Zilch Announces NepFin Acquisition for U.S. Expansion
Zilch announced on August 11th, 2021 that it has acquired Neptune Financial (NepFin), which it plans to use for further scaling its operations in the United States (U.S). Zilch is a financial technology (FinTech) startup based in London that currently operates in the U.K. NepFin is a technology-based firm that offers flexible capital solutions directly to lenders, a capability Zilch plans to use for expanding into the U.S.
Zilch’s recent Series B extension made the acquisition possible, as it raised an additional $110 million in debt and equity funding. The major investors in this round of funding included Goldman Sachs Asset Management and DMG Ventures, which is the Venture Capital Arm of firms like General Trust And Daily Mail. This effort brought the total funding for the acquisition to over $200 million, which Zilch will use to expand its existing U.S. team. The funding will also allow the firm to obtain the licensing and regulatory capabilities needed to operate in the U.S.
Zilch previously raised $80 million for its acquisition in April 2021, increasing the firm’s total value to over $500 million. This funding included investments from both individuals and smaller firms, although the firm planned to target larger investors in future funding rounds. The purpose of the funding was not to fuel growth in its current U.K. market, but to serve as a tier-one debt line to expand in the U.S. and other countries.
Zilch’s business model is built on a strong sense of financial responsibility and transparency that focuses on providing customers with the means to buy products and services without increasing debt or harming their credit rating. NepFin shares this ideology with Zilch, which was a key factor in the decision to acquire NepFin. Zilch is the only player in the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) industry that combines Open Banking technology with soft credit checks to obtain an understanding of a customer’s affordability in real time. This capability allows Zilch to make accurate recommendations on what a customer can afford, thus avoiding excessive debt.
Zilch is looking to greatly expand its current presence in the U.S. market by the end of 2021, initially focusing on regulatory compliance, customer service, engineering, marketing and sales. The company’s leadership in the U.S. Includes Albert Periu, who will join the firm as CEO for its U.S. operations. Thomas Meister will also join Zilch by serving as COO and General Counsel in the U.S. Both executives bring extensive industry knowledge in scaling up FinTech lending businesses in the U.S.
Philip Belamant, founder and CEO of Zilch, stated in his announcement that he had been exploring options for expansion in the U.S. for some time. The additional funding available from the latest investments makes this an ideal opportunity to take another major step towards that goal. Belamant also praised his new executives in the U.S. by saying “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 added that he was highly confident that his team would build on Zilch’s prior success by introducing its scalable BNPL product to U.S. markets.
NepFin was already aware of Zilch’s plans to expand outside the U.K. before the acquisition. Periu says that he was impressed by Zilch’s innovation in BNPL that allowed the firm to expand rapidly during a period when this space has many competitors in the U.K. He added that this was the second time that one of his U.S. companies had been acquired by a U.K.-based company. Periu also expressed his enthusiasm in attracting the talent that Zilch will need to lead the FinTech market in the U.S.
NepFin’s primary contributions to Zilch’s U.S. expansion include its existing technological infrastructure and licensure as a California Finance Lender. This status is particularly useful to Zilch, as it indicates NepFin possesses the framework for regulatory compliance needed that Zilch requires to succeed in the U.S. Furthermore, these capabilities help Zilch meet its goals of providing users with alternative means of purchase without accruing debt or impacting credit.
Belamant founded Zilch as a startup in London during 2018, and the beta version of its platform launched in 2019. This platform distinguished itself from other BNPL services by connecting directly to customers and allowing them to distribute payments over a six-week period for no fees or interest. It currently employs 150 staff members in that city who approve about 150,000 applications per month.
Zilch uses Credit Kudos to perform the soft background checks needed to determine a customer’s affordability. This practice is one of the primary reasons that Zilch was the first BNLP provider to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates financial institutions in the U.K. Industry observers expect 10 percent of all online sales in the United Kingdom (U.K.) to be BNPL transactions by 2024. This rapid growth could mean that the FCA will further tighten regulations for these companies in the near future.
Prior to Zilch, Belamant’s most successful business venture was PBEL, which he founded in 2006. This company was earning an annual revenue of $100 million and had 5 million users by 2012, when he sold it to Net 1 UEPS Technologies. Belmont became the CEO of Net 1’s FinTech arm, where he increased the company’s annual revenue to $140 million and staff to 250 employees. Belamant has also operated many other successful businesses in the payment industry that were primarily based in South Africa.