One of the key issues in global B2B payments is figuring out how to enable payments in places that are “difficult to reach” due to their prevalent local payment types. Joel Leonoff, President and CEO of Optimal Payments, says that’s why his company offers a service called NETELLER, which focuses on finding local payment methods around the world – and has really catered to the online gaming community. PYMNTS spoke with Leonoff to get the scoop on Optimal Payments’ journey in that gaming market, why it has become an integral online payments player, and its immediate and longer-term goals to continue to disrupt and reshape the space.
Could you start off by introducing us to Optimal Payments? What problems do you solve and for who?
JL: Optimal Payments is a payments service provider with a number of different products including NETELLER, a stored value system like PayPal, and then a processing product called NETBANX. Essentially, what we do is help merchants around the world in about 200 countries accept various types of payments on their websites. If there’s a service or hard good they’re selling online, we help these merchants accept Visa or MasterCard and other local payment types so they can process and proliferate their business. That includes capturing a credit card, screening it for fraud, and helping facilitate the movement of money back to the merchant.
So we serve as a pretty integral part of the eCommerce flow. We do that with Visa/MasterCard and with the NETELLER product, which really caters to the online gaming community, that’s more about finding local payment methods around the world.
What do you believe is really broken in B2B payments and what role does Optimal Payments play in solving these challenges?
JL: There are a couple of problems. One is when businesses start expanding, there’s a challenge of providing a proliferation of goods and services in a manner that’s keeps fraud at low percentages. A lot of merchants that are offering services to new geographies aren’t quite aware of what to look out for from a risk perspective. We provide a very valuable service by helping maintain those percentages and lowering the risk for merchants so that the customers that they’re providing goods and services to are real, and less subject to chargeback problems. That’s a key concern for merchants looking to sell abroad.
That brings up a second issue, which is figuring out how to secure payments in hard to get to places, places that aren’t that obvious and where credit cards may not be prevalent. We facilitate payments in those areas with NETELLER, and indemnify the funds and guarantee the funds for the merchants.
Optimal Payments was recently announced a winner at the eGaming Review B2B Awards. Could you talk a little more about how you serve the eGaming market?
JL: It’s a market we’ve been serving probably since 1996 or 1997. We cut our teeth early on processing Visa/MasterCard online for the gaming industry. We’ve learned a lot over the years about how to maintain chargebacks and keep risks at a low level, and provide a significant value added service to the gaming community. Our solutions have specific functionality and toolkits that are oriented to provide a relevant solution for the gaming community.
Our presence in that world is very significant, just by virtue of it being about half of our business. We cater to the specific needs of the gaming community, so the functionality that we built in to our processing engine for NETBANX and NETELLER are very focused on the unique needs of the industry. Because of that, we’ve become very relevant to the gaming community for merchants, consumers and regulators looking for us to help in scenarios where traditional payments may not be working.
We look at ourselves as the payment partners to the merchants who are offering services because our business is focusing 100 percent on payment solutions, leaving the merchants able to focus more on marketing, customer acquisition and gaming functionality. We add a very nice element to that Rubik’s Cube.
Looking ahead a little bit, what is next for Optimal Payments? What types of innovative services or products are you in the process of creating that you can disclose?
JL: I’d say in the immediate future, we’ll finalize our deal to acquire Skrill. They focus a portion of their business on the online gaming community. We’ve announced that acquisition recently and just waiting on regulatory approval to close the deal. Then I think the task on hand for us will be about integrating the two companies and becoming more relevant to the gaming community and to the eCommerce community in general.
In addition, we have a specific eye on more focused mobile functionality for all of our products. We’re looking to lead the way as far as innovative mobile technology and functionality for merchants and consumers. I’d say in the coming future, we’d see a lot more innovative mobile solutions, and after the Skrill deal, we’ll likely look at other M&A opportunities down the road. We’ve become very relevant in the online payment community, and we’re quickly approaching $1 billion in revenue. There are exciting times ahead for our business.
President & CEO, Optimal Payments
Joel serves as executive director and President and CEO of Optimal Payments PLC (listed on the AIM exchange on the LSE), a company formed through the merger of NEOVIA Financials (Neteller) and Optimal Payments. Joel is an entrepreneurial leader and visionary, with a proven track record, having served as CEO, COO and CFO of private and publicly traded companies. Joel created the eCommerce powerhouse BCE Emergis through the merger of Mpact Immedia Ltd with Bell Canada Enterprises. He later founded SureFire Commerce Inc. (renamed Terra Payments), a Canadian TSE‐listed payments company in 1998, where he served as COO and CFO. Surefire Commerce later merged with the Optimal Group to form Optimal Payments Inc., a NASDAQ listed on-line payments company. Mr. Leonoff has also previously served as Group Operations Director/COO of Partygaming PLC, a FTSE 100 Company, regarded as the leading on-line gaming company in the world.