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Executive Interview Series: Tom Bell, CEO of Maast

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The Executive Interview Series provides readers with exclusive insights from movers and shakers in the payments industry. The payments industry is under continuous transformation. This series offers diverse perspectives on everything from strategy to payments technology and the industry’s future.

In this interview, TSG marketing team member Rachel Hartley spoke with Tom Bell, CEO of Maast, to discuss all things embedded finance, including the benefits, making it attainable for customers, and the partnerships that help make it possible.

A healthy curiosity of others’ perspectives is what inspires Tom Bell. With 40+ years of consulting, tech, and payments expertise – CEO of Bank of America Merchant Services, Merchant e-Solutions, and Transaction Services Group – Tom encourages his people to imagine what could be, not what is.

Q: Rachel H.

Talk about your prior experiences with companies such as Bank of America Merchant Services, First Data, and Merchant e-Solutions. How have these experiences shaped the way you approach building Maast?

A: Tom Bell

I have a long history in the payments industry, working with established, reputable, and highly successful financial services companies. Throughout my career, I learned that in order to succeed, it’s not enough to lean on a well-known brand. Success always depends on centering on the benefit of your customers. We need to delight our customers in everything we do and solve their problems with industry-leading products, some of which they may not have even realized they needed until we presented them.

In building Maast, we knew our embedded finance products must be highly secure, easy to use, and provide great value. My past experiences made the value of a strong connection between banking and payment acceptance clear to me. For over sixteen years, I have imagined integrating software, payment, and banking experiences. The stars have finally aligned, and the vision is possible.

In addition, a solid banking partner is critical to the overall vision becoming reality. And that’s precisely why I’m proud Maast is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Synovus Bank, one of the nation’s most reputable and stable regional banking institutions.

Q: Rachel H.

How does Maast define embedded finance and its role in the future of the fintech space?

A: Tom Bell

Embedded finance, integrating financial products within a nonfinancial software application, has been synonymous with as embedded payment acceptance. But it can be so much more. By integrating value-added services onto their platform, Maast helps independent software vendors (ISVs) unlock hidden revenue across the entire money movement chain, payments, and banking.

Financial services are an essential part of running a business, but most banks aren’t designed to meet the needs of business owners in today’s hyper-specialized world. ISVs build their platforms specifically for individual verticals, and they intimately understand the needs of the business owners. The business owners benefit from a fast, simple, integrated way to manage funds – on the software provider’s platform they are already using to run their business.

Related: Five Considerations When Developing an Embedded Strategy

Q: Rachel H.

What are the benefits for a software provider to include embedded finance features on their platform?

A: Tom Bell

Enabling embedded finance taps into new revenue sources previously unavailable. For example, more than 20% of Apple’s revenue comes from services like ApplePay and the App Store, not just hardware sales. ISVs can supplement their subscription revenue (our models show that they can quickly exceed their subscription revenue) as money moves through their platform, whether a business owner is collecting from a consumer, banking their income, or accessing a loan to keep growing. That’s the hard benefit.

There’s a soft benefit as well, and it’s maybe more powerful. Embedded finance brings ISV’s closer to their customers (business owners). An obvious example is a contactless Visa business debit card designed using the ISVs logo and brand colors – it’s like a walking billboard.

Q: Rachel H.

How does Maast live up to its goal of making embedded finance attainable for its customers?

A: Tom Bell

Embedded finance is hard. Companies offering payments alone only need to comply with regulations from credit card issuers such as Mastercard and Visa. Banks and their subsidiaries, however, must navigate an archipelago of rules and regulations. Maast removes technical and operational barriers so software companies can focus on what they do best, providing the platforms and tools their customers use to run their businesses.

It’s our job—not the ISV’s—to create, manage, and secure the financial services. We curate relationships with other key providers to offer our SaaS partners an ever-expanding suite of solutions that lift them above their competition.

Related: Ease of Entry for Software Companies

Q: Rachel H.

With the rising number of companies offering embedded finance solutions, what makes the Maast experience unique?

A: Tom Bell

As I mentioned earlier, it starts with our close partnership with Synovus. We’re fortunate to have the support of an institution that’s both financially sound and has a long (over 130 years) track record of innovation. SaaS providers who choose us can feel confident that we focus on their success as a true partner. We aren’t scrounging for the next round of funding to keep the lights on, and we are here for the long haul.

Second, Maast embraces a “whole product” experience. We help manage underwriting, compliance, security, and support so ISVs can get to market faster and offer business owners a better experience. And we help drive adoption so software companies’ customers understand the value of diversifying their banking experience on the platform and are eager to get started.

Q: Rachel H.

Talk about some of Maast’s partnerships.

A: Tom Bell

Maast powers BillingHound and CheckingHound, two modules offered as part of the new ClerkHound Software Suite, merchant software that caters to the unique requirements of music stores for retail, instrument rental and repair, and lessons.

BillingHound enables music store owners to accept payments online or in-store with invoicing, recurring billing, virtual/POS terminals, and more. With CheckingHound, music store owners can access, move, and use hard-earned money when and where they need it with a business checking account, contactless Visa business debit card, and mobile app.

There is $0 required to open an account, no minimum deposits, no bill pay fees, and unlimited deposits. For additional protection, music store owners can safeguard their businesses with end-to-end secure and protected transactions and $250,000 FDIC insurance per depositor from Synovus Bank, Member FDIC, a trusted bank in the Southeast with a stable 130-year history of innovation.

We have also developed a strategic partnership with Fintainium, a payments automation leader. Our collaboration expands the range of embedded finance solutions for enterprise resource planning (ERP) providers to include accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP), allowing ERP providers to focus on the purpose-built aspects of their software.

Because of this partnership, organizations with complex payment automation and banking needs will enjoy the best of both partners. Maast offers payment acceptance, business checking, payment/banking underwriting, performance marketing, and accounts receivable (AR). Fintainium provides solutions acccounts payable (AP) automation, empowering ERP platforms with advanced money movement technology. Our unified offering will integrate these value-added services under the ERP provider’s brand and within their ecosystem. And a consolidated customer onboarding experience helps reduce friction and increase speed to market.

Q: Rachel H.

What Maast accomplishments are you most proud of so far?

A: Tom Bell

First and foremost, it’s the team – we call ourselves “Maasters.” The fintech juggernauts on this team bring together substantial and diverse experience across both payments and banking. What this group has been able to build, I believe, is the first step to disrupting two established industries.

Our tech stack helps solve problems for our clients. The way business owners want to manage their operations is changing. Our ever-growing offering includes a wide range of products and services key to enhanced business operations. Every SaaS company that can benefit from our product – those who don’t have payment acceptance or business checking on their roadmap – risk being left behind by their competition.

The payments industry press has quickly recognized Maast for offering a unique embedded finance offering, understanding the power we bring to the market.

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Q: Rachel H.

Other than embedded finance, what other payment topics and trends do you anticipate will grow over the next five years?

A: Tom Bell

I believe two absolutely critical trends in the payments sector that bear watching: one concerns the evolution of Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs), and the other considers the role of artificial intelligence in the payments sector.

First, some say that the ISO is on the road to extinction. Of course, many of those same people have been saying that for some time. ISOs will continue to innovate and thrive through evolution. Maast works with a number of forward-thinking ISOs who have a consultant relationship with their customers. They are payments experts and help businesses find the right platforms for their business. ISOs who consider themselves consultants and distributors of solutions – who understand how their clients work and build lasting partnerships – will continue to succeed.

Second, there’s been a lot of talk about AI recently in the press and boardrooms across the country. We’re looking at AI solutions to protect our SaaS partners and their customers. Fraudsters and scammers don’t sleep or take breaks, so having an always-on solution is critical to our risk management strategy.