Guide

Workflow series #4 - How to scale payment facilitator services

Victor Mithouard
10
November 2023
0
min read

Payment facilitators (or payfacs) are payment service providers who support merchants in acquiring payments from their customers. They work with acquirers (direct members of the card schemes) to sponsor merchants and offer them a wide range of payment services.

Payfacs like Mangopay or Lemonway have been instrumental to the rise of business models like marketplaces and online retailers by providing a simple-to-embed infrastructure to acquire and redistribute payments.

In this article, we explore how successful payment facilitators grow and the payment operations complexity they face during this growth. We then describe how adequate payment orchestration supports payfacs with real-time, scalable, and flexible payment operations that can follow their growth.

Why successful payfacs work with multiple processors and acquiring partners

Payment facilitators’ value proposition is their ability to process payments on behalf of their merchants in the most efficient and widespread manner.

Their corporate objectives usually focus on the growth of the total volume processed, the resiliency of their operations, and their operating margin per payment.

To deliver on those corporate objectives, a payfac can put in place a variety of strategies. Working with our customers, we have seen the following initiatives taking place in the market:

  • Access local payment schemes to increase payment options, which drives conversion. Specific local payment methods – like iDeal in the Netherlands – require a local acquirer to settle and, therefore, a new banking partner.

  • Maximising “on-us” payments. An “on-us” payment refers to a payment deposited or processed by the bank issuing or initiating the payment. Because the transaction remains within a single bank, it is preferred for its lower expenses and added ability to profit from it. Banks do not get charged interchange by the card networks and pass those savings to the payfac either as a discount on the payment or a credit note. To reap the substantial benefit of on-us payments, payfacs look to ensure a sizeable share of their payments are processed with this model. A 50% coverage can mean at least 5-6 separate banks (depending on the market) to build integrations with.

  • Work with multiple acquirers for the same payment method (cards usually) to reduce strategic dependency and systemic risk to a single acquirer in the value chain. Optionality supports cost negotiations that can support margin expansion.

  • Strike strategic distribution partnership with certain acquirers to become the payfacs of choice for certain use cases of their existing customer base. An example of this partnership could be Lemonway’s partnerships with Société Générale to support the growth of large corporates in Europe.

The payment operation challenges faced by payfacs as they scale

Most of the above initiatives require adding a new banking partner or processor. On top of establishing the commercial relationship, a new partner in the infrastructure of the payfacs requires the following steps:

  • Establish dedicated connectivity with the partner’s system

  • Develop methods to ingest and parse the specific data formats

  • Integrate the new data sources in the current settlement process

  • Calibrate the reconciliation rules from capture to settlement for the particular acquirer

  • Route the merchant payout through a bank account

Manual processes of the above steps are manageable with few partners but quickly become unreliable and break as payment volumes scale. When payment operations fail, it can have an immediate impact on the merchant experience. It can also create an operational risk exposure (financially and regulatory-wise), which can put the business at risk.

Building a payment facilitator operation with Numeral

Payouts: Banking operations to increase merchant satisfaction

Numeral partners with payfacs to streamline their end-to-end payment operations and support their pan-European growth as they add new banks and gateways to serve their customers better.

The foundation of payfacs operations lies in its banking infrastructure. Numeral connects through a single API to all bank accounts to retrieve structured balance and transaction data.

GET https://api.numeral.io/v1/balances

GET https://api.numeral.io/v1/transactions

For on-us payments, there might be a requirement to move the daily card settlements between the payfacs accounts. A dedicated API call moves the money and can be flagged as payment type = treasury.

POST https://api.numeral.io/v1/payment_orders

Once funds are available in a central account, they can be disbursed to the payfac’s merchant depending on their settlement schedules. Outgoing payments can be automatically initiated via API and monitored in Numeral through a central dashboard. Payouts rejected can be caught early and notifications can be sent through webhooks to update ledgers and notify the merchant accordingly.

Settlement: Automating settlement reconciliations

Numeral supports payfacs in automating their settlement process with the different acquirers that they work with. As often with reconciliations, it is essential to clarify which data points are reconciled. Numeral supports the following 3-way reconciliation process: 

  • Payments captured through the processor or acquirer

  • Settlement of the payment, which is usually contained in the acquirer settlement reports 

  • Transaction to which the settlement is linked on the bank account

When the payment processor authorises a transaction, the payfacs system can log the capture in the Numeral platform by creating a payment capture

POST https://api.numeral.io/v1/payment_captures

As part of the Numeral setup: 

  • Numeral will be connected to the gateway’s settlement reporting channel. This channel is usually either an SFTP or an API 

  • The reconciliation engine rules for the gateway-specific data format will have been configured

Once a payment capture is reconciled, a webhook can be sent to the payfac system to notify their core system and adjust the merchant balance accordingly.

Finance and operations can access payments captured and how they match with the settlement reports provided by their different gateways in their central dashboard. Any new reconciliation process from new gateways can be added seamlessly without complexity for product and engineering teams and fully automated from the get-go.

The benefits of using Numeral

Leveraging a payment operations platform like Numeral for scaling payfacs has therefore, multiple benefits.

  • Accelerate growth by accelerating local payment methods launch thanks to a single payment and reconciliation layer. New gateways added translate in limited incremental efforts for the operations team supported by a >99.9% reconciliation rate.

  • Increase control and compliance through the centralised platform to reconcile incoming and outgoing payments in a single place that can feed through modern webhooks in your core banking and ERP.

  • Improve operating margins through the setup of on-us payments with multiple acquirers/issuers without the complexity of bank integrations and cross-bank liquidity management

Should you be interested in connecting with one of our payment experts to get tailored advice on your payment flows, do not hesitate to contact us!

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