At Fattmerchant, innovation isn't confined to the tech team
Being a successful fintech isn't just about staying ahead of the trends and reading the market. It's also about keeping things fresh for the people who work there.
That makes bottom-up thinking more than just a concept for Fattmerchant. Innovation crosses department boundaries at the 5-year-old payment technology company, where technology projects get input from marketing professionals and professionals and tech gurus are welcome to pitch in on sales initiatives.
All of this contributed to Fattmerchant's inclusion in SourceMedia’s second annual list of Best Fintechs to Work For.
“With how fast everything is moving, not just in the industry but how fast the company is growing, we have to get informed. So it’s not just making decisions in a closed room and it’s not just the leadership,” said Suneera Madhani, Fattmerchant's CEO. The Orlando, Fla., company provides technology to merchants on a subscription basis, using a Netflix-style model instead of traditional billing practices from most merchant acquirers.
To keep all staff engaged, the week starts and ends the same way: with a full staff meeting on Monday morning and Friday afternoon.
Each department head discusses what it’s working on, what’s going well, where there are challenges and how their work relates to people from other departments.
“Everything we touch impacts other people’s job functions,” Madhani said. “Even if you are an inside sales rep, you understand the features that we are building form a technological perspective.”
In the mobile age, merchant services is three-dimensional chess, filled with nimble Silicon Valley startups and merchant payment processors with huge scale and billions of dollars to spend on M&A. All of these companies are looking to develop innovations for cross-channel shopping, financial services, customer engagement and transaction processing.
Keeping sharp requires collaboration, and it’s a premium for the corporate culture at Fattmerchant. Madhani, who founded the company, said supervisors at a former job were dismissive of her business model idea that later became the basis for Fattmerchant. Madhani was recognized last year as one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments.
Fattmerchant's culture and its approach has made it a destination for fintech professionals. The company’s staff expanded to its current 90-person count from 40 a year ago, 20 two years ago and 12 the year before that.
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“We’ve had a huge growth last year in our team. It was our biggest year for hiring,” Madhani said.
Fattmerchant, which was founded on the basis that merchant acquirers can't keep living off of their past scale without providing a good experience for clients, has tried to encourage that same culture for workers, and it's earned high ratings from staff.
The company does not have a traditional project management function, but instead uses a committee with a representative from each department for launches.
“There may be someone from customer support who is listening to customers that has something to contribute to the tech side, or the marketing side,” Madhani said.
The concept was put to use as Fattmerchant deployed Omni, an integrated API-powered payment platform that allows merchants to view payment data and customer analytics across different payment channels. This data is displayed on a dashboard with integrates with business software programs such as QuickBooks; and payments can be sent to an e-commerce service of the user’s choice.
It’s the kind of integration that’s become necessary as payments technology becomes embedded with other business functions to create seamless “invisible” transactions. At Fattmerchant, it came as the company was adding dozens of new staffers and closed $10.5 million in new financing, led by Atlanta-based Fulcrum Equity Partners.
“A lot of time in many organizations, the people don't talk to each other,” Madhani said. “Marketing doesn't talk to sales, or technology does talk to marketing. One thing we try to do is ensure there is visibility for all departments.”
The company's collaborative culture is also part of the appeal to one of its investors.
“Since first meeting the Fattmerchant team, we have been impressed with their innovative spirit and their drive to make the payments industry more merchant-friendly,” Philip Lewis, principal of Fulcrum Equity Partners, said in an email to SourceMedia. “The entire team is in sync and dedicated to providing the best payment experience possible. This collaborative spirit has led to cutting-edge innovations such as Omni.”