Why we invested in pliant

The official announcement of our investment in pliant already happened a few days ago and by now some media outlets have picked up on the news and given their own take on the deal. But now after a few days of reflection, I wanted to take the time and share our own reasoning behind this latest addition to ALSTIN Capital’s portfolio.

In short, pliant is a corporate credit card provider that enables fully digital card management combined with high limits, premium card perks, and attractive cashbacks. What may sound like just another corporate credit card at first glance, is in fact a truly innovative way to approach this space.

Yet, given that it has been argued that the market for corporate credit cards is anything but open to innovation and on the whole rather sluggish, it might make sense to briefly point to a few trends that have recently fuelled the growth of this previously rather boring market, before getting into why pliant’s offering is indeed innovative (and why we ultimately invested):

  • Growth in B2B online payments overall, spurred in part by the increasing importance of e-commerce, growing online marketing spend, as well as the general shift towards subscription-based XaaS-models
  • Shift towards cashless payments, due to growing demand for better spending transparency through clearly traceable bookings, among other things
  • Accelerated adoption of credit cards due to the COVID-19 pandemic: companies had to reform payment processes during lockdown and increasingly rely on electronic payments to conduct business

We had been following the B2B payments market for quite some time and had noticed the change in dynamics with great interest. Yet, while we found many new players to merely ride the wave created by this surging demand, they often failed to address underlying customer needs. That view changed when we met the pliant-team. So let’s cut to the chase – we were hardly alone in chasing after this fantastic founder team and their business idea – and talk about why we are so excited about pliant.

What impressed us from the start was the simplicity of their modular setup with card management and payment processing at its core, allowing for seamless integration into existing accounting systems and also easy integration of additional value add services and systems enabling a more partner driven go-to-market approach.

Once integrated, pliant effectively addresses the customers’ need for flexibility and transparency on spending: The fully digital card management via a central administration platform enables simple card issuance (both virtual and physical) at the push of a button, the management of individual card limits, and real-time reporting on all transactions.

Customers also save real money on every card-transaction with a pliant-card through cashbacks and attractive partner deals providing additional financial flexibility for the setup of financial processes. And with pliant earth companies are being empowered to reduce some of their climate impact in an effortless way by redirecting these cashbacks to certified compensation partners to offset CO2-emissions.

In summary, we really like pliant’s focused best-in-class solution approach. What is more, is that the team has also cracked the refinancing conundrum that many competitors are struggling with: For credit card providers to grant high credit lines on their cards instead of mere prepaid cards, refinancing is key. Favourable refinancing terms (as in the case of pliant) may indeed be the decisive competitive advantage and, in the long run, the most difficult one to catch up with. It guarantees more favourable unit economics, which in turn can translate into greater benefits/cashbacks for customers and thus higher product attractiveness.

Seamless integration, high flexibility and transparency for the customer, combined with attractive conditions – the fact that pliant is pursuing the right strategy with this approach is also very clearly reflected in the relevant KPIs: not only has the company displayed really impressive account growth since go-live, but the monthly transaction volumes processed per customer have also increased substantially.

All this having been said, in the end is was the two founders and their bold vision that captivated us the most! Looking at their respective prior roles and the combined 20 years of experience in the fintech-space that Malte Rau and Fabian Terner bring to the table, it seems as if their entire previous professional careers had simply been preparation for their current endeavours at pliant. Malte, the CEO, has an intriguingly deep understanding of the fintech-market and a very clear perspective on the direction it will take in the future. And Fabian, the COO/CPO, seems to know exactly what customers’ needs look like today and they will be tomorrow and on which areas product development should focus in order to optimise product market fit and user experience.

Malte and Fabian have an ambitious plan for pliant and as it usually goes with ambitious plans, at times it is not going to be not be a walk in a park. But we are absolutely certain that these two founders with their deep understanding of the market, their drive and spirit and their ability to execute will succeed in disrupting the B2B payments market and in building a truly great company.

We are incredibly thrilled to join them and the entire pliant-team on this journey and we will do all we can to support them along the way. Welcome to the ALSTIN family!