The following Q&A is a feature by Chris Abbott of Rhodes College, one of The Venture Center's 2017 summer interns. WalletFi is a member of the 2017 VC FinTech Accelerator cohort.
About WalletFi: WalletFi’s mobile technology allows users to easily identify and move recurring charges, subscriptions, and card-on-file (CoF) payments across cards in their digital wallet. WalletFi reduces customer churn for banks and financial institutions while also increasing Millennial engagement and reinforcing top-of-wallet status.
Q: Discuss the mission of WalletFi. Where did the idea to start this company come from?
AG: The idea first started when I was in business school. I had moved seven times in five years and each time I would move, there would be a break in service for all of my recurring charges and subscriptions. That was the initial motivation for the idea that would become WalletFi. I thought to myself that there had to be a better way to manage recurring charges in the Subscription Economy that we all live in. When Marc and I started interviewing potential customers, we discovered that way more people lost their credit cards than moved, so we decided to go and solve the bigger problem.
Q: Who do you have in mind when thinking about the target consumer for WalletFi?
AG: I would say that WalletFi’s target consumer is probably a Millennial and/or recent graduate student who has 10-15 recurring charges and subscriptions across 3-4 credit and debit cards. Typically these consumers have a lot of financial obligations, which can lead them to try to juggle everything by managing their finances through multiple debit and credit cards. When a card gets reissued, this financial balancing act becomes a lot more difficult. That said, a reissued card is something that just about everyone in the U.S. has experienced at one point or another. And getting back online with merchants can be an extremely painful experience. WalletFi solves for this.
MM: From a financial institution standpoint, WalletFi has real value in a several areas. Alain mentioned the consumer piece, as it’s very important to banks that they attract and maintain their customers. I think we do a good job with the product that we built to go out and do that from the consumer side. The retention piece, outside of Millennials, includes millions of people that are getting reissued credit and debit cards every day. There are countless reasons why a card gets reissued. Some of the more common reasons include a lost, stolen, and expired card. However, fraud is becoming increasingly common (think Target’s recent breach). Banks experience customer churn when those incidents happen. Typically, the card takes 7-10 days to arrive in the mail and when it finally comes, you still need to activate that card and update your merchants. While you still may be a member of your original bank, you’ve now likely spent the time to find your charges and move them to another card that you had in your wallet. When this happens, the bank has lost top-of-wallet status as well as any interchange fees associated with the card that was reissued. WalletFi provides banks and financial institutions the ability to retain their customers while potentially attracting additional interchange fees from a subscription standpoint.
Q: What separates WalletFi apart from its FinTech competitors?
AG: There are several FinTech companies that help you identify your subscriptions, but no one allows you to control the transfer of those subscriptions between cards. Additionally, we are looking at partnerships with banks and financial institutions because that’s where we see the most economic value. On the B2B side, there are a few companies that help move subscriptions and update payment information in the case of card reissuance but those happen without the consumer’s input. You can imagine in the case of fraud, consumers don’t want to hear that their previously compromised and recently reissued card is already being transacted to merchants without their knowledge. WalletFi provides bank customers with visibility and the opportunity to manage this process in their own hands.
Q: As Co-Founders and COO (Marc) CEO (Alain), what are your biggest responsibilities with WalletFi?
AG: As the CEO, my biggest responsibilities are fundraising and product development. It’s up to me to be the champion of WalletFi, for consumers, investors, banks, and financial institutions.
MM: My biggest responsibility as COO are oversight of business development and internal operations. I also keep Alain on track and he keeps me on track as well.
Q: Both of you have worked in various locations all over the world. Which location(s) do you credit with making the most influence on your company?
AG: I would probably point to my year in London, which I consider one of the global hubs for FinTech. At the time, I was working for a non-profit, and wasn’t really involved in FinTech. That said, it was all around and I became exposed to it on a daily basis. The other place that influenced me was North Carolina, which is home to some of the biggest banks in the world. During my time at UNC, Marc and I had some fantastic mentors that I think really helped shape the company. Our access to those mentors and the advisors were crucial to our early success. Two of those advisors currently serve on WalletFi’s board and were the ones that pushed us to solve a very complex problem. This pivot dramatically expanded WalletFi’s potential market opportunity.
MM: I’m originally from Upstate New York and went to Siena College in Albany, NY. My first company was in Boston, which kept me there for 17 years. I was in IT staffing and consulting, and that was a booming market. Leaving what I was doing and then jumping into starting a company in that geographical space made a lot of sense. The funny thing is that I started doing more work outside of Boston. I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina about 4 years ago for my wife’s job while I had still had the business. I was commuting back and forth, and got the “7-year itch” with my work. After being in services for 19 years, I wanted to do something different. I was in Raleigh, which has a cool entrepreneurial vibe to it. Actually, it’s very similar to the vibe you find in Little Rock and with The Venture Center. Combining all those factors, I had the confidence to jump out and start something new and create WalletFi.
Q: What is the one quote that you two apply most to your daily life?
AG: “The only way a startup fails is if you shut it down.”
MM: “Love what you do.”