Guest Blog by Paul Birkness, Co-Founder and CEO, Pungle Building technology solutions for payment acquiring is a difficult challenge. Great solutions require market insight, advanced architecture and modern design. But beyond the technology itself, a fintech provider must be adept at working within the complex ecosystem of the payments industry. A successful fintech will utilize the partners, tools and systems available to them. A leading fintech will realize that collaboration and cooperation from some of the leaders in our industry will help foster growth and success. Understanding the ecosystem The most important part of being a successful player within the financial services industry is understanding the players in the ecosystem. That means understanding the roles, responsibilities and interests of each stakeholder. Industry newcomers often mistake companies’ roles; what is an issuer versus an acquirer, a bank versus a network, or a gateway versus a processor? It starts with learning the terminology, however, it isn’t enough to know what a company is – you need to understand what is important to them. A stakeholder analysis should be used to review the opportunity through the partner’s lens. What are they trying to accomplish, what will they eschew and how will they measure success? Then, tailor your plans to ensure you meet their needs. If you appreciate the partner’s goals and needs, they will be far more willing to support the opportunity. In our business, we listened to the partners who expressed the importance of secure data and secure transactions. We were building a cloud-based architecture and wanted to ensure we met everyone’s needs for a secure environment. We found reliable partners to support us, and we invested in people, processes and tools to make sure we built a strong data security framework. Take advantage of those who are willing to help As most start-ups are aware, success often comes when you win that first big deal. When a start-up signs a key reference client, it’s typically an inflection point to drive growth. In the fintech space, often it’s finding key partnerships that take you to the next level. However, many fintech start-ups don’t take advantage of the opportunities around them. To do so requires investing time and effort to connect with people in the industry and have open dialogues. A successful fintech can’t be shy about asking for help and should keep their eyes open for those who offer a helping hand, share insights, and lean in to your business. At Pungle, we were lucky to connect and collaborate with Visa in the early stages of building our platform. We became involved with the Visa Developer Community and started using the wealth of tools, capabilities and knowledge that it offered within the Visa Developer Platform. More so, we found individuals at Visa Canada who were willing to offer their time, knowledge, experience and network to help us build relationships with other partners. Find partners who are the right fit Once you identify the types of players that you want to work with, understand their roles and their needs, and get connected through people willing to help, it’s important to forge partnerships with companies who are the right fit for your business. A good partner should share similar values, and their vision and strategy should include or support the opportunity that you’re after. You should have a common goal for the future that includes your solution. A great partner will show leadership in helping drive change and create opportunities for growth. The partner you choose should have the drive, flexibility and willingness to invest resources to support your initiative. Alongside Visa, we have partnered with strong acquiring and bank partners. Once they committed to our business opportunity, they provided time and resources to get the business launched. We are lucky to have partnered with companies that have the vision and leadership to make it happen. Building a tech start-up is a challenge. Building a fintech comes with even greater hurdles like regulation, licensing, and security requirements. A successful fintech will quickly realize that they cannot stand alone in this market. Finding a way to work within the payments ecosystem with the right partners to help you get there is the formula for success. The Pungle payments platform Pungle leverages various AWS services and technologies in order to deliver highly available and highly reliable real-time payment services via Visa Direct in partnership with its acquiring financial institution. Pungle provides its clients with proprietary real-time fraud prevention services and real-time data analysis using AWS services. In particular, we use SQS, Kinesis, KMS and Auto Scale amongst other services in order to process high volume payments in a secure cloud environment. Other technologies in our stack include Elixir, Golang, Scala, and Kafka. About the author Paul Birkness is co-founder and CEO at Pungle. Paul is an innovation professional with a background in strategy and business consulting. Prior to starting Pungle, Paul managed the PSiGate acquiring business and started the prepaid issuing business at Home Trust. Before that, Paul held various marketing, business development, and strategy roles at Moneris Solutions, 724 Solutions, and Deloitte. Paul is a Chartered Accountant with an MBA from the Schulich School of Business and a BA from the University of Western Ontario. Contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @pbirk1 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulbirkness/
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Guest Blog by Braulio Lam, Co-Founder and CTO at Pungle
Building a modern payments platform is challenging enough as it is. There are different aspects to take into account when building a platform to handle payment transactions in real-time. The challenge becomes more complex when you build it directly in the cloud. By that I mean, not just hosting the platform in the cloud but also building key components of the payments process using ‘native’ cloud services. There are pros and cons to this approach but that is another blog post! In this post, I will talk about what are some of the things you need to know about building a modern payments platform in the cloud.
Which cloud infrastructure do I choose?
