“The traditional way of banking will be a rare event”: Interview with Pomelo Pay’s founder & CEO, Vincent Choi

Last year, for the first time in it’s history, the UK became a majority card-based society with payments made by credit, debit and charge cards accounting for 51% of the 40 billion payments made over the year. The main driving force behind this statistic? The coronavirus pandemic which has changed the financial services industry as we know it.

One of the startups taking the lead within the shifting landscape of the industry is UK-based Pomelo Pay. Founded in 2017, this young startup is determined to support it’s broad customer base, primarily made up of SMEs, by making the payment process seamless and cashflow management stress free.

Having recently raised €2.3 million in seed funding to continue to disrupt the financial services industry for the better, we caught up with founder and CEO Vincent Choi to learn more about the company’s forward thinking mindset and future vision.

Pomelo Pay uses innovative technology and a mobile-first mindset. How does Pomelo Pay’s offering compare to that of traditional financial services?

Pomelo Pay’s offer lightens the load for businesses. We use the latest technology to make taking payments fuss-free and easy for all types of businesses – whether that’s turning a phone into a card machine, creating an online shop or simply sending a payment link.

We’re also focused on ensuring that the payment tools we do offer are all low-cost, user-friendly and require little to no hardware, meaning that businesses can take payments at anytime and anywhere. 

Our offer is diverse and includes a suite of products, such as QR codes, online shops, contactless table ordering, payment links. In a few weeks, we’ll also become the first UK payments business to enable merchants to take card payments by tapping cards directly onto a phone.

Due to COVID-19, flexible, safe and adaptable finance tools are increasingly necessary. How does the Pomelo Pay technology empower merchants to get their business moving during or post pandemic?

We know that the pandemic has had a huge impact on SMEs. Not only have many of them been forced to physically close during lockdowns, but business leaders have had to adapt and innovate quickly by moving online or setting up a contactless payments system when they have been able to open in-person.  

From speaking to our clients and merchants, Pomelo’s technology has helped make this process more seamless. Our suite of contactless payment solutions has helped businesses carry on trading and taking payments during this turbulent time. For example, Pomelo’s QR code technology has eliminated the need for cash or payment terminals, which has meant that businesses could continue to bring in revenue in a way that is safe, secure and affordable.

Looking forward, our payment options enable businesses to offer their customers more ways to pay. Giving customers flexible and convenient payment experiences ultimately keeps customers happy and means small businesses, who may have previously only accepted cash, don’t risk losing out to competition. SMEs can often spend lots of time chasing late payments, which can significantly impact a business’ cash flow. Innovative payment solutions mean a business can take payments as soon as a job is complete, providing reassurance which is particularly important in a financially unstable climate.

Pomelo Pay has a very diverse client base. How do you make sure the company’s products and services are of value to every kind of user?

That’s right – our client base is very diverse and it’s something we celebrate. We have clients across hospitality, construction, travel, retail, transport and many more. Meeting the needs and aims of each one of these businesses is why we’re here, which is why we offer such a broad range of payment products so that each SME has a payment product that matches what they need. 

We’re also never standing still and are continually innovating and developing new ideas and products to make sure we meet this ambition.

You’ve recently commented on how lifting the contactless limit could be a game changer for the hospitality industry in the UK. What impact could a lift it have for businesses in hospitality?

The pandemic has accelerated the UK’s use of cards – as of November 2020, there are more than 156 million credit and debit cards in issue with UK residents, more than 135 million of which have contactless functionality. 

With more people using contactless than ever before, the increased contactless limit increases the velocity of taking payments, which for the hospitality sector means customers can more efficiently pay and leave the venue, cutting slack in the restaurant system. The accumulative effect helps food stalls, restaurants, bars and pubs to take more payments in a shorter amount of time, and ultimately more revenue.

Hospitality has been one of the industries most heavily affected by COVID-19 but how has the pandemic affected the Financial Services Industry, and more specifically, what has it meant for Pomelo Pay?

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has had a significant impact on all walks of life, and the financial services sector hasn’t been immune. We’ve seen an acceleration towards cashless and contactless payments, for example. 

With more businesses looking to innovate how they make and take payments, Pomelo has seen a rapid growth in our customer base, particularly amongst those sectors hit hardest by COVID-19, such as hospitality, retail and construction.

Congratulations on the recent €2.3 million investment Pomelo Pay raised in seed funding! How do you plan to use that funding? We hear international expansion may be on the cards.

Thank you – it’s a hugely exciting time for the business and we have lots coming up in our pipeline! This fresh round of funding will enable us to keep growing our offer, explore new payment solutions and continue to help businesses navigate the current uncertain economic climate. We’ll also be using the investment to make some crucial new hires – both in our Singapore and London offices – and as you say, to expand our presence in countries across Europe and Asia. 

The Financial Services Industry is transforming at an incredible speed. How do stay ahead of the curve when it comes to product development, identifying future market demands and increasing Pomelo Pay’s offering?

Our enduring vision is to help businesses owners do what they do best, which is focus on growing their business without having to worry about financial admin. This is what motivates us to keep innovating and exploring new products. So, we regularly speak to our customers to identify what works for them and what they need, as well as problems within their payments systems that we can explore an industry-wide solution for.  

What do you think will be the next big digital transformation for the Financial Services Industry in the next 5 years?

One of the biggest shifts that we’re likely to see is that banking, payments and financial services will all be done on the smart phone and the traditional way of banking will be a rare event. Ultimately, this shift has already begun to speed up with COVID-19 pushing more people to use digital channels for their everyday lives, and I’m anticipating that this change in behaviour is set to stay.