After buying Pagaqui, SaltPay is already known in Portugal for having operationalized the IVAucher program. With an investment contract of 28.5 million euros until 2025 signed with AICEP, fintech has great ambitions for its position in the Portuguese market. João Barros, executive president of SaltPay in Portugal, admits to surpass the investment foreseen in the country and enter the consumer segment. But, for now, he wants to dedicate himself to conquering customers among small merchants. Currently, the company is attracting an average of 500 customers per month. But it estimates that it has a market of around 400,000 customers it can conquer.
“We are developing solutions to make life easier for small merchants. We want our terminal services to be a basis for other services,” said the CEO of SaltPay in an interview with Dinheiro Vivo. “The other services can be linked to credit, insurance, loyalty systems. We have several ideas at the moment, such as integration with invoicing systems”, he added. The company has already developed several partnerships in this regard and is integrated with a WinRest, which is a leader in catering. “I believe that in the second quarter of next year we will already be able to start offering even more products,” he pointed out.
For João Barros, SaltPay’s difference will not only be in the price. “The industry itself is already at a price level where it’s difficult to optimize the cost much more for merchants. 4 or 5 years ago, there were merchants paying 4 or 5% fees on international cards,” he said. He stressed that “nowadays this practically does not exist. It is common. Fees are prohibited from 1%”. “Where we are more combative and sensitive is this: there is no loyalty because there is no economic rationality,” he said.
He recalled that there are operators who have “ad eternum” loyalty, which is the so-called uninstallation fee. “In addition to paying the current monthly fee, consumers have to pay fees of some 300 or 400 euros to uninstall,” he said. “We do not have loyalty. Companies can contract with us and, after a month, they can terminate without joining or uninstalling fees”, he guaranteed. Therefore, SaltPay is focused on the costs “of this monthly fee, which we think are still high in the sector”. “On the side of loyalty and the monthly fee, there are improvements to be made,” he said.
To grow in the Portuguese market and win over customers, the company is creating hubs. “We are making the opposite movement to the generality of the financial system. We are opening commercial hubs, the equivalent of offices with a physical presence where we have informed teams of 3, 5, 6 people who visit clients very regularly,” he said the CEO of SaltPay. “It’s something that has been lost a lot in traditional banking. We opened 5 hubs but we want to continue expanding in order to have this proximity,” he assured.
According to the CEO of SaltPay, the company has “achieved an average of 500 new customers per month”. “If you think that a commercial bank of any size has 20 to 25 thousand customers in this sector, these are good numbers with the structure we currently have,” he pointed out.
João Barros estimates that, in Portugal, “40% of small merchants still don’t have any solution” for payments. “We want to occupy that space. We are not occupying space that already exists because it is closed by the theme of loyalty,” he stated. He recalled that, according to Banco de Portugal, there are 300,000 active terminals for large and small retailers. “Of the small ones, there will be less than 200,000. Of these, 40% do not accept international schemes. I believe there will be another 200,000 to serve at ease. We still have a very large market to be conquered,” he indicated.
He gave as an example the case of a shoemaker or a small cafe. One of the problems lies in the fixed cost per minimum transaction, “which in Portugal is very high”. “Five cents in 60 cents is a very high rate. We don’t have current rates,” he said. “We are very focused to cover this market fringe and maybe even support our economy. Because we understand that 8% of the fee in a cafe is a lot. We are not going to charge 8% but 0.75 cents”, he guaranteed. Thus, SaltPay wants to bet on the fact of “not having loyalty, not having high monthly fees and not having fixed rates” to attract more customers.
New technology hub
Moreover, the company has great ambitions for Portugal and has negotiated with an AICEP an investment contract that foresees the hiring of 460 people by the end of 2025, for a total investment of 28.5 million euros. At the moment, it already has about 140 people hired. “We have invested a lot in this area of hiring recruiters and we have a significant number of vacancies. We inaugurated a technology hub in Porto 3 weeks ago, which has a capacity for 130 to 140 people, but later we want to expand,” said João Barros. But technological resources are very coveted. “We compete with multinationals in recruitment. But we are also recruiting in other geographies. More than 50% of the vacancies we are filling are from people from other countries”, he pointed out.
The new hub is to “serve the group internationally, which is good”. The company creates “competitions here,” and creates “cadres and pays taxes in the country. “Our goal is for this hub to be relevant in the group, which it already is, in terms of developing new future products,” he said.
The IVAucher program turned out to be a milestone for the company in Portugal. “The balance of IVAucher is very positive. It is a benefit that is being given to consumers in order to favor the sectors most affected by the measures imposed in the management of the pandemic”, said Madalena Santos, responsible for Planning at SaltPay.
The aim was for it to be a universal and open solution. The program allows any terminal from any merchant to accept the IVAucher benefit “no effort, no change”. “The merchant just goes to IVAucher.pt and registers his terminals. There is no additional cost associated. But he is offering discounts to his customers”, he pointed out.
For Madalena Santos, the program “may be replicated in the future”. “Naturally, being a solution that already exists and is already developed, it makes perfect sense for it to be replicated”, he stressed.
In terms of the future, according to João Barros, the “focus is not on sales or results” because the company is “in an investment phase”. “We are focused on developing good products and implementing the hubs with our customers. I believe that in the second quarter of next year we will start to have much clearer goals depending on what we develop,” he said. On the planned investment, he added: “It is our commitment and it does not mean that it is better to be superior”. “If things go well for us in terms of the market and development teams, we have even more room to make more investments in Portugal.”
The provision of services to consumers can also be in the pipeline. “I would say yes. But it won’t be this year yet. I think we’re going to want to invest in being good in this area of small traders first and then yes, later we’re going to invest in this area. Let’s take it one step at a time.”