This is probably the one question you are going to spend the most time on. Not because it is the most complex, but because there are lots of options out there nowadays. Here are some of the things we considered:
Security - is the provider PCI compliant? Can they enforce protection mechanisms and policies to protect our application and data?
Reliability - can the provider give 24/7 services? Will transactions ever be ‘lost’?
Scalability - can they increase/decrease our throughput as needed?
Are all cloud services made equal? Unfortunately no. Depending on your company’s requirements (and policies?) you may choose one versus the other. We chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) because they provide us with various services (out-of-the-box) in all of the three mentioned criteria, allowing our developers to focus on specific domains of expertise while running a lean development team.
What about PCI Security?
Sure, all cloud service providers are ‘secure’ and provide some level of PCI compliance. What’s important when architecting your payments platform in the cloud is to know which specific cloud services you are going to use from your provider. For example, do you need a key management service like AWS KMS? What about a web application firewall (WAF) for protection against cross-site scripting and SQL injections? Once you know which cloud services you want to use, figure out what are the PCI implications. This will help you determine if you can rely 100% on the provider for PCI compliance or not and what that means for you in terms of being PCI compliant.
Remember that a key requirement of PCI compliance is ‘roles and responsibilities’ of all parties, so knowing who is responsible for what in all aspects of your payments infrastructure and architecture is very important. This may vary from one cloud provider to another.
You will win and lose customers based on the reliability of your payments platform. Now more than ever, it’s simpler (not simple) to build highly reliable solutions in the cloud. With the emergence of big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, cloud service providers have spent a lot of resources making sure they can compete in these fields.
When it comes to payments, transaction messages can never be ‘lost’. It is simply too expensive to resolve these issues that seem to be a regular thing with existing legacy bank infrastructure.
The service provider you choose should be able to provide you with things like a queuing messaging service that can encrypt data on the fly or perform basic analytics on the data as it is being processed. Or support for other off the shelf services like Kafka or Solace.
How to Handle Growth?
The best problem to have for any payments platform is how to handle high volume of payments. Luckily for you, most cloud service providers can easily scale up or down based on various key metrics including the amount of traffic on the system.
I think that what’s important here is to be able to dynamically scale up or down, based on transaction volume. The payments platform should be able to scale itself as needed based on certain parameters in the system. Furthermore, you should be able to add custom rules in order to achieve the desirable scalability at any given point in time.
Long gone are the late nights and weekends at the data centre adding servers, upgrading memory or rerouting traffic from one old machine to another old machine.
Know Your Customer
Last but not least, you must know your customer - the developers!
Yes, ultimately your developers will be the ones who will have to work with your cloud services provider on a daily basis and therefore, they need to be involved in the process from day one.
Keep in mind that choosing a cloud service provider has implications to your development, dev-ops and IT security teams. Get them involved as soon as possible.
Ps. Do not cheap out on support! Your teams will need it.
The Pungle Payments Platform
Pungle leverages various AWS services and technologies in order to deliver highly available and highly reliable real-time payment services via Visa Direct. As well, Pungle provides its clients with proprietary real-time fraud prevention services and real-time data analysis using AWS services. In particular, we use SQS, Kinesis, KMS and Auto Scale amongst other services in order to process high volume payments in a secure cloud environment. Other technologies in our stack include Elixir, Golang, Scala, and Kafka.
About the author
Braulio Lam is co-founder and CTO at Pungle. Braulio is a software engineering leader, specializing in software engineering and management, with a focus on engineering process and software quality. Prior to starting Pungle, Braulio was responsible for software development and network operations at Home Trust Company supporting merchant services and prepaid issuing.
Before that, Braulio held various engineering leadership roles and worked for some very successful startups in Toronto, including Truition, Real Matters, Shop.ca, and Terapeak.
Braulio is a Professional Engineer and has a Bachelor of Engineering from Carleton University.
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What a great topic! Here at Pungle, we continue to strive to be a more diverse team and welcome people from all backgrounds into our engineering team. As well, we are proud to say that we have women engineers in the team which we believe makes us better. It indeed balances the team and brings a different perspective in everything we do and how we approach problem-solving. I hire and have hired a lot of people but now more than ever, I make it a priority to hire women into my teams. Regardless of background, experience or education, all companies and teams should strive to include more women as part of their continued evolution. Personally, I'm married to a doctor and have a strong little daughter that continues to make me proud of everything they do on a day to day basis. Women are capable of as much if not more than they are given credit for. Let's support them always.
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Hello everyone! My name is Braulio and I'm co-founder and CTO at Pungle. We are building a real-time payments platform for businesses in Canada using Visa Direct. We are always digging through the Forum and hope this community continues to grow so that we can help each other solve our unique challenges in our own regions. Keep it up Visa team! Braulio
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