Innovators’ Spotlight: Planet Payment
Global multicurrency processor is breaking down borders to make global shopping a local experience.
By Adam Perrotta, Assistant Editor, Paybefore
With e-commerce and electronic payments making cross-border shopping easier than ever both online and in stores, it’s vital for retailers to handle transactions in multiple currencies. Long Beach, N.Y.-based Planet Payment is in the business of providing just that ability to sellers operating across borders—and its platform has attracted some of the biggest names on the global commerce scene.
The company was founded in 1999 by Philip Beck, who, with nearly 20 years as an international banking and corporate attorney, is no stranger to navigating the tricky waters of international commerce. While initially focused on helping corporations deal with the regulatory challenges of operating internationally, Beck soon discovered that his clients were most in need of international payments processing, and Planet Payment began providing a cloud-based processing service specializing in foreign currency exchange and conversion. By 2014, the company’s platform was operating in 22 countries, serving 44,000 merchant locations, largely through partnerships with 60 financial services providers.
|Getting to Know Planet PaymentMarketplace Names: Planet Payment
Location: Planet Payment is headquartered in New York and has offices in Atlanta, Beijing, Bermuda, Delaware, Dubai, Dublin, London, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Shanghai and Singapore.
Line of Business: Electronic payment solutions
Secret Sauce: Planet Payment’s centrally hosted transaction platform, which manages the global connectivity and interaction between consumers, merchants, banks and the payment networks
Business Philosophy: Planet Payment helps banks and their sales organizations sign and retain more merchants by providing new and innovative products that help them expand into new markets. In addition, we help merchants—whether a hotelier, retailer, restaurant or e-commerce merchant—sell more goods and services.
Circling the Planet
Because its platform can power cross-currency and multicurrency processing for merchants across the globe, Planet Payment is positioned to support different types of entities involved in cross-border commerce, from e-retailers to hotels and restaurants, Beck tells Paybefore. “There are so many new players and business models, but everybody needs a platform, and we offer a platform that can go anywhere in the world, to anyone who needs our services,” he says.
Planet Payment describes its platform as “currency neutral,” meaning the company’s clients can enter new markets quickly and with lower costs than it would take to develop or enhance their own systems. When China’s UnionPay, one of the world’s largest payment card brands, with more than 3.5 billion cards issued, sought to give its cardholders a way to shop online at e-commerce merchants based in the U.S. and Canada, it turned to Planet Payment to support the new initiative. That deal built upon a global processing agreement the companies signed in 2012 that covered card-present and card-not-present transactions in the e-commerce, retail and hospitality sectors.
Beck notes that the UnionPay partnership, while still in its early stages, is a key example of how Planet Payment’s cross-border functionality gives the company access to some of the biggest players in international commerce. “UnionPay is expanding aggressively, and if you look at the numbers, traveling Chinese cardholders are spending more money [abroad] than any in the world,” he notes. “Being able to support that in-store and online is an exciting thing.”
Going Global, Feeling Local
Other major international players that have partnered with Planet Payment include merchant acquirer TSYS Merchant Solutions, which signed on in April 2013 to offer Planet Payment’s Pay in Your Currency and Shop in Your Currency solutions to its merchant customers. Pay in Your Currency is a Dynamic Currency Conversion service that enables international shoppers to pay in their home currency at the POS with a MasterCard- or Visa-branded payment card. Shop in Your Currency, meanwhile, gives online shoppers a way to see prices in their own currencies and product information in their own languages when browsing at foreign-based, e-commerce Websites. For instance, a shopper in Japan shopping at a U.K.-based e-merchant would see pricing and make his or her payment in yen, while the merchant would receive payment and reporting in British pounds.
|“There are so many new players and business models, but everybody needs a platform.”
—Philip Beck, Planet Payment
The idea behind both solutions is to give shoppers better pricing information and, in turn, drive sales for merchants through an expanded customer base. ‘It’s often very hard to sell things to people in different currencies,” says Beck. “If a local retailer wants to sell online or to foreign shoppers, it needs to localize pricing and language.”
Beck sees the rise of omnichannel commerce—with mobile devices enhancing the in-store experience—as well-suited to support this demand. Eventually, he says, customers traveling abroad might be able to use NFC-equipped mobile devices to scan items in stores and get instant product information in their own languages and pricing in their local currencies.
While that convergence is on the horizon for now, Planet Payment is finding no shortage of partners interested in providing its existing solutions. In December, the company inked a deal with PT Bank Central Asia, one of Indonesia’s leading banks, to offer Pay in Your Currency to the bank’s merchant clients. That deal followed the October announcement that Mexican bank Banorte and Planet Payment were launching a Pay in Your Currency-driven solution for the Mexican hospitality industry. Elsewhere in Mexico, Planet Payment has partnered with Visa Inc. and telecom JV Blue Label Mexico to drive payment card acceptance at small retailers throughout the country.
The Bitcoin Question
With currency central to Planet Payment’s offerings, it’s little wonder the company is keeping an eye on the rise of digital currencies like Bitcoin. There’s a long way to go—and plenty of regulatory hurdles to clear—before such currencies enter the mainstream, Beck says. But there could come a day when digital currencies can be treated like any other form of money; and should that day come, Planet Payment will be there to support companies looking to transact in bitcoins. “If and when governments and banks all get comfortable that Bitcoin is a payment type and merchants accept it, ultimately you’ll need processors to route to Bitcoin exchanges,” Beck notes. “We’ll see where the market goes—and if it goes there, we’ll be ready.”