Tax-Free Shopping Powered by Fintrax
Finance Monthly speaks to Patrick Waldron, the CEO of Fintrax Group - an Irish FinTech company specialising in processing complex payment transactions.
Tell us a bit about the services that Fintrax offers?
Fintrax offers three main products: firstly we process VAT refunds for tourists in over 30 countries, working with 50% of the world’s top 150 luxury brands and Department stores such as Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Armani, Valentino, Printemps and El Corte Ingles. The market has been growing strongly over the last 20 years, driven by increased tourists from China, Russia, the Middle East, USA and Latin America visiting Europe and Asia in particular. The outlook for the next 10 years is also very positive with the expansion of the middle class across the world.
Secondly, we offer currency conversion services for travellers in 47 countries worldwide and we are the largest player in this market after the acquisition of Planet Payment in December 2017 for $250m. We also offer multi-currency processing capabilities to a range of specialist companies that need this service for complex payment transactions.
The business was bought by a leading UK Private Equity company, Exponent, in 2012 for €170m and then sold to Eurazeo, a leading French investment company in 2015 for €550m.
What are the challenges or opportunities Fintrax and the Irish FinTech sector at large are facing?
For us, the continued expansion of travel, especially from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America underpins luxury purchases as tourists prefer to buy expensive jewellery and handbags in person on the Champs Elysee in Paris, Sloane Square in London or Via Montenapoleone in Milan.
On the currency conversion side, a recent EU report has recommended greater transparency on pricing and mark-ups which we are very supportive of, as we tend to keep out currency conversion rates in line with VISA and MasterCard. The largest challenge for us is helping our acquiring bank partners to train their merchants well so that they understand currency conversion and make the offer to tourists.
In terms of the Irish FinTech sector at large, it has been a very successful period for them. There are still plenty of opportunities in the payments sector that can be exploited but the largest challenge is regulation with PCI, GDPR, Sapin 2, PSD2 to name just a few and these are requiring the hiring of significant extra resources. Given the stream of data breaches we have seen recently, I can only see compliance and regulation getting more onerous over time.
Fintrax acquired Planet Payment and GB Tax Free in 2017 – can you tell us about the acquisitions?
Before we acquired Planet Payment, 85% of our revenues and profits were generated by the VAT refund product so we wanted to rebalance this. Planet Payment was an obvious opportunity for us and now the revenue and profit mix is 60:40 in favour of VAT refunds. By operating in 57 countries, we also can weather any downturn in a specific country or continent. We also see opportunities for cross-sales with Planet Payment and jointly, we are already pursuing both VAT refund and currency conversion in Russia which is now allowing tourists to reclaim the VAT paid on key goods. Planet Payment have a very experienced management team and this builds extra bench strength for the Group.
GB Tax Free is a much smaller acquisition and helps us build our market share in the UK where we have been underweight.
What do you think 2018 holds for Fintrax?
2018 is all about integrating the two acquisitions we made in 2017, as well as continuing to develop our Finland-based fully digital business, which we bought in 2017. So the focus is on helping the management teams deliver on their plans and budgets for 2018. The other major focus is on making the VAT refund process as easy as possible for merchants and tourists through the deployment of digital solutions. We have a fantastic management team comprised of deep experience coupled with fresh new talent, so I am excited for the future.