Shams Syed left India with his family when he was just six years old. The Syed’s chose Ontario as a starting point to make a new and better life for themselves.
His father was an entrepreneur – something Shams attributes to his high achieving, go-getting attitude. The family’s first years in Canada were not at all plain sailing, however. It felt like an uphill battle, with his father working incredibly hard, trying his hand at various odd jobs to make ends meet. Working odd jobs and trying to begin a business was a battle, but the family always managed to find a way. Seeing his father navigate the entrepreneurial world always intrigued Shams. Creating your own path, understanding risk versus reward, and qualifying the opportunities based on an instinct rather than a theoretical procedure.
After a couple of years, Shams’ father – Zahiruddin Syed – began a business. Shams, at the age of eight, had a front-row seat to all of the trials and tribulations that come with going it alone. From a young age, Shams knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. At every stage in his life, he leveraged his entrepreneurial spirit. Be it when he was in school and selling Coca-Cola from his locker to his friends, or when he tagged along with his dad to visit wholesalers – where Shams would buy watches and sunglasses from the importers and again utilize his large customer base of high school students. He was even an astute up-cycler – often buying products, fixing them up, and reselling for a profit. Whatever it was, he tried to find multiple paths to create his own narrative.
As the years went on and as his high school customers disappeared after graduation – Shams found himself working different jobs as well as editing a popular car magazine. After a while, he made the decision to move to pastures new – Toronto
Things were initially tough – selling shoes at Champs whilst working a second shift at American Eagle. On top of that, he then got a seasonal job at Future Shop in the cell phone department. Technology was always a passion for him.
Then during the busy Christmas period, his role at Future Shop was made permanent. Little did he know at the time, but this was the start of his career in all things tech. In his role, he showed a passion for sales that came completely naturally to him. From that role, he transitioned across to Best Buy as a Corporate Account Manager. Within the first 3 months – he had achieved his sales target for the year. It wasn’t long after that when Mastercard came calling – he jumped at the chance to continue his development with one of the world’s most recognizable companies – although at the time, his experience of the payments sector was minimal at best.
Mastercard was the beginning of something amazing. His knowledge about payments, new payment flows, the slow down to the dissemination of cash grew exponentially. His growth within the business evolved from dealing with merchants to joining the acquiring team – where he managed gateways and payment facilitators. Shams had his eyes and ears open at all times and was learning something new every day. This is also when he decided to expand his knowledge horizon and began his MBA at Harvard Business School.
Something that stood out to Shams was the lack of support provided to Fintechs and Paytechs. At Mastercard, he put forward a business case to change this. Trust in his abilities at this point was undeniable, and senior management gave him the green light to proceed with shining a light on this underserved segment of the business community. He made a start, and soon found himself managing key accounts such as, Square, Stripe, Shopify, PayPal and many more. At one time Shams alone managed over 37 accounts, where peers would be responsible for 5-7. Very quickly he realized his future lied in FinTech.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect – as it wasn’t long after this realization Kris approached Shams for a role at AptPay. Shams took a leap of faith – and was acutely aware that he was about to leave a world-renowned organization to move to a company that is still working on building their tech and carving their path.
Shams and Suganthan Vishnu Krisnarajah (Kris) had become good friends over the prior years, and beyond the confidence in the organization, Shams has trust in their leadership and direction. A few months passed and Kris called him in about taking on more responsibilities – Shams was always eager to do more.
“I thought Kris would have offered me an opportunity to look after financials or strategy. I had no idea, he would just say, you are the new CEO.” He couldn’t believe his ears. There began the journey of leading AptPay, creating the vision to bring it to parity with the other global Fintech giants globally.
Shams continued, “funnily enough, AptPay was incubated long before the birth of the actual organization. Kris and I chatted about digitizing gaming and insurance payments to prepaid cards as a first solution. At that time, Kris was having a tough time finding a solution for manual cheque processing and managing the day-to-day operations of those tasks. We sat down to brainstorm what this product could look like. Fast forward a couple of years, and the topic of real-time payments came up. Long before we could map what this would look like, Kris decided this was the answer to solving a plethora of issues that plagued the disbursement industry.” The team at AptPay got to work on developing the products and solutions.
“I really believed in where we were going. We spent many days and nights mapping out our solutions, to the extent that Kris says, “I should consider myself a co-founder because we were building this solution before it was even a solution.” Today as the CEO of AptPay I not only get to bring those visions to reality – but also to complement and amplify the brilliant ideas of Kris and the rest of the AptPay team.
AptPay has expanded its product portfolio to include not just disbursements, but also a holistic payment processing hub. By the end of 2021, they will have the ability to disburse funds, receive funds for businesses, send money overseas to 140 countries, issue prepaid cards, and do real-time KYC.
When it comes to future plans, they’re not holding back. In the next 18 months, they’ll have a live presence across Canada, United States, Guyana, India, Australia, U.A.E, Singapore, and Brazil. They’re not only creating a disbursement channel but a complete global payment ecosystem.
The team are also working on a number of government programs to enable digital ecosystems. There are many countries that are still heavily dependent on cash and cheques. This is not only due to a lack of advanced payment ecosystems – but also because of a lack of understanding and exposure to what is actually available in the market. AptPay intends on supporting these entities with instant disbursements, bill payments, merchant acceptance, card issuance, and early access to funds.
Serving the business community puts them one step away from serving the end consumer – with that in mind AptPay has just launched the brand of Aptcard. This allows them to work directly with consumers, giving them an everyday banking card that can be used for purchases, experiences, rewards, peer to peer and sending money overseas.
The team are always pushing to remain at the cutting edge of what’s possible. Making technology relevant is the biggest challenge, because change is constant and by the time the new tech is built – it’s already starting to become obsolete. So, they curb that concern by building for the future. AptPay’s vision for 2030 is to be a one-stop shop for all payment needs for businesses and consumers. In other words, API or portal that allows anyone to have access to payments at their fingertips.