Adyen Canada country manager Sander Meijers talks fintech’s tough year


Adyen, the Dutch payment services provider, is not in an easy business right now.

Fintech companies, by and large, have had a gloomy 2022, with inflation and high fuel prices forcing companies to rethink their growth plan.

Stripe, a competitor to Adyen, had to let 14 per cent of its staff go this year.

But Adyen has managed to avoid this fate through deliberate, careful hiring and a very long-term time frame.

“We hire for a marathon, not for a sprint,” says Sander Meijers, Adyen Canada country manager.

In fact, Adyen is looking to expand its Canadian operations and snap up business with major Canadian retailers and platforms, just another part of the company’s global growth plan. Adyen is currently in 23 countries around the world, everywhere from London to (as of 2020) Dubai. Having turned a profit since 2011, the Dutch company is slowly but surely driving its e-commerce and point-of-sale business, along with banking services in the EU and U.S., everywhere.

Meijers himself moved with his family from Amsterdam to Toronto in 2022 to oversee the Canadian team in person. He spoke to the Star in November about the e-commerce/brick-and-mortar debate, cycling in the city, and how Adyen might handle an impending recession:

What made you decide to move to Canada?

Apart from the job opportunity, Canada is a country that me and my family have been eyeballing for years. We’ve wanted to go on a campervan holiday and travel the West Coast. That was always our dream, to see B.C., and have orcas swimming in the background. We’re an outdoorsy family. We like skiing, we like ice skating, and we’re always near water.

So the opportunity to be in Canada and do a job I really love was a no-brainer. The kids are of an age where they could make the move. So it was a really good opportunity, personally and professionally.

Given you’re from Amsterdam, what are your thoughts on cycling in Toronto?

I’m still cycling to work every day. I used the bike like a real Dutchman does. Traffic in Toronto is horrible. The TTC cars also travel in traffic, so they don’t work either. I’m living in The Beach now, with my family, and I’m using my electric bike to go downtown every day.

It’s actually been great. It’s super fast. I have a great view of the lake at the beginning of my commute. So I’m hoping to do this for as long as I can, until winter really hits. But I feel it’s actually the best way to get around Toronto, to be honest, especially if you’re a Dutchman.

A lot of Canadians are very familiar with Stripe. How would you compare what you do to what Stripe does?

Stripe is a competitor, but Stripe and Adyen have the same mission: to exchange payments for cross-revenue opportunities. The difference between us is from a regional perspective. I don’t think any company is as global as Adyen. Our one platform, which you can use online and in-store globally, is something Stripe won’t be able to do in the exact same way.

Another differentiator is our banking licenses in both Europe and the U.S. That really helps us tap into financial products that other payment service providers are not able to offer.

You don’t really believe the concept of in-person shopping and e-commerce shopping are at odds with one another. Do you mind explaining why?

If you were to ask, years ago, whether someone would buy an expensive jacket on the internet, people would say ‘no way’. Today, people are buying cars online. The world changed from only having brick-and-mortar sales to both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce. Every store should be thinking about ‘omnichannel’, how to reach customers both online and in-store

We’ve now entered a phase where shopping at a brick-and-mortar store and online should have the same experience. These boundaries are really starting to fade away. To be able to do that, you can’t have two different teams handling each aspect of shopping if they don’t co-operate. How would you ever be able to recognize a shopper that bought ten things in-store if IT systems have no idea, and have never been connected?

It shouldn’t really be relevant for a shopper whether a product is coming from a website environment or from in-store.

The problem with online shopping, of course, is that you can’t pick up orders right away. Meanwhile, shoppers might find an item online and not be able to pick it up in store. How should retailers address that pain point?

Adyen doesn’t work in stock management. I think it’s a question retailers are thinking about every day, shortening delivery time. What we can do is make sure payment is very clear to the store that’s selling a product, and they don’t have to wait for the next day to see whether the payment has been made. It’s going to all be in the same system, on the same back end.

Adyen has existed in Europe for a very long time. You’ve only expanded to North America within the last 10 years. What kind of opportunity did you see here?

We opened offices in North America, first in San Francisco, in 2012. We’ve been around for quite a long time. I think the opportunity for us goes back to the idea of unified commerce. We created this one platform where it doesn’t really matter whether you’re using it on a terminal in a store or making an online purchase. It’s one platform.

Every company we’ve talked to in signings throughout the years basically had a split setup. They had two different platforms. One for store, one for online, and it was just a hassle. As e-commerce became more and more common, these companies built out eCommerce teams that never talked to their point-of-sale systems.

That was an opportunity we spotted very early on, which we acted on in Europe. There’s no reason why Canada is any different. It’s obvious the opportunity is huge because of the size of the stores that are going after these challenges.

Are there any brands you’d like to work with that aren’t currently working with Adyen at the moment?

If you were to go through the top 200 merchants in North America, there are a lot that we’re not working with. That being said, we are working with a few big ones like Footlocker and the Gap. In Canada, more specifically, we work with ones like Bouclair. We also have a presence in the platform space, so companies like Lightspeed. We just announced a deal with Instacart. Those are also retailers, but they’re powering retailers. They are the companies behind merchants selling their goods.

We also are working on digital companies that sell purely digital goods or provide digital services. Think about Spotify or Uber. There are opportunities in all of these spaces, and there are big brands in all of these spaces across Canada.

Does Adyen have a banking license in Canada? If not, is it in the cards?

Not today. We really want to benefit all our merchants when we build something. It’s not a matter of whether we want to do it, yes or no. Yes, we do. It’s a matter of when is the right time to venture into the banking space.

Do you see that coming for your Canada operations in the future?

I think so. There are interesting talks in the Canadian financial market, around real-time rail payment systems to support payments within seconds. Just as an example, I had to move some money around in Canada. The bank branch told me to get a cheque and bring it to another bank.

For me, that was the weirdest thing. It sounded so old school. It really opened my eyes and made me feel as though we could make our technology work for the banking space in Canada at some point. They could make banking that much of a safer, easier, and faster experience.

The upcoming recession is going to really impact small businesses. Do you have a strategy in the event small businesses start cutting back on their expenses, and maybe cut out Adyen?

We’re here for everyone who is in business. If you’re transacting, whether through e-commerce or in-store or via digital service, we’re here to help and we’re here to help our consumers to get through a pandemic — which we just did — and to get through a recession.

I don’t think there is one game plan for it. It’s a merchant-to-merchant play. If you’re a business with us, we’re happy to explore what we can do.

This interview has been edited for length

Brennan Doherty is a former staff reporter for Star Calgary and the Star’s 24-hour radio room in Toronto. He is now a freelance contributor.


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