Founded in 2008 in Stockholm, Trustly has spent the last 14 years building a reputation as a pioneer of innovation. And now standing as the European market leader in open banking solutions, Trustly is the name behind technological advancements, such as the inspiring Pay N Play system, that allows casinos to collect customer registration details at the point of first deposit.
So with news of an upcoming product announcement, it was a great pleasure to take some time out to speak with Trustly VP of Gaming Vasilije Lekovic, to discuss the company’s achievements and to gauge what’s next for the global award winning payment provider.
AS: Thank you so much for your time today, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. So my first question is around the overall achievements of Trustly, to date, which we know are pretty impressive. At the moment Trustly is reaching 6.3k connected banks, 8.1k merchants, and 525m consumers – what have been the key elements of your success so far?
VL: Many different things have brought us to this point. Firstly, we started in 2008, and were the pioneers of account to account, or open banking payments, as they call them today. And over the years, we have built a very extensive network of integrations with banks and payment schemes across Europe and North America, always aiming to deliver a product that allows the user to pay in a more convenient and seamless way directly from their bank account. On top of this, our payment method offers a lot of advantages both to the users and the businesses themselves with speed, security and convenience being the basis of our success.
AS: What are the benefits of using Trustly as a gaming/gambling payment method over other well known options, such as e-wallets like PayPal?
VL: Basically, there are many advantages but also differences compared to PayPal and card solutions. What they are basically offering is a payment solution with a middleman where you need to enter card details, or register an account when it comes to wallet-based solutions. With Trustly, you’re paying directly from your bank account, using the same online banking credentials that you use to log in to your bank. That’s the first advantage, it’s a streamlined and convenient process without the “middleman”.
Another advantage is that our solution is offering none of the limitations that users often have with other payment methods, like debit cards. For example, there are no chargebacks for the merchants due to the fact that every transaction that you make with Trustly is coming directly from your bank account. What Trustly actually started with, as a company, was offering instant payouts in Scandinavia, and from there we built our deposit products, rolling it out across Europe, and subsequently outside of Europe to other parts of the world. On top of that, we further enhanced our product offering by adding KYC products and functionalities that allow our merchants to verify their users and improve their user experience in a convenient and technologically advanced way. This further differentiates us from the traditional payment methods.
One further difference is the convenience of use. You can pay today with Trustly in the UK, directly from your mobile banking app using a fingerprint or facial recognition to authenticate your transaction, your deposit will be instant, and your payout will be instant too. This is something that is not offered by other payment methods. People like to know their money has arrived where it’s meant to be without waiting around. Overall, I think these are the main advantages.
AS: Trustly has gathered a great range of partnerships over the years, most notably with Super Group-owned Betway, and of course, West Ham football club, where you are currently the West Ham Women’s sleeve partner. Why did your team feel that now was the time to get involved in a Women’s Super League side?
VL: Well, when it comes to the partnerships, obviously, we’ve been partners with Betway for several years, where they offer Trustly as a payment method across different markets, for example, in Scandinavia. Recently we further extended that partnership in the UK which is great news for both parties, we’re very happy about it.
And very simply, when it comes to West Ham, we actually became the global Open Banking sponsor at West Ham Football Club last year. And then we just extended that partnership, becoming a sleeve partner for the women’s team. Why did we do that? I mean, at Trustly we always promote equal opportunities, and gender equality in business, and being close partners with West Ham, I think that partnership has proven fruitful for both sides. We were given the opportunity to support women’s football, which is a sport that’s very much growing in scale across the globe. We recently had the women’s Euros which gained great volumes of viewers and filled stadiums, plus in general there’s a rising number of people watching women’s football. We believe, as a company, that this is a good opportunity for us to show our support and to be a small part of that growth.
AS: Staying with these partnerships, Betway intends to use Trustly’s open banking solutions for its UK customers – why have they chosen the UK market as a focus of this partnership when they are a global company?
LV: Yes, so we have worked with Betway for several years in various markets, and we are now launching in the UK where they know we are the leading open banking provider for gambling. We’ve been present in the market since 2016, which was before the Open Banking initiative existed, and we’ve now formed our product for the UK, and today work with most of the leading operators, including Kindred Group, Flutter Group, Entain, and BetVictor. I mean, overall, I think there’s more than 240 brands that offer Trustly, so the UK is a very strong market focus for us.
And we also strongly believe in the shift we’re seeing, away from traditional payment methods. Already more than 6 million people have used our payment system in the UK this year, which is only going to be enhanced through our recent acquisition of Ecospend, a UK-based Open Banking provider that has been used by more than 2 million consumers in the UK, and is the Open Banking provider of the UK government, offered for example as the only Open Banking payment method on HMRC. So we strongly believe that extending this reach in the UK market will lead to growing our user base in the years to come, both inside and outside of gambling.
AS: Trustly was awarded Fintech of the Year for Retail Payments in April 2022 at the Banking Fintech of the Year Awards. These awards were based on levels of innovation, how customer challenges are tackled and the long-term market influence of a company. Thinking about the second part of this criteria, how does Trustly ensure it’s always meeting customer needs?
VL: Yes, so when it comes to the awards, we’ve won multiple titles in the gambling industry over the last six, seven years, which, of course, we’re very proud of, as well as the awards that we received as an open banking lending company, like the one that you mentioned. Actually, last month, at the Merchant Payment Ecosystem Awards in Berlin we also won the Best Open Bank Implementation award. So we’re very proud of all of these, they are proof of us doing a great job, being recognised by the industry that we operate in, or the various industries in this case.
