Anthony Hynes is the founder and MD of eNett International, a company leading the way in developing innovative business-to-business payment solutions that make payments fast, easy and safe for the global travel industry. Here he tells us more about it.
What attracted you to the payments sector?
I first got into payments while writing my MBA thesis, something I wanted to do to continue my learning. I always say, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room! The research looked at the intricacies behind the payment flow of a telecommunications company providing bill payments through a phone line. I found it fascinating.
It seemed to me that every trade in global commerce, perhaps save from a small number of barter communities, requires a payment – and when you look at it through that lens, payments are as important to commerce as energy, and even energy needs payments.
Soon after I completed my MBA, I was asked to come up with a solution for a hotel chain bogged down with manual reconciliation. That’s when I had my ‘eureka’ moment about using Virtual Account Numbers (VANs) to automate payments and reconciliation. I could see this was a huge issue in the travel industry and presented a chance to disrupt the market. As an entrepreneur, I couldn’t resist the challenge.
Tell us about your previous experience prior to founding eNett. How do you draw on this in your current role?
I’ve always favoured working for myself rather than others. The first company I founded was actually a childcare business. I managed to grow the business into Australia’s fourth biggest childcare group. It was a great learning experience, and it’s where I gained a lot of business acumen. Eventually I went on to sell it to an ASX-listed childcare group, which was a learning experience in itself. Payments was where I saw the most opportunity, so I launched a payments company called PSP International, which today is known as Optal, one of Europe’s leading virtual card issuers.
My experiences taught me what it takes to launch and build a successful company, and I was able to draw on this when launching eNett. As we continue to grow globally, I am able to use those skills and apply them to a whole different level. As with all innovative companies, I am constantly looking for new ways to do business and improve our offering to benefit our customers.
How did the idea about eNett come about? What was the process of setting up the company like?
A hotel chain asked me to automate their paper-based reconciliation system. I was shocked at how old fashioned and manual payment processes were in the travel industry. Paying by credit card was the easiest solution, but that incurred surcharges and left the company open to fraud. And it wouldn’t integrate into the booking and accounting platforms, which is key to automation. It got me thinking – we needed a digital solution. A virtual card that could be generated uniquely for each transaction, and be integrated with the existing platforms. I was able to use my payments knowledge to come up with a business model that would support VANs, and developed a concept to take to investors.
The turning point came two years later. I was able to get a meeting with Travelport – a multi-billion-dollar giant in the travel industry. I got the chance to pitch to the MD, but he had to catch a plane – so I pitched to him in the back of his taxi to the airport! The tenacity paid off, and we signed a joint venture a few months later. With their backing, we were able to fully develop the eNett Payments Platform and take VANs global.
What were the goals that you arrived with when setting up the company? Have you managed to achieve most of these thus far?
I had one goal: to disrupt B2B payments in the travel industry through innovation. VANs provided a modern alternative to the antiquated and outdated payment methods on offer. But to be truly disruptive, you need to get companies onboard. VANs mean faster, easier and safer payments for travel companies. I committed myself to spreading the message of eNett VANs and continue to do so.
My PA worked out I travel enough miles to reach the moon! Has it paid off? Well we haven’t stopped growing since we launched eight years ago. Last year we achieved ‘hyper-growth’ status, with CAGR of 68% over the last five years. We have expanded into new markets, signed innovative new partnerships and extended eNett’s already broad currency suite, taking fast, easy and safe payments even further around the globe. Independent research showed support for Virtual Cards have doubled in the last three years alone, and larger agencies are using VANs instead of EFT, Cash and cheque. The stats speak for themselves.
What is your overall mission for the company? How do you ensure this mission is upheld?
Our mission is to reduce the cost and complexity of payments for the travel industry. We do this by creating awesome payment solutions that benefit our customers, their customers and us.
Customer experience has always been at the heart of eNett’s value proposition and business model. We believe that providing a great experience for our employees creates a motivated workforce focused on delivering an exceptional service. Our customers therefore feel valued and supported, and a large part of our year-on-year growth can be attributed to existing customers increasing their business with us.
To ensure this mission is upheld we recently undertook research, conducted by leading Customer Experience (CX) consultants Smith+Co. We used these new insights to determine our own optimal CX design for the entire service profit chain – from employee satisfaction and productivity, to customer satisfaction and loyalty – to drive profit and growth.
When working in an industry that is constantly changing, what do you do to ensure that you are at the forefront of any emerging developments?
It’s all about adopting a mind-set where you’re always asking ‘what’s next?’. Standing still is the same as going backwards. You need to look at where the trends are heading five years or ten years down the line and start planning for that now. That’s why market insights are so important. We transitioned from challenger to industry leader in such a short space of time because we anticipated trends like greater digitisation and more global travel, and amended our VANs offering to meet those trends well ahead of time.
Could you tell us a bit about your mission to bring about a ‘tsunami of digitisation’ to the travel industry?
Travel companies are still losing out massively by manually processing and reconciling payment. In fact, our research with Phocuswright found that European firms waste €215 million each year through manual processes. The travel industry is already a competitive one, with margins continuously being squeezed by pressures such as currency fluctuations, and the rise of the mega-OTAs.
Adoption of new technologies has been slower in the travel industry compared to other industries. Payments provides huge opportunity for travel companies to embrace digitisation to increase efficiency, employee experience and ultimately improve their business bottom line. The FinTech revolution has made travel companies realise that it’s time to embrace digitisation in every aspect of their business if they are to stay competitive. They don’t have time to gradually ease into digitisation. It needs to come fast.
What else are you working towards with eNett? What are your goals for the future?
I believe the B2B payments experience should be as frictionless and as easy as the consumer payment experience is today. B2B e-commerce sales almost double B2C, and are predicted to hit US$12 trillion by 2020. Yet all the innovation is focused on B2C. My goal is to lead the B2B payment revolution, providing a truly frictionless B2B payment experience to our customers. This is involves constantly reviewing our offering and business model to bring real value to our customers, while eliminating the points of friction to make supplier payments as easy as clicking a button.
Where do you see eNett in 3 years?
We’ve grown constantly year-on-year, and I have no intention of stopping now. We’ll continue to build our relationships with existing customers by working with them to solve specific pain points in the travel payments process and delivering awesome payments solutions that enable them to grow. We’re also expanding our global footprint by acquiring new customers in new markets. I believe in three years we’ll have a much bigger physical presence across the globe. Moving forward I can also see virtual card usage overtaking more traditional forms of payment such as EFT, cash and cheque as more and more travel companies realise the benefits of VANs. Watch this space.