An Ottawa fintech firm that provides mobile financial services to “unbanked” customers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East says it’s poised to make a major push into the Latin American and Caribbean markets under the leadership of a new CEO.
Telepin Software’s secure digital wallets allow users to transfer money, buy merchandise and pay bills even if they don’t have a bank account. The company says more than 256 million customers use the platform, which is deployed at more than one million merchants.
Founded in 2006, Telepin is already a major player in Africa and Asia, where mobile phone penetration rates are often well above 100 per cent while many financial transactions are still carried out in cash. In 2017, the firm was acquired by Toronto-based Constellation Software, a publicly traded company with annual revenues of more than $3 billion.
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Now, the Ottawa company has a new boss at the helm with an aggressive plan to expand its reach into new markets.
Earlier this week, Telepin announced that tech industry veteran Timothy Roberts has been named CEO. He replaced Vincent Kadar, who joined Telepin as president in 2008 and added the title of chief executive in early 2017.
Roberts started his career at Nortel forerunner Bell-Northern Research back in the mid-’80s and most recently served as chief operating officer of Incognito Software Systems, a fellow Ottawa company that’s also owned by Constellation.
“I was very successful at Incognito and I’m bringing that (track record) to Telepin,” Roberts told OBJ this week. “I’m here to grow this company to the next level.”
While the new CEO says he still sees plenty of “untapped potential” in Telepin’s traditional markets, he’s keen to raise the firm’s profile in Latin American and Caribbean countries that are grappling with many of the same banking issues as large parts of Africa and Asia.
“They need mobile financial platforms,” Roberts said. “They’re not as developed as some of the other markets in the world that don’t have a need for mobile financial services platforms. We see competitors there already, and that’s where we’re going.”
Roberts thinks Telepin can make up ground quickly in those markets by piggybacking off of Incognito, which he said already has “deep” customer relationships in Latin America. He said many of Telepin’s African partners also have a presence in the region, giving them a foothold in the market that should open plenty of doors for the Ottawa fintech firm.
Indeed, the mobile financial services industry appears to have plenty of upside.
Mobile accounts on the rise
According to GSMA, an industry organization that represents mobile network operators, the number of registered mobile money accounts surpassed one billion globally in 2019. But the organization also said nearly two billion people around the world still don’t have access to bank accounts and other traditional financial services.
“There’s no financial incentive for a bank to have them as customers,” said Telepin chief technical officer Eric Feeley. He says Telepin gives consumers in less developed countries access to secure, low-cost financial services, while merchants also benefit from technology that makes it easier for customers to pay for goods.
According to GSMA, the total value of mobile sales transactions is expected to grow from $690 billion in 2019 to more than $1 trillion by 2023. Telepin processes millions of transactions a day via its network of partners, but Roberts sees a much higher ceiling for the company.
“We want a bigger piece of the pie,” he said.
Now at more than 50 employees, Telepin is looking to add to its team as it responds to growing market demand.
“We’re very confident in the technology side,” Roberts said. “It’s really about strengthening our sales organization and strengthening the delivery to be ready for the capacity when we sell.”