WHAT DO BPS TECHNOLOGY AND MICROSOFT HAVE IN COMMON?
Written on the 23 September 2015 by Nick Nichols
BPS Technology (ASX:BPS), the business that owns Bartercard, takes a strident view of its potential to become the Microsoft of the global trade exchange industry.
But for CEO Trevor Dietz, this is just one strategy for a company that has taken a new approach to its core business in the past year, helping it to double the conversion rate for new Bartercard members.
Last month, Dietz went on a national roadshow aimed at selling the Gold Coast-based company's story to a broader retail investor market after delivering a better than forecast annual net profit of $7.9 million in FY15.
While institutional investors have been strong supporters of BPS Technology since it listed more than a year ago, the company's shares have struggled to trade above their $1 issue price although the latest profit result has helped shares climb above 90c for the first time since March.
It's a familiar story for Bartercard, a business that Dietz has previously described as 'misunderstood' by the market.
The company's key focus since founding more than two decades ago has been to disrupt the merchant payment space. That focus hasn't changed, although there appears greater impetus lift the pace of the business since it became a public company.
BPS Technology essentially has been driving growth through Bartercard and its technology division Tess in recent years.
Bartercard is expected to benefit from expansion into China and India, but Dietz says the biggest single advance for the business came when it lowered joining fees for merchants earlier this year.
"The closing ratio for people joining used to be one in five under the old model, now it's one in 2.5," says Dietz.
"It has doubled the attraction rate and the goal this year is for 3000 new merchants to come into the business."
Dietz says the potential for Tess is also significant as it strives to become a major provider of trade exchange technology and software for the $20 billion industry globally.
"This is a step-change process for the industry because there is no common software among the 2500 trade exchanges around the world," says Dietz.
"Our goal is to become the Microsoft of the barter industry. We want to be on every system of every trade exchange around the world."
For Dietz, the plan is to white-label the Tess technology that drives Bartercard's platform to provide all backroom operations for third-party trade exchanges, including disaster recovery.
"What Xero did for the accounting industry, we're looking to do to the barter industry," says Dietz.
However, it is the latest strategy - a new rewards app named Bucqi - that has Dietz most excited for the growth of BPS Technology's core businesses.
Growing the Bartercard merchant base is integral to the rollout of Bucqi, which BPS is making available to Bartercard members through its new membership structure. Dietz says it's a reward system like no other for merchants, because when they are redeemed they add to the merchant's bottom line.
"It's a new technology that promises to deliver more cash sales through their registers," he says.
"Bucqi is a very disruptive payment technology because it combines the very clever payment system around which we have several patents.
"Bucqi also provides a far better loyalty program because the merchants who issue rewards points to consumers, which we call Bucqs, issue those as a reward or they can redeem them."
BPS is initially rolling out Bucqi on its home turf on the Gold Coast, then it has set its sights on Toowoomba and Cairns.
"This is about bringing it into a local community and getting local merchants using it," says Dietz.
The grassroots campaign is being bolstered by offering a 1 per cent payback to closed user groups such as charities and football clubs who permit the app out to their members.
"For everyone who downloads the app and uses the app to buy goods and services from merchants on the app, the club gets a 1 per cent trail," says Dietz.
"This gives clubs a new way of raising money that they didn't have before and that gets a lot of traction for the clubs who otherwise rely on sausage sizzles.
"We're doing it with clubs, sporting bodies and not-for profit charities and the like. That's where we see our action over the next 12 months.
"In 2017 we will start pushing this forward through TV advertising and the like, and by then we will be across Australia and across NZ. We'll have an established merchant and consumer base, then we'll take it into the UK and US."
Bucqi is taking advantage of what BPS Technology sees as growing momentum towards digital commerce.
Bartercard Australia CEO Clive van Deventer says Bartercard's online transactions within Australia alone have jumped by 126 per cent in the last four years from $7 million to more than $16 million a month.
"Digital currency plays a huge part in the direction that business is heading," says van Deventer.
"Bucqi will take that spending one step further by opening up Bartercard's digital currency to the consumer world. This is only the early days of digital currency and the ways in which it can cater to consumer spending."
After taking the company's growth story on tour, Dietz is confident that perceptions of the business will change.
"It's a matter of time for us. Every firm that we see is excited by the story and they're looking to see that Bucqi comes to traction," says Dietz.
"It's still early days, but the early indication for merchant and consumer acceptance has been very good for Bucqi.
"It is a business that needs to come to traction over the next 12 months and we think we will be having a much different discussion when we release our next 12-month results.
"Since we changed our sales model allowing us to bring far more businesses into Bartercard than previously, Bucqi is something we see as a very important to our future.
"We have a very stable core business in Bartercard and now we have some really good growth opportunities through Bucqi and our Tess technology.
BPS has not issued any forecast for the current financial year. The company expects a similar result to FY15, although Dietz says a clearer view will emerge following the release of its interim results early next year.
Author: Nick Nichols