Stripe competitor Checkout.com said last month it has appointed Céline Dufétel as its new president.
She had previously served as the London-based fintech startup’s CFO and COO for about 18 months before her promotion. In her expanded role, which still includes serving as the company’s COO, Dufétel oversees all operational and go-to-market teams, including finance and marketing. When announcing the New York-based executive’s appointment, the company had told me that the move was symbolic of Checkout.com “staking its claim in the U.S.”
Dufétel certainly has an impressive background in the world of financial services. Immediately prior to joining Checkout, she was the COO and CFO of T. Rowe Price for three years. Before that, she worked at Neuberger Berman and served as a partner at McKinsey & Company. Dufétel was also included in Barron’s 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance list in 2021, and in Fortune’s 40 under 40 list in 2020.
Checkout.com is building a full-stack payments company — in the words of TC’s Romain Dillet, it acts as a gateway, an acquirer, a risk engine and a payment processor. It lets you process payments directly on your site or in your app, but you can also rely on hosted payment pages, create payment links, etc. It supports card payments, Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, Alipay, bank transfers, SEPA direct debits and it also lets you issue payouts.
In December, the company made headlines when it slashed its internal valuation to $11 billion, which was a huge drop compared to the $40 billion valuation that it reached a little less than a year prior. At the time, its founder and CEO Guillaume Pousaz told TC the move was aimed at taking “advantage of the current conditions to update the tax valuation of the company.” More recently, Checkout.com launched a new product, giving its customers a way to create payment cards for their own customers.
TechCrunch reached out to Dufétel to find out more about her plans as Checkout.com’s new president, including what’s in store for the company this year, her thoughts on the future of payments generally and why she sees so much opportunity in the U.S.. We also asked how she felt about the comparisons to Stripe…and her answer may surprise you.
(Editor’s note: The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.)
Congrats on your new role! What is ahead for Checkout.com in 2023?
Thank you, it’s an exciting time to be expanding my remit at Checkout.com, as 2023 is a critical year for us – we are really ramping up our commercial efforts, particularly in the U.S. While we’ve grown a lot in APAC and EMEA, the U.S. is the second-largest e-commerce market in the world and there is an extensive, untapped opportunity for growth there.
The U.S. payments landscape is currently dominated by legacy and new-age incumbents, and we know competition would ultimately deliver better outcomes for consumers. We have a robust pipeline of brands across sectors and verticals that we already serve internationally and are keen for our support in the U.S., too. For example, we recently announced a partnership with GE Healthcare to help power the company’s rapid e-commerce expansion.
How did Checkout.com perform in 2022? Can you share revenue/growth metrics (YoY)?
As Checkout.com is a private company, we don’t disclose group financials but we’re an agile and well-funded business that is in a prime position to capitalize on opportunities in what is a quickly expanding total addressable market. We’ve launched five products in recent months and have a strong pipeline planned as we continue to innovate to better serve our merchants.
How many employees do you have? Did you lay off at all in the past year?
Since 2012, we’ve grown to over 1,900 employees in 21 global offices. Like many companies across sectors, we’ve had to adjust the pace of our growth to reflect the current macroeconomic conditions, and we made the difficult decision in September of last year to reduce Checkout.com’s workforce by shy of 5% (around 100 people). This decision did not come lightly, but it was a strategic reprioritization of our workforce in which we reduced headcount in some areas where we are investing less, and maintained or even grew it in areas that are of high priority to us. This will allow us to focus on the strategic priorities against our mission, which is to enable businesses and their communities to thrive in the digital economy by delivering innovative products and services when they need them the most.
What do you think of comparisons to Stripe?
We welcome them. Stripe has built an impressive business and we believe strong competition delivers better outcomes for merchants everywhere, which is our goal. But when you compare us to Stripe, an important distinction to make is that Stripe’s roots are in serving small businesses — ours are in the mid-market and global enterprise segment. Our target customers are those that have grown in complexity and often [have a] global presence. Those merchants need a different level of sophistication, as performance of their payments and global reach really matter. The service, engagement and partnership that we are able to provide is truly important; because we work with thousands of merchants instead of millions, we’re able to provide that white-glove service and flexible solutions to meet their needs.
Merchants want transparency and engagement to help them solve their most complex problems, and we deliver that, too. Where others’ tech stack is more of a black box, we empower those more mature merchants with transparency and customization of their infrastructure to drive performance. Close partnership with our merchants to develop solutions together is of the utmost importance to us. We deliver a true strategic advantage to digitally minded brands, and I am proud to say we have one of the highest acceptance rates in the industry.
How has the global downturn affected your business?
It’s no secret that the current macroeconomic climate is tough for many companies, some of which are our merchants. That said, we are focused and deliberate about hitting our long-term goals and continue to add new merchants to our growing customer roster. Our diverse customer base, which spans a healthy mix of international markets and industries, helps diversify our revenue stream to minimize the impact of instability in specific regions or markets.
Not sure if you’re working with any crypto/web3 companiesm but if so, did the FTX debacle make you reconsider some of those relationships?
We’ve always believed in serving innovative businesses, starting with fintechs, since our inception, and more recently, serving innovators in the crypto/web3 space in 2019. While this is an exciting sector, it represents a modest part of our business. We, of course, acknowledge the severity of the current situation in contrast to other past events, but remain committed to supporting our merchants with the best payment solutions possible.
These events underscore the need for a clear regulatory framework. That’s something we’ve long advocated for to better support innovators, put this technology safely into the hands of businesses and consumers globally, and build trust in the ecosystem as a whole.
What do you see overall for the payments industry in 2023?
Now more than ever amid the uncertain economic landscape, CFOs and heads of payments are narrowing in on the impact of payments on topline growth and profitability. Increasingly, business leaders are recognizing the measurable impact of high-performing payments systems in maximizing acceptance rates, minimizing costly fraud concerns, and reducing operational costs. In the U.S. in particular, where the digital payments infrastructure has lagged behind other regions, there is room for companies to shore up their payments processes to drive greater business results.