This article was originally published on Forbes.com.
Payment facilitation is trending in 2021 — and so is ABBA. For the first time since the money-making machine split nearly 40 years ago, the Swedish quartet is set to release five new songs this year.
ABBA has a success story that would make any banker envious. Formed in 1972 and disbanded in 1982, the pop band has sold more than 385 million albums — including hits such as “Dancing Queen,” “Super Trooper,” “Fernando,” “S.O.S.” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme.” As contestants of Eurovision 1974, the band took it all with an iconic performance of “Waterloo.”
ABBA is so popular that in 1999, their greatest hits were woven into the musical Mamma Mia! — a sunny tale set on a Greek island. Then came the 2008 movie adaptation that starred Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Pierce Brosnan. The movie brought in more than $600 million in worldwide box-office sales and the 2018 sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
But did you know that over the years, Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid — the name ABBA is derived from their initials — taught us about payment monetization? You can expect as much from a band that taught us how to live, love and let go.
“Money, Money, Money”
”Money, money, money. Must be funny — in a rich man’s world.” ABBA knew something about money.
Payment facilitators often process that kind of cash; they are software companies that enable payment acceptance for their merchants. They earn profits by keeping a portion of each transaction running through their platforms. They used to sell their software as a service, but nowadays, the product has become — you guessed it—money, money, money.
“Take A Chance On Me”
“If you change your mind, I’m the first in line. Honey, I’m still free! Take a chance on me.”
The iconic lyric may sound like a pick-up line, but it’s not very different from what payment facilitators say to financial institutions. Before they’re allowed to provide payment services for merchants, payment facilitators need to gain the approval of a sponsoring bank.
Payment facilitators also have to demonstrate ongoing, comprehensive compliance with relevant regulations, including:
• Rules of the card networks (Visa and Mastercard).
• Requirements imposed by their acquiring banks.
• The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
• Applicable laws in their jurisdictions.
Once they get the green light, they become financially liable for all the transactions their merchants process and otherwise responsible for their acts, omissions, and disputes.
Becoming a payment facilitator is not an easy undertaking, but it’s worth the trouble in the end.
“Knowing Me, Knowing You”
As Anni-Frid sang, “Knowing me, knowing you, it’s the best I can do.”
Knowing your customers is good advice for any business, but it’s a prerequisite for payment companies. Payment facilitators require each new merchant to complete an application and provide information about their business, including:
• Address and location.
• The business type.
• Bank account information.
• Financial track record.
• Tax ID.
• Products and services.
The information is checked against sources that may include the Department of Treasury, the IRS and the major credit bureaus as well as Anti Money Laundering (AML) and other sanction lists. Only when a merchant passes these checks can they join the payment facilitator’s platform and begin accepting payments.
“The Winner Takes It All”
For companies that withstand the regulatory scrutiny — as well as the upfront investment in sophisticated payment technology and human capital — the prize waiting can be very lucrative.
Payment facilitators get to book the sales of their merchants as top-line revenue, and they get to take a cut of any payment processing fees. This means they generate a new revenue stream and increase their business valuation at the same time.
ABBA said it best: “The winner takes it all. The loser has to fall. It’s simple and it’s plain. Why should I complain?”
“The Name Of The Game”
The name of the game today is digital payments. The pandemic accelerated the shift to faster, more secure and contactless payments, and merchants are catching up with the trend.
”What’s the name of the game? Does it mean anything to you?” It means something to ABBA.
At ABBA: The Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, you experience the pop group anew — the original costumes, the gold records and even behind-the-scenes Mamma Mia experiences. It’s a blast from the past, but it’s also a glimpse into the future.
At the door, there’s a sign regarding the ABBA museum’s payment acceptance terms: “We don’t accept cash at the museum, only card payments. It’s safer and more efficient for everyone.” That sign has been in place since opening day in 2013. Once again, ABBA leads the way.