Interview with Alexander von Schirmeister, Executive Vice President for Europe of SumUp

  • SumUp is a fintech company, founded in 2012 in London, UK, with such investors including American Express, BBVA Ventures and Groupon.
  • SumUp’s main product is an EMV card reader which can read magnetic strip, Chip and Pin, and contactless payment cards. The card reader pairs with an Android or iOS-based smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, to verify payments through the Internet.
  • In April 2016, SumUp announced it would merge with competitor Payleven, a Berlin-based mobile payments provider by Rocket Internet.



Who are SumUp and what is your company ethos?


EVP Alexander von Schirmeister: SumUp is a fintech company that allows businesses of all sizes to receive payments quickly and simply, both in-store and online, through our easily recognisable pocket-sized card readers.

SumUp has experienced exponential growth since our 2012 launch, with two million businesses worldwide now relying on our card terminals, from salons to artists, from restaurants to taxis. We have roughly 5,000 companies joining the platform every single day, and in 2019 our annual revenue surpassed €200 million.

Transparency is something we place the utmost importance on. We are open and honest about our pricing and have no hidden fees. SumUp’s company ethos is that payment technology should be simple and affordable, so businesses of all sizes can concentrate on what drives their success.

With offices all across the world, our company enjoys impressive global reach and has since expanded into 31 countries, including Germany, the U.S. and Brazil.


What is the role you hold at SumUp and what does it entail?


I am the Executive Vice President for Europe. I was appointed in September 2019 to help further accelerate business growth and to continue acquiring and serving merchants in Sumup’s 31 European markets.

Specifically, my role entails prioritising and coordinating our go-to-market approach, and deploying our commercial and marketing resources across our region; as well as ensuring the scalability of our operational model to ensure our merchants get the support necessary during their onboarding process and for any other general assistance.

In doing so, it is my ambition to obviously build a brand and a company that our merchants will love, but also to build a best-in-class team of extraordinary and diverse colleagues across Europe.


What are the main products that SumUp offers, and how do they differ from other products in the market?


Firstly, our card readers are very affordable. We charge merchants a 1.69% transaction fee and there are no other fixed or hidden costs. Comparable products on the UK market have steeper transaction fees or even subscription charges. All our fees apply to any credit and debit card, including foreign-issued and premium brands like Amex.

Our core product is our wireless SumUp Air card reader, which we launched in 2016. It’s an easy and affordable solution allowing small businesses to take card payments. The (point of sale) terminal pairs with the SumUp App, available on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, and payments are processed securely online. The app essentially works like a till with a product library and other features to form a complete point of sale system.

Another way we differ to competitors in the market is through our constantly expanding product range. Beyond our Sumup Air card reader, we offer a standalone terminal that lets merchants process payments without the need for a mobile app or continuous Wi-Fi connection. In 2018 we launched the SumUp 3G card reader, which works totally independently of a linked mobile device, giving merchants total freedom and flexibility. Merchants have the option to add a printer to the 3G reader, so they can offer customers hard copy receipts. The combined device is an excellent and affordable option for businesses.

Finally, earlier this year we launched a business payments card in partnership with Mastercard, giving merchants easier and quicker access to their funds. It also helps them make essential business payments quickly and easily, while monitoring their finances. The ‘SumUp Card’ is the first complete toolkit for UK small business owners, facilitating both the making and taking of payments.


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How does SumUp work to alleviate pre-existing problems in the market?

With the steady decline in the number of cash points in recent years, and the shift towards online banking and modernised payment processes, there’s no doubt that we are heading towards a cashless society. Debit card is now the UK’s preferred payment method, and so far nothing would suggest that the eventual transformation from cash to card will be reversed.

To help rural communities and others often left behind by traditional banks, we can provide assistance in the transition towards a cashless society by filling the card acceptance gap. Traditional card vendors have always charged exorbitant rates, and the purchasing process came loaded with bureaucracy, meaning cash was the only option for small businesses.

We aim to make our card readers easy-to-use and affordable, so that businesses of all sizes are well equipped to deal with this new age of consumerism.


How have SumUp been able to maintain a ‘personal touch’ to their business whilst simultaneously expanding?


The SumUp Air Reader was made in-house to ensure a product that looks and works exactly as we wanted it to – and we’ve maintained that personal touch going forward. Every decision we make regarding new products or features is taken in direct consultation with our two million active users across the globe. For instance, our SumUp Card was beta-tested with thousands of merchants over a trial period, and their positive feedback played a vital part in our decision to expand this further.

We also have a well organised customer support team available throughout the week to give merchants advice and help. This team is very much the public face of our business and gives us that personal touch – no matter which market people are calling from.


What is SumUp’s five-year plan?


Our plan – globally – is to be one of our merchants’ most valued and loyal partners as they launch and later grow their businesses. We understand this often starts with something as seemingly simple as being able to accept card payments quickly and easily, which is why the focus in our early years has been around card acceptance via card readers. But we see our strategic partnership with merchants growing beyond just card acceptance, which is why we have started making other products like invoicing, mobile payments or merchant cards available. We will continue on this journey, and will work on products and solutions that we are convinced will contribute to our merchants’ success.