InterviewFintech Interview with the Chief Executive Officer, Uplift – Brian Barth

FTB News Desk FTB News DeskSeptember 1, 202124 min

Brian Barth from Uplift puts light on the role of Financial technology in enhancing the payment methods & explores newer payment innovations

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Brian Barth, CEO of Uplift

Brian Barth was a founder, CEO, and Director of SideStep, which invented travel meta-search in 1999. SideStep was acquired by Kayak in 2007, which was acquired by Priceline for $1.8B in 2013. Brian has been a board member and advisor of numerous startups and holds an M.S. and B.S. in Electrical Engineering from MIT.

1. Tell us about your role at Uplift?
As founder and CEO of Uplift, I drive the business strategy, forge and manage relationships with key partners and investors, and set the company’s cultural tone.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this industry?
I love the travel industry and have 20+ years of experience in travel, and I enjoy helping people create the best memories of their lives through travel experiences. It’s incredibly rewarding to make travel more accessible and affordable for people by offering simple, surprise-free payment plans on life’s most meaningful purchase.
Prior to co-founding Uplift, I was the co-founder, CEO and Director of SideStep. Along with my co-founder Stu Kelly, we invented travel meta-search in 1999. SideStep was the first to deliver on the idea that you could search for travel across multiple websites separately from choosing where to purchase the trip. The innovative technology was a game-changer for the travel industry. SideStep was acquired by Kayak in 2007, which in turn was acquired by Priceline for $1.8B in 2013. My co-founder and I decided to create Uplift in 2014 so we could bring some of the best ideas from the fintech space to the travel industry. At Uplift, we are truly in the business of creating “buyer’s joy.” Whether it’s travel or other meaningful purchases, we believe that Buy Now, Pay Later should be an empowering and simple experience for consumers.

3. How do you think Buy Now Pay Later is upgrading the financial sector?
Buy Now, Pay Later is a completely different way to think about payments because it provides consumers with more payment flexibility and helps merchants increase conversion rates and average order values.
Consumers enjoy the simple, no-surprise payments that BNPL affords. There are no late fees or fine print, and with fixed monthly payments, consumers know exactly what they will owe each month and avoid the down side of revolving credit card debt.
For merchants, Buy Now, Pay Later offers a way to better serve the needs of their customers with more payment options and flexibility. When consumers are aware of the option to pay over time rather than all at once, they are more likely to convert and to upgrade their purchase.

4. What makes Uplift’s model unique?
One of the aspects of Uplift that makes us so unique is how we work with enterprise brands to integrate our Buy Now, Pay Later solutions with their legacy systems.
Enterprise brands typically have some of the most complex legacy systems but demand a quick, low lift integration process. Uplift’s platform easily integrates into the most complicated legacy systems, with the highest levels of security, privacy and data management.

Enterprise brands also care deeply about customer loyalty. They invest heavily to build and maintain brand affinity

So we focus on going deep with our partner relationships to help unlock their customer lifetime value. Whether that’s through data science modeling, targeting and personalization tools, or custom designs and shopping integrations, we work with merchants to reinforce their own customer loyalty and drive repeat purchase.
And finally, Uplift offers a complete range of flexible payment options – 4 payments over 6 weeks works great if your customer is buying a $150 item, but what if they are buying a $1,500 item or a $15,000 item? A 5% merchant fee may have a strong ROI on high margin purchases, but what about lower margin purchases? Uplift offers a complete suite of installment plans to ensure every offer makes the most financial sense for our merchant partners and our customers. Additionally, merchants are able to provide promotional rates – such as 0% interest – on targeted products and inventory; thus leveraging BNPL as a strategic marketing tool to drive specific sales goals.

5. What impact is Buy Now Pay Later technology having on consumers?
BNPL empowers consumers to take control of their budget, manage their expenses more effectively, and reduce the stress of paying for large purchases all at once. 67% of Uplift borrowers say that they chose to pay through Uplift because it reduces financial stress to be able to pay over time, rather than all at once. This is especially valuable for higher dollar transactions and for unexpected expenses. We consistently hear stories from our customers about emergency, last-minute travel that wasn’t in the budget. These customers literally could not have visited a sick loved one or attended a last minute special event if they had to pay the full amount up front.
BNPL also provides consumers with a smarter alternative to the potential debt-trap of credit cards. With BNPL, you know upfront what your total costs will be, and how many months you’re committing to for your payment plan. This provides consumers more transparency and control over their budget.
With Buy Now, Pay Later, consumers can get a wider range of choices and flexibility: no late fees, no prepayment penalties, and multiple offers depending on how they want to pay for their purchase.
For travel purchases specifically, Buy Now, Pay Later allows travelers to lock in their travel plans early, take advantage of the many market promotions, and then spread the cost of the trip over affordable monthly payments. The ability for travelers to pay over time also makes upgrades and add-ons much more accessible.

