time for the resolution to happen if it was something bigger. So, if you're wealthy individual and you listen to this just be very secure with all your passwords and stuff. which you probably already are because you probably had an incident happened at some point. For anybody that's just using typical credit card .they just give your money back off the work. So, there's no stress about buying something online and that's why the market's growing 15 percent year over year with online shoppers everybody is going online. It's easy. You know people are starting to order groceries online. It's becoming a more convenient world. And I think that there'll be more shopping online.
Manseeb Khan: Yes, speaking of online shoppers you are seeing a growth maybe not. Nothing too crazy. We were seeing a growth of people buying items through crypto. Right. So, do you see how do you see crypto playing a role in this do you. Do you guys see that. Later on, accepting crypto. Do you guys see maybe launching an ICO like what's your take on servicing cryptos.
Johnathan Holland: So, the reason I love cryptocurrency is because I started studying it in 2014. I looked at crypto like this is going to be the next thing that could rip away my business. Now a lot of interesting things have happened with Bitcoin the way it took off it is honestly like magical is the best word to describe it because for the network effects and everyone to get that on board with you know really what it is. Now finally someone can compete with money transfer businesses and banks and stuff like that. So, it was very exciting to see the way it took off. It still hasn't proven itself to be viable in the market. And what I mean by that is the volatility. And I'll explain if a lot of viewers aren't very finance savvy but the volatility. so, Bitcoin can move 5 percent in a day. If you're a business owner accepting 100 bucks with crypto and within that day it drops to 95 that literally with the PayPal fees as well could cripple a good or 10 percent net profit margin like we discussed before. So, the volatility in the movement of it can go in your favor and you make 105 bucks. But it could also go against you. the business orders aren't typically comfortable with our kind of risk. So what needs to happen and any bankers listening please push for this within your banks, become a market maker for crypto and market makers. Basically, you provide a lot of liquidity a lot of dollars like billions of dollars and buy and sell and take both sides of the trade. So, you sell side buy side in any given market and that's why you have a very liquid market get in and out in seconds.
So, for example you could buy a Wal-Mart stock your order executes instantly, if you buy a small cap company meaning they're you know a smaller size company who might only trade three times throughout the day. so, you can only have three times where a buyer and seller are willing to agree on a price. And then and then a change happens. So, a crypto more liquidity spreads are still crazy like the volatilities moving about 5 percent a day. So, if you have market makers come in it basically reduced that volatility not 5 percent but smooths it out. And if it's more smooth then at least the business can accept the crypto and then you know convert back to fiat and not have to worry, ideally in a perfect world for like I'm talking to consumers, business owners everybody adopts crypto and everybody just uses that as a currency because the fees are much lower. The system is very secure. It's a secure network of nodes and all those nodes literally have to agree on all the transactions that happen, or it doesn't go through. There's no duplicate of money. There's oftentimes the SWIFT network our international payment network gets hacked and money gets lost. You hear about it, but they keep it very quiet as the like. What's actually happening around the world. crypto and bitcoin has risks like this as well because it's early, but it does have the potential to become something that would be very viable. I personally didn't invest in crypto because it's a it's a buy sell thing. It's like Warren Buffet says why would you buy a piece of gold. And the reason he says have a bar of gold and you have to buy things so what you do is you clip off a little piece of gold. And you paid for your groceries at a clip of a piece of gold and he buys clothes for the day of your family whatever it is that you clip off in a little piece of that bar. You don't even have a gold bar at the end of it. Warren Buffet would rather do is buy a piece of land that has a store value you which is what crypto kind of has. I mean bitcoin with the scarcity of the coins gives us somewhat of a perceived value like the scarcity of diamonds and gold. Right. So, if you have a piece of land and that produces you crops every year you can mine those crops then buy your food and beverage and you still have a piece of land you still have that store value. with Bitcoin. You're saying it's worth 10000 but you're only saying we're 10000. Everybody's agreed it's 10000. If everybody agreed that tomorrow that it's worth hundred it'll go to a hundred or go to 100k some people are predicting. So, I'm unsure where the price of crypto will go. But I love the fact that it could actually come in and start to transact the businesses have to accept that widely. And individuals have to start paying with it and then hopefully we see the network effects take off and maybe commerce will begin.
Manseeb Khan: Yeah, I mentioned in a couple of episodes past you're seeing a lot of institutions and banks started to get on the crypto market like trying to in a sense bring both worlds together where you have like the regulations unlike the traditional marketplace into the new marketplace the whole decentralization everything. So, you're seeing like a bridge if not a maybe arranged marriage being built around it. So yeah it should be very interesting to see how it goes the next 18 to 24 months to wrap this up. What would be other than make sure you secure your passwords make sure you're paying attention to where your money is going. What would be your advice to either online merchant’s small business owners and anybody else that's in the industry.
Johnathan Holland: I mean it depends it's a very broad questions of we can go in a number of different ways but online merchants there are other services available like now because we've launched this debit card solution. I know there's going to be several other players that are coming in and they're going to build there a new type of credit card or different type of payment systems using crypto to make online payments. That's some exciting areas that can move into. So, I would say the online merchants especially if you're doing big volume that 2.5 percent and then FX stuff as well that you're getting dinged that matters to your business so look for other solutions it doesn't necessarily have to be lower cost and sacrifice quality. Right because there's products out there that can still have the same quality, but you also get to save a bit of money while you're doing it. So, the merchant should do that, online shoppers I mean ultimately you know your personal finances are important. Do what you can to save your money and getting into debt is obviously not that smart. Interac in Canada a lot of ads but this like back in the black meaning you know back in the positive. I don't think the general population you know is that black is positive and red is negative. But you know maybe this is where that degree maybe I'm given them you know some food for thought there but, so you know it's good I think as a consumer to make sure that you're saving your money. so be mindful of what you're spending on. And when you do spend it I would say use debt but I'm biased. I think it's better to not get in debt.
Manseeb Khan: Awesome. So, Johnathan thank you so much for sitting down with me today. This has been very educational for me even though I'm in the company but I'm pretty sure a lot of people might have learned a thing or two and hopefully it will change the passwords like I'm going to in the next 30 seconds and I can't we talking on the show going man.
Johnathan Holland: Happy to be here Manny. Cheers.
End of Podcast
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