JUST over three years old and already one of the fastest growing fintech companies in the region, T&T-based digital payment solutions company, WiPay, is already thinking of going public, by listing its shares on a stock market next year.
But, much to the chagrin of the T&T Stock Exchange, if not local equity investors, WiPay is not planning to list on the local stock market.
WiPay’s energetic, 36-year-old CEO, Aldwyn Wayne, who is from Point Fortin, dropped the hint about looking to go public near the end of the formal session of WiPay Day, a slickly produced launch event at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain.
“We do have intentions of going public. It’s not going to be here. It’s going to be on the best-performing stock market in the world, Jamaica,” said Wayne, in an interview with Express Business after the event. Jamaican stocks have increased by almost 300 per cent in the five years between 2014 and 2018 in US-dollar terms, according to a Bloomberg report earlier this year, more than quadrupling the next-best-performing national benchmark. In that same period, the TTSE’s composite index, which includes three Jamaican companies, increased by 13.3 per cent.
“We are a Caribbean-based company. If we need to list, we would obviously list within the Caribbean. Besides being the best-performing stock market in the world, Jamaica is the best performing stock market in the region.”
Although WiPay is headquartered in T&T, it provides payment solutions in Jamaica, St Lucia and Guyana and will soon be represented “everywhere in between,” Wayne said.
While the discussions around which currency the company intends to list in is still in its embryonic stage, Wayne said WiPay is looking to leverage the Jamaica Stock Exchange’s master agreement with Canadian fintech, Blockstation, which allows the listing of digital assets, to raise new capital through a security token offering (STO) instead of an IPO.
The WiPay CEO said that the STO process involves buying a digital asset or digital token, instead of shares. If it happens the company would be one of the first companies in the world to list on a stock market with an STO.
Asked to compare the pace of regulatory approvals between Jamaica and T&T, Wayne said: “Jamaica is faster, but here we have a good relationship with the Cenetral Bank. They understand the need for growth in the space and they have been very supportive of what we are doing.”
► Throughout the region ◄ Throughout the region
Although T&T is currently WiPay’s biggest market because the company has operated here since its inception in August 2016, Wayne says Jamaica, where the company launched in August, is its fastest-growing market.
“Jamaica is already up to 24 per cent of the revenue we are doing in T&T, after three months. Jamaica is probably going to be our biggest market,” the fintech executive said, adding that the growth trajectory in the north Caribbean island is stronger than in T&T.
“It’s natural that Jamaica would be the bigger market because they just have more people and more opportunities,” said Wayne.
He said the company’s plan is to be in every country of the Caribbean by the middle of 2020. Apart from the English-speaking Caribbean, WiPay is planning to enter the Haitain and Dominican Republic markets next year, with Central and South America on the cards for “after 2020.”
Asked why Haiti, Wayne pointed to the number of people in that country who are un-banked or under-banked, meaning they do not have access to a bank account or access to a credit or debit card.
“Imagine, we are giving you a card that connects to the Visa or Mastercard network. Visa and Mastercard are not limited to the Caribbean. That would allow Haitians living in Vancover or Seattle to send money to their family members in Haiti. It would be just a matter of them sending money from their card in Vancover straight to the recipient in Haiti. No more Western Union or Moneygram,” Wayne said. WiPay also intends to set up shop in Miami and New York to ensure that the Caribbean Diaspora is covered by its services.
At the launch event last Thursday, WiPay unveiled the Rebel Visa card, which will be available soon. That card allows push payments from one Rebel card to another. It would also allow the holder to pay for goods and services from local ecommerce-enabled vendors. Making purchases from foreign websites using US dollars is on hold until the macro-economic situation improves, various speakers at the launch event said. The card will come loaded with critical health insurance
Through its Nobis subsidiary, WiPay also launched a digital identification platform at Thursday’s function. The digital ID, called Nobis KYC, allows the user to photograph and upload bio-data from their passport, their utility bill as proof of their residence as well as their phone number and email address. The service, which Wayne described as future state, should ease the Know Your Customer (KYC) for both financial institutions and their customers.
Only last month, on October 3, Republic Bank agreed to acquire a 19.99 per cent equity stake in Nobis BaaS Ltd, a subsidiary of WiPay Holdings Limited, subject to regulatory approval.
The Nobis BaaS’ software platform enables digital payments to be made online through web browsers or mobile apps and at retail points of sale. The platform brings added ease, convenience and security to payments on a wider scale, for both public and private sector organisations.
“This partnership can help solve industry-speciﬁc points of pain, like transferring money and processing loans quickly, and provides another option for online credit card processing. We are working with great enthusiasm to bring customer-centric innovation to Republic Bank on their journey toward digital transformation.” said Wayne, who is also the CEO of Nobis BaaS and WiPay Holdings Ltd.
Wipay’s main business is processing payments online, which it does by allowing companies to download a plug-in from its website. WiPay then takes a percentage of all the business generated from the transactions. The fee is between 1 and 3 per cent and it varies based on the type of business.
WiPay currently has 43 employees and turned profitable this year, Wayne said.
► Who owns WiPay? ◄ Who owns WiPAy?
At the function, Beacon Insurance owner Gerry Hadeed was introduced as the chairman of WiPay, with Wayne disclosing that he gets a call from Hadeed at 5.30am every morning, and if he is in Trinidad, they have breakfast.
“He just embraced me as his son,” Wayne says, adding that Hadeed was supposed to be a silent investor, who would have put money into the business to allow the company “to grow the business to the business community.”
“But he loves technology so much that he just wanted to be part of the company. This gives gives him something to jump out of bed every morning,” the executive said.
Asked if it was unusual for someone like Gerry Hadeed to go into a business with someone like him, Wayne said: “For people outside of our circle, this may seem unusual, but this seems natural for us. He is, I think, a disruptor, a rebellious person by nature. He does not go according to the book, by nature, in his circle. And I am the same.”
Wayne clarified that the fact that Hadeed is the chairman of WiPay does not mean he is the majority shareholder of the company.
“The major shareholder of WiPay is actually Aldwyn Snr, my dad. Gerry and I have about the same amount of shares, but my father is WiPay’s largest shareholder.”
Aldwyn Jnr explained that returning to T&T from university in Atlanta, he was looking around for a digital payment system similar to the ones he was used to in the US as a tertiary-level student. When he did not find one, he decided to write an application that would be the foundation of WiPay and provide the convenience of Paypal locally.
He attended the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, studying computer-based information systems for his first degree and management of information systems as a Masters.
Wayne graduated in 2007, returned to T&T in 2008 and almost immediately began his career an entrepreneur, creating Cedros Cable, “which is still active,” then Powerline Communications, which installed highway cameras, Coldwater Software Technology, a mobile app company, and then WiPay.
His background is entrepreneurial as his father is the owner of Wayne Electronics and Wayne General Contractors.
His father, an electronics retailer in Point Fortin, was the company’s first investor, putting $2 million into the company.
“I needed to grow exponentially, so I sought out some business partners and Gerry Hadeed was the business partner who allowed me to spread the name and the brand throughout the business community. That’s how it started.”