Manchester-headquartered Total Processing was only founded in 2015 but is already one of UK’s fastest–growing FinTech companies.
In the last four years its headcount has increased 10-fold from six to 60 people and its technology will be processing over £2bn a year by the end of 2022 from its 2,000+ merchants.
Total Processing made several key hires including Rob Pailin, former Assetz Capital and RBS Corporate managing director, as CEO to spearhead the firm’s ambitious growth plans.
It was against this backdrop that the FinTech decided to open its first overseas office and chose Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
Commercial director Harry Luscombe told TechBlast’s latest Going 4 Growth it was the natural choice, as the total value of digital payment transactions in the UAE had more than doubled in the two years prior to our launch, with $18.5 billion of transactions in 2020. Fellow FinTech companies were also starting to move to the region.
Co-founder Alex Leigh headed up the move and Luscombe said the process of establishing a base in the UAE was fairly time-consuming.
“There are multiple ways to set up an entity in Dubai,” he explains. “There are a combination of free zones and the mainland UAE which require different set up structures.
“Traditionally you required a sponsor within the region, and this is something Total Processing undertook with Seed group, which is the private office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum and that has been a significant relationship for the business providing both credibility and key connections within the region.
“The regulations have changed recently with the government of the United Arab Emirates announcing by decree that foreign investors can now fully own local companies without the need for an Emirati sponsor, which has been an incentive put in place to encourage more foreign direct investment into Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“Our business has set up in the Dubai International Financial Centre, which is one of the 45 free zone regions in the UAE which comes with a host of benefits amongst some challenges.”
The UAE is a federation of the seven emirates of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain and Total Processing chose Dubai because its financial sector was rife for innovation.
Luscombe explains: “Large acquiring banks having previously dominated the payments market by setting the rates and providing little to no additional value to their clients along with creating an onerous onboarding process that took significant time for businesses to complete.
“With more innovation and opportunity being encouraged within the region, more nimble solutions that have technology and a customer centric approach at the heart of their operation, like Total Processing, have been able to create a fairly comprehensive footprint in the market.”
Luscombe, who joined Total Processing in August 2021, says anyone opening an office in the UAE should do extensive due diligence.
“There are a number of regulations to understand and there are a lot of nuances in the way people do business in the Emiratis. Our first hire in Dubai was Danny Makin, who is now the Regional Manager MEA for the business. He has extensive experience working in the region and provided the business with local regulatory expertise and knowledge, ” he says.
“It is also essential to speak to regional specialists in the legal sector as their advice can be imperative to succeed in setting up your business entity correctly. We have also established relationships with KPMG as well as some very credible solicitors and lawyers to ensure we have a full understanding of all the regulations and market nuances within the region.”
According to Luscombe having feet on the ground is crucial in Dubai as the country operates primarily on relationships.
“The way they do business over there can be slower with a large focus on face-to-face relationship building,” he explains. “Some of the clients we are working with have required two to three meetings prior to any conversation around delving into the business and company.
“There are other market nuances to consider such as setting up a bank which requires a person signing the documents in person as well as providing identification face-to-face.”
Luscombe says Total Processing is planning more office openings as it targets becoming a truly global payments business.
“Our focus since day one has been and remains ‘to be the most customer centric payments technology business’,” he says.
“We continue to provide our merchants with not only payments knowledge to succeed, but other benefits such as assisting with growth into new international markets via our network of global partners and developing these relationships. As well as this we continue to develop out tools and features that allow them to better serve their customers from a payment’s standpoint.”