GlobalFintechSeries Interview with Arad Levertov, Founder & CEO at Sunbit

We had Arad LevertonFounder & CEO at Sunbit join us for a quick chat where he discusses his thoughts on the key factors influencing the need for more advances in today’s payments ecosystem. Catch the complete story:

Can you tell us a little about yourself Arad? How did the story for Sunbit start, take us through the journey…

A few years after moving to the U.S., I was shopping with my family at a well-known, big box retailer. At checkout, the cashier invited me to apply for the store’s credit card. I agreed, and during the long application process, I was asked for typical, yet intrusive, personal information such as household income, if I owned or rented, etc. and at the end of the application, I was declined. It was due to my limited credit file as a recent immigrant to the U.S. I knew this, but no one else did. Long story short, it was a long and intrusive process that ended in public embarrassment for me and my family. Not an ideal customer experience.

At the time, I was COO of Enova International, a fintech company. I knew that there had to be a better, more transparent way of offering credit that would be based primarily on a consumer’s ability to make required payments. I was inspired to begin working on Sunbit, which has become a key player in the buy now, pay later (BNPL) category.

Together with a team of experts in technology, AI/ML, retail, sales, and finance, we have been able to deliver on that vision.

Today, we are partnered with over 4,200 merchants that serve their local communities. Our mission is to enable merchants to offer all of their customers access to fast, clear, inclusive and non-predatory credit. In this way, businesses can help their customers to get the everyday goods and services they need, when they need them.

What are some of the upcoming enhancements / capabilities users can look forward to?  

The shift to contactless payments has been a major change in in-store shopping trends, and we accelerated our own development schedule to meet these changing demands.

Over the past several months, we have augmented our established in-store offering with contactless payments, and e-commerce capabilities, so that consumers can comfortably use Sunbit wherever they shop in their local communities, whether it is an auto body shop, or an optical retail center, or a dental office.

As we expand our footprint across more merchants that serve local communities, more people will have access to fast, fair and transparent financing for buying the everyday things they rely on. We’re excited to continue working on bringing Sunbit to more communities across the country.

How are you seeing Buy Now Pay Later solutions evolve in the marketplace today? Can you share some thoughts on a few game changing solutions in B2B / B2C?

Buy Now Pay Later has become one of the hottest trends in eCommerce, specifically for fashion, beauty, sports equipment, and furniture brands. We believe BNPL will become as common as the credit card, but getting in-store right for everyday purchases will be the final determining factor.

Based on my personal experience getting declined, in-person, at a big box retailer, Sunbit started by designing a solution that fit seamlessly into an  in-store, person-to-person experience. This meant the process had to be lightning fast, simple, and approve nearly everyone who applied for large and small purchases alike—eliminating the public embarrassment I once experienced. In just a few short years, we accomplished our aim. Now, we help thousands of local merchants like auto shops, eye doctors, dentists and vets, take better care of their customers with a solution that works for them.

Starting with a solution designed for the in-store experience has made BNPL accessible to a broader set of merchants and consumers, for the things they buy everyday. Of course, we now offer an online solution too.

The evolution of the BNPL category is to make this new payment option accessible to as many people as possible for whatever it is they’re buying, wherever they’re buying it. Getting in-store right is the linchpin to making this happen—and we believe we cracked it.

How do you feel point of sale and in general payment solutions will evolve further, given the rise and importance of contactless payments today due to the Covid-19 pandemic? What are some of the upcoming capabilities you foresee changing the payments landscape?

I believe that technology will continue to permeate the payments landscape, and that the very fabric of how we pay will continue to change thanks to these exciting advancements in technology.

The reality is that the global pandemic has made shoppers wary of using cash. Contactless payment options are on the rise, and cash is becoming a distant second (or third) choice for in-person payment. Lots of transactions still happen in person, but the buying and selling process is shifting to accommodate new preferences.

As such, we’re seeing more consumers opting to go cashless and contactless and savvy retailers are adjusting to accept consumers’ preferred payment methods; all the while, keeping fraud prevention and compliance strong and at the forefront of the transaction.

Personalization is also on the rise. Just as marketing or advertising has become very personalized, so will payment options. At some point in the near future, payments will be tailored to each and every person – based on the specific purchase, the specific buyer, the point in time, and a number of other specific factors.

These changes are a great thing for consumers. After all, payments shouldn’t be a one-size fits all, but rather take into consideration a number of criteria to get the shopper the best payment choices available that fits their needs.

As buying and selling transactions and even processes undergo a shift largely due to Covid-19, what do you think fintechs will have to do to keep pace with changing needs and demand?

I believe that fintechs are driving change and it is the credit card companies that need to keep up!

Consumers want fair, transparent and accessible payment options. As consumers are becoming used to a personalized, digital lifestyle (i.e. personalized ads directed towards them, suggested apps, etc.) they will come to expect their financing products to offer the same level of customization. This could mean more personalized rates, personalized repayment terms, or whatever would be most beneficial for their financial needs.

Of course, all of this has to happen in a matter of seconds. With consumers not wanting to spend unnecessary time in one physical location or left to answer a long list of personal questions, fintech providers will need to offer solutions that are quick, transparent, and with as few physical touch points as possible.

Given the overview of what fintech looks like today in 2020 and this evolving space: how would you describe this market over the next decade? What will be some of the more dominant categories in future?

Personalization and frictionless payment are areas where I expect to see continued advancement.

The growth of fintech will ultimately be dependent upon a transactional economy. In other words, Americans will have income and expenses – and how these two economies intersect will be left to the imagination of fintech innovators. But one thing is for sure, the transaction will need to be fast, transparent and personalized to the individual user.

As more and more people are moving towards a more robust digital lifestyle, they naturally will look for advances in payments. I believe that within this transaction space, credit will need to be more transparent and it will need to be available to everyone, across the entire credit spectrum. This will help to close the divide between subprime and prime applicants — giving more people the power to purchase everyday essentials.

Before we wrap up, what are the biggest learnings / tips you’d share with fintech innovators and founders?

I’d say to do it right, you need to focus on the overall customer experience. You need to be efficient with your time, resources and cash reserves, and you need to earn the trust of merchants and consumers. We committed to starting in a few locations, adding more, and then continuing to grow until we were able to proudly say that we’re offered across thousands of merchants serving thousands of local communities. We really listened to merchants and understood their shoppers. We got to know their needs, and we created a solution that meets those needs.

Too many startups and innovators believe in building a company quickly and getting it scaled up even faster. They believe in removing the human element and fully transitioning into tech-only engagements. There isn’t a lot of stickiness there, though. If you’re not building relationships, one provider is just as good as another.

I would suggest that focusing on needs, on human experience and on customer retention are all important considerations.

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