When it comes to taking care of customer needs, naturally this is very important to us. The type of payment solution that we offer is very innovative, and our main goal is to make a solution that will be convenient for the user, that’s reliable, and will offer a secure way of paying, so the customer’s personal data is protected. For example, with regards to gambling and our instant payout solutions, it’s important that the money is never lost, and that the end users are able to reach out directly to Trustly, as well as through the merchant, to us. If there is an issue, having a very stable platform with an uptime of 99.99%+ gives a reliable solution for both our merchants and the end users that they’re able to use in gambling, ecommerce, financial services or travel. I think that this reliability, speed, convenience, and also the ability to get in touch with Trustly when something is not working are all key factors of customer care, as well as building a level of trust.
AS: How do you encourage engagement within the countries that show a preference for less progressive payment options, or perhaps a distrust to methods such as open banking?
VL: Well, I mean, the UK was one of those countries until about a year ago. It was a strongly card oriented market, however, the way that this preference is shifting from these traditional payment methods towards alternatives, like Trustly, is by offering a product that has additional value to the end user. We feel that building a trust will incentivise the end user to try out this new alternative payment method, and what we offer as a brand. For example, when we first started in the Scandinavian markets, we focused on providing the best product, the most convenient product, but also we worked on bringing our brand closer to the end consumer. This meant that the users could say, as they say about PayPal in many countries, “I use Trustly” and it was a brand that many wanted to be associated with, and are now loyal to.
What is very important is that once the user tries the solution, it has to be reliable and convenient, like ours very much is, and from that comes a magnetic effect that makes others want to be a part of the same thing. And we believe that this shift to open banking across Europe, in the traditional card oriented markets, is going to happen in the upcoming years. Proven with the UK that was never an open banking market but now very much is. And slowly, we believe that in other markets this can happen as well, and if we follow the same approach, we think that we’ll be at the forefront of this change.
AS: Thinking about your expansion into new global regions that perhaps have a different open banking ecosystem, what steps does Trustly take in order to ensure they are appealing to their target customer? Are there differences in your customer base from country to country?
VL: Yes, definitely, the markets across Europe are generally quite different in terms of the consumer payment preference, but also the banking infrastructure. There has to be a good banking system infrastructure with API’s provided by the bank in order for a product to be built that is going to be convenient, and easy to use. Since Trustly existed before the PSD2 (the second payments directive), we were able to work with the banks as they opened their API’s to third party service providers, as well as build our networks, or our integrations before anyone else.
But there are certain markets where it takes time for the banks to build, and offer a reliable solution and reliable API’s, so we are trying to find different ways of overcoming this. But while following the banking infrastructure is important, it’s equally important for us to build a good product and be able to reach the consumers, educating them on our payment solutions. This is one very important aspect that we’ve been focusing on, even in the UK, doing different types of commercial activities with our merchants, but also undertaking direct consumer activities and campaigns where we are educating the users about what Trustly can offer. And as a result, when they see Trustly, while they’re watching a Premier League game or perhaps whilst buying things online, they’re more likely to trust us that bit more.
AS: Pay N Play is a hugely inspiring system that you’ve brought to the gambling market, offering instant deposits and withdrawals, and even KYC data via deposit transactions. There are now over 200 brands that offer this function on their sites, but why do you think it’s an important addition to the gaming and gambling industry?
VL: Yes, Pay N Play is our flagship product that was introduced in 2015. It’s a great addition to any online casino or sportsbook as it allows for the process of instant deposits directly from a bank account, as well as the ability to collect KYC (Know Your Customer) information at the same time. We identified that gaming and gambling operators often have issues with the player registration and verification process because it’s laborious and can sometimes entail large amounts of documents and paperwork. As such, we built a product that combines everything together and offers a service where the user is very much leading in a positive way with Trustly. Through the process, we are able to collect verified KYC information on the user, which is then shared with the operator in the background, so they can create your player account meaning you can pretty much instantly move onto playing the games you want to access.
This kind of convenient, frictionless experience for the user is exactly what people are looking for – with a quick onboarding process, and being able to combine deposit, registration and verification of the account all in one go, without manually filling out the forms. This is what we believe makes a difference to players today.
And you find that in the markets of certain countries, such as Sweden or Finland, this has become the industry standard. There are more than 200 brands that use Pay N Play and moreover, you will see that open banking companies that have been founded in the last five, six, years have copied this Pay N Play model, so you can now find different versions of our original system which we take as further validation of our product in the market.
In the near future, we are looking to expand this product into other markets, and as a first step we’re working on building a compliant Pay N Play product for the Dutch market.
AS: How important is the notion of responsible gambling to Trustly and how do you ensure you only work alongside licensed operators and casino sites?
VL: Responsible gambling is extremely important for the operators and as such, we at Trustly are trying to support their efforts in overcoming the issue. And actually we are very close to launching our affordability product which is going to be an AIS (Account Information Services)-based product that will allow the operators, again in a seamless and convenient way, to be able to identify problem gambling within their user base. We’re actually launching it in the UK very soon, within the next few months.
Obviously, we at Trustly are a regulated financial institution and we work solely with licensed operators across the markets within which we operate. This naturally puts us in a position to be a trusted partner to our merchants, and to help in their own efforts to fight unlicensed and unregulated gambling. It’s a huge problem that we all need to take seriously. It creates many issues and often pushes users into negative situations, like problem gambling, because there are no regulations or rules within these operators’ boundaries.
We will always only ever work with licensed operators in the markets, and we are very proud of that.