Zilch, a financial technology (fintech) firm based in London, announced its acquisition of Neptune Financial (NepFin) on August 12, 2021. NepFin is a technology-based direct lender that offers consumers flexible solutions for making capital expenditures.
The acquisition was made possible by Zilch’s latest fundraising efforts, a Series B extension that raised $110 million. This result brings the total funding for the acquisition to over $200 million, allowing Zilch to expand in the United States. It will also help the firm secure the regulatory compliance and licensing requirements needed to conduct financial transactions in the US. Major investors in this latest fundraising effort included Goldman Sachs Asset Management and DMG Ventures, venture capital arm of firms like the Daily Mail and General Trust.
Zilch has already appointed executives to lead its US operations, including Albert Periu and Thomas Meister. Periu will serve as CEO of the US branch, while Meister is joining as both its COO and General Counsel. Both leaders have extensive knowledge of the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) industry based on their experience at Funding Circle and NepFin, where they scaled up fintech lending businesses in the US.
NepFin provides Zilch with a number of specific advantages for expanding in the US. For example, it already possesses a strong technological infrastructure that supports its existing operations. In addition, NepFin holds a California Finance Lenders License, indicating it has the framework needed to comply with regulatory requirements in that state. NepFin also shares a common ideology with Zilch in that both firms have a sense of responsibility for providing customers with alternative methods of making purchases that won’t accrue debt or adversely affect their credit rating.
Previous Fundraising Efforts
Zilch had already raised $80 million in April 2021 for its US expansion, increasing its total value to more than $500 million. The investors in this funding round included smaller businesses and individuals, although Zilch founder and CEO Philip Belamant said he would target larger investment firms in the future. The specific purpose of this funding is to drive Zilch’s expansion in the US by serving as its tier-one debt line, rather than supporting its UK operations.
Periu stated that he had admired Zilch’s successful innovations in the BNPL space for some time before the acquisition, and added that he was thrilled at the way the culture, mission, and values of the two companies align. This shared ideology was a major factor in his decision to acquire NepFin. Periu also said that NepFin was the second company of his that was acquired by a firm based in the UK. According to Periu, “our team is looking forward to leveraging our prior experience, creating roots in Miami, and attracting talent to solidify Zilch as a fintech leader in the US as we head into the end of 2021 and beyond.”
Belamant stated that he had been exploring options for expanding in the US for some time before obtaining the necessary funding. He currently plans to begin this expansion before 2022 by initially focusing on areas that include customer service, engineering, marketing, sales, and regulatory compliance. Belamant also said that the success of the most recent funding round makes this the perfect time to take another major step towards Zilch’s launch in the US. Belamant added, “Albert, Tom, and their team have done tremendous work, and adding them to our team enables us to hit the ground running with regulation top of mind.” He went on to express his confidence that his US team will build on Zilch’s prior successes in bringing its scalable BNPL product to the US.
Zilch’s business model focuses on providing its customers with new ways of buying products and services that won’t harm their credit rating or increase their debt. This model includes a strong sense of corporate responsibility that includes transparency into its operations. For example, Zilch, is currently the only BNPL company that uses soft credit checks and open banking technology to obtain a customer’s affordability profile in real-time. As a result, Zilch is able to accurately identify the services that a customer can afford, helping them avoid unsafe debt.
Belamant founded Zilch in 2018, basing his startup in London. The beta version of Zilch’s platform launched in 2019, and the company currently employs about 150 staff members who handle an average of 150,000 applications each month. This platform separates itself from its competitors by allowing customers to make payments without interest or other fees for a period of up to six weeks.
The soft background checks that Zilch requires to assess a customer’s affordability are performed by Credit Kudos. These checks are a major part of the reason that the first BNLP provider to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was Zilch. This space is evolving rapidly in the UK, and analysts expect BNPL transactions to account for ten percent of all online sales in the UK by 2024. As a result, the FCA may soon tighten the regulations for BNPL providers operating in that country.
Belamant graduated Cum Laude from RAU University in South Africa, earning both a Bsc IT and Bsc IT Honors degree. He started his first business when he was 21 by winning the Project Firefly competition sponsored by Microsoft based on his thesis on AI and biometric technology. Belamant has also founded other fintech companies over the past 16 years, giving him extensive experience in the payment industry.
These businesses include a Top 40 fintech company based in Africa, which gained over a million users within the first six months. This company was the largest Wireless Access Service Provider (WASP) in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, and South Africa. Belamant also launched mobile payment services in 15 countries, including India and countries in Africa and Europe. The user base for these services exceeds 20 million, with major partners including Airtel, MTN, Orange, TNM, and Vodafone. Belamant also launched UBER’s first Cash-To-MasterCard solution in Africa.