Empowering online payment solutions
Business View Caribbean interviews Aldwyn Wayne, Founder & CEO of WiPay, for our focus on Best Practices in Professional Services
Financial inclusion is at the heart of WiPay’s mission in the Caribbean. The FinTech company, just in its fifth year of operations, is making significant strides towards creating a payments ecosystem that empowers everyone in the Caribbean to transact securely, flexibly, and within a simple to use framework. To achieve this, the company has an ambitious innovation and expansion plan that will see it become one of the most important financial players in the Caribbean, second only to the traditional banking system.
Aldwyn Wayne is the founder and CEO of WiPay. A graduate of the prestigious Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) in Atlanta, GA, he is no stranger to the startup ecosystem. As his fourth startup, WiPay achieved traction through a combination of his tenacity and ambition to succeed and a massive need for financial inclusion in his native country of Trinidad and Tobago.
“WiPay was founded in 2016,” Wayne recalls. “We started it out of a need for online payment acceptance in the Caribbean because two to three years ago, online payments in the Caribbean were virtually non-existent, with no solutions that allowed you to make payments via a website or mobile app. At the time, online payments were limited to large organizations that would approach banks to set something up for them.”
This limitation in financial inclusion shut out the average person in the country. Existing solutions like PayPal, while available, placed severe restrictions on users, requiring, for example, that anyone wishing to withdraw money from PayPal have a U.S. bank account. Although this lack of financial inclusion created a negative financial experience in the country, it presented the golden opportunity that WiPay needed to become the leading online payments provider in the country and region. “That’s why we started WiPay,” affirms Wayne. “Because of that need, we started a company to provide online payment services to the Caribbean independent of having you go to the bank, which was the current structure then.”
WiPay offers a wide range of online payment services touching on different sectors of commerce and the economy. Its long list of services is divided into personal services like peer-to-peer (P2P) payments and digital savings and business services such as online invoicing, bulk payments, B2B payments, and an out-of-the-box e-commerce solution called WiShops.
Behind WiPay’s solutions is an integrated online payments platform designed to be extensible over multiple-use cases. Wayne says this architecture is the reason behind its ability to offer such a comprehensive ecosystem of products, with more in the pipeline, including a POS terminal solution and the WiCard.
Driving this wide range of products and aggressive innovation is a team of 83 employees working out of the company’s head office in Port of Spain, Trinidad and another physical office in Jamaica, along with representative offices in Barbados and other islands within the Caribbean. “As our company grows, we are considering moving our headquarters to either Jamaica or Miami to provide us with more strategic access to capital,” says Wayne. “We intend to list an entity on the Jamaica Stock Exchange towards the end of 2021.”
Following in the footsteps of other tech startups, WiPay has embraced a focused yet fun work culture that Wayne believes reflects the people who work in the company, including himself. He notes, “People always say they want to work at WiPay because we have a fun culture that balances work and play in a very distinct fashion.”
The company’s average age is 25, a significant factor that has informed the company’s corporate culture. “While we do understand that we are in a very regulated space in terms of payments,” says Wayne, “we also accept that we are a technology company that has fun as we work. We don’t take ourselves as seriously as traditional financial institutions and instead embrace a lighter work environment that allows our team to focus on getting the best products out there.”
While WiPay understands the value of blending work and play to create a more productive work environment, one area where the company is all work and no play is security and data safety. “As a MasterCard partner, we adhere to the international security standards they dictate,” explains Wayne, “meaning we must build all our applications to the same security standards as any international payment company, including the likes of PayPal.”
He is also quick to add that security is not just tied to WiPay’s partnership with MasterCard but a set of standards the company adheres to, as they apply to the entire payments industry globally. As a registered payment service provider with the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, WiPay trains its personnel monthly and submits quarterly reports to maintain its license. “The technical teams must be trained monthly and certified quarterly,” says Wayne, “besides ensuring our customer experience (CX) and financial teams are trained to international payment industry standards.”
WiPay’s strict adherence to payment industry standards has not gone unrewarded, with the company counting some of the country’s and region’s most prominent organizations as customers. “One of our customers is Unicomer Courts, the largest retailer in the Caribbean region,” says Wayne. “We process all their online payments across the entire English-speaking Caribbean.”
WiPay also processes government payments in Trinidad, in Guyana for the country’s civil aviation agency, besides additional government contracts in Grenada. Away from the public sector, it provides online payment solutions for the private sector, including fertility clinics in Grenada and the insurance company Sagicor that has operations across the Caribbean. While Wayne is proud to list all the company’s major customers, he is also quick to reiterate their commitment to serve the whole market. “We serve everyone,” he says, “from mega-corporations and government agencies down to individuals like high school kids building mobile apps.”
Speaking on the broader payments industry, Wayne sees WiPay moving towards digital cash, a trend he sees playing out across the region and indeed the world. “Right now, WiPay is focused on fiat payments, but soon, I see us making a strong push towards digital currencies like Bitcoin or some variation of it,” he avers. He supports his rationale by referencing a recent announcement by Visa and MasterCard to include cryptocurrencies in their payment network.
As the de facto online payment network in the Caribbean, WiPay expects to follow suit within the near future and include cryptocurrencies within its network. However, instead of just allowing third-party digital currencies, it is taking a more ambitious stance and looking to develop and deploy its own digital currency. Wayne acknowledges, “We recently signed an agreement with the company that developed for the Government of Bahamas the world’s first Central Bank-backed digital currency, the Sand Dollar. Our agreement sets the stage for the development of WiPay’s cryptocurrency digital currency that will work within our payments ecosystem across the Caribbean and potentially gain acceptance from each of the central banks in the region.”
On WiPay’s growth trajectory, Wayne expects the company to expand to the non-English-speaking Caribbean, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in the next two years. However, the area he sees the most potential in is creating a unified payments system for the entire Caribbean. “The Caribbean is disjointed as a region,” he says, “with different central banks and monetary policies covering a relatively small geographical area, which makes it difficult to do business seamlessly across the region. Our ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between all Caribbean islands using a unified settlement network built on top of a regional payments ecosystem that uses a regulated currency or a central bank-backed digital currency.”
To achieve this, WiPay is forging valuable partnerships with local banks and multinational companies like MasterCard, Ria, and Western Union. According to Wayne, “With these partnerships, we hope to bring world-class services by these first-class companies to the region.”
As a parting shot, Wayne has a few words of wisdom for anyone interested in entrepreneurship. He advises, “There’s no better time to start a business than now. The Internet and globalization have simultaneously reduced the capital cost of starting a business while giving anyone access to billions of potential customers at a fraction of the price it cost before. Everything is in place for us to be the entrepreneurial generation, the startup generation. If you have an idea, if you have something that you are passionate about, now is the best time to get your business going.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: A growing FinTech payment solutions provider
Where: Headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad