Optimus Cards is an Electronic Money Institution, based in the UK. The company chose Temenos’ open platform for composable banking and to grow its banking portfolio. Lindsay Robertson, CEO, Optimus Cards, tells us more about the implementation and how Temenos’ solution is allowing the company to scale.
- Can you tell us about your role at Optimus Cards and what your day-to-day looks like?
I’m the CEO – but really, I’m just the conductor, getting the best from a talented team of technology, compliance and operations professionals. I’m lucky to have a strong team of people around me, who are used to operating in a regulated, but fast-paced environment and who are keen to be innovative in the provision of card services.
My day-to-day is a round of virtual and face-to-face meetings, with colleagues, partners and customers, looking for ways to bring in new business, improve the products we offer and consider how to thrive in an increasingly economically challenged world.
Optimus has traditionally been a UK-focused operation, but since the acquisition of the Company by Uphold at the turn of 2021, our ambitions are significantly more international and we’re supporting the parent in the US and are in the process of making a complementary acquisition of our own in Europe. Brexit got in the way of our ability to operate in the EEA, but with the active support and investment from Uphold, we’ll turn that situation around and look forward to the opportunities that are available to us there.
So, the role jumps around between looking forward, and strategically, to thinking about the operational issues that inevitably come up and working with the team to find the talent that will help us continue to grow.
- Can you tell us about Optimus Cards’ core values, aims and how this aligns with your strategy?
Our values and aims are fairly straightforward – we want to deliver practical and valuable solutions to our customers and to do so with creativity and commitment. The pandemic was tough on everyone and whilst we certainly don’t get it right all of the time, we try to help our customers to be successful in a way that also reflects how our colleagues want to work – if nothing else, the enforced requirement to work from home has shown us that we can be flexible about working location and that we can still be collaborative and effective.
Our strategy is also straightforward. Optimus is an Electronic Money Institution (EMI), authorised and regulated by the FCA in the UK, and we strive to provide competitively priced card payment solutions to what might otherwise be underserved parts of the market. We offer card services to credit unions – importantly our solutions mean that the customer balances remain with the credit union rather than landing in our safeguarded account as is the way with an ‘ordinary’ prepaid card. We aim to make the issuing of a card as effective and economically feasible as we can for a credit union, enabling them to serve a part of a sector that may otherwise find it difficult to gain access to such products.
In addition, we also offer card products to operations like our parent – Uphold – and have created solutions that enable their wallet holders to access their holdings via a card. As an EMI with an obligation to safeguard client funds from the moment of receipt, our facilities enable companies like Uphold to compete effectively in a market of increasingly bank-like operators, and to provide their ever-more sophisticated customers with the services that they demand but can’t obtain from the traditional, high street, banks.
- How does the economics of your solution enable customers to offer card services profitably?
The economics of our solutions are strongly supported by Temenos’ Composable Banking model. We aim to provide cost-effective solutions to smaller financial solutions, such as credit unions or local branches of international banks, where an in-house solution and membership of a card scheme, would ordinarily make the cost of the proposition prohibitive.
We essentially provide a Cards-as-a-Service solution, taking the heavy lifting out of the day-to-day processes and enabling clients to offer card products to their customers. We can put economies of scale into play enabling situations where clients might contract en-bloc for a service, with a small number of cards specific to individual participants, but with programme costs equitably shared across all of the participants.
4. Why did you choose Temenos to scale your portfolio, and what have been the benefits of this?
Temenos has been at the heart of the Optimus offering since inception and the company’s Composable Banking approach perfectly suits our growing business. We have built a strong proposition on the Temenos platform and knowing that we can cost-effectively scale our infrastructure to match our customer growth, we decided to extend our relationship an easy one.
We are wary of embedding cost in our business, so the subscription model – based on growing the business – works well for us. The knowledge that we can add pre-integrated components to facilitate the launch of new features and products was a critical consideration in choosing to remain with Temenos as we move beyond our previous constraints with the fresh investment from Uphold.
5. Can you tell us more about your expansive growth plans and what the future of Optimus Cards looks like?
Optimus aims to be a preferred supplier to its target audiences. We’ve no desire to be the next international monoline but do intend to make significant inroads into the chosen markets in the EEA and to build out our capability to support customers in the US.
I can see an operation headquartered in the UK, with a strong representation in the EEA, and a presence in the US. While spreadsheets can give us any answer we want, our growth plans are realistic and should see the company growing four or five-fold over the next two to three years. I want to make Optimus a strong and profitable contributor to the Uphold balance sheet and our European and US expansion is the key to achieving that goal.
6. In your opinion, what are the best practices for start-ups when looking to grow their portfolio?
It’s a cliché, but cash(flow) is king. Ambition is great. Strong suppliers with scalable and flexible solutions are fine. Nice customers are a bonus. But if the cashflow is weak, or the investment required in the platform is too high, then the sustainability of a company is in constant jeopardy.
It’s always tempting to go above and beyond to support a customer as they grow their own market, if they’re not settling their invoices on time, then it’s no use pretending that it’ll all be fine next month. Quite reasonably your own suppliers will demand payment for their invoices on time and inadvertently providing credit to customers to support their growth is unlikely to prove to be a winning strategy – it almost invariably ends badly.Click below to share this article