Based on the interview with Jack Ehlers, Chief Product Officer, PPRO
PPRO is a specialist for Alternative Payment Methods (online-banking payments, cash-payments, direct debit, wallets, etc.), focused on supporting PSPs globally to increase the number of payment methods they can offer to their merchants. As a licensed e-money institution, PPRO covers the full value chain from processing to collecting and beyond just with one technical integration and one contract. PPRO´s solution is fully white-labeled and offers value added services like refund-functionality for many payment methods beyond the standard functionality of these schemes.
Following a US$180m burst of investment, local payments infrastructure provider PPRO has officially attained unicorn status (valued in excess of $1bn).
Jack Ehlers leads PPRO’s product management, payment networks, and innovation teams. His two primary areas of focus are creating products that deliver measurable value to partners and identifying new markets and the popular payment methods in each market. Jack joined us in January 2017. For over a decade before joining PPRO team, Jack worked in e-commerce and payments for a range of international market leaders, including Alipay and PayPal. He has held roles in regulatory compliance, business development, and management in the US, Europe and Asia.
What was the history of PPRO’s creation and why did the company decide to focus on local payments?
Jack Ehlers: PPRO is the global provider of local payments infrastructure, and we’re focused on the acquiring business, which includes processing. We evolved as a solution for payment service providers, banks and global enterprises like JPMorgan, PayPal, Stripe, and Microsoft which needed to quickly gain access to multiple, local payment methods across the world. Through our PSP partners, we indirectly serve online merchants spanning retail, travel, digital and other sectors. Our approach is to serve as not just another supplier but a committed, strategic partner through collaboration, consultation, and continuous improvement.
Demands on the PSP and merchant side are growing, and we are proud to support these partners , enabling them to offer multiple payment methods and, yet, stay focused on doing what they do best.
How has your company evolved and what are the biggest achievements that you’ve already accomplished?
Jack Ehlers: PPRO has evolved from a founder-led business to one that is more mature and built to scale globally. We doubled our year-on-year transaction volumes in the fourth quarter of 2020, expanded our global team by 60% in the last twelve months, and developed new strategic partnerships with local payment methods in high-growth markets like Indonesia and Singapore.
The strong teams we have in key markets around the world allow us to grow our global network for local payments in all regions.
And with a new valuation of $1 billion, we are just getting started.
What features give your platform the greatest advantage over competitors? Why?
Jack Ehlers:When I came to PPRO five years ago, it was all about the number of integrations we could achieve. Now that the market is more sophisticated, it’s far more about the quality of those integrations, and that means going direct and deep. Other market options use aggregators to integrate local payment methods, so there are more steps in the funds flow, which adds friction and doesn’t often produce the best performance.. We’re able to integrate directly to payment methods, which gives our customers the best conversion rates possible.
To offer a varied portfolio of payment methods is a costly, timely and complex endeavor. A PSP could spend well over $1 million on integration and maintenance costs a year for a single LPM. It can take up to a year to get up and running with an LPM. We alleviate a portion of PSPs & their merchants’ stresses by allowing them to focus on their core business while we handle the payments infrastructure.
What partnerships and integrations does your company have?
Jack Ehlers: PPRO has established itself as the most trusted infrastructure provider in the cross-border payments space, powering international growth for payment service providers and platforms such as Citi, Elavon, Mastercard Payment Gateway Services, Mollie, PayPal, and Worldpay.We are focused on evolving our existing, long-term partnerships, however, there will be more partnerships soon that we will be able to share publicly at a later date.
With respect to your engineering team, what technologies do they use and how do they accomplish their daily activities?
Jack Ehlers: We have an agile approach to building the team with regional development centers in LATAM, APAC and EMEA. We keep growing our regional local experts, and there is no “one size fits all” developer. Like any technology with any history, there are a multitude of programming languages we currently use, but we are driving towards consistency in our new developments. As for software development process, since we’ve been in business more than ten years, we have a mix. Largely, though, we’re focused on Agile development with product management and software development.
Do you exchange knowledge and experiences within your team? Is it necessary for engineers to understand finance to build a successful product?
Jack Ehlers: We meet and exchange knowledge on a regular basis. We have organized our teams to be flexible in their region and to work autonomously. Engineers are building connections into their regions, but sometimes we have overflow from Europe, for instance, to the APAC team. We can push and pull in terms of capacity planning in Europe and Asia. We’re always working as one team, but in terms of projects, they are regionalized.
In what way do insights you gain from your clients help you enhance the service? What features did you implement after clients’ requests, if any?
Jack Ehlers: The feedback from our partners is highly valuable. They have a close relationship with the merchants and a clear vision of what payments they want to offer their customers. For example, a major partner of ours strives for frictionless onboarding for merchants, and there is a growing demand for this process to be quicker, less cumbersome while fully compliant.
What are the challenges your company faces the most? Are there any trends in 2021 that nobody speaks about?
Jack Ehlers: There are always new demands and the technical and regulatory complexities in this industry will never go away. It’s different with every partner and every market.
The dependency on the banking industry in each market and the changes that happen externally impact us.
The concept of performance and quality isn’t talked about enough; that is, quality of the integration, payment conversion rates and other elements like settlement timing. There’s a big global effort for instant or real-time payments. To everybody the speed of settlement is important, and faster is always better. We’re working on how to improve settlement speed no matter where the merchant and buyer are. This will be a huge win.