Guy El Khoury on innovation in the emerging payments sector
(Photo : Guy El Khoury on innovation in the emerging payments sector)

Payment sector pioneer Guy Raymond El Khoury opens up about innovation in the payment space and the meteoric rise of Accomplish Financial. 

Note: Portions of the interview have been paraphrased or abridged for web readability. 

Guy El Khoury is CEO and Founder of Accomplish Financial and AF Payments. Accomplish Financial is a UK-based financial services company. The company aims to be a full service provider of services for electronic payments, with a complete range of payment solutions for corporate clients and programme managers. Solutions include physical payment cards, virtual payment cards, e-wallets and loyalty and reward modules.

So, let's start from the beginning. What inspired you to start Accomplish Financial?

Guy El Khoury: We noticed an opportunity in the market. We saw an opening that allowed us to service emerging FinTech products. At that time, there was only a handful of international processors operating; That is, banks that were offering their own products, and the notion of BIN sponsorship was still uncommon. 

"We felt that there needed to be a single service organization that could help guide partners interested in innovation through their project from beginning to end, while still delivering an in-house solution." 

By removing all of the stress on the service side of things, Clients could focus more on the product and how their target audience would engage with it; this is why I started Accomplish Financial.

So that's the business reason, but was there also a personal reason? Why do you want to do this? It's risky running a big tech company.

Guy El Khoury: That's true; it's probably not for everyone. Personally, I wanted to prove that it can be done. It hasn't been easy, and doing things correctly takes time, but it's started to yield great results; and I get genuine satisfaction from helping the industry progress. It's interesting to see the advancements in technology, but I'm also guided by how we can help shape our customers' lives, so I try to do my part to make people's lives a little bit better in my area of expertise.

What has changed since you first began?

Guy El Khoury: Wow! A lot. Being granted access by the regulators, especially the FCA (formerly the FSA) helped. Without a doubt, having access allowed us to thrive, and the fact that they understood our goals was instrumental to our success. 

"The emergence of many service providers in the space has been a clear sign of the growth of the market."

When we started, there were only a few processors, BIN sponsors, and a handful of program managers; that was it. To create a project on your own, you had to figure it all out by yourself. People had to guess where to begin and then had to piece together all the lingo. If they were lucky, they would slowly start understanding what a card manufacturer does and the difference between a BIN sponsor and a program manager or issuing bank. Back then, it could take many months or even years for projects to go live, but nowadays, it might only take a few days, so it's a massive difference.

What challenges does that create? Is there any impact on your clients?

Guy El Khoury: Well, we've had some interesting results! In one case, we presented our solution in response to an RFP only to be told by the payment consultants that it was 'not possible' and that 'no one can launch a product that fast. The project didn't require physical cards to be printed by a third party; to make a long story short, we worked hard and were able to find a way to get the project launched on time. 

Wow, that really is exciting.

Guy El Khoury: See people get innovative ideas all the time, but between innovation and execution, the market can shift, competitors can enter the space, Any number of other things can change.

"If you can't move faster than the industry, then you can't benefit from it." 

What a good lesson for the industry; you've got to match the timing in the market. So, if you had to choose between any two programs, which one do you think would be the most successful, and which one would you personally love to run?

Guy El Khoury: Honestly, at the moment, my answer to both questions would be "Raris." The Raris card is manufactured in the United Kingdom by The Royal Mint and is an 18 Karat, solid-gold hallmarked card. It was a long process to get the project to where it is today; the learning curve was steep and involved getting to know the world of bespoke card manufacturing. It was a worldwide effort that presented new opportunities for us in different areas, from product testing to the certification of the card, to the manufacturing process and the approval process for the card's unique security elements. 

"Expanding our knowledge and expertise was a challenge that we enjoyed."

We're truly proud of Raris. It was an opportunity for us to be completely innovative. It's not every day that you get to create such a big difference on a physical level and bring a creative vision to life with technology. Though, in all honesty, everyone who has seen a Raris card loves it. There is something special about it.

That is genuinely inspirational. So, to sum it up, how has Accomplish Financial been able to achieve such innovation?

Guy El Khoury: Rapid prototyping and launching products quickly is a massive advantage; it can mean beating your competition to the market. The industry is also prohibitively expensive, which can discourage innovators from their prototyping efforts. We are fortunate to be able to solve both of those problems for our customers.

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