Nium claims this latest investment means it becomes the first business-to-business payment unicorn — a company with a $1 billion-plus valuation — to emerge out of Southeast Asia. Nium specializes in cross-border payments, while Ixaris specializes in remittances for the travel industry, and counts online travel agents among its customers.
Now Nium aims to expand into the U.S. market, where it already has a team in San Francisco. It also has plans for a public listing there, according to reports. Co-founder and CEO Prajit Nanu is expected to relocate soon.
Part of that growth will come from the travel industry. Nium has appointed Spencer Hanlon as its new global head of travel, and head of Europe. Hanlon is currently non-executive chairman at Ixaris, but will take up the role following regulatory approval of the acquisition of Ixaris, expected imminently.
“North America, alongside China, remains one of the biggest markets in the world,” Hanlon said. “We’re looking to push into the U.S, as quickly as we can, and exploit the fact it is a big market. Virtual credit cards are well adopted.”
The U.S. represents 3 percent of Nium’s revenue, according to reports. And the business-to-business payments sector is worth $120 trillion, according to consultancy Bain, with small business in North America seen as an under-penetrated segment.
Travel within the U.S. is also recovering at pace, with some airlines, such as JetBlue, even planning for international growth. Hanlon said Ixaris is about to launch a virtual credit card product in the U.S., while Nium could offer online agencies the chance to issue their own branded cards for overseas payments, similar to Wise and Booking Holdings’ own fintech unit that wants to help travelers avoid traditional bank and credit card forex fees.
As well as working with leisure agencies, Hanlon said that there was no reason Nium couldn’t work with travel management companies, and potentially the end corporate traveler. While Nium doesn’t typically provide credit, it could serve some specific needs “with straight-through funding and other mechanisms.”
He also plans to leverage Nium’s strong footprint in the Asia Pacific region for Ixaris, as it has better foreign exchange technology and more country licenses. “The more global we can be, the more we can serve those customers seamlessly and get a better share of wallet,” he said.