Financial services shouldn’t be a limiting factor for individuals and businesses who seek to explore their financial capacities regardless of their regional boundaries.
VPD Money a financial services and lifestyle app is providing money management tools, instant access to a digital wallet and bank account to users.
The fintech platform is unifying wallet and digital banking experience to close the gap that exists between the African continent and the global e-commerce market to enable connectivity that drives performance powered by individuals and SMEs across Africa and the world.
In a chat with Michael Simeon, Co-founder and CEO of VPD Money, he discussed how the fintech company is setting its position as the top choice for digital banking experience.
Can we formally meet you?
I am one of those entrepreneurs that started business at a very young age while at college in the UK and by the time I moved from college to the University, I had exited a property investment company, moving forward I ventured into the tech space where I co-founded a payment processing called VoguePay in Nigeria.
What we’re trying to do at that time, and this was back in 2012/2013, you can see us a business activist, basically, we felt that Nigeria has been excluded from the payment ecosystem, especially the SMEs, considering at that time you only have big online payment companies in the country.
Now, all these companies are great, however, the model they were running at the time, excluded a lot of SMEs from the core of online payment ecosystem in scaling.
Now what I mean by the model is that for a majority of them, if not all, users will have to pay $1,000 to have that payment connectivity.
So we were part of the team that introduced a new model that everyone now runs on, which is free connectivity (a percentage on your transaction) and this is a part of the legacy that we have put in the market.
Then moving forward from that, we were also the one that initially introduced crypto payment capability into the Nigerian market in 2014, but obviously, most people as at that time weren’t aware of what cryptocurrency is all about.
We see it as a utility and not as a security, and because the technology was new to us, we felt that it has to be introduced to support SMEs so as not to lag behind.
We believe it will be popular based on the Nigerian market and data that actually work, however to our surprise, it exceeded expectations.
So the bottom line is that, I have had the privilege to participate in things that has really helped a lot of SMEs and Startups in changing their landscape.
So basically that has been my journey and I am also a graduate of Newcastle University, where I studied Politics and Economics.
Considering your milestone with VoguePay what is your overview of online payments in Nigeria?
Online payments in Nigeria has significantly improved, When we, when we started out that time, from the payment side of things, there were so many issues that we have to contend with and also the issue of limited trust in terms of how API works.
The regulatory environment we’re missing. So even some of the things that we’re doing got a lot of input because as at the time we came to town, the system wasn’t used to dealing with startups but big company structure. So, when we came to town, there were others as well like us.
So we were like the foster that led the way for others, and we felt that was good for the society because as you innovate, others will pick up from there and that’s how to grow a society.
We are the only Fintech in Africa that never raised funding and was able to build a company to that level. Now VoguePay is an established company with its own market share and clientele, so I am very proud of the works we have done before I exited for a new challenge, which is the VPD Money.
So effectively, I think that there’s been significant growth in online payments, however, the game is changing, so we are trying to stay ahead of the curve.
The way people consume payments is changing, with this and many more is what we would be communicating through VPD.
Has Nigeria fully leveraged the power of technology in finance?
No, I don’t think we are fully yet, but the good thing about technology is not the technology itself, but how you innovate from that technology.
For example, the last time I was in Lagos, I was trying to source a cashpoint but I was directed to a couple of shops that weren’t my request. Having these shops around basically renders the installation cashpoint useless.
So what we have now are just human POS and ATMs, so I think that Africans generally are flexible given the right technology and they can always adapt to come up with different things.
So our part of flexibility is what extremely excites me within this space, but in terms of exploring all the aspects of payments, we haven’t, because the way we consume payments experience will change, not forgetting that what really matters for Africans now is user experience and cost.
So the answer is that, we are not fully leveraging it, as there are many millions of people that still don’t have access, because on one hand you have the acquirer (payment processor) and you have the issuance (the banks).
What is VPD Money is doing differently?
VPD Money is providing digital banking tech to retail businesses. Think about it this way. The way banking is consumed, banking facilities and features, the experience isn’t similar for different generations.
Now, this experience also comes with cost and reduction of cost, so what VPD is doing differently is enabling users create their own bank relatable to their own experience.
Right now what people are using is what the banks have built for them not what they built themselves.
For instance, if I run a pickup business, I will need to see my dashboard, all my balances across all networks, my geospending.
So you can go from interbanking to intrabanking, so you better your experience as you only see what you want to how you want your bank to look. For instance, for someone like me who travels a lot, I want borderless payment and that is what is essential to me at that point. So that’s the experience I want.
For you, it might be a USSD service you want and that is what would be centralized, this allows your experience to be customized, which will reduce your cost and extend your reach.
The challenges in Africa in terms of adopting digital banking?
I think it’s about the mindset and I am proud that there appears to be an improved approach and this has done quite well for the drive in digital banking.
Recall that the European Union once issued a directive following the Credit Crunch crisis where few banks were dominating the financial ecosystem of European countries with less competition. The EU introduced this directive to cut off banks dominance, therefore, creating the way for open banking.
Because it is all about how the consumer, how do you reduce cost for your consumer? So for VPD Money that fully understands the spirit and the mechanism of that policy.
For instance bank charge you for both maintenance and transaction charges i.e for every transaction you make, you get charged for it, even if it is a personal account, however with VPD Money you don’t pay transaction charges and that’s supposed to apply for those running personal accounts.
Asides this, digital banking comes with advantages as the cost of innovation and access to technology becomes cheaper, therefore, the banking and financial experience to consumer can be a lot cheaper than what we have now and these are the immense benefits of digital banking for Africans.
With your success at VoguePay around 5 continents, how do intend to replicate this with VPD Money?
With VPD Money I am even excited because the bigger the challenges the bigger comes the opportunity because this kind of challenge that we are trying to solve within the continent is to offer a service to all Africans here and in the diaspora. We are also making APIs open to third parties.
This means that we can solve challenges in part, leveraging each other with the available APIs, so when you start thinking collaboratively, in a more healthy competition with collaborative tendencies, then we’ll start making a significant impact.
The opportunity is huge and I would be lying if I tell you that, we will solve the whole problem related to banking experiences and that’s why we invite people to join us.
Being the only Sub Saharan fintech company represented in the Visa Everywhere initiative, what was the feeling?
The Visa Everywhere initiative competition was for fintech companies in the CEMA (Central European, Middle East and Africa) region and out of over 3000 applications, VPD Money was lucky to get selected among the top 5.
The selection was made from Russia, Georgia, Pakistan and Ethiopia while we were the Sub Saharan African representative.
The quality of the selections are top-notch and it reflects all the hard work that the team has been putting in place while bearing in mind that we are were just starting out to raise our pre-seed funding round.
So to have achieved this level, it shows the hard work of the team and that our supporters believe in us. In the coming months, we have some very exciting news to share.
Featured Image: Michael Femi Simeon, Cof-founder and CEO, VPD Money
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