Exclusive: ‘Going to Xtremes’ – Fabrice Denèle, Xpollens in “The Paytech Magazine”

With a promise to deliver an ‘out of the box’ offer in 100 days, Natixis Payments’ startup Xpollens is the latest addition to a family of service providers that share the same impatient fintech DNA, says Fabrice Denèle, Senior VP of Strategy and Partnerships.

Open banking promised greater integration of services and providers are drawing closer by the day. So much so that, with all the spinouts, fusions, acquisitions and strategic partnerships, figuring out who’s working with whom is a bit like unpacking Russian dolls. 

Take Xpollens, the barely one-year-old paytech child of Natixis Payments, which is itself part of France’s Groupe BPCE and financial services giant Visa. This new arrival uses its parents’ combined application programming interfaces (APIs) to offer a white-label, ‘out of a box’ payment solution to other fintechs, retailers and corporates. 

With a full range of products, from cards to instant payments, Xpollens enables clients to focus on their core business and take full advantage of the benefits offered by open banking and the EU’s revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2). 

Fintechs and neobanks can benefit from Xpollens’ handling of all account creation, know your customer (KYC) requirements and card issuance, while retailers can easily offer their own branded payment solutions and transaction services. Meanwhile, corporates can use Xpollens to create employee payments cards for day-to-day expenses and other business-related purposes. It is anticipating increased demand for its payments solutions due to safety concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic.

The startup considers its structural diversity its strength. “Our goal is to serve fintechs, but a significant part of us is fintech,” says Fabrice Denèle, Xpollens’ senior vice president of strategy and partnerships and member of the management committee of Natixis Payments. “It’s in our DNA. It’s genuine.”

Behind Xpollens is another fintech created by Natixis Payments called S-Money, which it uses for, among other things, payments and account management. Incidentally, S-Money – whose mission is to make the payment process as simple, smooth and secure as possible – was itself founded by Groupe BPCE in 2011 and then spun out to become a subsidiary of Natixis Payments. It counts fellow French paytech companies E-Cotiz and Le Pot Commun as its own subsidiaries. 

Natixis Payments has gone on to strengthen its service offering through more fintech acquisitions in the areas of issuing and acquiring. One of them is e-commerce plug-in provider PayPlug, the company behind successful payment widgets such as Shopify, Magento and PrestaShop, and a European challenger to US paytech market leader Stripe. 

So, you believe Denèle when he says: “We feel we are in the very best position to understand the fintech need and to serve them straightaway.” 

Unveiled at last year’s Money20/20, Xpollens initially piloted its offer with two companies. One was French financial assistance app Linxo, which enables customers to view and manage their money across multiple accounts for which XPollens ‘refined with them all the features and components of their solution’. The other was Spanish savings app Coinscrap, which rounds up card purchases and transfers the difference to a separate account. The Xpollens solution was used to similar effect with that company, demonstrating its versatility across the payments spectrum. 

Charting new territory

The past year has been a learning curve for Natixis Payments. 

“It was clearly a journey for us because we had to completely change our mindset,” Denèle says. “So we did. What we have come to understand is that fintech business is about developing fast and making it simple. Time for these fintechs is money. They don’t want to deal with complexity.”

Working with Visa and through the Xpollens service, Natixis Payments aims to make the processes of onboarding and provisioning shorter and easier. 

“The DNA of Xpollens is ‘you need an offer and we will elaborate it, working with the fintech to make it happen in 100 days,” says Denèle.

Next up for Xpollens is a collaboration with Oney Bank, which was launched by French retailer Auchan in the early 1980s and now counts Groupe BPCE as its major shareholder. Oney’s aim is to become the European leader in split, or instalment, payment solutions, much like Splitit in the US or Swedish startup Klarna, the latter of which Visa also has a stake in. 

Oney is seeking to launch a digital bank at European level, using the technical expertise of Xpollens, and it recently announced an agreement with PayPlug, meaning its splitpayments service is available for merchants using the Natixis Payments subsidiary’s service.  

Challenging the boundaries

In future, Natixis Payments plans to extend Xpollens’ solution to retailers and corporates that have struggled to offer branded payment services. One way is through co-branded cards.

“This was not a target at the beginning,” says Denèle, “but the legacy way of doing it is a card issued by a bank. This can be disrupted under PSD2 with our white-label offer, because we can grant more visibility to the corporate brand.”

Xpollens is aiming for major European economies including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. “Wherever we serve fintechs, we can take on the full package of complexity – regulatory or technical. I hope we will be at European scale within three years,” says Denèle, adding that COVID-19 is a new challenge for fintechs that it can help them meet. As far as the UK goes, he says it has ‘different options, depending on how Brexit unfolds.’ 

Politics or pandemic, it’s another layer of complexity to unpack. 

 


 

This article was published in The Paytech Magazine: Issue #05, Page 72-73

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Fabrice Denèle Xpollens

Author: Laimis Bilys

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