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Payoneer’s Charles Rosenblatt: ‘We found a way to play on both sides of the market’

  • Charles Rosenblatt has a long career in payments.
  • Joining Payoneer recently as chief strategy officer, he joins us to discuss the company's progress and future plans.
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Payoneer’s Charles Rosenblatt: ‘We found a way to play on both sides of the market’

There’s still significant friction dealing with international transactions. Payoneer is a pioneer in the space of helping people and businesses transact across currencies.

Charles Rosenblatt is the firm’s new chief strategy officer. An executive with decades of experience in payments and financial services, Rosenblatt joins us on the podcast to talk about his new role and how Payoneer is positioned for further growth. He describes how the firm’s value proposition is differentiated from the competition and how sitting on both sides of the transaction can propel future opportunities for the payments firm.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

Joining Payoneer

I worked for a firm (Hyperwallet) that was really talking about two sided markets and the importance of two sided markets. There are many firms that work on just side of the market. Payoneer really found a way to be able to come and play on both sides of a market. Playing on both sides of a two sided market, like a Visa or MasterCard as an acquirer and a processor, reminds me in some ways of my DE Shaw days. You become a bit of a market maker and that creates a tremendous opportunity. Payoneer was really attractive to me as a place to head out.

We have a huge business with large enterprises, like the Airbnbs and the Walmarts of the world. And then we have an equally big business dealing directly with SMBs.

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Path to growth

As a company that’s growing tremendously, both from a core business perspective and from a product perspective. And we’ve added two new products over the last few years. One is our working capital product, which is lending money, providing financing for buyers and helping them grow their businesses, as well as our merchant services business, which is sort of our first foray into the acquiring side of the world.

There was a need for someone organically, organizationally, to essentially look over how all of that’s going to interact with each other. One of my first tasks was more an inward-facing role, really to look and figure out internally, how we can make sure that the machine is working well together, that the new businesses are integrating well into the old businesses. And, that we have an absolutely great value proposition for our customers across the board.

Measuring success

My goal is to help be a capacity expander for the great leaders that we have within each of our areas, and help them look at things and see things that perhaps they may not see because they’re running very successful products and or businesses. While I won’t take a direct role in figuring out how they allocate the resources between each other in order to solve it, I may, as an example, say, “Look, there are three different areas where a partnership makes sense.” We don’t need to run it out of one group rather than the other, which is what we’ve been doing historically. Let’s take a more holistic look and make sure we can provide the highest value add for our partners, our clients, our customers, and internally, rather than just servicing one distinct business unit or product line.

The role of Chief Strategy Officer

I believe that I’m the first person in this role. I’m not sure whether there’s been one in the past, but I know there hasn’t been one in the last 10 years while Scott Galit has been running the company. Some of this role, to be fair, is figuring it out as we go and what we need. To tell you truth, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t think I’ve taken a role personally in the last 15 years where there hasn’t been a piece of it that is open to figure out what the organization needs and how we can best utilize myself, the team I build, etc. as opposed to just saying, “Here are the four things you’re trying to check the box of.” I don’t think you can do that at a midsize company.

Two sided markets

Much of our competition participates on just one side of a two sided market. If you think about where Payoneer is versus competition, we provide value to everyone in the value chain, from the marketplaces to the sellers. Our B2B business is one of our largest growing businesses internally. We actually provide help to sellers working with other sellers that are in this marketplace ecosystem.

Competition

I come from one of the competitors, Hyperwallet. Granted, that was a while ago. Hyperwallet has a fantastic business, but it is focused solely on one of the legs of the stool. We see other folks like TransferWise and Airwallex and others who come up. But from what I’ve seen, three months in, when we want to go out and get a business, we feel like we have the best equipped product in order to do that. And thus, we win a fair proportion of the RFPs that we are a part of.

