Treasury Practice

Problem Solved: Emmanuel Pantelakis, Optimal Payments

Published: Sep 2006

Optimal Payments’s stored value electronic wallet to hold funds in different currencies was already offered in North America but it needed a similar processing solution in Europe. Barclays Euro Treasurer which was already available in the UK is being rolled out in the five largest euro markets, was the solution for the company.

Emmanuel Pantelakis


Optimal Payments is a subsidiary of Optimal Group, a NASDAQ listed payment services group based in Montreal, Canada with offices in the USA, the UK and Ireland. Optimal Payments processes payments made over the internet, by telephone and in person at point of sale. It also provides an electronic wallet used to store funds and make payments on websites. The group has revenues of around $200m and employs 260 staff.


A subsidiary of the Group has developed a stored value electronic wallet, which is used to hold funds in different currencies which can then be spent at online casinos and other websites. Customers add funds to the wallet by direct debit. While the Group had already found a processing solution to support this offering in North America, it needed to find a solution for the European market that would provide access to the local low-value clearing systems.

In addition, there was a need to automate internal back office processes. The Group has over 100 bank accounts and 18 different banking relationships. Outbound payments were being entered manually into each bank’s proprietary platform, while a range of different in-house and external solutions were in use, making the reconciliation process fragmented and treasury a manual process. A more coherent solution was needed to enhance efficiency, while Optimal Group’s NASDAQ listing also meant that demonstrating the solution’s compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley was a key requirement.


In 2003, Emmanuel Pantelakis, Treasurer of Optimal Payments, spoke to several different banks before choosing the solutions offered by Barclays. “In all of our analysis, Barclays came up ahead of everyone else. Being one of the major banks in the world and being present in the UK was a factor, but the software and the different products that they had were also part of the reason why we chose Barclays.”

In addition to helping the Group set up bank accounts in the relevant European countries, the solution provided by Barclays has two main elements. The first is the use of Barclays Euro Treasurer (BET – Barclays electronic banking gateway for treasury payments and reporting) as a single payments and collections platform. So far, this solution has been implemented in the UK, enabling the wallets to be funded in pounds. BET is also currently being rolled out in the five largest EURO markets. However, there are further plans to enable customers to fund their electronic wallets with credit card and debit card payments, while expansion across Europe and beyond is also planned. “We’re starting with five or six European countries, and within a 12 month or so timeframe we’re planning to expand into the other 10-15 and then hopefully start expanding into the Asia Pacific region,” explains Pantelakis. “So for us, as we keep on expanding and broadening our range, Barclays is the perfect solution because they have all the connections in all the different countries that we need.”

For the second part of the solution, Barclays has invited the Group to join the Barclays SWIFT MA-CUG in order to enable straight through processing. “Everything will be automated,” Pantelakis explains. “Our system will generate a file and I’ll say ‘You’ve got to pay ABC Company $20,000’, and it’ll be sent just to Barclays from server to server, no manual interference, no manual errors. Barclays will be processing all our transactions for us.” In addition, Barclays has a bilateral agreement with other banks allowing it to forward payment messages on the Group’s behalf. All the payment messages will therefore be sent in one file and distributed by Barclays, providing a SOX-compliant solution requiring little or no manual intervention.

The choice of the Barclays solution was based on the company’s anticipated expansion as much as on its present needs, and Pantelakis is confident that the chosen solution will continue to meet the company’s evolving requirements. “They’re now by far the biggest bank that we use and the most important relationship that we have. Hopefully when we decide to go to the Asia Pac region, they will be able to help us as well.”

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