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IBS Intelligence Interview with Kani CEO Aaron Holmes

12th October 2022

Press & Media

Aaron Holmes, CEO, Kani Payments

Aaron Holmes is CEO and Founder at Kani Payments and has guided the business since 2018 when it was founded to solve the data problem that he recognised faced payments companies everywhere. He now leads Kani Payments from its Newcastle upon Tyne head office and is an enthusiastic supporter of the North East fintech hub.

Aaron founded Kani Payments following roles at Flex-e-card as General Manager, Global Processing Services as Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) & Chief Operating Officer (COO), and NBS Card Solutions as Senior Implementation Manager. Working in payments gave Aaron an insight into the amount of time spent on reporting and reconciliation, inspiring him to provide a solution for growing fintechs. Kani Payments’ automated SaaS reporting and reconciliation platform saves time, improves data accuracy, and offers access to valuable insights that can help fintechs to compete with the biggest names in the industry.

The payments segment is probably one of the highest saturated markets in FinTech. What makes Kani Payments stand out?

Fintechs and other payment ecosystem players are scrambling to pull as much value as they can out of every bit of data. But as Big Data gets bigger and faster, trying to harness it all and generate meaningful insights is difficult, especially for a start-up wanting to scale-up. Data is priceless, but it’s also raw, ugly, complex and difficult to handle. For in-house fintech finance teams in particular, they’re required to reconcile and report transaction data, not just for their own business processes, but also to satisfy payment schemes, regulatory and audit demands, to prove compliance throughout their organisations, and show that money is in the right place, at the right time. 

Until now, tools such as Excel, or basic in-house platforms, have been used to do this. But these legacy systems struggle to keep up with fast-rising data volumes, are prone to manual errors, require in-house development teams with the right payments-data knowledge and if unable to collate and analyse data quickly, efficiently and correctly, can cripple a fintech’s hopes of growth. That’s why, in 2018, we built Kani Payments’ unique SaaS platform from scratch. With a mission to simplify data reporting and reconciliation processes, Kani Payments takes the strain of collating, parsing and cleaning up raw data, giving clients the freedom to focus on their customers. 

Kani Payments is unique because it is a truly scalable SaaS fintech company. Already live in five continents, our success with clients has led us to become an award-winning automated platform that has reconciled over €15 billion in processed payments volume to date. The additional uniqueness is our team, their in-depth knowledge of payments data and our ability to support clients with the complexities and nuances of payments.

As the only company of our kind with this level of detailed payments knowledge and fintech experience, we have built our technology platform to address the fundamental problems within this space, but we also add a huge amount of value to clients through education and support. This is one of the key reasons why clients choose to work with us – we remove the complexity and make it easy for them because we understand it and we’ve done it, having worked in their exact roles, within fintech and finance teams. Clients also choose to work with us because we are data-agnostic, can retrieve data from multiple sources without restriction and generate key regulatory reports in just a few minutes instead of days or weeks, which is how long it often takes companies when they create these manually.

Our Record Matching functionality is also unique in the fintech market and currently used by key clients such as Railsr – it leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to match entities across datasets, providing the user with system-recommended matches, while also highlighting any exemptions in the reconciliation. 

Could you highlight the company’s journey so far and some of the biggest achievements?

I founded Kani Payments in 2018, based out of the growing fintech hub and my home city of Newcastle Upon Tyne, and named with a nod and a wink towards the “canny” Geordie term. We quickly transitioned from a start-up to a scale-up company, focusing on helping fintech businesses better understand the complex payments ecosystem through payment reconciliation technology and upskilling in-house finance teams.

We have continued to champion and support talent in the North East of England, joining the North East tech network Dynamo in September 2020, working with local partners, from Newcastle University and the National Innovation Centre for data, hiring and up-skilling apprentices and working closely with local apprenticeship provider, Baltic apprenticeships. 

