Local Company Digitizes Bill Paying: Allied Payment Has Eye on Expansion, Getting Rid of Paper
Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette
Ralph Marcuccilli and his company, Allied Payment Network, are trying to hurry America’s transition to a paperless society.
The Fort Wayne business develops electronic bill payment products and services used by financial institutions and their customers.
“We no longer are dependent on the U.S. post office and the speed of moving a piece of paper from the biller to the customer. Now it can be: Get the bill in real time and make that payment and get it there today,” said Marcuccilli, Allied’s CEO.
“Our goal is to be able to deliver that real-time experience to bank customers so they don’t have to find some other service to do it. And just make their life easy,” he said at his company’s offices at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center at Stellhorn and St. Joe roads.
Marcuccilli, 52, founded Allied in 2010. Since then, its customer base has expanded to nearly 300 banks and credit unions, and its staff has increased from seven employees to 30. Still, the company is a relatively small player in a financial technology services market dominated by Fiserv, FIS Global and Jack Henry & Associates.
But late last year, venture capital firm Plymouth Growth Partners of Ann Arbor, Michigan, invested a reported $4 million in Allied. It was the first infusion of money at the company from a source other than local investors, Marcuccilli said.
“We were kind of at the stage of the company where we had the products we built, we were growing our customer base, and we really came to the place where we had to decide: Do we want to focus on profitability or do we want to try to grow our market share, knowing there are really three players out there who control 95% of the market?” Marcuccilli said.
“We’re really trying to accelerate our growth by bringing out some new products. Let’s start taking some market share from our competitors,” he said.
Jeff Barry, a partner at Plymouth Growth Partners, said his firm invests exclusively in Midwest technology companies.
“Allied fit our investment criteria well in that it has generated consistent revenues and shown strong revenue growth, while developing a suite of products that places the company as the innovative alternative in the financial institution bill pay industry,” Barry said in an email.
“We have a high level of confidence in the company’s growth plans,” he said. “The combination of its innovative feature set along with the company’s logical and fast-moving partners in the market selling Allied’s product gives us enthusiasm around the company’s prospects over the next few years.”
Allied this year is introducing Document Vault, what Marcuccilli called a “filing cabinet” for internet banking. It allows a bank customer to snap cellphone photos of financial documents – contracts, tax information, even restaurant receipts and business cards – and store them so everything can be searched and sorted digitally.
Another upcoming product is an electronic system that consolidates bills in a single place for real-time payments.
“If you want to make a Verizon payment, you say pay it, and we’re going to take the money out of your account and we’re going to get it to Verizon, and it takes 30 seconds to do that. And then you get a text that says, ‘Thanks, we just got your payment,’” Marcuccilli said.
Allied tailors its products so they blend into a financial institution’s website.
“The goal is to be a cohesive part of their whole digital experience for their customers,” Marcuccilli said. “So when they sign in, it looks like the bank, it feels like the bank. So we do that customization.”
Allied’s flagship product is PicturePay, which lets people pay their bills by taking photos and sending them to their financial institutions for payment.
“Banks being conservative, it was pretty difficult to try to get into the bank space and get banks to trust a brand-new company. … PicturePay allowed us to get into a bank because we had a product that nobody else did. Nobody had ever seen anything like that,” Marcuccilli said.
Early customers included First Financial Bank of Abilene, Texas, and 3Rivers Credit Union of Fort Wayne.
Other Allied products followed: FlexPay, BizPay, PortalPay, TellerPay.
Marcuccilli was chief information officer for STAR Financial Bank before starting Allied.
He said about a third of Allied’s employees have banking experience.
“We really understand the needs of banks,” he said.
Allied might become physically closer to Fort Wayne’s downtown banks. Marcuccilli said relocating Allied is a possibility because his developers and engineers have filled up their 4,000 square feet of space at the Innovation Center.
“We are at capacity,” Marcuccilli said. “We are considering other sites as we grow more. That could be downtown.”