FinTech Acquisitions: Mark Bradbury Talks to Fintech Finance about Accuity’s Acquisition of Apply Financial
Our Founder and CEO Mark Bradbury, a Fintech Finance video regular, joined Accuity’s David White on the first of Fintech Finance’s “Virtual Arena” video series, sparked by the current lockdown restrictions, to discuss Accuity’s recent acquisition of Apply Financial.
Check out the video and listen to the guests talk to FF’s Ali Paterson about how the FinTech acquisition came about, what the key reasons were for the move and what it means for the industry. Plus, our blog contains the key takeaways from this intriguing interview.
Fintech Finance’s video interview with Mark Bradbury and Accuity’s David White
Fintech Finance regularly gets the opinions of the leading figures in the FinTech world. In this interview with Mark Bradbury and David White, Mark and David discuss Accuity’s acquisition of Apply Financial, and also offer their thoughts on the most significant tech acquisitions in recent times.
It’s a really interesting chat, so if you have 20-odd minutes to spare, take a look!
If you want some quotes, quick insights and takeaways, we’ve pulled some of the highlights from the interview below...
How this FinTech acquisition came about and what it means for Apply Financial
“March 11th - this date will be etched on my brain forever” - Mark Bradbury, Founder and CEO of Apply Financial.
Mark spoke about Apply Financial’s growth journey and why it was the right time for the move:
“Apply Financial has been going now for over 10 years. We’ve been working from day one on a cloud API solution and now we have over 700 companies around the world who use our technology. Around June 2019, I felt we’d reached an inflexion point. We’d grown to a certain point, but to get to where we wanted to get to - having thousands of businesses using Validate - we needed more infrastructure around us, and more people and finance. So, the best thing to do is either get investment or sell to a like-minded buyer. And that was Accuity.
We’re probably the only company in the world that does a full solution set of validations through a single REST API. Now that has been enhanced further by this acquisition.”
Mark and David were already well aware of each other from David’s earlier years as an entrepreneur, before David joined Accuity, and Mark said it was a common goal which really instigated the talks about this FinTech acquisition:
“As discussions evolved it became clear we had a common goal. When we started to dive deeper into our products and the strategy and getting more people involved from both sides, I don’t think we had a meeting where we took a step back. It just felt like the right fit.”
Why Accuity chose to acquire Apply Financial
David talked about the need for Accuity to modernise and keep pace with the fast-changing payments landscape, and why Accuity needed a fresh injection of innovation from a start-up mindset:
“Accuity has played a pretty big role in the payments revolution for many organisations around the world. The company is steeped in history and you can date Accuity’s Banker’s Almanac as far back as 1845 - so you could say this is not our first payments revolution!
We’ve grown through acquisitions. Accuity is part of the RELX Group, which is in the FTSE100. What we’ve seen in the last 10 years, which has accelerated in the last 5 years, is an industry transformation that probably only comes along every 30-50 years. All the basics of what we know about cross-border payments and the SWIFT network has changed, with Ripple coming along, and SWIFT responding with gpi, or just the proliferation of Faster Payments as a result of consumer demand.
The pace of change in the payments industry is accelerating. To keep up and continue to serve our customers effectively, we knew we needed to bring in the innovation of a FinTech start-up to stay at the cutting edge. Apply Financial stood out. They were lean and had the early insights that things were going SaaS and API-driven, and went into the market early. They were about 5 years early with their vision of APIs and cloud-based payments solutions. Now the market is catching up.”
What does Accuity’s acquisition of Apply Financial mean from a product perspective?
David spoke specifically about where he felt Apply Financial’s Validate products slotted into Accuity’s offering and why this was the key reason to acquire the technology:
“Accuity has traditionally helped banks, and some corporates, with large-scale payment operations. The majority of the time we are dealing with the payment after it’s entered the system, and we would do our best to increase the chance of that payment going through without any intervention.
What we saw with Apply Financial was that they were supporting the payment earlier in the process. Typically, with the API integration, that was happening either at the front end or in some kind of bulk upload. It seemed a really good marriage of the deep density of knowledge we have around the data side with the ability to prevent errors that cause payments to fail from entering the system in the first place. We saw that as a very complementary aspect to add to our product portfolio.”
