Entrepreneurs: Wagestream looks to change our preconceptions of payday

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London-based WedgeStream gives users early access to cash, a financial coach, and budgeting and savings tools…

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Think about how often you get paid? Many of us are accustomed to monthly, but in America it usually happens every two weeks.

Until the 1970s British workers were often paid at the end of the work week. Monthly paydays only became the norm as banking infrastructure developed and processing fees took a hit.

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Wedgestream is a fast growing fintech that allows employees to access already earned salaries at any time of the month. Employers pay for the platform, which lets employees withdraw up to 50% of their wages early, for a fee of £1.75.

Peter Briffett and co-founder Portman Wills launched the start-up in 2018 after reading the same article about Walmart, which examined whether flexible pay would retain employees. They had never met but were introduced by mutual contact. Briffett says it took about five minutes to decide which team to build.

“We thought it was a terrific concept and literally everyone wanted it. We thought there would be a huge queue of CEOs outside the door.”

The queue did not form immediately.

“We were struck by this response: ‘People being paid monthly is responsible’,” recalls Briffett. “We had to say ‘Do you know how many of your employees go into debt every month?’. It was difficult.”

Monthly salary isn’t easy to manage for everyone – what do you do if there’s a surprise bill in the middle of the month?

Today CEOs are starting to get it.

Wedgestream now counts around 300 firms as customers. Everyone from Halfords and Green King to 40 NHS Trusts now uses the platform. About one million workers have access to the service.

Briffett says that Wedgestream, which has been described as a financial wellness platform, could be a carrot for attracting employees at a time when employees are hard to come by. As well as early access to cash, WedgeStream provides a financial coach, budgeting and savings tools, and financial education materials.

EWA (Earned Wage Access) is a hot market. Revolut recently launched an EWA product and others in this space include SalaryFinance.

EWA apps have not escaped criticism. Campaigners argue that taking out wages early could be a slippery slope in debt and point to a lack of regulation.

Wedgestream and five other EWA providers are creating a “code of practice” that they will offer to the FCA to hopefully support. The field believes it is a misconception that EWA is attempting to fly under the radar of regulation.

The start-up says the group aims to work with the regulator to create industry standards or guidelines that “protect the responsible use of EWAs, and clarify everyone’s understanding of what that is”.

Briffett refers to himself at times as a “talker” and co-founder Wills as a “clever guy”.

Briffett’s first consumer tech start-up, Living Social, grew into a $100 million business. Other ventures have been “absolute disasters,” as he put it on LinkedIn, including “attempts to try and sell China’s entire global export supply of champagne.”

Wedgestream is definitely a success so far. It has raised £65 million to date, with backers including the charities Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Big Society Capital as well as tech investors Balderton and Northzone.

In the last one year, Wagestream has doubled to 130 employees. Their next funding round will close soon and will go towards “putting a lot on the ground in America.”

Before Briffett leaves, he has a tip for aspiring founders: “You absolutely have to believe in what you’re doing. Eventually, people will believe in you.”

wage

Established: 2018

Staff: 130

Business: Over £2 million in 2020, on track for over £10 million this year

the headquarters: Fitzrovia

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