At the end of the meal the server takes Jim Warner’s card away, swipes it on the restaurant’s terminal and returns with the card and a receipt to sign. It’s an unremarkable, everyday occurrence, but one that reflects how Centtrip has reengineered its service for the US market.
We spoke to Jim, Chief Operating Officer and Senior VP, about Centtrip Inc.’s first year in America.
“We knew the market worked differently here in the US,” he reflects, “so we started with no preconceptions. We listened to existing clients who had large US operations. We learned what worked well and what didn’t; and then we reengineered our platform to meet the needs of our target clients operating in America.”
“Card handling practice is a good example,” he continues. Whereas, in Europe Chip and PIN and contactless payments are prevalent. In the US, merchants take a different perspective.
“A waiter would almost be embarrassed to take a card terminal to the table for the guest to insert, or tap, their card. Swiping the card is part of the service they provide, out of sight. In Europe, cardholders are more protective of their cards, preferring to keep them in sight at all times.”
European-issued cards can face unexpected problems when used in the US. Subscription payments often require a US address and fuel pumps will request a zip code. Centtrip’s US card is issued by a US banking partner (Sutton Bank) and avoids these problems.
In fact, Centtrip’s platform and partner model has enabled it to quickly meet client needs right across the United States.
“We work with established US partners, so we can immediately operate in all 50 states. Our partners are already regulated and compliant in every state,” explains Jim.
That means Centtrip can support a band’s US tour as easily as it supports tours of Europe. It has already been signed up to support forthcoming tours by Green Day and Tool.
Jim is proud of the progress so far, with much of the groundwork being completed, necessarily at arms-length, during the pandemic.
“It was difficult, but a big achievement, to get the operation up and running without being able to set foot on US soil,” Jim recalls. “Setting up the legal entity, Centtrip Inc., and finding partners for banking and all the Centtrip platform services takes a lot of time when you can’t meet face-to-face.”
Centtrip Inc. launched in July 2021 with its first US office now in Fort Lauderdale, where it focuses on supporting those existing clients while ensuring its services meet the needs of American clients.
“Fort Lauderdale was an ideal opening location for us,” Jim explains. “For many, it’s the yachting capital of the world. Our core sectors are Marine – serving the needs of superyachts – and Entertainment – supporting touring artists and film and TV production companies. Being in Florida puts us close to marine clients like Campers & Nicholson and Fraser Yachts and means the time difference with London is manageable. As the team grows, we’ll have offices in LA, New York and wherever our clients need us to be.”
The soft launch with existing clients enabled Centtrip to test its US card in different markets.
“With real clients, we were able to properly stress-test the card against the large transaction values that are typical in the marine sector. We could analyse normal, daily patterns of spending in different countries around the Caribbean.”
For the US market, Centtrip has introduced the option of shared balance cards, where cards can all draw from a central Centtrip account, in addition to the prepaid/preloaded cards used in Europe (where each card draws from its own balance of preloaded funds).
As in the UK and Europe, Centtrip also provides foreign exchange and international payments.
But why are US clients choosing Centtrip?
“We’ve re-engineered the platform and services, but we’ve maintained the same values that attract client in the UK and Europe,” says Jim. “We provide the same levels of visibility and control, combined with the very high limits necessary to truly empower people on the road.
We bring that same ability to service and manage multiple, complex corporate structures and/or multiple end-clients all in one place. That could be multiple independent artist-clients for a business manager or a fleet of independently owned yachts for a management company.”
He continues, “We also make it easy to define different operational levels for admins and cardholders. And our expense management features like tagging transactions, receipt capture and, for accounts teams, API integration make it fast and simple to stay in control, produce management reports and keep your finger on the pulse wherever you or your clients are.”