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Guy El Khoury: Best practice on innovation in the Payments Sector

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In a recent interview, Accomplish Financial CEO Guy Raymond El Khoury spoke about innovation in the payments sector and discussed his role in the advancement of the Financial Technology industry.

Note that some parts of the following interview excerpt have been paraphrased or abridged.

Guy El Khoury is CEO and Founder of Accomplish Financial and AF Payments. Accomplish Financial is a UK-based financial services company. The company aims to be a full service provider of services for electronic payments, with a complete range of payment solutions for corporate clients and programme managers. Solutions include physical payment cards, virtual payment cards, e-wallets and loyalty and reward modules.

Let us start at the beginning. How did you decide to start Accomplish Financial?

Guy El Khoury: We noticed an opportunity in the market for servicing new FinTech type products. This was back before the word FinTech was commonplace or really being used at all, and there was nowhere for these projects to go. At that time, there were only a few international processors, and the concept of BIN sponsorship was still below the radar. We thought there should be a single organization that could guide partners through each step of the project while still providing a solution in-house. That’s what ultimately led to Accomplish Financial being created.

Okay, that’s the business reason, but what about a personal reason? Why do you enjoy doing this type of work? I mean, running a tech company isn’t exactly straightforward.

Guy El Khoury: Honestly, I don’t know that I’d recommend it to everyone. I suppose that I wanted to prove that not only can it be done, but it can be done correctly. It hasn’t been easy, and it always seems to take longer than you want or expect it to, especially when you do things the right way; but it’s now yielding great results, and I get real satisfaction from watching the industry and the technology progress.

It seems like the financial technology industry is evolving rapidly, especially in the payments sector. What changes have you seen since the early days?

Guy El Khoury: It most definitely is. Well, first and foremost, the access granted by regulators, especially the FSA (now the FCA), was massive. Without a doubt, the access given by the regulators allowed this innovation to thrive and has been of the utmost importance.

The emergence of so many different providers in the sector has been an obvious sign of the market’s growth. Back when we started, there were only a handful of processors, BIN sponsors, and a couple of program managers. If you planned to create a project yourself, then you had to figure it all out alone. I mean, most people would have to guess where to even begin, and then they had to try and learn all the industry jargon.

The payments sector has advanced significantly, and there have been tremendous breakthroughs in terms of the time it takes to get a project off the ground. Back in the early days, it might take six months or even a year before a project went live. These days, it might only take a few days, so the difference can’t be overstated.

That’s really exciting!

Guy El Khoury: Well, the idea is that people get great, innovative ideas all the time. But, between innovation, thought, and execution, sometimes the market conditions change, competitors enter the space, which can alter the whole landscape very quickly indeed.

If you can’t take an idea and move on it fast, then you’re not going to benefit from it at all. I mean, if it takes you a year to roll out a new product, then everything will have changed before you ever get to market, and sometimes your product might be obsolete before it even launches. It’s sad but true.

That’s an excellent point; you have to pay attention to the timing in the market. So, if you were to pick two programs, one that you think is the most likely to be successful and one that would be your favourite to run personally, which programs would you choose?

Guy El Khoury: Actually, at the moment, Raris would be my answer for both. The Raris card is made in the UK by The Royal Mint; it’s an 18K solid gold hallmarked card. It took us a lot of hard work and some luck to get this project up and running due to the steep learning curve involved in the world of custom card manufacturing.

It was definitely a team effort that took us to new areas in product testing, certification. manufacturing, and designing the card’s security features. We were challenged to expand our knowledge and expertise in our own field, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

We are proud to have created Raris. This was our chance to lead by example and innovate. We rarely get to create on a physical level and then bring our vision to life in the real world. Truth be told though, everyone who’s seen a Raris card has been captivated by it. There is just something really extraordinary about it.

That’s amazing! Why do you think that Accomplish Financial has been so successful at innovating in this space?

Guy El Khoury: Well, one of the primary benefits of launching products quickly, other than reaching the market before your competition, is rapid prototyping. The industry suffers from being overpriced, which in turn discourages innovators from prototyping. We solve both of these challenges. Now, what do I mean by this?

Let’s imagine that you’ve come up with an idea for a great new product. Let’s call it the Tony Card. The features you have attached to it are awesome, and you have even developed a trendy, handy companion app to accompany it. The next step is finding an investor or going straight to the market. You want people to know exactly how it works so that they will understand that it’s an excellent product; you just need a pilot or some proof of concept to get it off the ground.

We have made it so that you don’t need to spend millions in development costs, hiring a bunch of staff, or wasting years trying to figure out how to integrate every last little detail. All you need is a dynamic service partner who you can trust to help you bring your project to fruition. That’s what we love most of all; bringing great new products to life!

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