A Conversation with Drew Edwards, CEO, Ingo Money

Navigator Edition: May 2017

We recently had the opportunity to connect with Drew Edwards, CEO of Ingo Money. In this Q&A we discuss Ingo Money’s strategic evolution, its approach to engage the underbanked, and its push payment services.

Drew Edwards is the Chief Executive Officer of Ingo Money, Inc., a company he founded in 2001, which has become a leading provider of mobile-forward, instant account funding and payment services. Prior to his founding of Ingo Money, Drew founded and served as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors for Towne Services, Inc., a publicly traded e-commerce company providing solutions for over one thousand financial institutions. He previously held management positions with the Federal Reserve Bank and The Bankers Bank in Atlanta and served on the Board of Directors of Skylight Financial, one of the nation’s first payroll card companies now owned by TSYS.

Ingo Money is a push payments technology and risk management company that develops solutions for improving the way businesses and people pay and get paid, helping them convert cash, checks and ACH into instant digital payments. The company’s API allows businesses and banks to originate corporate disbursements, P2P payments, instant check deposits and bill payments funded in real time to debit, prepaid and credit cards and private-label credit and mobile wallet accounts.  Headquartered in Atlanta, you can learn more at www.ingomoney.com.

Ingo helps forward thinking companies change the way they pay people, with efficient digital push payments funded instantly to any account they choose. The Ingo Instant Payments gateway enables banks and insurance companies to deliver instant, safe-to-spend funds directly into customer accounts. Companies adopting push payments can realize significant cost savings (cost per check issuance is estimated to be $3-10), streamlined operations, innovation reputation advantages, and increased customer loyalty as a result of convenience. Ingo’s “push payments in a box” approach offers industry leading benefits, including network ubiquity to reach more than four billion consumer accounts as well as all required compliance and security checks, through one simple API integration. Ingo Money has funded over $10 billion in transactions since launch, and completed the first push payment transaction in the U.S.

1. Ingo Money has evolved as a company over the years from its origin in 2001 as El Banco de Nuestra Comunidad, a Hispanic banking initiative which offered deposit and credit products directly to consumers, to pivoting in 2007 to become Chexar Networks, a provider of check processing solutions to financial services companies, to your re-branding as Ingo Money in 2013. What experiences or learnings as a company drove this strategic evolution, and what is the current product set?  

From day one, our company was created to be a consumer champion. Through all the iterations you mentioned, we have existed to help underserved consumers manage gaps or interruptions in cash flow or with limited access to funds.

That brand shift to Ingo Money in 2013 was the crystallization of our business model around instant money. First, that focus was on our mobile check cashing app. Families that had trouble making ends meet every month were being hurt by 3-5 day settlement windows and the prospect of having check deposits reversed days – even weeks – later. Many were turning to alternative financial solution providers for generating cash in hand faster. Ingo Money allowed them to take a photo of their paper check and receive instant, guaranteed funds in their bank account.  This happens in minutes versus the days normally required to get safe to spend funds.  It was one of the first fintech solutions for addressing this cash gap and it helped to alleviate much of the risk and uncertainty from everyday life for our customers. They loved the ability and – as a result – we’ve digitized more than $10 billion in funds since our first check.

Through that experience, we developed the capability to deliver push payments – instant, irreversible funds – directly into more than 4.5 billion consumer accounts. Using Visa’s Original Credit Transaction (“OCT”), we completed the first push payment in the U.S. in 2013, sending instant, safe-to-spend proceeds directly to a consumer card account.  Since then Visa has opened up an API service called Visa Direct which is one of 21 endpoint integrations we have now in our gateway.  That was a lightbulb moment, showing us that by moving upstream to those cutting paper checks, we could digitize funds at the source to remove the burden from the consumer and speed up the entire process for infinitely more people.

This is a $30 trillion marketplace applicable to companies of all types and sizes.  The beauty is that push payments are possible today, can save companies between $3-10 per check (not to mention the administrative efficiencies), produce more loyal customers, and deliver reputational benefits.

So even today – 16 years later – Ingo Money remains true to its roots, in ultimate service to the consumer.