More recently, some particular highlights for us have been creating new partnerships, including North American financial advisory firm, Strategic Resource Management (SRM) and Quality-of-Life services provider Sodexo Engage, just to name a few, and being accepted onto the Mastercard Start Path Global Programme in May 2022. The programme, which has an acceptance rate of just 2%, will see us working with Mastercard to support their clients and looking at opportunities to collaborate on data insights, Chargeback management and reconciliation of payments.

Kani Payments’ journey has also been recognised with several awards and numerous nominations: we were semi-finalists in Tech Nation’s Rising Star’s competition in December 2018, named ‘Europe’s Leading Financial Services or Payments Start-up’ by the Emerging Payments Association in 2019, won ‘Leading Financial Services or Payments Start-Up’ at the Pay360 Awards in October 2019, and came second in Business Cloud’s Fintech 50 Innovation Ranking in November 2021. For two years running, we have also been nominated and selected to be part of the Fintech Power 50 membership, an exclusive list of fintech companies who are shaping the industry. 

Among these, there’s certainly the selection for Mastercards Start Path Global – what was the relevance of this recognition? Which areas will the program be focusing on?

Joining the Mastercard Start Path Global Programme is the latest exciting steppingstone in what’s already been an impressive and successful story for our ambitious company. 

We strive to save even more businesses vast amounts of time and help them to tackle the problem of the increasingly complex digital payments, regulation and compliance requirements so that they can spend more time focusing on building superb fintech products and services. We‘re proud to be trailblazing a fintech hub from our innovative corner here in the UK while charging into new markets and territories, as well as attracting and retaining a team of top, diverse talent outside the capital.

The support, insight, connections and knowledge we will gain from the team at Mastercard as part of this scheme will not only be of invaluable insight and benefit to Kani Payments but, more importantly, our existing and prospective customers who have come to rely on the efficiencies afforded by our unique platform. Specifically, Kani Payments aim to co-create and innovate with Mastercard to scale our platform, support their clients and advance our global expansion plans, having access to a new and diverse customer base.

Which global trends in the payments landscape do you expect to stay and grow in the long run?

The amount of data globally is expected to reach 175 zettabytes by 2025, increasing from an estimated 44 zettabytes in 2020, and the array of increasingly complex data formats and multi-channel transaction volumes are growing exponentially. The explosion of ecommerce and digital payment usage worldwide means fintechs are faced with unprecedented challenges in how to handle, analyse and reconcile this data in the quickest and most efficient way. 

Specifically, streamlining and automating this data will remain business-critical for many years to come in the payments world, with firms forking out over $215 billion in 2021 to keep on top of their data analytics and remain compliant.

With regulation in the fintech sector only set to increase further, firms have a legal requirement and a responsibility to reconcile, audit, safeguard and report on their customer data at all times. Regulatory bodies like the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK have already tightened up on rules around accurate reporting, safe-guarding and audits for payments processes and fund flows, so it is more important than ever for companies to be on top of these processes with an efficient and accurate system, with support from teams who know exactly what is expected from the data.

There are still a lot of companies out there who need support from Kani Payments, since a recent 2021 Censuswide study of 306 finance heads revealed that around 17% were still exclusively using manual processes. For existing and new clients, Kani Payments will continue in 2022 and beyond by simplifying increasingly complex data reporting requirements for companies across the payment ecosystem.

What are Kani Payments’ future expansion plans?

2022 has already been an exciting year for Kani, as we hit key milestones and announced new partnerships, including our acceptance onto the Mastercard Start Path Global Programme. For the remainder of the year, we will focus on driving our key strategic partnerships, global growth and expanding into new regions including the US and Asia-Pacific.

Kani Payments’ mission is to reduce complexity for financial services businesses, so the mission is to be the go-to back-office solution for the fintech and payments industry, globally. We know the value we’re providing to financial teams around the world and how we’ve transformed data reconciliation processes to make their lives easier – our expansion over the past few years is evidence of that. We’ve already reconciled over €15 billion in transactions on behalf of our clients, so I’m confident that we’ve got even more incredibly exciting global growth opportunities ahead.

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