The European Payments Initiative (EPI) is a Brussels-based conglomerate of 14 European banks and two tech companies. On 31 October, the organisation announced the closure of its acquisition of Luxembourg payments firm Payconiq International. The same day, Payconiq’s CEO stepped down.
“I personally would like to express my gratitude to all parties involved in these significant transactions,” says Martina Weimert, CEO of EPI, in a press release from 31 October. “I thank our shareholders for their continuous trust in EPI’s vision and mission and the relevant authorities for their diligent review. Furthermore, I would like to address a warm welcome to the employees of iDEAL and Payconiq International who will be joining the EPI family. I believe that their expertise and experience will be very valuable in driving the success of EPI and its payment solution Wero.”
Weimert is generous with her optimism but short on details regarding the financing. “There will be no disclosing of the financial details of this double acquisition,” wrote her PR manager.
In an email from 2 November, Weimert and her PR manager responded to a query about Payconiq International’s losses carried forward: “EPI bought on a debt-free and cash-free basis. Regarding the so-called loss-making nature of Payconiq’s current business, it is important to note that the company will evolve and transform to meet EPI’s mission, so its business model is changing now. This acquisition allows EPI to accelerate the process of gaining access to payment expertise, human resources and a number of assets that EPI would otherwise have had to develop and implement on its own.”
The losses carried forward in question are €93m at the end of 2022 on sales that, between 2021 and 2022, had doubled to €12m. The Luxembourg company’s survival has only been possible thanks to regular infusions from its four shareholders: ING Bank NV (44.51%), KBC Bank NV (42.67%), Belfius Bank NV (2.71%) and Rabo Foundational Investments BV (10.10%), the first three of which are part of the EPI.
Goodbye Payconiq, hello Wero
In other words, Payconiq's technology will be integrated into EPI’s digital wallet, named “Wero,” meaning that the Payconiq brand will no longer be needed. “Indeed,” says the EPI CEO by email, “Wero will be a new solution and proposition for Europe. The purchase of Payconiq… will enable us to make a safe and controlled transition from this domestic Dutch solution to Wero without risk to users and merchants.”
With this future in mind, Payconiq International announced the departure of its CEO, Guido Vermeent, in a press release from 2 November. Stijn Van Brussel, previously the company’s chief operating officer, took over as CEO on 1 November 2023. “With his extensive expertise in operational management and strategic leadership,” says the press release, “[Van Brussel] is well-positioned to drive the company’s strategic initiatives. The organisational shift comes in the wake of the recent acquisition of Payconiq International by EPI Company.”
“The EPI family”--as Weimert puts it in the 31 October press release--is itself a curious expression. EPI is a European company set up in 2020 to revolutionise payments in Europe. It started out with 16 shareholders, though several Spanish banks have subsequently disappeared from its ranks. Through a series of capital increases over three years, EPI has raised €329m, according to the latest documents registered with the Belgian Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (the company has its head office in Molenbeek, Belgium). BFCM, BNP Paribas, BPCE, Crédit Agricole, Deutsche Bank, DSGV, ING, KBC, La Banque Postale, Nexi, Société Générale, Belfius, DZ Bank, ABN Amro, Rabobank and Worldline--a group of companies but perhaps not a “family” per se--have contributed capital to a project for an “innovative solution based on a new unified instant payment system and platform for Europe.”
In three key countries by mid-2024
At the end of September, EPI said that its digital wallet Wero would provide access to a “comprehensive range” of features that include secure and fast payments, person-to-person transactions, online shopping capabilities, loyalty programmes and more. The statement furthermore said that Wero would be available on its member banks’ apps, as well as on a mobile app separately available for both Android and iOS. The digital wallet is to be launched in mid-2024 in Belgium, France and Germany, and then in the Netherlands. The rollout will go beyond this region “in the years to come,” says the press release.
Belgium, France and Germany, EPI explained earlier this year, account for more than half of non-cash retail payments in the eurozone.
It will also be interesting to follow another dynamic: Worldline is a shareholder in the project but Worldline isn’t a bank. Rather, it’s the world’s fourth-largest player in the payments industry, and at the end of 2021 it announced a partnership… with Payconiq. “Together with Payconiq, we share the ambition to continuously improve the buying/selling experience of our respective customers and their satisfaction,” said Worldline’s head of merchant services at the time. “The acceptance of Payconiq on our solutions is a strong added value for Luxembourg merchants, who benefit from a complete and centralised payment offer via our intermediary.”
And finally, if Payconiq disappears, what will happen to Payconiq, i.e., Digicash, in Luxembourg? Given that the Spuerkeess (since 2012), Post (2013), BIL (2014), BGL BNP Paribas (2015) and ING (2017) all offer payment via this solution? None of the five is a member of the consortium. For now, at least.
This article was originally published in Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.