Q&A with Chris Jewell at Zepto

Zepto Chris Jewell

In 2021, ACI Worldwide’s report recorded a significant milestone in Australia’s payment landscape, revealing that the country processed a remarkable 970 million real-time transactions. This surge in real-time payments not only translated into an estimated $205 million in cost savings for businesses and consumers but also played a pivotal role in unlocking an additional economic output of approximately $US932 million. This substantial contribution represented 0.06% of Australia’s GDP, underscoring the growing significance of real-time payments in driving economic growth.

Real-time payments are heralded as a significant boon for market efficiency and economic growth, facilitating instant money transfers between parties and eliminating the delays inherent in traditional payment methods. In the same ACI Worldwide report, the Centre for Economic and Business Research notes that real-time payments not only enhance liquidity within the financial system but also serve as a catalyst for economic expansion. This is particularly beneficial for rapidly evolving gig economies, where workers rely on swift payments to manage their finances effectively, and businesses leverage the flexibility offered by real-time transactions to streamline cashflow management. Furthermore, it is also worth noting how most developing nations are at the forefront of real-time payment adoption, leveraging mobile technology to drive significant volume gains. With mobile wallets increasingly integrated with underlying real-time payment systems, both developing and developed markets are poised to witness a transformative shift in payment dynamics. 

Amidst this transformative landscape, Zepto emerges as one of the region’s pioneers, securing the distinction of being Australia’s first non-authorised deposit-taking institution (ADI) approved to directly connect to the New Payments Platform (NPP) as a ‘Connected Institution.’ This accreditation positions Zepto as a trusted infrastructure player, leading the modernisation of payment experiences and establishing a unique foothold in the market. 

Liz Beggs, the COO of Payments Consulting Network, interviewed Chris Jewell, the CEO and Co-Founder of Zepto, to gain insight into the company and its future direction. 

LB: Please provide a brief high-level overview of your business. 

CJ: Zepto is a leading account-to-account [A2A] payments technology platform. We are focused on providing A2A payments capability at a wholesale level. We provide reliable, resilient infrastructure accessibility that enables businesses to pay out, to receive, and to collect in real time through the NPP and the BECS direct entry system. With Australia’s legacy BECS system slated for retirement in 2030, Zepto is uniquely positioned to guide organisations along their payment modernisation journey to the NPP. 

We began our entrepreneurial journey together as merchants in Byron Bay. After successfully exiting a thriving skydiving business, we set about solving our biggest business frustration: slow, costly, data-blind payments. 

Simply receiving money promptly was an enormous pain point. After navigating the spaghetti mess of fragmented payment offerings, we decided we could do a better job ourselves.  

And so, the business that is now called Zepto was born. 

We recognised early that the combination of real-time payments and insights had incredible potential. From Byron Bay, we set out to build a platform that would enable businesses to get paid in real-time, with precision and tonnes of data. Today, Zepto is a scaling tech company laser-focused on a mission to deliver value for enterprise businesses and their customers through faster, more efficient, secure payments experiences. 

LB: What payment services do you offer merchants and not-for-profit organisations? 

CJ: Zepto creates real-time, A2A payment solutions for business. Money moves into, through, and out of businesses in a myriad of ways. Regardless of verticals or industries, each business has its own unique payment flows.  

Every day, more businesses understand the impact that A2A payment solutions can have on optimising those flows to deliver internal efficiencies, costs and customer experience. Powering real-time payments between business and customer bank accounts, our technology opens up a unique set of access points into Australia’s A2A payment infrastructure via connections into: 

  1. New Payment Platform (NPP) – Real Time Payments
  2. Bulk Electronic Clearing System (BECS) – Direct Entry 

Using Zepto’s suite of A2A solutions like it’s enterprise PayID, PayTo, NPP payouts, direct debit and unique Stored Value solution, businesses can confidently make, take and manage data-rich payments directly from their customers’ bank accounts, and have them settle and reconcile instantly 24-7-365.  Our core solutions include:  

  • PayTo – as the only fintech connected directly to Australia’s real-time payment infrastructure, we offer the benefit of direct-to-the-rail access combined with modern API cloud-based technology.  
  • Enterprise PayID – our flagship instant-funds transfer solution supercharges millions of transactions each day with the unique, industry-first capability to activate thousands of PayIDs instantaneously. 
  • NPP Payments – enabling our customers to receive and disburse funds in real time on the NPP. 
  • Stored Value – you can store funds indefinitely and move them flexibly. 
LB: Are there any particular industry sectors or client groups that you focus on for merchant services? 

CJ: Early last year, we shifted our commercial focus from selling to SME/mid-market customers to engaging enterprise Australia. Over the past 12-months, we’ve been laser-focused on that mission to deliver value for enterprise businesses and their customers through faster, more efficient, secure payments experiences. 