6. What impact is Buy Now Pay Later technology having on businesses?
Buy Now, Pay Later has enjoyed explosive growth over the last 8 months as consumers look for ways to manage their expenses over time. What was once considered a niche payment alternative for millennials without a credit card is now a mainstream payment option with widespread adoption. In fact, a recent study by The Ascent found that 57% of U.S. consumers have used a Buy Now, Pay Later service.
For merchants, Buy Now, Pay Later is not just a “nice to have,” it’s now table stakes for merchants. More consumers are using BNPL and it’s going to be a bigger part of the payment mix going forward. And BNPL also adds value for merchants, because it’s a powerful marketing and conversion tool for them to use to drive customer loyalty and repeat purchases. Uplift works with our merchant partners to integrate Uplift across their shopping channels, including web, mobile app, or call centers. By integrating our Buy Now Pay Later solution directly into our partners’ websites and mobile apps, Uplift is focused on maintaining customer loyalty with the merchant.

7. Can you explain to us in detail about how Uplift works?
Uplift is a Buy Now, Pay Later solution that currently serves more than 200+ of the world’s top travel brands like United Airlines, Lufthansa, Universal Orlando Resorts, Carnival Cruise Line, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Voyages, and Alaska Airlines to name a few. We empower consumers to book travel now through their favorite travel brands, and spread the cost of their travel over low monthly installments, rather than having to pay the entire amount up front.
The process is simple. Consumers shop on our partners’ websites as they normally would. When they are ready to check out, they choose Uplift as their payment method. Then they are prompted to enter a few pieces of information. Once they enter the information they receive a decision within seconds on their approval. If approved, they will be presented with 2 – 3 payment plan options to choose from. Payment plans can range from 3 months up to 24 months depending on the amount of the purchase. Sometimes there is an interest fee for the consumer and sometimes there is no fee to the consumer. With Uplift specifically, there are no late fees and no pre-payment penalties, and you can travel even before you finish making all of your payments.

8. What advice would you like to give to other technology Start Ups?
Focus your development efforts on creating unique capabilities for the specific business problem or domain you are in. As much as possible for basic infrastructure and common services, use cloud and third party vendors – so you can focus your efforts on building something unique and powerful in your domain, rather than developing basic common components. Be sure as you do this, that you plan to incorporate data capabilities across your entire technology platform as a native component so that it is easy to scale and use data analytics as a foundation of everything you do.

9. Aside from Buy Now Pay Later, what is the fintech innovation, according to you, that will mark 2021?
Every company is becoming a fintech, so it’s important to include financial innovation in every company’s vision and platform. Also, from a merchant perspective, we believe that Buy Now, Pay Later can help merchants think more expansively about how to use payments as a strategic tool. The way that your customers pay for their purchase can help attract new customers and drive your marketing strategies.
There are a lot of interesting opportunities for merchants to get more innovative in the way they put payments at the center of the consumer experience, and that can help drive innovations in inventory management, merchandising, marketing, customer retention, and more.
Beyond Buy Now, Pay Later, fintech in 2021 has been heavily marked by a combination of cryptocurrency speculation and easy, mass, no cost investment tools for retail traders. New services which make it easy to buy and sell stocks, options and cryptocurrency has brought more people than ever before into investing and financial speculation. This has both benefits, as more people than ever are able to benefit from stock market growth, but also potential risks.

10. What are the major developments you are planning, in the future?
Ultimately, we want to be the leading Global Buy Now, Pay Later solution for the world’s top enterprise brands so a key focus for us will be international expansion.

11. Can you tell us about your team and how they support you?
Our team is passionate about what we do, we love supporting our partners, and we have a strong sense of purpose and mission, because we’re empowering people to get more out of life. Fintechs are very complex and it’s really like running five startups at once, because you need to have expertise across so many domains. In our case, we need people with expertise in travel, finance, payments, risk, credit, data, technology, marketing, and more. It’s really a diverse set of skills and perspectives that we need to bring together every day and orchestrate it as a well-oiled machine.

12. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone on a daily basis?
I use audible on a daily basis and listen to books while I’m on the go.
Google translate is great for when I’m traveling around the world.

FTB News Desk

FTB News Desk

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