Zilch’s Philip Belamant Wins the UK Southeast Region “EY Entrepreneur of the Year™” Award
In the uber-competitive business world, high-growth company leaders are in a class by themselves. Often considered successful serial entrepreneurs, it’s not uncommon for each laser-focused business owner to overcome significant obstacles in pursuit of their singular mission. For their notable achievements, these company owners may be nominated for their country’s annual “EY Entrepreneur of the Year™” Award.
In 2022, Zilch CEO and Co-Founder Philip Belamant has garnered the “EY Entrepreneur of the Year™” Award for the UK’s London and Southeast region. An independent judges’ panel decided to honor Belamant for his indomitable spirit, sense of purpose, and landmark company growth (among other attributes). In November 2022, Philip Belamant will be in the running for the coveted national “EY Entrepreneur of the Year™ UK” Award. After which, if he is successful he will go onto the global rounds.
Philip Belamant Explains the “Why” of Zilch’s Payments Industry Leadership
Zilch CEO and co-founder Philip Belamant expresses his appreciation for the “EY Entrepreneur of the Year™” Award honor. He reflects on the ways in which Zilch has navigated certain payment industry trends, as illustrated by the firm’s focus on the consumer rather than the merchant.
“At Zilch, our aim has always been to create the most empowering way to pay for anything, anywhere, rather than trying to create an ‘all-inclusive shopping destination where the merchant is the direct customer’ like others have focused on. With Zilch, I wanted to focus on providing ease of use and value flywheel around customer transactions, like offering an instantaneous cashback offer in rewards.
“I’m honored that Ernst and Young, an advisor entrusted by the likes of Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook, has recognized us — the whole Zilch team — for the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year™’ Award and truly goes to reflect the hard work of my brilliant team.
“For more than three decades, EY has recognized audacious, industry-changing business leaders and entrepreneurs who disrupted industries and created new product categories. I wish all the shortlisted individuals the best of luck at the national ceremony,” Philip Belamant concludes.
About the “EY Entrepreneur of the Year™” Program
Ernst and Young, an international advisory firm that boasts global business luminaries among its clients, launched its well-regarded “EY Entrepreneur of the Year™” Program over three decades ago. Currently operating in over 60 nations across the globe, this respected initiative highlights individuals’ and companies’ signature achievements. At its core, the EY Award recognizes each entity’s inspirational vision, leadership, and industry success.
How Zilch is Disrupting the Payments Industry
In 2020, Zilch entered the rapidly growing “Buy Now, Pay Later” (or BNPL) industry. The company’s adoption of a direct-to-consumer (or DTC) business model directly contrasts with its competitors’ focus on courting merchants’ businesses. In the latter model, the end user (the customer) is something of an afterthought.
Zilch’s Customer-Focused Payments Infrastructure
Zilch’s DTC operational structure is completely different. The best description for Zilch is it’s a Commerce Card — a card for any time of payment (credit or debit). For starters, customers can use the Zilch app at any of the 37 million merchants who accept Mastercard payments. Customers can pay in-store through Tap and Pay or complete their purchase online.
With either option, Zilch offers customers interest-free payments on each purchase. Payment-in-full customers can receive cash back from their purchases. Either way, customers can pay for their purchases without incurring prohibitive interest rates and hidden, expensive fees, such as those charged by credit card networks. Philip Belamant is visibly pleased that Zilch has found a way to circumvent the legacy credit card racket, which has gone relatively unchallenged since inception in the 1950s.
Zilch’s Signature “Flywheel of Value”
Philip Belamant is understandably excited about Zilch’s customer-centric payments infrastructure. He uses the term “Flywheel of Value” to encompass this integrated web of payments and rewards. He briefly explains the Flywheel’s operation, using a conventional debit card and credit card as a starting point.
“When we say a ‘Commerce Card’, what we mean is, this is a debit card and credit card all in one. So customers can pay in one, [and] they can get discounts and rewards. They can save those and actually earn a yield on them…And then you can use that as a discount on your next purchase.
“So we [are] actually giving people access to discounts, deals on debit, plus credit, anywhere they might need, for anything that they want, which I don’t actually think has existed before this product. All of that really fits the sweet spot when you think about inclusion…People can round up and they can run up and donate to a charity of their choice,” Philip Belamant remarks.
Zilch’s Infrastructure Promotes Customers’ Financial Health
Most notably, Zilch was one of the UK’s first BNPL providers to receive a highly coveted FCA consumer credit license. In fact, Zilch worked directly with regulators to ensure customers’ financial health during each transaction.