We are, after all, a trusted infrastructure player modernising enterprise business payment experiences and shaping an entirely new fintech ecosystem through strategic partnerships. 

LB: What do you see as your key strengths with respect to merchant services? 

CJ: At Zepto, we’re all about real-time, making us the ultimate choice for businesses ready to embrace the NPP (PayID, Pay Outs and PayTo).  

All payment initiations and actions are done via Zepto’s API. This includes Direct Debit (i.e. Payment Requests) via BECS, Payouts via BECS or the NPP, enterprise PayID receivables and PayTo. 

With Zepto there’s no legacy, no batch processing, just modern enterprise-grade architectures designed for the real time economy. We provide enterprise-grade services without barriers such as high-costs and slow implementation times that are often felt when dealing with legacy payment providers. 

We pride ourselves on our best-in-class integration framework that includes embedded, dedicated cross-functional project teams to oversee and project manage the integration with our customer’s internal teams, ensuring a collaborative and successful project outcome that is on time and on budget. 

Real time, always-on payments require real time, always-on support. Zepto prides itself on providing best-in-class Customer & Technical Support and Emergency Support, available 24/7/365. Our incident management team includes always having engineers on call who built the software as well as a 100% locally based technical & integration support team.  

LB: What do you see as your key differentiators with respect to merchant services? 

CJ: As the only fintech connected directly to Australia’s real-time payment infrastructure alongside the banks, Zepto offers the benefit of direct access to the payment rails combined with modern API cloud-based technology.  This means Zepto provides a superior offering today and enables its enterprise merchant customers to stay at the forefront of any future innovation in account-to-account payments. 

We are built for real-time. While other fintechs have tried to differentiate themselves by focusing on specific, niche market segments, Zepto’s corner of the payments universe resides at the infrastructure layer within the account-to-account payments space. 

We have evolved from a traditional fintech into a new breed of financial technology infrastructure or “Finfra” as we like to refer to it. Finfra is a portmanteau of Financial Infrastructure, and we define it as: Fintech agility, accessibility and support underpinned by enterprise grade infrastructure delivering extensibility, security and stability. 

We are nimble and agile which allows us to respond more quickly to changes in the market, whilst upholding stringent security and compliance standards. 

LB: What were your key achievements over the last 12 months in merchant services? 

CJ: This year, Zepto has been laser-focused on that mission to deliver value for enterprise businesses and their customers through faster, more efficient, secure payments experiences. And we are proud to say that we have delivered on that promise.  

Some of Zepto’s big 2023 wins include:  

  • Being selected by Woolworths Group’s Wpay to power its PayTo solution via the New Payments Platform [NPP]. Payment innovators, Zepto and Wpay are working together to offer Australian consumers an instant pay-by-bank-account solution at checkout.  
  • Partnering with digital delivery firm OZEDI to devise Australia’s first instant super fund payments solution. This groundbreaking partnership allows Australian businesses to instantly and securely pay contributions to super funds nationally via the NPP with a new PayTo-powered SuperStream service 
  • Stored Value – It delivers merchants the flexibility to store, access and move funds precisely the way they need to. 
  • In late 2023, Treasury released its second consultation paper on payments licensing reform which contained details of a proposed licensing regime for payments service providers (PSPs). We are proud of our engagement with Treasury in this space and are thrilled to see the real impact our public policy advocacy is having on the future of payments regulation in Australia with Treasury embracing many of the key submissions we made in response to its earlier consultation. 

From a product perspective, we delivered a pair of consequential products.

Firstly, as the first non-bank Connected Institution [CI] to go-live on the real-time payment rails of the NPP, Zepto delivered its directly-connected PayTo solution. The significance of that direct connection cannot be overstated. Paul Monnington, Managing Director of Wpay even shared that our direct connection to the NPP payment rails made us “the obvious choice for us when looking for a PayTo partner.”

Secondly, we rolled out our Stored Value offering — a digital wallet solution for businesses. This solution enables businesses to store funds indefinitely, move them flexibly, and transform their customer experience and business operations. 

LB: What merchant services innovations do you have on your product/service roadmap for the next 12 months? 

CJ: In 2024, we expect Zepto’s direct connectivity for PayTo to attract more enterprise customers as they comprehend the commercial advantages it can bring. We also expect consumer awareness, comfort and adoption of PayTo as a payment method to gain momentum, driving demand for it on the consumer side. This will inevitably, we believe, lead to more enterprise customer wins and the Zepto team building more industry-first use cases. From real-time payroll and superannuation contributions to PayTo at point-of-sale for Woolworths, we are pioneering new use cases in real-time payments and we expect this to continue to be a focus over the next 12 months.   

We’re having some great conversations with businesses thinking about how they can build use cases that not only improve back-office efficiencies but that also improve the customer experience, for example, a utility provider not only using PayTo for bill payments but also for bill smoothing to help reduce failed payments and give customers more control and choice of how, and when, they pay.  

