It was early 2019, and FlexiGroup (now known as Humm Group Limited) had a problem. The financial services business launched a buy-now, pay-later financial services product to the Australian market in 2000 with its Certegy EziPay point-of-sale retail purchase product. In 2017, the company had followed that with the launch of its Oxipay online micro buy-now, pay-later product, aimed at products that cost $1,000 or less.
Then came the likes of Afterpay and Zip Co, which became the go-to buy-now, pay-later choice for millennial shoppers.
“It was too late to say, ‘hey, we were first,’ says Humm Group chief executive officer Rebecca James. “But it wasn’t too late to transform our company and, more importantly, show the market we do so much more than the monoline, pure-play buy-now, pay-later players.”
Shortly after being appointed CEO in October 2018, James brought 40 of FlexiGroup’s leaders together to formulate a growth strategy. The idea swapping kicked off a strategy to completely overhaul the organisation. Subsequently, James’ team of 40 leaders interviewed 540 merchant partners and more than 3,000 customers for market research.
“From that review, we realised we had too much complexity, too much duplication and a lack of scalability. Our model was very manual and we were not consumer demand-driven. We were out-of-date,” James says.
“We were a long-established payment solutions business that specialised in interest-free credit, but we had not leveraged that stature to become an industry leader. There was so much untapped potential within the company, but we were hiding our strengths; we were reluctant to talk about them. We found out what we were, but we also formed a clear idea of what we wanted to be, a digital spending powerhouse, helping people buy everything, everywhere, every day.”
The first thing Humm committed to was to change the product range, by rationalising more than 20 consumer-facing brands to four. Next came a re-vamp of its systems. Then, FlexiGroup committed to simplifying its service by leading with a digital-first offering and improving its call centre.
That was backed up by simplifying operations and realigning shared service functions. The organisation streamlined the way it made credit decisions.
In March 2019, the business launched its humm buy-now, pay-later product – the product is lower case humm while the business is upper case Humm – consolidating its two existing buy-now, pay-later platforms, Certegy EziPay and OxiPay, into one platform.
Premier Retail, a global operator of retail brands including Dotti, Jacqui-E, Jay Jays, Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Portmans and Smiggle, signed-on as founding fashion retail partner. Now, Humm can facilitate transactions of up to $30,000, interest-free.
In February 2020, the group launched bundll, a buy-now, pay-later offering aimed at sub-$1,000 purchases, partnering with Mastercard. Because the platform was integrated with Mastercard, merchants could offer bundll without needing to go through a separate integration process for the technology.
Rebecca James, Humm Group
By November 2020, Humm was able to propose to shareholders it should unify its product offering and its corporate brand under the name Humm. The business launched new products such as humm 90, a revolving credit business that provides 90 days interest-free on purchases. Its humm pro buy-now, pay-later product is for small business owners.
All the while, James and her investor relations team were constantly talking to the market.
“The investor relations strategy centred around continual communication about how we were transforming the business over a two-year period,” James says. The IR program involved investor communication about how the business and its products were simplified and streamlined, introduced new products and explained the revamped branding.
“It was really important we didn’t rebrand at the start of that journey; we firmly believed that to do that would be seen as window-dressing, as though we were trying to say, ‘hey, we’re a buy-now, pay-later company, too.’'
Timing of the transformation was considered. The business wanted investors to understand each step of the process. “Because of that, the way the market interpreted the name change was, ‘of course they’ve done that, that makes sense’.”
James says the mindset is that of a new company. “We know if we had tried to rebrand without the foundational work, restructuring products, the launch of other products, stripping out an immense amount of cost and complexity, it wouldn’t have been as credible as it was. Doing the rebrand at the end of that two-year period of transformation really, for me, signalled a full stop on the transformation, and therefore the introduction of a new era and a new organisation,” she says. “We very much feel that’s how it was taken.”
James is certain the rebrand has helped develop the share register. “At the same time as we announced the rebrand, we also raised $140 million and that brought a number of new institutional investors in, on the back of the rebrand.” She says it helps if investors also use your products, particularly in technology businesses. “That’s becoming more common on the retail investor side. We wanted that bond.”
The rebrand has also helped investor perceptions. “The rebrand helps us show we are more diversified than the monoline buy-now-pay-later players. Plus, we have the commercial business, and the strategy is still clear as we take Humm international. When we started the transformation almost three years ago, we knew we weren’t leveraging our strengths to be an industry leader. Now we feel that we are doing just that,” James says.