Behind Citizens Bank’s evolving strategy in a crowded BNPL market
- Citizens Pay's Christine Roberts shares insights on how Citizens Pay has evolved since its inception and if it has an edge over fintech BNPL lenders.
- In other news, Arm and Instacart IPOs could be meaningful for Goldman Sachs to open new doors of revenue and IPO fees for the Wall Street firm.
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Behind Citizens Bank's evolving strategy in a crowded BNPL market
Behind Citizens Bank's evolving strategy in a crowded BNPL market
What's different about Citizens' approach when it comes to the installment loan model compared to the traditional BNPL model?
by SARA KHAIRI
Citizens is one of the few banks that offers installment loans akin to BNPL programs through Citizens Pay -- enabling consumers' access to a revolving line of credit. The offering was first launched in 2015 but the bank rebranded it as Citizens Pay amid a growing BNPL landscape in 2021.
Merchants who enroll with Citizens Bank can offer Citizens Pay financing options to consumers at checkout. All lines of credit issued under Citizens Pay are financed through Citizens Bank. Depending on the merchant and the amount financed, consumers can split their purchase amount into monthly payments and have a fixed span to repay the line of credit.
Recently, Citizens partnered with Wisetack, an embedded pay-over-time platform to offer installment options for home improvement projects through Wisetack’s network of merchants and software as service integrations.
I spoke with Christine Roberts, executive VP and president of Citizens Pay, about what's different about Citizens' approach when it comes to the installment loan model compared to the traditional BNPL model, how Citizens Pay has evolved since its inception, and if it has an edge over fintech BNPL lenders.
What sets Citizens Pay apart from other BNPL programs/providers?
Christine Roberts, Citizens: Citizens Pay is different than the traditional “pay in four” BNPL providers because we offer a responsible way for consumers to pay for purchases in fixed, low-interest monthly payments over a longer period through a virtual line of credit.
Citizens Pay combines the speed, agility, and technology innovation of a fintech with the security of a bank, providing customers clarity over their amount of debt and repayment schedule. Our solution also gives retailers the ability to easily build new product categories – like subscriptions and bundles – and provides the data, experience, and stability to serve them and their customers through various economic cycles.
Why did Citizens decide to go down the route of offering its own version of BNPL?
Christine Roberts, Citizens: We knew that consumers wanted easy and affordable ways to make purchases without taking on additional credit card debt and that retail brands could modernize their payment model by moving away from the co-brand or store credit approach of the past.
We started in this space back in 2015 when we launched an iPhone upgrade plan, offering one of the earliest forms of BNPL. We’ve since developed bespoke subscription and upgrade programs with retailers like Best Buy and Microsoft Xbox and have expanded to work with retailers and merchants across a variety of industries.
How does Citizens Bank’s approach to installment loans differ from that of fintechs?
Christine Roberts, Citizens: Together with our partners -- technology providers and fintechs -- we are delivering a Citizens Pay experience that provides a high level of customization with the speed to market needed for today’s merchant landscape. The bespoke nature – from a fully hosted application to full integration – sets us apart from traditional BNPL providers that take more of a one-size-fits-all approach.
Our approach also differs given we operate in an already regulated environment. Because we have both the stability of a bank and the agility of a fintech, we can bring responsible lending and spending practices to the world of consumer installment financing.
Does Citizens Pay cater to large enterprises or small businesses?
Christine Roberts, Citizens: We are positioned to support partners of all sizes, given the flexibility and configurability of the Citizens Pay solution. We can tailor the solution to meet their different needs – for example, we’ve developed bespoke upgrade and subscription programs for large retailers like Best Buy and Microsoft Xbox. We’ve also partnered with fintechs like Wisetack to reach a vast network of small business service providers. Thanks to the embedded distribution model, small businesses are increasingly leaning into the benefits of embedded fintech at a rapid pace, because they see the benefits for their business and customers. Flexible POS financing fills a vital economic need for both merchants (regardless of size) and consumers.
Tweet of the week
Just look at the charts
1. The insider transaction history for Upstart Holdings
2. H1 2023: Wall Street banks experienced a slump in hefty M&A fees
Source: Financial Times
This week's reads
Chip designer Arm is expected to be the year’s biggest listing. Delivery firm Instacart and marketing automation platform Klaviyo are expected to list as soon as next week. The companies have one important thing in common: Goldman is a key advisor. That could be meaningful for Goldman to open new doors of revenue and IPO fees, as the firm is more dependent on investment banking than rivals JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.
JPMorgan Chase is stepping up its appeal to SMB customers by planning to offer digital payroll processing. The bank has picked San Francisco-based fintech player Gusto to provide the underlying technology for the feature. For the bank, it’s part of a larger battle for the loyalty of American retail and business customers as fintech players including PayPal and Square morph into do-everything providers that threaten traditional banks.
Citi Treasury and Trade Solutions has unveiled a suite of payment solutions tailored for financial institutions, aiming to help them enhance their client experience. These include Citi's 24/7 USD Clearing for FIs, Confirmed Value Transfer feature, initiate payments in more than 70 currencies from a single USD account for FIs, and a payments service by Swift, Swift Go.