Paymentsense: Ringing up big improvements for small businesses with the agility of Google Cloud

About Paymentsense

Founded in 2008, Paymentsense is one of the fastest growing fintech companies in Europe. The company helps more than 80,000 businesses process card payments, handling more than £12 billion worth of sales a year.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: United Kingdom

Paymentsense boosts agility by moving from data centers to Google Cloud and uses App Engine and Google Kubernetes Engine to let developers focus on innovative work, not maintenance.

Google Cloud results

  • Improves infrastructure architecture by switching from monolithic applications in data centers to microservices on Google Cloud
  • Empowers developers to focus on code, not infrastructure, with the simplicity and agility enabled by fully managed Kubernetes
  • Offers fast and reliable payment services to its small-merchant customers

Supports custom microservices applications in the cloud

The way we pay for goods and services is changing so rapidly that it may be hard to believe the payments industry is only forty years old, with the first credit card terminal introduced in 1979. As the nature of business continues to change, so does our approach to payments, and the internet in particular has led to new possibilities for companies to develop more innovative merchant and consumer-facing technologies. One of these companies is Paymentsense.

Founded in 2008, Paymentsense offers face-to-face and virtual payment services and software for small businesses. Nick Fryer, CTO of Paymentsense, explains: “Our clients are mostly brick-and-mortar businesses that turn over from about £50,000 a year up to a few million pounds.” Those businesses can be small supermarkets, bakeries, coffee shops, or independent restaurants, and they often have very specific requirements when it comes to their payment system.

“Tipping is a great example of somewhere our services can add value,” says Nick. “We want to make that process very slick by offering preset amounts such as 10% or 15%. And what about coffee shops with long queues in the morning? The speed of payment is very important. After collecting their Americano, customers don’t want to queue all over again just to pay. They just want to tap their card, it authorizes in half a second, and they’re gone.”

“Refactoring monolithic applications to microservices was the crucial step we needed to take. We wanted to provide a more nimble and scalable environment, where features could be more easily managed and updated for our users than with a monolithic approach.”

Nick Fryer, CTO, Paymentsense

Paymentsense is an appealing option to small, fast-paced businesses who want affordable products and services that are fast and adaptable like them. Because agility is so important in the financial services industry, Paymentsense decided on Google Cloud as an ideal collaborator to bring the business forward and enable it to keep improving its service for customers.

Moving from monolithic to microservices with Google Kubernetes Engine

When Nick joined Paymentsense as CTO in 2015, his team built the company’s infrastructure as a monolithic application in a data center. As the application grew and became more complex over time, maintenance became a bigger challenge. The team decided to rebuild the architecture with microservices in a public cloud, as Nick explains: “Refactoring monolithic applications to microservices was the crucial step we needed to take. We wanted to provide a more nimble and scalable environment, where features could be more easily managed and updated for our users than with a monolithic approach.”

“In my opinion, the managed Kubernetes support with Google Cloud is better than with any other provider. We received great support from our account managers and technical architects while setting up the new infrastructure. They’re very proactive and keen to help us take advantage of the latest solutions.”

Nick Fryer, CTO, Paymentsense

Paymentsense evaluated several cloud providers before choosing Google Cloud due to several reasons: the technical strengths of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) and Google Cloud data technology, ease of configuration, and flexible integration with open source products and services. Nick also cites more efficient customer support as a deciding factor: “In my opinion, the managed Kubernetes support with Google Cloud is better than with any other provider. We received great support from our account managers and technical architects while setting up the new infrastructure. They’re very proactive and keen to help us take advantage of the latest solutions.”

Alongside GKE, Paymentsense is also using App Engine to help build its custom microservice applications in the cloud. For Nick and his team, having both of these tools on hand enables them to respond effectively to different challenges and preferences. “The capabilities of GKE in terms of configuration flexibility are great,” he says. “You can pretty much set it up exactly as you like. We also like the simplicity of App Engine. You can throw a lump of code at something and it just runs. On top of that, we can run projects where they’re more suited from a resourcing perspective. What’s always up and running is on GKE, and things that run on demand are on App Engine.”

