2022 was a rollercoaster, especially for those living at the intersection of payments, banking, and software. We asked a series of questions to Craig Sobol, XUP’s Chief Revenue Officer & cofounder, as well as Jeff Gill, XUP’s Head of Strategy, to get their thoughts on 2022 and glean expectations about what lies ahead in 2023.
What was the biggest impact payments made in 2022?
- Craig Sobol – Depending on industry, payments is becoming part and parcel to how you run a company. By that I mean that companies typically spend most of their time thinking about what they’re building and selling, but there have been major advancements in payment models that give companies the opportunity to drive new (and more resilient) revenue streams, improve customer loyalty, and simplify their operations. But very few companies are actually taking advantage of it. We’re at the early stage of adoption.
- Jeff Gill – KeyBank has really built out its offerings across the spectrum of payment models. In April we launched PayFac, and throughout the year KeyBank’s referrals business was built out. Now at the end of the year in 2022, we started building out integrated referrals and an ISV model. It’s an opportunity for companies to build on payments, and 2022 was a big year for payments to flesh out our offering in 2023.
What do you think payments will be like in 2023?
- Craig Sobol – The economic conditions will likely limit companies’ appetites to make wholesale changes to payments infrastructure, but the planning will occur & a lot of education will still happen. In the latter part of the year, and as the economy (hopefully) improves in 2024, we’ll start to see shifts.
- Jeff Gill – At the same time, the economic downturn will force companies to look more closely for cost control measures. Payments can be important in this respect.
- Craig Sobol – Yes, the companies that are sitting on cash will see the opportunity that payment monetization represents and act on it. The companies that are struggling with cash flow will do everything they can to keep their business running. But the economy will play a major role in how quickly adoption takes place.
Who do you think the top players will be in the payment’s world?
- Craig Sobol – Payments is a broad term that means a lot of things: merchant acquiring, ACH, checks, cash, invoicing… clearly there are multiple facets of payments. The leaders – what we’ll see, and what KeyBank has done – is that the companies that take advantage of each payment modality to make it easier for their customers to, for example, perform reconciliation or encourage them to take different discounts when they’re available… banks can lead in this space since we lead in all payment modalities. The leaders will offer digital experiences within the context of a specific vertical. Companies today, it’s no longer good enough to offer a generic banking product (like payments) – you need to tailor it to the businesses you’re going after. Which is why, at KeyBank, we’re focused on serving clients in healthcare, real estate, logistics, technology and more – and they value our expertise in those areas and how we can speak their language.
- Jeff Gill – One thing KeyBank has done is integrate into clients’ ERP systems. I think the leaders in payments going forward… the more you can start to take the clients’ world that they’re living in and integrate with that, the more that’ll start the separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of who’s leading and who isn’t.
How has XUP grown post acquisition?
- Craig Sobol – Besides me putting on ten pounds? I’d say that, for any FinTech, having a bank’s backing is a blessing. Because not only does it lend credibility to what we’re doing, but it puts the power and scale of a bank behind us. We’ve tripled our staff, dramatically increased the capabilities we’ve built, and brought a level of consulting expertise into Keybank that differentiates us from other banks. Being with KeyBank, we have access to tremendous expertise that we’ve never had access to before.
- Jeff Gill – XUP used to be selling completely externally, so now going to market together with KeyBank in the consultative fashion that Craig mentioned that helps KeyBank. We bring vertical expertise and consulting background in a model where both KeyBank and XUP are better off. This helps bolster KeyBank’s value proposition and helps our clients.
Any fun new ideas for XUP in 2023?
- Craig Sobol – Continuing to add expertise where we need it, continuing to evolve our culture, and becoming stronger because of that. Seeing even more fruit from all the seeds we’ve planted with KeyBank over the past two years… that’ll be the fun part. And then celebrating our clients’ successes with them.
- Jeff Gill – Part of the value of XUP is bringing new and innovative business ideas to Key. Right now, we’re working to do that in healthcare. Eventually we want to extend that to other verticals like real estate. In addition to that, as we evolve, becoming an innovation center and muscle for the bank – so going beyond vertical solutions to capabilities that have potentially wide-ranging capabilities for the bank like FedNow. The vision for XUP is building and testing these new ideas and capabilities for the bank and understanding where they add value to Key.
Any final thoughts?
- Jeff Gill: Key acquired Laurel Road three years ago, then XUP in 2021. They’re building an acquisitive muscle by housing those different organizations under the same umbrella with the same leadership and guidance. And working to ensure that those acquired companies have the resources to go achieve big audacious goals while still enjoying the autonomy that contributed to the success in the first place. It’s a unique model in the banking world to have that blend, and XUP is certainly a beneficiary of this model.
XUP is a brand of KeyBank. KeyBank is Member FDIC