Fintech Feature – fena
fena aims to democratise Open Banking access for payments and data with affordable and easy to integrate solutions. They offer data and payment connections to the Open Banking ecosystem with a suite of APIs, SDKs, plug’n’play extensions and apps, and build software solutions on top of Open Banking APIs.
We spoke to Gosia Furmanik, the CEO and Co-founder of fena, to find out more about this exciting fintech.
How and why did you form fena?
Fena was founded by myself, Stefan and Faiz. My background is in digital marketing and sales, Faiz is a developer, and Stefan a hedge fund analyst – so we had different experiences across the commercial, financial and technology side of business. Since meeting we’ve always chatted about technology, fintech and interesting things happening in the industry.
One evening in December 2019 we sat down together and were brainstorming some new software and fintech ideas. Through his work at a hedge fund Stefan did a lot of investing in the payments industry. Back in 2019 he was hearing a lot about Open Banking and how it was going to revolutionise the payments industry. So we decided to form a business and we started to look into how we could utilise open banking to build interesting software solutions.
How did you take fena from an idea to a reality?
In Q1 2020, we came across the FCA Innovation Accelerator and decided to apply with our idea. Initially we were going to marry open banking payments with discounts, rewards and loyalty points for users and we wanted to concentrate mostly on the in-store market and in-person payments. That’s how it all started. We developed our software on the product side – we had an iOS and Android app to take payments in store. We ended up getting accepted to be a part of the FCA Innovation Accelerator Cohort 6, and through that we built the software, we tested it, and we received our licence by the end of 2020.
In early 2021 we launched our product with a few clients, and we had three pilots in quite large grocery stores in Birmingham with our iOS application. However, we noticed that people in the UK were not familiar with account-to-account payments in an in-person setting yet. We saw a lot of interesting behaviour from the consumer, for example tapping cards on the QR codes instead of scanning it with their phone. This prompted us to re-evaluate our proposition and conclude that the consumer wasn’t quite ready for in-store account-to-account payments. So, we pivoted to concentrate on the e-commerce and online side.
We’ve now developed the payment gateway using open banking and we’ve built plug-ins for WooCommerce, Magento and Presto shops. We’ve noticed that account-to-account payments in the UK work very well for high value transactions, and they work well within the B2B sector. That’s where we’ve decided to focus, and have started partnering with various software providers in given niches to provide them with account-to-account payments. For instance, one of our current key focus areas is wholesalers. We’ve entered a few partnerships with wholesaling software to distribute that solution and soon we will be distributing our software to a large food and beverage wholesalers in the UK.
How does fena differentiate from others in the market?
Our main difference is that we are not solely focusing on serving other fintechs or technology businesses. But, we are more focused on serving our end customers – small and medium businesses – and building solutions for them. We are not only providing people with data or payment APIs, but we’re building software on top of those Open Banking APIs. We consider ourselves less of an Open Banking solution and more of a software provider that happens to use open banking to fulfil certain features, serving SMEs and small businesses that have a specific need.
We believe that in the UK over the next two years Open Banking will expand and take off in the B2B SMB space and eventually over the next 5 – 10 years Open Banking will be part of embedded solutions.
What pain points are you solving for your customers?
On the payment side we reduce the payment fees that our customers are currently paying for card payment processing, and we enable quick access to payments as customers can get money deposited instantly into their bank account. Our customers’ main priority is getting paid instantly and having access to that cash. We also continually work with companies to better understand what their needs are so we can iterate and build solutions for those specific needs.
What are your key aims for next year?
We want to provide our software solutions not only for single domestic payments, but also for recurring payments with both standing orders and variable recurring payments (VRP).
I know a lot of people are talking about VRP at the moment, however, I feel that the commercial side of VRP is way too slow from the banking perspective. The testing and pilots being run are very limited given the potential use cases.
Where we would like to be is using existing Open Banking APIs to build software that caters for needs of specific niches. We want to make Open Banking APIs usable by all businesses and all people. Everyday businesses and most people in the UK have no idea what Open Banking is. I don’t want to talk about Open Banking as Open Banking. I want to talk about what it can actually do for small businesses – how I can embed this into existing software or build new software on top of open banking to surface its advantages for my customers.
Hopefully when the solutions that are provided by Open Banking are embedded into other use cases within the different industries awareness and adoption will increase at pace.
What do you see as the main benefit of Open Banking and Open Finance?
I would say it is transparency. If you give people access to their data in a transparent and open way, showcasing what they can do with it and how they can take advantage of it, it is very powerful. For instance, take the process of moving your pension from one provider to another – it is such a painful process. Why can that not be automated? Why can you not have an API that allows you to instantly move your pension from one provider to another after giving consent.
What advice would you give to others looking to start their own business?
My advice would be to start small and build from there. Start off as a side hustle, test your ideas, talk to people and you will start to get a bit of traction. For example, build your business plan, your marketing plan, get the foundation of your business in place while you’re still working at your existing job, especially if you’re not in a position to just quit your job and go for it.
There are a lot of assumptions that businesses are always started by people that already have financial security. Obviously, you take a risk when you start a business, but you can start it on the side of your existing job. It’s hard work but you can work evenings or weekends on your own business. I would say, come up with what you want to do, do your research, pick your focus and just give it a go.
With rising inflation, soaring costs and the cost of living crisis affecting us all more day by day, solutions that reduce costs, help manage cash flow and put cash more quickly in the hands businesses that need it the most, are more crucial than ever.
That’s why fena who provide seamless, affordable payment solutions built on open banking rails are a much-needed solution. Their A2A payment APIs can help e-commerce merchants save up to 85% of transaction fees, whilst their invoice payment solutions allow SMEs to better manage cash flow.
Fena offers a suite of SDKs, plug ‘n’ play extensions for easy integration regardless of business nature and sizes, which means that all businesses can integrate quickly and easily and reap the benefits that fena and open banking canprovide.
It will be interesting to see how consumer behaviour changes in the UK when it comes to account-to-account payments in person and how fena will react to any change in behaviour to offer relevant and timely solutions.