From joint manager of the world’s largest gold hedging book – to precious metals trader of a global commodities group in the U.K. – Jeremy Coombe is not your typical tech startup Founder. So, how does one break the mould of the “institutionalised mindset” that is the very cause of the FinTech disruption inflicted upon the financial giants for which he once worked?
Well, Jeremy has an interesting way of putting it. He uses the analogy of his early career in commodities trading to explain how banks are being displaced.
“When you break it down, banks essentially sell ‘commodity’ products. There’s not a great deal of differentiation, so customers focus mainly on price,” Jeremy explains.
This was the inspiration behind Apxium’s “SaaS+FinTech” playbook, where Jeremy emphasises the need to go beyond “one step further.” This not only means providing innovative financial products but going a step further and combining it with automation software services – and yet another step further by ensuring it seamlessly integrates with a business’ billing software.
“This is how to deliver an enterprise grade solution that solves the end-to-end problems across the entire Accounts Receivable lifecycle of a business,” Jeremy explains, as he often refers to the classic Harvard Business Review article in 2006, “Eager Sellers and Stony Buyers,” by John Gourville. The author explains why new products need to be 9x better to “disrupt and succeed.”
“I always kept this in the back of my mind when starting Apxium as a way to avoid the commodity mousetrap.”
When Jeremy moved back to Australia from the U.K., he pursued a career in structured finance, securitisation and wholesale funding to non-bank financial institutions. In these roles, he gained a forensic understanding of the best-in-class (and the worst) collections processes employed by his non-bank lender clients. The common issue was that they didn’t have anywhere near the same standard of technology that banks have to manage collections, or Accounts Receivable in general for that matter.
Jeremy’s vision was therefore to take the same disciplines and technology concepts from the banking world and go “many steps further” by combining it with innovative automation software services (which banks are missing) and make it accessible to all businesses in a modern cloud environment.
As time progressed, Apxium found deep product-market fit among mid to large tier Accounting Firms, which are known for carrying large Accounts Receivable balances, along with very manual and costly processes around collecting unpaid invoices.
As he dug deeper, Jeremy found that this is because Accounting Firms can’t use modern cloud accounting like Xero or QuickBooks. They use Practice Management Software to manage their complex time and billing workflows. The problem is that bank payment gateways and lending platforms don’t integrate with these systems, causing significant Accounts Receivable process inefficiencies.
This is where Jeremy saw a huge underserved global market, which he may just have a chance of building something close to “9x better” than the status quo – as John Gourville put it.
And, that’s why Apxium exists today.
“Whilst our competitors resorted to the ‘commodity product’ mentality, I always set out to create deep enough value where price becomes irrelevant,” says Jeremy. “So, we created our own proprietary tech stack, built in-house here in Australia. Apxium combines Accounts Receivable Automation Software
Transactional Banking Solutions + Invoice Financing. Not only do we replace these Firms’ transactional banking relationships, but our solutions are fully data integrated with their Practice Management Software to automate the entire Accounts Receivable, payments and financing lifecycle.”
“All the Partner of the Firm has to do is approve an invoice and Apxium does the rest from before, during and after the payment. From invoice presentation and payments processing – all the way through to automated client receipting and reconciliation back into the Firm’s billing system – Apxium automates the entire process with no human intervention required whatsoever.”
The depth of Apxium’s data integration with a Firm’s billing system goes yet another step further through its innovative Invoice Financing solution. Apxium sees every single invoice and its real time payment status, enabling the software to deliver automated lending with real time risk management and covenant reporting.
“So, we’re not only automating the entire experience, but we’re providing deep value by optimising a Firm’s debtor days before we even lend a dollar – something that Banks simply can’t do!”
The result is reduced administrative overhead and debtor days by 50% and payments processing fees by up to 40%, all whilst providing the tools for Firms to improve their billing relationship with their clients. “The innovation this also provides to the global billing systems we integrate with is yet another layer of value to gain their support to access their customers.”
Jeremy explains how the above value proposition layers played out after onboarding top 10 Australia Accounting Firm, Pitcher Partners, which is part of the global top 10 Accounting Firm network – Baker Tilly International. Through this relationship, Jeremy was invited to present to the global Baker Tilly network, which generated significant interest from the Group’s U.K. and North America firms, who requested access to Apxium.
However, there was one slight (actually, MAJOR) hurdle Apxium had to overcome first. That was, developing data integrations of its technology with Baker Tilly’s global billing system – IRIS Star Practice Management – a complex on-premise system used by some of the largest Accounting Firms in the world, but not designed to integrate with external software and payment gateways like Apxium.
Fast forward a few months later, Apxium is now the only Accounts Receivable Automation software and payment gateway that is fully data integrated with IRIS Star.
“This was the key turning point for Apxium. IRIS Star’s global user base of Accounting Firms alone is larger than the entire Australian accounting services market! This provides us with captive access to $24 billion in total annual transaction volume and $2.4 billion in Professional Fee Funding,” Jeremy explains.
Jeremy goes on to explain why it pays to focus on building an economic moat based around strong IP that attracts both sales/distribution and technology partnerships. After breaking into the U.S. in 2022, over 30% of Apxium’s revenue is now generated from overseas customers, with over $2 billion annual invoicing under management facilitated by the software.
This economic moat ensures we’re a key partner in IRIS Star’s product differentiation strategy, which in turn, attracts their support to scale sales and distribution on a global level. Today, Apxium’s “SaaS+FinTech” playbook has certainly taken on the banks on a global level. One by one, Apxium is replacing the transactional relationships banks have with top tier Accounting Firms across the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia – but doing it with innovation the banks simply can’t offer.
When asking Jeremy about the key source of Apxium’s success, he puts it down to two distinct factors: 1) build a product moat by promoting team culture that’s laser focused on delivering deep value beyond a “commodity product” so that it can’t easily be replicated; and, 2) always keep John Gourville’s “at least 9x better” concept as the question you must continually challenge one another with.