Toronto-based Vouchr is helping banks make payments more social


Banks may tout the simplicity and speed of peer-to-peer payments service Zelle, but compared to PayPal-owned Venmo, the experience can seem impersonal.  The Venmo social feed, with its ubiquitous beer and pizza emojis, is promoted as a customer loyalty driver and an outreach tool for brands.

While most banks have shied away from social aspects of payment transactions, Toronto-based Vouchr is working to equip them with the tools to compete with Venmo and other social payment platforms. The five-year-old company has been working with the Royal Bank of Canada since 2017, along with another major Canadian bank it wouldn’t name. It will also soon launch with three U.S. banks and one European financial institution, founder Robert Balahura told Bank Innovation. He did not offer specifics on the dates of the upcoming launches.

“It delivers context — it’s like ‘Hey, I really appreciate you doing this job for me,’ rather than an impersonal money transfer,” he said.

Vouchr is a platform that can integrate with any payment transaction, noted Balahura. It involves adding rich media, videos, gifs and sounds to create a payment experience that resembles Snapchat. In some cases, Vouchr’s capabilities are embedded into mobile payments. However, when the receiving bank is not integrated with Vouchr, recipients receive a link through email that takes them to the experience.

By embedding Vouchr’s capabilities, institutions can benefit from increased digital adoption and enhanced customer loyalty, according to the company. “A lot of our customers are using our platform for the personalization and gifting of money transfers, and on the business-to-consumer side, we’re doing something similar for disbursements,” said Balahura. “This is a way to differentiate and compete — many [clients] find that important, while others use it to drive digital adoption.”

See also: Zelle posts 58% year over year growth in payment volume, as banks navigate UX

Despite strong Zelle transaction growth among U.S. institutions, getting the peer-to-peer payments experience right is still a challenge, Forrester principal analyst Gina Bhawalkar recently told Bank Innovation

“We’re seeing a lot of banks struggling to position Zelle in the right way,” Bhawalkar said. She added in some instances, Zelle can be difficult to find, and its capabilities aren’t always explained clearly to customers by institutions.

By embedding a social element to the payments transaction journey through Vouchr, it’s hoped that customers will find more reasons to use a bank’s payments platform instead of tools offered by third parties. “I think one of the reasons why this use case got traction is people wanting to compete with the Venmos of the world, and not having any functionality related to that,” said Balahura.

So far, Vouchr has raised more than $5 million, with investments from RBC, Wells Fargo and Western Union.