Understanding the real needs of customers rather than second-guessing them is often the difference between companies that succeed and companies that fail.
Serial entrepreneur Ian Wheeler knows this only too well.
In 2015, he sold his company Transglobal Payment Solutions, which provided foreign exchange liquidity, to the outsourcing business Equiniti.
“Once that deal was completed, I wasn’t sure what I would do and I ended up in consulting,” says Wheeler. “A business associate of mine had started a digital payslip company called Pay Dashboard. It was a fantastic idea but had failed to launch – it didn’t have enough ’sizzle’ for a CFO in a business to implement.”
“What I became aware of from talking to C-level people was that the real business need was to be able to pay immediately but not be charged tens of pounds per transaction to make a pay-out,” he says.
For personal payments, digital natives are accustomed to sending payments instantly using their smartphones at zero cost. If only it were so easy for businesses. Until recently, business payments in the UK were either fast and expensive or slow and cheap.
“Most businesses went for the low-cost transaction and accepted that it will be a three-day wait for money to leave their account and reach the beneficiary,” says Wheeler.
That idea was the nub of what was to become Income Group.
Along with co-founder Ted Bechman, a hugely experienced chartered accountant and long-term friend, Wheeler came up with the idea of combining the global reach of Mastercard and the revolutionary services offered by Starling Bank to solve a pressing need for businesses to pay their employees and their suppliers.
“You had everyone from SMEs to large enterprises wanting to make real-time pay-outs, Mastercard with the ability to pay out instantly anywhere in the world and Starling Bank with its desire to make it easier for a business and its beneficiary to send and receive funds.”
“It is very easy to connect, move money and pay out, all at a price point that is the same or cheaper than traditional three-day payments,“ says Wheeler.
Smoother and safer
Wheeler’s other smart choice was to make sure that businesses did not need to change the way they operated to make use of the Income Group platform.
“We decided at the get-go to create a digital platform that would interface with the output from existing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and accounting systems,” says Wheeler.
What was different was the audit and compliance structure that Income Group put in place around its payments.
“We use two-factor authentication which is a massive improvement on existing business payment services,” says Wheeler. “IGSend presents the user with the workflow and authorisations that create the governance and audit trail.”
Income Group uses a one-to-many model for going to market, working with partners to reach their networks of clients. It currently offers services to 11,000 ultimate clients and has a healthy pipeline which will see its services reach many thousands more.
Making faster business payments work
“Mastercard and Starling Bank are critical enablers for us,” says Wheeler. “Connecting IGSend with Mastercard sends a bridge into a global financial services company and we are bringing that to the UK and SME enterprises for the first time.”
“Starling Bank, with its settlement platform and clearing at the Bank of England, enables businesses to deposit funds and ensure those funds are safeguarded.”
“From the start, Starling Bank has been and continues to be an excellent partner,” says Wheeler.
The company’s clients are already asking when the service will be available for European and US payments. So is that where Income Group is heading next? Wheeler says, “We will be led by what customers need.”
Starling Banking Services
Starling is building a bank that looks to the future, while delivering cutting-edge services and technologies for the present to help businesses thrive.
Starling is proud to be partners with businesses like Income Group. In today’s digital world, payments should complete in real-time, keeping up with customers’ expectations and allowing businesses to focus on doing great business.
Powerful APIs mean Starling’s Banking Services can continue to provide more fintechs, payment providers and corporates with access to better financial services quickly and cost effectively.
Get to know: Ian Wheeler, co-founder, Income Group
Career Ian Wheeler was born and bred in London. He started in what was then called the payments industry in 1995.
“I started with payment services, providing businesses with the ability to make pay-outs and, back in 1995, that was by cheque but that evolved into electronic payments through BACS. We ended up selling to a NASDAQ business called Bottomline Technologies.” From there, Ian went on to work with Equiniti International Payments and to co-found Transglobal Payment Solutions.
Advice “One of my first bosses was Michael Ziff in his family footwear business Stylo. He said, but I didn’t get it at the time, ’Be transparent’. What I have discovered is that through transparency you understand how something will work, what is the benefit and what is the outcome. Being transparent has enabled me to deliver something to a customer and it is used,” says Ian.
Interests Ian says, “My main purpose in life is my family. With my family, I am reliving my childhood through cycling, coaching my children’s football teams and being governor at my children’s school. And for some bizarre reason I am a Chelsea supporter.”