Plaid announced today that it has appointed Meta veteran John Anderson as its new head of payments.
The fintech startup has been slowly evolving its offering beyond the core product of account linking. Earlier this year, it moved to identity and income verification. Payments feels like a natural evolution of his business.
In an interview with australiabusinessblog.com, Anderson explained that while Plaid will personally facilitate payments through his Handover offer, it will also continue to work with its dozens of payment partners, including Square, Stripe, Marqeta, Gusto, and Silicon Valley Bank. The ultimate goal is to generally provide consumers with more choice when it comes to bank payments.
“There has been so much innovation on POS [point of sale] in the last 10 years, but purely digital – no physical interaction – experiences for payments are still in their infancy,” he said. “This is what we’re focused on.”
In its own way, Anderson noted, Plaid has been involved in digital payments for years, powering nearly a billion ACH transactions for things like account funding and account-to-account transfers. Gradually, the company partnered with nearly 50 payment companies.
In other words, Plaid has its services for clients that range from account verification to risk assessment and processing. It has also built its data products in a modular way with the goal of “maximizing choice for its customers” and “ultimately expanding the use of bank payments”.
“At this time last year, ACH grew nearly 75% year over year on the same day with numbers in the trillions — that’s a lot of growth for an already significant number,” Anderson said. “There is a lot of market for many players and in general Plaid works with a wide network of payment partners. We intend to invest – not shift – in that ecosystem and strategy.”
So overall, when it comes to payments, Anderson said, Plaid is focused on building products that help companies have “more cost-effective, efficient and flexible bank payments.”
“A lot of that work is done by our partners, because ultimately we want to maximize choice for consumers and businesses,” he said. “That’s why we take an ecosystem approach to payments. It is not us against them, but an ‘us’ working together to innovate and create a better infrastructure that is safer, smarter and faster for all participants.”
As mentioned earlier, frenemy Stripe is one of Plaid’s payment partners, which unveiled a new proprietary product back in May. In particular, Stripe’s Financial Connections is designed to give that company’s customers a way to connect directly to their customers’ bank accounts, to access financial data to expedite or execute certain types of transactions – just what Plaid has done in the past.
Working with its payment partners over the years, Anderson said Plaid saw one consistent challenge: that it usually took several days for an ACH transfer to complete.
“That’s because it provides settlement time to cover reporting review and fraud,” he said. “But that transfer rate is very limited for many of our clients – if you are someone like Robinhood who wants clients to deposit money into their account immediately and start trading immediately, 2-3 days of ACH settlement time feels like a lifetime.”
Trying to solve that challenge led to the birth of Plaid’s Signal offering, which uses machine learning to analyze more than 1,000 risk factors and provide scores and insights that Plaid says “provide greater certainty that a transaction will be settled so that a company can accelerate access to those funds without increasing risk.
“We wanted to use intelligent data signals to identify low-risk ACH funding events that can be immediately cleared,” he said. “By accurately predicting risk and fraud, we can help companies build many more real-time financing solutions so their consumers can get started on their financial goals right away.
Signal today is exiting the beta phase, where Robinhood was a pilot customer. In addition to Robinhood, fintechs such as WeBull and Uphold have incorporated Signal into their risk models “to unlock instant ACH,” Anderson said.
“We are currently de-risking nearly 3 million transactions worth nearly $1.5 billion per month,” he said. “We are excited to bring this service to more customers and enable them to more safely and securely expand the applicability of ACH-based bank payments and money transfers.”
Looking ahead, he said, Plaid is actively building and collaborating on real-time payment rails.
Plaid’s RTP and FedNow products are designed to drive further bank payment adoption, Anderson said, “not only because of the speed and certainty of settlement, but also through further innovation in the finance and payments ecosystem.”
“We want to unlock the next phase of bank payments with a focus on a great consumer experience, adapting Signal for emerging risk and fraud vectors and other activities that will accelerate the adoption of real-time payments in the US through our payment partners and customers,” said Anderson. .
Also, in an interview with australiabusinessblog.com, Anderson explained his decision to join Plaid. The president left Meta in March after a 10-year stint serving as that company’s head of payments and commerce.
Anderson said he was drawn to space because “finance is at the heart of everyone’s life”. Acknowledging that the “world is becoming increasingly unequal”, the executive described financial access as an “unlevel playing field that is becoming increasingly bumpy”.
“The common thread in so many of this great generation of new financial services is that Plaid is there in the background to help them build secure data accessibility, fast payments and manage risk and compliance,” he said.
It’s not Anderson’s first foray into fintech. He developed a fintech app called GroupCard which was then acquired by InComm, a $13 billion prepaid and payment technology company. He also once worked in payments at eBay.
“As an early fintech app developer, I have experienced firsthand the challenges many of Plaid’s clients face today,” he said. “On a very personal level, I came to Plaid because I wanted to build sustainable products and social impact on a scale that my grandchildren will be proud of.”