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PaymentViews #6 - Jose Manuel Peral, Fintech & Payment Expert, Entrepreneur

by Matthieu Couet on

In our series ‘PaymentViews’, we gather some insights and advice from the best payment experts. Today, we’re glad to have Jose Manuel Peral with us. Jose Manuel worked both on the provider and the merchant side and has an extensive background in the payment industry.

Hi Jose Manuel! Can you introduce yourself? What’s your background?

My background is in law and taxes, I was a consultant at one of the ¨Big Four” in Madrid. After several years doing tax planning, I knew it wasn’t something I would do my entire life. As I had, in parallel, invested in several great startups, I decided to return to my hometown, Marbella, to advise people on startup investment and optimize their returns from a tax point of view.

One of my clients, Ran Tushia, was interested in my opinion on a Gibraltar project called Easy Payment Gateway, which was looking for a seed round of investment. He introduced me to Mr. Alex Capurro, who showed me the first version of the product and told me that they needed someone with a business vision.

I joined the company as the COO and was named co-founder later by the board. We received many awards, and have been one of the quickest companies to reach 5Bn dollars in processing volume. A great history. After this experience, and until last month, I have been the Global Head of Payments of Cabify and Movo. Right now, I am involved in a couple of projects. One of them is FintkConsulting, focused on Payments advisory to merchants, PSPs and Venture Capital funds, and another startup.

Having worked in the payment industry both on the provider and on the merchant side, how did you see the industry evolve over the past years?

Working at Cabify, I had the chance to see many established payment companies and startups. To be honest, the payment industry has grown in popularity and players, but only a couple of them have something unique or new. After having looked at the PSPs / gateway suppliers, I found out that:

  1. Most of them say the same things.
  2. Most of them have the same features, but really only a couple really offer huge merchants, like Cabify, the possibility to orchestrate transactions based on whatever rules.

The two most innovative products I have seen in the last six years have been the routing tool that we developed at Easy Payment Gateway, and recently the ProcessOut back-office. I really think Checkout.com has done a huge move acquiring ProcessOut. I think Checkout is ahead of the game in terms of features and UX. Let’s see how the other big players in the market react.

One trend I see is that merchants are now talking a lot about alternatives to cards. As a supplier, I saw how, each year, the cardless transactions increased by 15 to 20%, so this trend is not new, and it will continue to grow.

You co-founded a payment company. Could you tell us about this experience?

Uff, best and worst time ever. I need to thank Mr. Ran Tushia who introduced me to the co-founders. The project was called 21Fifty when I arrived, and we changed everything, including the name to Easy Payment Gateway. I joined the company in the summer of 2014 when the situation of the company was not the most attractive. At this time, we had two clients (one casino in Belgium and another one selling t-shirts in India) and offices with leaks, but I saw the potential of the co-founders: Alex, Ruben, and Jesus. I closed my own company and joined them as COO in May/June 2014.

In five years, the team grew to 75 people with offices in three countries. We managed to sign big clients like eDreams, Barceló, GiG, Santander, Hotusa, or William Hill. We had a pre-approved money institution license, we almost completed a brand new product called YAP that I still own, and we processed over $5 billion in transactions. A growth that was never seen before in the industry. As you can imagine, Ruben, Jesus, Alex, and I did not sleep that much during those five years but if you want to succeed in something, you have to give it all you have.

From the left to the right: Ruben Fernandez, Alex Capuro, Jesus Cervan, and Jose Manuel Peral.

Alex and the board named me co-founder because of all the growth, clients, partners, and funding I brought to the company. It’s a title that I personally think Ruben and Jesus should also have because without them there is no company.

After five years I left, because of the last fundraise. We had all the documents signed for what would have been our last financing round, but on the day of payment, the family office that had committed to invest vanished. Imagine how devastating that was. All our plans for the future disappeared. After some debate, the board took some decisions that I was not part of, and I decided to leave for another super exciting project: becoming the Global Head of Payments at Cabify.

It was a very difficult time. We would need many pages to tell you all the things I learned. If I have to reduce it to five points I would say that:

  • If you have clear goals and if you think you know how to get there, go for it: Forget what people will tell you.
  • People always protect themselves in difficult times: In business, you do not have friends, even the ones you have since you were a kid or the ones you share family moments with.
  • Have everything in writing, involve your own lawyers.
  • The board of directors needs to be composed of people with knowledge in the space you are at.
  • Do not surround yourself with people that don’t mind stepping over their colleagues. Try always to be surrounded by good-hearted people.

Back to your experience as the head of Payments at Cabify, could you tell us about your role there? How does Cabify approach payments?

Cabify is a very conservative company when it comes to payments. I knew it before accepting the job. I thought I could change it and evolve its payment system to make it as good as the other huge companies in the EU. During this year I managed to change many things, but obviously payments are not a priority in some companies (which is a mistake) and it makes changes difficult.

The payment and fraud team was awesome, and even if I could not evolve the platform as much as I wanted, we changed 90% of suppliers, improved authorization rates, and reduced costs. I also had the opportunity to learn a lot from the awesome finance team, and understand much better all the reconciliation challenges that marketplaces face. Being there for a year was awesome and I left a lot of friends there.

Each market has its specificities when it comes to payments. If you had to advise a company that is launching its business in Spain, in Portugal or in Latam, what would you recommend?

It will sound stupid, but I would recommend hiring a payment person or an external consultant. In Spain, only a handful of companies have payment experts or get payment advice, which is much more common in the EU. The role of the head of payment rarely exists. As a result, payments hardly evolve. The decisions that concern payments are taken by financial people that value the price over the user experience, the technology, or the commercial strategy. The world is globalized, if you want your company to succeed, you need to think global, not local.

In Spain, by accepting cards, bank transfers like Bizum and wallets like PayPal or AmazonPay, you are covered. In Portugal, for example, you need to accept Multibanco, which has a huge footprint on the market. LATAM is a different game. When it comes to payments, each country is different and there is a lot to understand, and to study, having this knowledge is key to succeed in LATAM.

What would be your top 3 advice to someone joining a merchant payment team as a junior?

It’s very important to understand the following things:

  • Understand what role-play the actors involved in a card transaction. So speak to experienced people in the market.
  • Understand payment regulation, this will avoid you from being played by many suppliers.
  • Be an Excel Guru.

Thank you, Jose Manuel!

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If you want to know more about how businesses deal with payment, read our last interviews of payment leaders:_