2. Who is the typical Ingo Money customer?

Ingo Money supports companies of all types and sizes including banks, lenders, alternative financial solution providers, prepaid providers and insurance companies. Typically, that includes:

  • large banks like Regions Bank or First Tennessee;
  • prepaid providers like NetSpend, H&R Block, Rush Card or American Express Serve;
  • AFS providers like ACE Cash Express and Pay-o-matic; and
  • connectivity to partners like digital wallets companies such as PayPal or Amazon as well as cash-out destinations like MoneyGram.

Ingo Money’s new Ingo Instant Payments Gateway is a “push payments in a box” solution that is applicable for any business that issues checks or manages payments between two entities. Early use cases are obvious in the insurance, employee payments, government agency, and banking sectors.

3. How should financial institutions who serve segments other than the underbanked think about your products and services?  Do your products serve only underbanked consumers?

Our products cover way more than just the underbanked segment.  Consider that in the U.S., 138MM consumers and 15MM small business owners face the liquidity challenges caused by delayed or provisional funds.  More than 57% of adult consumers struggle to meet day-to-day financial needs and 45% of millennials supplement banking with alternative financial products.  The reality is that a majority of consumers need instant, risk-free access to their money.  We have built product solutions to help banks serve these needs, and we enable banks to offer these services under their brand along with the opportunity to capture revenue from making funds instantly available.  Using our products, banks can enable customers to transform checks or consumer payments into instant, guaranteed funds, immediately available and safe to spend. We believe our capabilities are unmatched in the industry.

4. How do your recently announced partnerships with Visa and MoneyGram help to advance Ingo’s mission?

These partnerships help us ensure that we can move money instantly from any source to any destination.  Specifically, only Ingo Money’s financial technology solutions for check cashing and push payments can transform cash, checks and ACH into real-time digital funds, as good as cash and safe to spend; then instantly fund over 4.5 billion accounts ranging from bank and online wallets to prepaid and debit cards or Amazon and PayPal accounts.

5. How is mobile changing the market for alternative financial services and Ingo’s value proposition and delivery model?

Mobile penetration and usage is influencing a new generation of consumers; people who want what they want, when they want it.  We are powering the instant money economy by allowing banks and other companies to support this consumer demand.  Because modern consumers move at instant speed for everything, it makes sense to deliver their money at this same speed. While making funds immediate and safe-to-spend is critical; I also believe that giving the consumer the choice in where to send those funds might ultimately be the most welcome change.

Consider the case of a loan origination. The lender can send a text or email to their customer letting them know the loan is approved and funds are available, and request they select a preferred account. Because a push payment network like Ingo’s reaches 4.5 billion account types, the customer can choose any type of card, account or wallet they like – perhaps even multiple ones for splitting funds. The recipient presses send, and guaranteed funds instantly arrive in their chosen account.   It’s money at mobile/web speed and convenience.

6. What are push payments and how can financial institutions equip their customers with push payments?  

Push payments are instant, guaranteed funds delivered directly to an online wallet, consumer card, or bank account by using existing payment rails traditionally focused on “pulling money” from a consumer’s account to purchase something.  It’s instant, guaranteed, protected, and – best of all – trusted and comfortable for the consumer.  As bank clients  such as insurance companies, payroll issuers, and other legacy paper check payors seek to capitalize on the cost savings of and consumer preference for push payments, banks must move quickly to offer push payment functionality or risk being left behind.

7. What is unique about Ingo Money and your push payment solution?  

In addition to our industry leading reach, we are committed to making this dead simple for companies to deploy.  Our “push payments in a box” solution allows companies and banks to rollout a fully compliant solution that gives them instant, irreversible reach to over 4.5 billion consumer financial accounts (e.g., online wallets, prepaid cards, debit cards, and more) through a single API and provides a set of platform services that include compliance, regulatory sponsorships, intelligent routing of transactions, and more.  In this way, we can help companies get up and running fast so they can begin saving money and winning customers.

8. What does it take to implement push payments?

In our case, it’s extremely simple – depending on what services you need it could be a single API integration to the client’s user experience or a simple integration with our turn key platform user experience.  In either case, that takes as little as 45-60 days to implement.

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