Founded in 2015 by tech veteran Carlo Gualandri, Soldo is one of Europe’s fastest-growing fintech companies. In 2019, the company raised a $61 million Series B round led by Battery Ventures and Dawn Capital with the participation of Accel and other existing investors – the largest round of funding ever secured by a pay and spend automation company.
Soldo combines smart prepaid company cards with a comprehensive management platform to help companies track and control spending. This enables employees and departments to make purchases and control every cost with custom budgets while tracking transactions in real-time.
Steve Whiting, Head of Payments Technology at Soldo, here shares insight into the company, and how they reinvented business spending.
What ‘issue’ has Soldo set out to solve?
We live in a time when buyers and sellers are increasingly expecting payments and banking to be simple and invisible. From the merchant perspective, we see the first wave to meet this challenge delivered by companies like Square and Stripe. When we started out in 2015, we realised that businesses of all sizes want this simplicity too, but they don’t want to sacrifice control over spend to achieve it. Unfortunately, this is a trade-off they are faced with all too often, with businesses forced to retain inefficient and often manual processes. We, therefore, wanted to provide a platform where background spending could be fully visible and controlled. We understood that fulfilling our ambitions would take us years rather than months, but this commitment would ultimately allow us to circumnavigate legacy issues others would run into when attempting to create customer-centric multi-user accounts.
How has Soldo gone about solving this issue?
We’ve reinvented how spending works. Traditional bank accounts and card issuing products and processes have evolved slowly over the last thirty years and were not designed for today’s interconnected, customer-centric world. Therefore we’ve taken a different approach – to reinvent rather than redeploy – a deliberate approach to place the customer at the centre of technology, product design, development and engineering to create something entirely new.
This approach has already delivered real value in the world of spend management for business organisations. Instead of employees having to waste time manually writing up details of each receipt, they can simply take a photo and tag it onto the expense account. Instead of employers giving workers cash, they can give them a card with a budget over which the employer has total control.
What makes Soldo stand out in the industry?
What makes Soldo different is that we never set out to be a bank or a neobank. We wanted to combine the customer-centric ecosystem that fintech companies have become synonymous with, with the financial business and institution world. While challenger banks like Monzo and Starling are essentially doing an amazing job reimagining traditional banking, we looked at the core infrastructure of spending and asked how we could provide something that looked familiar but at the same time was under the surface completely different. What is the problem to be solved with traditional bank accounts and issuing systems? The key problem is lack of user control over the way their own money is handled for payments – by whom, for what, how, when – essentially to take a customer-centric view of the services that will make their lives better. By building a full-stack technology platform as the foundation of our multi-user account system, we have achieved this. Soldo customers often tell us they did not know they needed our product until they started using it, and now they cannot imagine being without it.
What opportunities have pushed Soldo to where you are today?
Advances in the internet, mobile and social media have meant that consumers expect smooth, user-friendly experiences, and business leaders are of course also consumers. They want to be able to manage their financial activities with the same ease that they manage their photos on Facebook or Instagram. This, I believe is a good definition of Fintech – using the techniques and technology that took the Internet to social and mobile and adding to it the world of finance. We know that many businesses are tired of old banking technology which can often slow them down and be detrimental to both business processes and customer experience. We, therefore, saw an opportunity to offer them a different way of doing things.
What changes could the future hold for both the challenger and their customers?
We expect to see increasing expectations of frictionless, invisible payments. This will make everything simpler from the end-user perspective and allow them to go about selling and consuming with greater ease. As far as they’re concerned, as long as everything is moving smoothly, they don’t have to spend too much time thinking about a payment. Sellers know that they have enough information to trust that the buyer will make good on a sale and buyers know that there are robust systems in place to flag any issues.
From the perspective of financial services, invisible payments are much more difficult to manage. A huge amount of technology and intelligence will be required to enable an increased reliance on them. AI and machine learning will be harnessed to ensure that risk assessment is baked into everything. A more advanced risk-based approach will supplement to a far greater extent the current processes of authentication and authorisation for real-time money movement transactions. A full picture of good user activity is required to allow payments to happen in the background whilst ensuring fraudsters are not able to take advantage of any weaknesses in the system. This is where Fintechs have the upper hand, as our expertise will be essential to managing the sophisticated technology needed behind the scenes.