Nicki Ramsay is the CEO and Founder of CardUp – a Singapore-based payment start-up that lets users pay for big-ticket items with credit cards. On the back of her entrepreneur streak and personal pain points in credit card payments, she left her corporate job in 2015 and started CardUp, and has never looked back.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in London but have always travelled and spent time overseas, especially as my father’s side of the family are from Africa. I landed in Singapore in 2011 and, after gaining PR in 2013, called it home! My career experience encompasses consulting, marketing, consumer analytics, CRM, payments and technology, primarily in the corporate world. That said I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak and spent much time exploring ideas for new business ventures. Finally, in 2015 one really stood out and I began work on CardUp. At the time I was working at American Express, identifying new partnership and investment opportunities with technology companies throughout Asia. I was therefore already quite active in the FinTech space but excited about doing something more entrepreneurial.
Whilst my background is on the business side, I truly believe that to run a tech company you need some basic knowledge of how to operate in an engineering environment. After leaving the corporate world I completed an introductory programming course that gave me the fundamentals and allowed me to design a technology product as well as work closely with CardUp’s technical team members.
What is your business venture about?
CardUp is all about making the payment of big recurring expenses such as rent, insurance premiums, supplier payments, even payroll or staff costs, a more rewarding experience. Whether you are a consumer or small business, our online platform allows you to use a credit card, regardless of whether the end recipient accepts card payments, giving you access to credit, rebates, rewards and convenient real time digital payments. This latter point we call “set and forget” – it’s a feature that our customers write in about as being a big benefit as they’re able to set up recurring card payments far in advance.
What is your mission at the outset?
Solving pain points that exist both from the payment industry’s perspective as well as for consumers and small businesses. We believe CardUp is a win for the whole ecosystem – there are clear user benefits but banks and the payment networks also get to capture new segments of spend on credit card.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Two factors were at play – in my years spent in the payments industry we were repeatedly set the same goal, which was to increase credit card usage but a lot of initiatives actually just ended up shifting share from one card issuer to another. CardUp extends the way you can use cards, so really grows the pie. On top of this was my own personal frustration that I was getting limited value from my credit card as I couldn’t use it for any of my big expenses!
What is unique about your business?
As a team of payments professionals we’ve built CardUp’s own in-house payment technology with the flexibility to adapt the product and react quickly to new trends and users’ “wish lists”. We’ve also led the charge on this innovation for the industry and paved the way for a new model in the payments space.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
Our business can almost be thought of as a software as a service model (SaaS) model – 80% of payments on the platform are recurring (some customers have scheduled payments through until 2030!). We also have APIs and a white label version of the product that can be used by partners to extend the benefit of CardUp payments to their corporate or individual customers.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Persistence! Assess setbacks and obstacles relatively – listen, learn and adapt to feedback along the way but always keep going! Also do not underestimate the important of building a strong team from the outset.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
I’m extremely fortunate to have some very talented friends and mentors in this space who inspire me on a daily basis. I’m consistently amazed to see what they’ve achieved in such short timeframes and their drive and passion is totally contagious.
What’s next for you and for CardUp?
We’re working around the clock to keep up with the many exciting new opportunities coming our way. Our users can expect new features and more benefits in the very near future. Right now, we’re excited about the launch of our new B2B version of the product, in response to demand we’ve seen from businesses who want to use CardUp for expenses such as supplier payments. Add to this some new partnerships on the horizon that will enable us to scale quickly into new markets.
Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
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