Mark reiterated the complementary nature of their product/service offerings:
“Accuity always struck us as having a world-class set of data. They were in a different area to us, so it never felt like a competitive scenario. In fact, it was very complimentary. The move gives us access to an even more comprehensive set of data at the front end, so we can help people entering payment details to get it right the first time, and then maintain those beneficiary details in real-time. The other big positive is that Accuity has a very large client base for whom our product is ideally made for. So, the added value is quite significant.”
What are the key ingredients for a successful FinTech acquisition
“You can grow by acquisitions, but only if they work and are the right cultural fit” - David White, Executive Vice President of Global Payments at Accuity.
David offered his thoughts on what makes for a successful FinTech acquisition:
“The number one question is, is it a good fit? From a cultural perspective, do we view the market in the same way, are we aligned in how we go about meeting the customer demand? Mark and I are both entrepreneurs and we have a similar mindset about servicing customers. From a business perspective, there was definitely a good fit culturally. We were excited about improving both propositions in the marketplace together.
We realised that Accuity’s existing client base would fundamentally benefit from us bringing Apply Financial’s technology in and making it available with a wider set of insights that Accuity brings to the table. Stopping bad data getting into the system in the first place felt like a real win for the customer base.”
Mark and David’s favourite acquisitions in general
For a bit of fun and general insights on acquisitions, the two interviewees were asked to offer up their favourite acquisitions - not limited to FinTech.
David White’s favourite acquisition
“It’s an obvious one, but Apple buying NeXT and getting Steve Jobs back. It shaped recent history in a big way, certainly in terms of the technology we use. At that point, Apple had gone away from its roots a little and was going down a path that was potentially less productive. The move refreshed Apple’s operating system and, by bringing Steve Jobs back, the company was completely revitalised, which helped it become the force that it is today.”
Mark Bradbury’s favourite acquisition
“David stole my thunder a little. I’m an Apple addict - I have so much Apple equipment! Steve Jobs will likely go down as one of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs. But other than that acquisition, I think my other favourite acquisition would be when Fiat bought Ferrari from under the noses of Ford. I’m also a life-long Alfa Romeo aficionado, and they then went and bought them too. Now I have a combination of an Alfa Romeo and a Ferrari on my drive, so I’m a very happy man.”
Incidentally, Fintech Finance’s Ali Paterson said his personal favourite was Disney acquiring Pixar.
What’s next following Accuity’s acquisition of Apply Financial?
What is the future of the Accuity and Apply Financial partnership? What innovations can we expect to see going forward?
David and Mark both offered a brief summary of where they see the immediate progress being made on the back of the FinTech acquisition. David says that Accuity will able to better support businesses in the next wave of industry changes:
“The main thing from Accuity you’ll see is us supporting the industry through the latest changes that are coming, such as the proliferation of Faster Payments, adopting new standards, and more viable cross-border options coming along. That creates a lot of complexity. We want to simplify that complexity and help companies take advantage of those new options, and the benefits they offer, such as speed, liquidity, cost, etc.”
Mark offers his thought of the next steps for Apply Financial following Accuity’s acquisition of Apply Financial:
“Faster Payments (or a form of it) across the world is growing. And as the speed of transactions increases, we will be working hard to improve the efficiency of our API. With Accuity, we can now do more than just validate payments, we can have a whole set of solutions, such as KYC tools, AML tools - anything that can improve the payment process, make it more precise and better for the user and the service provider.
We’re also involved in correspondence banking, like SWIFT gpi, and that again brings new opportunities, and we’re working with Blockchain companies to help them with the payment process. We’re now in a really strong position to be a dominant force in that marketplace.”
To learn more about the Accuity’s acquisition of Apply Financial, read the press release: Accuity Acquires Apply Financial to Provide Real-Time STP and Account Validation Payment Solutions. And for more information about Apply Financial’s range of validation tools, check out our Validate product page.
Apply Financial is a SaaS company based in London, providing account validation and payment data management solutions to help businesses improve STP and eliminate costly payment errors. Over 700 financial institutions, corporates and PSPs use Validate, which covers over 180 countries and 220 payment jurisdictions. Fancy a free Validate trial? See our products in action and how they could help your business.