Philip Belamant Has Made Zilch Thrive While BNPL 1.0s Must Work to Keep Up
Philip Belamant’s revolutionary payments company Zilch may be a relatively young company in the fintech space. However, since launching in 2019, the consumer-oriented fintech has grown a base of 2.5 million customers in 18 months, scaled double as quickly as some of its competitors, and become both a double unicorn and the fastest-growing European fintech unicorn in history.
Now, 250,000 consumers sign up to use Zilch every month. These consumers get to enjoy all the benefits of BNPL without having to risk paying the hidden fees that come with so many financial services. With Zilch, shoppers can spread the cost of the products and services they want and need, enjoy instant cashback rewards when they pay upfront, and minimise payment worries.
Zilch’s Valuation and Investors
Zilch’s value reached $2 billion in November 2021, just 14 months after its Series A. The company’s extensive funding comes from a series of investors who are keen to share in the future-proofed BNPL provider’s success. These investors include family office, institutional, and high-profile private individuals and companies like Ventura Capital, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Gauss Ventures, DMG Ventures, Limited Ventures, and M&F Fund.
Zilch’s most recent development in funding came in the summer of 2022, when the company secured $50 million for its Series C, bringing the total fund to $160 million.
U.S Consumer Shopping Habits
Given the widespread success that Zilch has achieved in the UK over the past few years, in June 2022, the fintech scaled its operations into the U.S. The pioneering company opened a new headquarters in Miami and made its ground-breaking BNPL service accessible to individuals throughout the States.
Ahead of this U.S. launch, in March 2022, Zilch and YouGov created a survey to explore consumer habits in the U.S. Zilch and YouGov gleaned two major findings from this survey, which 2,000 consumers completed.
- The first finding was that many consumers don’t understand how BNPL works and are confused by different offerings. This is, in part, because many fintech companies bill themselves as BNPL providers when they’re really different types of finance companies.
- The second finding was that although many U.S. citizens opt to use credit cards (the average U.S. consumer has four), to access these cards’ rewards, they risk being hit with fees and interest. As a result, 73% of U.S. adults rank finances as the biggest stress in their lives.
YouGov Survey Results
The survey uncovered a host of misconceptions surrounding BNPL offerings, As a result, Philip Belamant is keen to raise awareness of the benefits that modern BNPL providers like Zilch offer over credit cards.
- 43% of the survey respondents believed that BNPL companies profit from the interest they collect from consumers.
- 31% didn’t know how BNPL companies make money at all.
- 26% believed that products sold through BNPL services have mark-ups on their prices so companies can recoup the difference in cost.
- 25% didn’t believe BNPL providers offer rewards or cashback.
- 25% didn’t trust BNPL companies.
- 21% believed BNPL providers earn money through secret/unadvertised fees that consumers pay.
- 20% believed that BNPL interest rates are higher than their credit card interest rates.
- And 16% didn’t believe that BNPL is regulated.
Despite these consumers’ widespread belief that credit cards are safer than BNPL services, in reality, credit cards can harm credit scores in multiple ways, make it challenging to control spending, and cause spenders to accumulate high-interest fees.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the U.S., between 2018 and 2020, U.S. citizens paid a combined $120 billion annually in credit card interest and fees. This breaks down to approximately $1,000 per household per year.
Adding to this, 40% of the survey respondents had credit cards with an interest rate above 12.99%. And 25% didn’t know what interest rates their credit card providers charge. By shopping with a BNPL 2.0 provider like Zilch, consumers can avoid these penalty costs and manage their spending effectively.
Zilch’s BNPL 2.0 Model
Philip Belamant’s Zilch has progressed BNPL into a new era by combining the best of debit and credit and eliminating the risks of credit. The consumer-centred BNPL 2.0 product enables shoppers to pay using one card, which acts differently on each transaction depending on what value the customer is looking for. Consumers can pay in one and get deals and discounts, or they can spread the cost over four instalments for free with any merchant that accepts MasterCard.
What’s more, consumers can access these benefits both online and in-store. While many people think of online shopping when they think of BNPL, 65% of Zilch’s UK transactions take place in-store.
While traditional BNPL companies partner with retailers to profit from commissions from these merchants and the late fees and interest that they charge customers, Zilch profits from interchange fees (which merchants’ payment service providers pay), commissions from sales, monetising data, and advertising. This way, the company protects consumers from the hidden payments that catch so many shoppers out.
Zilch has modernised BNPL into a new age by partnering directly with customers instead of merchants and conceptualising a consumer-focused approach to BNPL that prevents these customers from overborrowing. Rather than penalising consumers for overborrowing, Zilch’s takes responsibility for understanding what consumers can afford. Using its affordability assessments, Zilch takes a 360-degree view of each customer, which it updates with every transaction.
Zilch’s CEO and co-founder Philip Belamant developed open banking technology to craft these assessments, which provide up-to-date accuracy on a consumer’s affordability based on their financial data and payment history. Meanwhile, Zilch’s real-time alerts keep consumers on track with payments.
Using BNPL Services in the Energy Crisis
Given the energy crisis, many consumers now rely on BNPL providers to cover their day-to-day bills. Over 58,000 people have joined Facebook community groups to get advice on managing their rising energy bills. Members of these groups have shared their experiences of signing up with Zilch to pay for their energy in instalments over six weeks without having to pay any interest. Meanwhile, consumers who pay for their energy (or any product) in one, can claim 2% cashback in rewards and discounts, which they can apply to future purchases.
About Zilch’s CEO, Philip Belamant
Philip Belamant’s fintech initiatives protect consumers by financing underfinanced populations and giving these populations access to payment systems that come with rewards and perks instead of penalties. From banking unbanked populations in South Africa with high-level mobile payment technologies to helping modern consumers spread the cost of (or enjoy rewards for) their purchases through Zilch, Philip Belamant has remapped the ways that today’s consumers shop. Although he has redefined the financial health of several populations with these innovative solutions, he has done so without damaging existing ecosystems. He was named the 2021 British Entrepreneur of the Year.