Nick Ogden, chief executive and chairman of Voice Commerce Group
Voice Commerce Group is a regulated Financial Service Group which operates and delivers mobile financial, payment, identity and verification services and solutions to consumers and businesses.
Nick Ogden has been at the forefront of internet financial services technology since 1985. In 1993, he founded Multi Media Investments Limited, a technology research and development company that brought the internet to the Channel Islands through Interactive Telephony Ltd. This led to the construction of Europe’s first online store in October 1994 and the development of one of the first bank-endorsed e-commerce initiatives BarclaySquare, in 1995.Nick founded the multi-currency processor WorldPay and led the company through its growth to over 270 employees with 20,000 merchants in 120 countries and processing transactions in excess of $2bn per annum. He invented the internet payment guarantee in 2001 guaranteeing Internet transactions for consumers and businesses. WorldPay was sold to the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2000.
1. What basic needs do Voice Commerce Group’s technologies fulfil?Voice Commerce is a regulated Financial Service Group which operates and delivers mobile financial, payment, identity and verification services and solutions to consumers and businesses. We were one of the first organisation in Europe to be licensed as a Payments Institution by the FSA under the Payment Services Directive (PSD).
The Voice Commerce Group was founded upon a simple principle ‘whenever we speak we establish a position of trust’. Consumers use their voices to communicate decisions; perhaps to instruct, to agree or to buy something. This natural process already happens automatically billions of times every day and the Voice Commerce Group has taken this natural capability and automated the process through its innovation in Voice Signatures. 2. Voice recognition technology has suffered some bad press over the past few months. Have you seen any backlash?Voice Commerce doesn’t operate voice recognition technology, we operate voice biometric systems. The difference between the two is that biometrics identify who is speaking rather than what is being said. Voice Signatures is a sophisticated system that combines the use of voice biometrics with transactional history, trends and patterns to create a highly secure, unique authorisation environment.
Voice Signatures allow consumers to use their own unique voice to sign and authorise transactions, guaranteeing transactional security and protecting users against personal data compromise reducing the risk of fraud and identity theft. Our voice signatures are the natural solution to the challenges of dealing with mobility, security, identity and of course payment.3. Can you give a snapshot of the company’s key successes over the past year?The team we have in place, who include a number of previous WorldPay colleagues, have been really influential to our success and this year has marked a major turning point in the commercialisation of the Voice Commerce Group with a number of key successes following an intensive R & D phase.
As well as achieving profitability in the third quarter of this year, less than nine months into our commercialisation roll out, we have also recently been regulated as a Payment Institution which means we are now required to operate in similar way to a retail banks in the EU who have traditionally offered payment services to their customers. Alongside this, in the last week we announced our intention to purchase RBS WorldPay, so the next couple of months will be critical for us.4. What is your long-term vision for the company?The introduction of Payment Institutions under the PSD is really going to shake up the European payments market and create a whole new level of opportunity to compete and change the payments landscape. This is a major milestone for Voice Commerce as we are one of the first fully authorised Payment Institutions in Europe and will be operational with SEPA solutions in early 2010.
This will not only enable us to meet rapidly changing demands for financial services for both businesses and consumers but also have all the financial regulatory aspects resolved in Europe for our proposed purchase of RBS WorldPay. We can now look to leverage this opportunity to grow the business throughout Europe and bring new creativity and development to the industry through the introduction of our innovative payment services. 5. What made you want to start again from scratch having already achieved success with WorldPay? What motivates you second time round?Obviously events in the last couple of weeks, with RBS being forced by the European Regulators to sell off a number of its business units including RBS WorldPay, mean that we will potentially be coming back full circle.
From our point of view we, and the other teams who are now joining our bid team, never got the opportunity to finish the job that we started at WorldPay, and to this end the Voice Commerce Group is an extension of the job we started first time round with WorldPay. I think this is evidenced firstly by our current team who have largely come from RBS WorldPay to work with us and secondly by our move to buy RBS WorldPay back and finish what we started.6. How does VCG’s progress to date compare to that of WorldPay?On a straight financial comparison between Voice Commerce Group today and where WorldPay was at a similar time we are ahead of the curve. This is largely down to the fact that whilst processing is fundamental to our business, which is similar to WorldPay, our other innovative activities, such as VoiceTransact and VoicePay, is proving to be significant drivers for growth. In 2010 we have some significant announcements that will start to shape what we believe to be the future of Business Financial Services in the EU. 7. The Voice Commerce Group will be the second business you have built from a Cambridge base. What are the benefits of the location?It was circumstantial that we arrived back in Cambridge. The first driver was our acquisition of a business called Perpetual Payments last year that was based in the city. Alongside this there was the benefit of allowing our team members who had come from WorldPay, which is situated in north Cambridge, to transition without relocation issues. It goes without saying that our ability to tap into a very talented multi-lingual workforce was a significant part of the location decision. 8. How international is your business?We have customers in 232 countries at the moment and operational centres in Cambridge and Dubai. We have just opened a subsidiary company in North America and are planning subsidiaries in Europe. During 2010 our hope is to also add further offices in the Far East.9. What effect has the credit crunch had both on your ability to grow your business and also to sign up customers in the financial services and banking sectors?Interestingly when WorldPay became fully operational in 2000 it went straight into the dot-com crash, and at that time banks were refusing to offer payment processing services to many businesses, especially start-ups involved in e-commerce. Lightning clearly does strike twice as we have faced the same issues again with businesses being declined services that they need to operate or being charged excessive rates for services that they need.
Our ability to provide these services quickly, efficiently and cost effectively has helped our business grow substantially over the last nine months. As we move forward as a fully regulated Payments Institution we are now officially part of the banking and financial services sectors and our primary responsibility is to supply our end users cost effective and efficient services in a timely manner within this fast changing landscape.10. What three tips would you give to budding entrepreneurs?The first and most important tip is to learn to say no, and this is arguably the hardest lesson in business. My second tip would be to get a team of people to help you. When you start a business you have to do everything yourself despite the fact that you are not qualified. The faster you can bring people in to help you the better.
Finally, pay yourself last if you can. Because by paying people to do the jobs that you can’t do you have a greater chance of making the business successful. The epitaph on my tombstone will be that I always met payroll on time, every time, although my wife is convinced that I’ll be tapping on the coffin lid saying I’ve still got some more ideas and work to do.