Enabling Technologies

Interview With John Battley, CEO of Penny Inc., on the New Approach to Manage Business Expenses


Penny Inc, a provider of payments, expense and travel management solutions for small to medium-sized businesses, today announced the launch of the Penny Inc prepaid MasterCard card program which is virtually connected to a mobile app. Penny monitors and manages employee expenditures, significantly reducing the time spent on expense tracking and administration processes. The LTP team had the pleasure interviewing John Battley, CEO of Penny Inc. John shared some interesting insights on the new approach to manage business expenses. Here is the transcript of the interview:

LTP: Looks like Penny Inc is just coming out of "stealth mode." What can you share with us now? What is the product?

John Battley: Penny is a new approach to managing business expenses. It consists of a prepaid MasterCard card virtually connected to a real-time mobile app. From the app, you can manage your card, expenses and travel. Penny is built on the open API payment innovation platform of Marqeta and monitors & manages employee expenditures, significantly reducing the time spent on expense tracking and administration processes. For the majority of users, the product is free.

LTP: Who are you primarily targeting with the product? Is there is a sweet spot in terms of segment or demographic?

JB: Penny is targeted to small and medium-sized businesses. It is a great digital petty cash solution, but the sweet spot is business executives and managers who spend regularly and travel. Penny’s fast and streamlined approach to managing their expenses helps free up time to focus on creating value for customers and clients.

LTP: “Expense management” and “travel management” don’t seem like the most glamorous sectors to launch a startup in. Why focus on these areas? What's the backstory?

JB: Expense and travel management have historically been one of the most frustrating parts of our business lives. Tony Ferguson and I created Penny as a result of our combined backgrounds and expertise in payment processing and travel management. Previously, Tony and I built Australia’s largest prepaid card processor, Emerchants, until selling it to a listed entity in 2011. When we were leading Emerchants, there were over three million cards on issue with annual volumes of AU $200M, including 80,000 expense cardholders. I also founded one of Australia’s largest privately owned corporate travel management companies, Globetrotter Corporate Travel. After getting a firsthand look at the high volume of business travelers needing a simple solution for expense management, we decided to create one ourselves.

LTP: What stage is the company in right now? Is the product live? Any early customer adoption?

JB: Penny Inc is currently available to download from the App Store and Google Play. We launched on Monday, October 26 and have a number of early adopters using the product.

LTP: Who would you say you are competing against? Why can you do it better? What’s special about Penny?

JB: By seamlessly integrating the card with expense management, Penny has a number of unique features. One of the simplest, but most exciting features is that Penny prompts the user to photograph their receipt at the time of sale, attaching it to the transaction in their expense report. They can then throw the paper receipt in the trash. For the business owner, they can oversee and control where and how each Penny card can be used, right from their mobile device. Cards can also be auto-reloaded; the data is compatible with accounting software, and Penny’s online application is very fast and easy. We’re purposely only including essential functionality to ensure the user interface is intuitive. Not to mention that for the majority of customers, the product is free.

Historically, expense and travel management tools have been expensive and complicated, so they haven’t been an option for SMBs. With Penny, for the first time, every business can have a great way to manage expenses.

LTP: Any key milestones that we should look out for? What should we expect to see in 2016 from Penny?

JB: The main milestone to look out for is March 2016 when the ability to book flights, hotels and car rentals will be released.

LTP: Any thoughts on the industry in general that you would like to share with our audience? Anything that keeps you up at night?

JB: We’ve seen complex and expensive software solutions built for big business. The small and medium-business market is completely underserved. What’s exciting about today is that we can build mobile-first technology from the ground up, which actually does save us time and change our lives with no legacy infrastructure.

According to the official press release, features of Penny Inc’s prepaid MasterCard card program include:

- No maintenance or usage fees: Penny prepaid MasterCard cards have no monthly, annual, transaction, withdrawal or cancellation fees. Penny comes with four free Penny prepaid MasterCard cards, and the Penny mobile app is free to download on the App Store or Google Play.

- Expense tracking reminders: Penny’s mobile app prompts the purchaser to photograph corresponding receipts at the time of sale and attaches it to the transaction, instantly storing for the company administrator to access.

- Control of business expenses: The company administrator oversees where and how each Penny card can be used—including blocking merchants and/or setting daily spending limits. Alerts can be set to flag when an abnormal transaction occurs.

- Fast and easy set-up: Online registration takes less than ten minutes, and Penny cards are delivered within seven days. Items needed to sign up for Penny include documentation of account holder identification, proof of address, certificate of incorporation and corporate structure.

- Auto-reload capabilities: Bank routing and account numbers are linked to the Penny administration account. Settings can be configured to transfer money to the administration account when the account balance drops below a specified amount.

- Alignment with accounting software: Transaction data on the Penny card can be exported to various accounting programs including QuickBooks, Xero and MYOB.

An updated version of Penny will be released in March 2016 with increased functionalities, including the ability to book flights, hotels and car rentals.



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