Stripe is a very interesting company. They’ve done an amazing job on the acquiring side with a developer-first solution that you can get up and running in five minutes. I would argue the disbursement side of the equation is a secondary piece of it. It’s a piece that’s important that they’re offering, but they haven’t built their ecosystem around doing that.

Payoneer is built around the ecosystem of payouts for merchants and corporates, and pay-ins for the SMBs of the world. Adyen, and Stripe for that matter, is built around the pay-ins for corporates. And the rest of the services they offer are sort of secondary to that. So in some ways, if and when we move into the acquiring space, there will be a level of competition, but I don’t view them as the primary competition, other than some of our clients use them on the acquiring side. And thus, through that service, also use them for some of the services we provide.

Card networks

We work closely with MasterCard and Visa on disbursements. As a whole, we believe that they are very well positioned with the acquisitions they’ve made with Transpay and Earthport. To play in this market, they have grown with Visa Direct and MasterCard Send. Those are channel plays, more or less. There are there’s no reason why we couldn’t actually create partnerships with them in some of the areas that they may have a product that would help with us.

One thing about MasterCard and Visa is that historically, they weren’t really owners of the customer as part of issuers. And when I was at Capital One and Washington Mutual and Chase before that, the whole thing was we own the customer, and MasterCard and Visa provided the rails. I think unless they are going to take a complete overhaul to their philosophy, they’re going to continue to own the rails. And we are absolutely happy to work as a partner with anyone who can help provide rails in a more cost efficient way for our end customers’ overall pain here.

Trends in the business

One of the biggest trends that we’re seeing has come out of this COVID period — the dramatic shift into the world of ecommerce. We have seen the volume from the current commerce business grow tremendously during this period. And it is our belief that there there will be no downtick from that. When this all ends, may it will be two months, maybe it will be 12 months, who knows? We don’t actually see people stopping their newly formed behavior of shopping online and getting their Amazon Prime dropped off in a day, as opposed to heading out to the stores. That may be sad for the retail market, but really good for us and our customers as we are the leader in sort of facilitating ecommerce marketplaces throughout the globe.

The other thing we’re seeing, and we’ll continue to see, is we have a heavy presence in the travel space. That industry clearly got hit hard, but what I’d say is that the moment that any good news comes out around COVID, it will come back. The travel space will come back over time.

I don’t think travel is going to stop. So, the combination of the two, when you talk about Payoneer, what’s really exciting is if the travel business goes back to what it was previously, but this ecommerce bounce stays where it was, that has a direct effect on the volume we put through our system and the revenue we grow as a company because we are facilitating so much of that transaction marketplace.

Looking ahead

We are a global company and we feel very strongly about our customer base about our employee base staying global. We’ve seen that this global model will continue to grow and it’s allowing us to disaggregate some of our hiring. We are adding a lot of folks year over year. We have a hiring plan, which has us growing in double digit percentages, even by the end of the year, if we can find the right people. I’d welcome your listener base if they think they’re the right people, to feel free to reach out. We’re not constrained. We used to think you have to be near an office. But as an example, I relocated to the state of Virginia, and our main offices are in New York, and that’s not really a huge deal overall, helping to work and run run the company.

Externally, we’re very excited about some of the new business lines that we’ve launched and the acquisition that we did last year. We did an acquisition of a company called Optile. It was our first venture into merchant services. We are working on evolving that product to work for our enterprises and our small businesses. That will give us an eye into what what may potentially go down the path of becoming more and more ingrained into the acquiring side of the world — either as a partner or potentially a competitor down the road.

Internally, what we’re also seeing is a huge desire and volume for the seller ecosystem within the marketplace and the supply chains within the marketplace, to work with each other, and help each other find better ways to pay each other. And that’s sort of an exciting line of business, right?

We have these huge sellers from Amazon or Walmart or whoever it may be, who come on and have a whole supply chain to deal with. What we’re finding is our outside products, some of our own existing and new products like Pay with Payoneer are all growing tremendously because of the value we’re adding and helping small businesses grow.

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