Growing together: how Swan enabled Alma to become a leading European BNPL provider

Learn how Swan partnered with Alma to deliver an improved user experience for merchants while improving unit economics for the buy-now-pay-later provider

Max Cutler
March 29, 2023

Opportunity: Alma built a leading tool that empowers merchants to offer payments in installments. But the process to reconcile payments was ops-heavy. Alma was amplifying their volumes, and needed to find a technical partner that could grow with them and help them simplify and scale reconciliation & accounting processes.

Solution: First, with Swan’s easy-to-integrate solution for orchestrating SEPA debit payments via API, Alma was able to automate and simplify merchant payouts on behalf of their customers. After that, they added Swan’s single-use virtual card offering to pay out vendors, which significantly simplifies accounting for merchants. Now, Alma continues to expand on their offering with even more Swan products.

Impact: Making payments to vendors with single-use virtual cards meaningfully enhanced Alma’s merchant experience while delivering more attractive unit economics.

Alma leads the way in making BNPL a delightful user experience

Swan and Alma have quite literally grown up together. The business relationship began in July 2021.

It all started because Alma had a big payments pain point: every night, they manually sent some 1,000 SEPA payments to merchants. The time spent on reconciliation, review, and payment orchestration was quite considerable.

Alma first tried another BaaS provider to help automate this painful process, but it couldn’t deliver what they needed. So they switched to Swan.

Guillaume Desloges, co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Alma recalls:

"We were looking for a serious provider for a small aspect of our business: sending cash to retailers. We needed something able to scale, that worked well, and was a technically good product. That's how we started working with Swan. But then we actually realized that you (Swan) had many other services we could use, too."

The initial collaboration proved a success. Swan’s reliable API quickly began powering thousands of automated SEPA payments for Alma on a daily basis. The experience was so smooth, the French BNPL provider decided to look into other ways they could improve their product with Swan’s embedded banking.

Bank transfers to vendors was just the beginning

Automated payments to merchants, via Swan’s API, brought time-saving value for Alma. However, their next integration brought even more impact: the creation of single-use virtual cards to pay out merchants. Merchant accounting was considerably simplified; what was once a major pain point is now a big driver of improved product enjoyment. Instead of having to devote hours of labor setting up vendor payments, Alma now automatically transfers money using virtual cards issued by Swan and therefore, universally improves merchant experience.

Desloges praises the fit of Swan’s product-driven approach with Alma’s needs:

What we were really interested in was Swan's tech. The long-term value is that Swan allows us to do things we don't want to do ourselves, things that are too much work. Swan does product right. We loved it.

Using Swan-issued single-use virtual cards means that the vendor can carry out one central accounting, rather than doing it per payment method. Every time a consumer makes a purchase, Alma facilitates a transaction using a single-use virtual card.

Alma chose Swan for it’s best-in-class tech

Alma was initially drawn to Swan because of their deep product focus.

Fintech in Paris is a small world. When we encountered Swan, we liked it because you reminded us of us: product-focused with easy-to-integrate tech and an emphasis on smooth communication.

Years later, Desloges testifies that the product focus has paid off: the APIs work exceptionally well. And Swan’s customer success team continues to serve Alma as a reliable partner by facilitating fast and easy integrations, solving issues quickly, and carrying out thorough compliance checks.

Swan’s BaaS platform enhances multiple BNPL workflows

Alma is clear about where the future of their business lies. Desloges explains:

"What we’re focusing on now is the issuing of cards. That’s something that really drives adoption: Alma customers can pay nearly anywhere, even with merchants not equipped with Alma. The future of the relationship between Alma and Swan is in cards."

As part of the BNPL check-out process, Alma began to issue debit cards to its customers. The Alma-branded debit card allows consumers to make purchases almost anywhere, in three installments. The first third of the payment is debited immediately from the customer’s account. The remaining 2/3 is covered by Alma and is debited from the consumer over time.

The cards carry the Alma brand, but are backed by Swan accounts and regulatory infrastructure.

Delivering the best BNPL product in Europe, powered by Swan

Alma’s partnership with Swan has supported the BNPL provider in becoming the go-to option for millions of consumers when they pay online. Starting by automating merchant payments via API orchestration to issuing debit cards for customers and ending with paying merchants with virtual cards that simplify their accounting, Swan has been there every step of the way with solutions catered to Alma’s needs and business model.

If you’re looking for an embedded finance provider that will grow with your company, we’d love to hear your vision and understand how we can fit into it. Let’s talk!

Max Cutler
March 29, 2023
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