“The biggest benefits are speed, flexibility and agility. With our team being more productive and efficient, we can release new product features more quickly, react to changes in the market, and stay innovative and competitive. Google Cloud is empowering our business to do a better job delivering our services.”

Nick Fryer, CTO, Paymentsense

Enabling agility and innovation through a smoother development cycle

The switch from data center to Google Cloud is still ongoing, with plans to complete the migration by April 2020. However, initial benefits have already been seen, notably in the area of developer productivity. Paymentsense is a heavily software-focused business, with 100 employees from its 450-strong workforce dedicated to building software, so Nick cites increased productivity among them as a key benefit of the migration. “The lowest number our team came up with is that they feel about 50% more productive. A lot of them are saying more than that. Normally, you have to divide developer estimates by two but even if it’s only 25% and we spend millions a month on developers, that’s huge,” Nick points out.

“The biggest benefits are speed, flexibility and agility,” he adds. “With our team being more productive and efficient, we can release new product features more quickly, react to changes in the market, and stay innovative and competitive. Google Cloud is empowering our business to do a better job delivering our services.” One product feature that Paymentsense was able to get out the door faster using Google Cloud is its new customer on-boarding process, which can be completed in just five minutes. “Development was sped up due to the ease and speed of coding, testing, and deploying on Google Cloud,” shares Nick.

Some customers can also feel the change. Compared to the cloud options used before, Google Cloud has proven “faultless” according to Nick. “The customers that used the old system will have felt the switch. Reliability has been extremely good since we started hosting our software on Google Cloud. We’ve had zero downtime, so availability has been 100%. We no longer receive customer complaints about things like that. The system just works.”

Ringing up AI/ML capabilities to make small businesses payments easier

Now that Paymentsense can move quicker and be more innovative, Nick is already planning for the next big goals. One of these is a plan to make it easier for small businesses to accept credit card payments in their shops. “We’re looking at the payment methods coming out of Asia. Merchants accept payments through an app, and with just a QR code printed out on a bit of cardboard. That’s all you really need.”

Paymentsense also wants to harness AI/ML technology in order to access data insights that will help it meet customer needs even more effectively. By comparing offers made to customers versus offers accepted, for example, it can adjust promotions to what customers want. To do this, Paymentsense needs to be able to analyze anonymized transaction data and turn it into helpful information for its sales team.

As a first step, the company has built a new data warehouse on BigQuery, where it processes more than two million card payment transactions a day. “We’re securely storing a large amount of data on BigQuery, and now we want to derive some intelligence from that to help move our business in the right direction,” shares Nick. “We believe a data-driven approach can be easily achieved with Google Cloud as it’s known for innovation in this area.”

For everything that requires a relational database, the company uses Cloud Spanner. “We've got a few systems that rely heavily on Cloud Spanner, and we really like it,” Nick says. “It's a distributed, always up-to-date, multi-region relational database. It’s amazing that you can have all that without it becoming a massive admin burden.” The company is also using Dataflow to streamline data ingestion so that it will be able to analyze data faster.

Paymentsense has a strong vision for its future and aims to adopt more Google Cloud solutions that can help it keep current customers happy and attract new ones. “We’re trying to come up with a payment software that would run on a regular non-certified device you could buy off the shelves, similar to what already exists for contactless payments,” shares Nick. “This will give merchants a cheaper way to accept major debit and credit cards. With Google Cloud as our partner, we’re ready to keep innovating easy payment methods to help small businesses grow.”

About Paymentsense

Founded in 2008, Paymentsense is one of the fastest growing fintech companies in Europe. The company helps more than 80,000 businesses process card payments, handling more than £12 billion worth of sales a year.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: United Kingdom