We also expect our customers to leverage our Stored Value capabilities to build bespoke payment experiences for their end customers. Zepto Stored Value allows businesses to securely hold money — theirs or their customers — in a virtual account indefinitely. Those funds can then be moved precisely as required to meet their business and customer needs. Zepto Stored Value connects to all our existing payment rails so that funds can move seamlessly in and out via the New Payments Platform [NPP] or BECS. 

LB: What industry changes or trends to do you see occurring over the next 2-3 years that will have a major impact on your business and/or your clients? 

CJ: Australia stands at the precipice of a financial revolution, with a golden opportunity to position itself as a global leader in payments innovation.  At the heart of this evolution is the rising prominence of Australia’s real-time payments infrastructure, the New Payments Platform (NPP), which presents an opportunity to transform Australia’s financial ecosystem, and in turn, our economy.  

In late 2023, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia — Michele Bullock, confirmed that the payments industry, through AusPayNet, had set a target date of 2030 for the retirement of Australia’s legacy BECS payments framework. In no uncertain terms now, Australian payments are undergoing once-in-a-generation reform and modernisation. 

While credit card payments remain prevalent, the rise in consumers paying by bank account reflects evolving preferences shaped by factors such as cost, security, convenience, and generational shifts in attitudes toward digital banking. As technology continues to advance in the real-time A2A space and consumer preferences evolve, we expect to see continued uptake of ‘pay-by-bank’ payment methods. Businesses need to be thinking about how they are adapting to this trend and where they can embed real-time A2A payments into their payment flows.  

Overall, the adoption of real-time account-to-account payments offers businesses a range of benefits, including improved cash flow, enhanced customer experience, reduced transaction costs, streamlined operations, and better financial visibility. As real-time payment infrastructure continues to evolve and expand globally, businesses stand to gain even more from embracing this technology. 

LB: What key criteria or features should a business consider when evaluating payments service providers? 

CJ: There are several. But here are important ones that need to be on their list.  

  • Proximity to the payment rails: Direct connection to the payment rails is the gold standard.
    Ask yourself how many layers of connectivity [and friction] are there between your payments service provider and the underlying payments infrastructure? Every intermediary is a potential impediment to you delivering the seamless payment experiences your customers expect.  
  • Messaging and support: An advantage of direct connection to the payment rails is the real-time flow of data and messaging direct from the source. With every concentric layer of connectivity comes friction and reliance on other parties for data and messaging which, when things go down, is complexity you don’t need. 
  • Customer cohort: Has the service provider delivered for businesses like yours before? What kinds of businesses and brands make up the provider’s customer base? These things matter. See if your payments service provider has delivered great solutions and outcomes to businesses of a similar type or scale as yours. Their experience will tell a story worth hearing. 
  • Technical infrastructure and platform: Look for highly composable cloud-native technology architectured for scale. Payment providers should be compliant with multiple messaging and security standards like ISO/IEC 27001 for information security management, and ISO 20022 for messaging. Can your payments service provider’s tech integrate with both legacy and modern tech stacks? Not all payments tech was created equal. 
  • Culture: Working with a payments service provider is much more than a meeting of technologies. Company culture is vital when assessing how well a provider might be able to collaborate, ideate and deliver the best solution for your business and your customers. 
  • Developer experience: When the rubber hits the road, developer experience is everything. APIs should be simple-to-use API and engineered for great developer experience and ease of integration. It’s vital, too, to assess API documentation, API status and uptime, the sandbox environment and — importantly — the help centre. 
  • Certifications and licences: Financial services are — justifiably — heavily regulated. So, it’s imperative that your service provider has the requisite licences, certifications and experience to deliver the services they’re offering. Does, for example, your provider have or need an Australian Financial Services Licence? 
  • Encryption & Security: Financial data is immensely valuable and therefore attractive to bad actors. Your payment services provider’s persisted data should be encrypted, and there should be a suite of logging, security & intrusion detection monitoring tools enabling real time notifications, administrative UI and automated response plans. 
  • Speed & Scale: Modern businesses move fast, and payment flows can flex, surge and peak irregularly. Can your service provider’s platform respond and deliver flawlessly? How quickly, too, can your provider deliver your solution and bring your new offering to market? Do they use tools such as Kubernetes to facilitate rapid deployment, scaling and visibility? 

Author: Liz Beggs, Chief Operating Officer, Melbourne, Payments Consulting Network 

Liz Beggs is a versatile and results-focused leader with over 25 years of multi-industry experience in consulting and management. She delivers value add, innovative solutions to internal and external clients with subject matter expertise in commercial cards and payments technology systems, drawing on her broad commercial GM level experience in corporate services and product management.  


Zepto is a member of our Real Time A2A Payments panel 


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Published On: 9 May 2024Categories: Blog, Profiles, Real-time PaymentsTags: , , ,