Specifically, Zilch uses soft credit checks and complex Open Banking technology to obtain a real-time snapshot of each customer’s financial situation. In turn, this data provides a reliable recommendation of how much that customer can afford to borrow at any given time.
Philip Belamant Details Zilch’s Overarching Goal
Zilch’s ability to disrupt the payments industry stems from Philip Belamant’s desire to put consumers in charge of their finances. “So on the purpose side, really what we [are] trying to achieve in Zilch is to create the world’s most empowering way to pay.” He readily acknowledges that three separate customers coined their own versions of this compelling phrase.
“So really, for us, it’s about access.” To illustrate, Philip Belamant explains that 3 million UK customers are currently accessing investor Goldman Sachs’ line of credit when making their purchases…[We are] giving people access to products and financial services they otherwise would never have had — true democratization of access to free credit.
Zilch’s Mission Resonates with Customers and Investors
Although younger consumers are often seen as early adopters, Philip Belamant says the Zilch brand resonates with all demographics. He explains Zilch’s appeal to consumers of all ages. “Only 45% of our customers are young millennial Gen Zs. They come to us from credit cards where they are fed up with revolving and 22% plus per annum, which makes sense.”
Equally importantly, Zilch’s overarching message also resonates with the firm’s growing cadre of investors. “What I’m really excited about is that we can translate this message for sure for investors because they’re not interested in the bright lights and the shiny story. What they want to know is ‘What do you guys stand for?’ and we tell them — it’s financial inclusion and bringing access to people that otherwise never had it,” Philip Belamant emphasizes.
Zilch Sees Record Customer and Investment Growth
By all accounts, Zilch has demonstrated unprecedented growth since its 2020 inception. In 24 months, Zilch has expanded its customer base to almost 6% of the UK’s entire adult population. Zilch reached this impressive milestone twice as fast as any other fintech company. Each month, Zilch adds approximately 250,000 people to its customer base.
In May 2022, Zilch debuted its payment services product in the massive United States market. Launched in multicultural Miami, Florida, the company plans to steadily expand its operations across the country.
Zilch Becomes Fastest European Fintech Double Unicorn
Zilch has also experienced unmatched success in its fundraising rounds. To illustrate, Zilch progressed from its Series A funding round to double-unicorn status faster than any other European fintech business.
Most recently, Zilch added an oversubscribed $50 million of equity to its Series C funding round. This enabled Zilch to maintain its $2 billion valuation when several other major competitors have resorted to raising funds at markedly lower valuations.
Philip Belamant Sheds Light on Two Key Factors for Success
In the rapidly evolving payments industry, Zilch continues to outperform its competitors while carving its own path. Philip Belamant is clearly driving this juggernaut, fueled by his entrepreneurial spirit and unflappable determination. He says two key mantras help him to keep Zilch moving forward.
Do It Until It Works
First, Philip Belamant believes that regardless of the challenge, a solution is always possible. To illustrate, just before the COVID-19 pandemic Zilch lost $120 million in venture capital funding when a key investor backed out. Although Philip and his team were understandably shell-shocked, they wasted no time in devising a plan to find alternative funding.
“It’s about coming back the next morning and figuring it out. So for me, it’s absolute persistence, getting up every day, and making sure you’re disciplined enough to do it again and again. And again. And again. Until it works,” he declares.
Finding Great Team Members is Key
While Philip Belamant is known for his dedication and drive, he understands that meeting high-level goals isn’t a singular pursuit. To help Zilch achieve its remarkable level of growth, Philip Belamant consistently partners with a talented team whom he recognizes as key to his success.
“Really, my superpower is getting the world out of the way of great people. Inspiring great people around me to come along for the journey.
“That’s where I feel like I’ve thrived — I’m able to find great people and show them we have a mission that’s meaningful. It’s not just about money. It’s really about changing people’s lives and as a consequence of this, finding commercial success.”Philip Belamant says.
Zilch Focuses on Industry Disruption While Improving Lives
As Philip Belamant propels Zilch to the forefront of the payments industry, he is focused on two primary (and integrated) goals. First, as in his previous businesses, he is committed to using technology to improve customers’ lives for the better.
Philip Belamant also derives satisfaction from elevating customer experiences while leaving a substandard ecosystem in place. Again, he has previously demonstrated his skill in threading this exceedingly fine needle.
“The real challenge, I believe, is how do we create disruption without any challenge. And that really is what I’m all about as an entrepreneur…This is how we think about things in what we do at Zilch.” Philip Belamant reflects.