Eedenbull chief Nicki Bisgaard on how his company is taking a global approach to supporting SMEs

When EedenBull struck a five-year deal with National Australia Bank (NAB) in early 2021, it was a truly global transaction.

Nicki Bisgaard. ©Debra Hurford Brown
Nicki Bisgaard. ©Debra Hurford Brown

Nicki Bisgaard, chief executive and founder of EedenBull, describes it like this: “The deal was sold from Norway, delivered from Scotland, managed from Singapore, and benefited clients in Australia.”

Bisgaard says this epitomises the way that the payments specialist – which has its operations centre in Edinburgh – does business.

“We are very comfortable with our employees working globally; we had a very dispersed staff that was used to virtual working well before the pandemic,” he says. “That’s the way we want to work –it suits us. Out of just under 50 employees, we have 16 nationalities and 22 different languages.”

The deal with NAB saw the bank agree to deploy EedenBull’s payment and spend management platform to its customer base of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“We are at the final stages of implementation and due to launch as planned this month,” says Bisgaard, who says EedenBull’s products are hugely in demand across the world.

He hopes the NAB deal will signal further growth in Australasia and Asia, with New Zealand, Singapore and India all target markets. The United States – EedenBull opened an office earlier this year in New York – is also a “hot” market as the pandemic accelerates a rapid shift in the way the people pay, and get paid.

“The United States was still heavily reliant on cheques when the pandemic hit,” says Bisgaard. “I struggled with that as I haven’t seen a cheque in the Nordic countries for 30 years!

“In some ways, the US financial services market is really well-advanced and in other ways, it’s behind. But that means there are real opportunities – banks realise they are under-serving theSME market and that they need to do something about it. So we are having advanced conversations with a number of US banks.”

Bisgaard says the SME market is poorly served across the globe: “The clue is in the name – small businesses are small and don’t have much leverage. They are seen as credit risks and often get poor deals as a result.

“So the SMEs are thinking, ‘This isn’t working for us’. Some might look to new entrants to the market who are doing things differently. However, many of them will stick with their bank and look for better service.”

That’s where EedenBull can come in: “We come in at the user interface and offer a ‘back to basics’ approach, based on constantly updated digital technology.

“It’s all about control and oversight of spending, understanding where your money is going, and who buys what from where. We can automate processes and systems to monitor that, and ensure full compliance with all the relevant regulations.

“SMEs don’t have time to do all this, so we save them time by doing it for them. We create a controlled environment to monitorspending effectively and stop money leaking out of a business. When we do that for the banks’ SME customer base, both sides benefit – the SMEs save money and they are happier because their bank is helping them to do that more efficiently.”

Tania Motton, NAB executive for everyday business banking, made a similar point when the partnership with EedenBull was announced, saying: “Expense management software solutions are so often out of reach for small and medium-sized businesses. For us, the most important thing about partnering with EedenBull to offer their technology is that it will help more Australian businesses to focus on the business of serving customers rather than time consuming administration.”

Bisgaard expects more banks to grasp the nettle like NAB – but says those who are slow to grasp the agenda must walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.

Just because banks say they are agile, he says, is not enough; they have to show agility in practice and respond rapidly to customer needs – and also show how those customers can benefit from a more agile, flexible and efficient way of monitoring payments.

Bisgaard, a veteran of the payments industry, says it is all about adding value from the information gathered by automating systems and monitoring transactions, and about the data.

“It’s not just about transferring funds from A to B, it’s about the data that you get from all of those transactions that makes your business life much easier. You are turning transactions into data and then turning data into business benefits.

“Banks realise we can help them and we are having very positive conversations all around theworld. We are seeing a return to ‘normal’ in some ways, but with a far greater focus on that digital customer journey, as banks see new entrants moving onto their territory.”

Bisgaard says that fintech companies have already moved in on the B2C (Business to Consumer) market, but that there is nowmuch more happening in theB2B (Business to Business) market as well.

“Consumer payments is less complex and that’s where the focus has been until now,” he explains. “Although the B2B market is more complex and requires more expertise, we are seeing more activity there.

“To succeed in that market, you need to understand your clients’ requirements around process efficiency and policy compliance. For EedenBull, this is an area where we have real expertise and experience, which is why thereare massive global opportunities for us.”

When it comes to compliance, and broader governance issues, Bisgaard thinks the financial services industry is walking the walk. “There is more of a focus on that area, as there should be, and I can only see it increasing. I think it is being taken seriously as part of that broader move towards environmental, social and governance goals.”

This article first appeared in the October 2021 edition of The Scotsman’s Fintech Focus supplement. A digital version can be viewed here.