A growth-stage venture capital firm in Michigan that specializes in Midwest technology companies has invested $4 million to help a promising fintech at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center reach its potential.

Allied Payment Network established itself as a leading innovator in the financial services industry by being the first to market with a photo bill pay product it calls PicturePay. It employs more than 20 workers at its 3201 Stellhorn Road location in Fort Wayne.

“Allied’s rapid growth over the past three years combined with its unique market position as a platform-agnostic bill pay provider makes it a great addition to the Plymouth Growth Partners portfolio,” Jeff Barry, a partner with the Ann Arbor, Mich. investment company, said in a statement.

“We are enthusiastic about the innovations Allied has and continues to bring to the bill pay industry. We look forward to working with Allied’s talented management team to increase the company’s footprint in the fintech arena.”

PicturePay automatically pulls all the information needed to pay a bill from a picture taken of it with a smartphone, and then processes the payment with the user’s authorization via touch command.

The app includes options that allow users to specify an amount and a date for payment of a photographed bill. For bills that are paid in the same amount on the same date each month, there is an option that can use information from the photo to set up an automatic monthly payment.

And the app can be used to make a deposit into an account by shooting a picture of a check.

Ralph Marcuccilli, the former chief information officer at Star Financial Bank who struck out on his own to start Allied in 2010, has added half a dozen products to its offerings since launching PicturePay, and has built its customer base to about 250 banks and credit unions.

Additional Allied products include A2A, an account transfer app; P2P, an app for making electronic payments to specific individuals or businesses; PortalPay and FlexPay, said Lisa Kuhn Phillips, business development vice president.

PortalPay operates as a landing page at an institution’s website where users of the app can make loan payments by entering their contact, loan and bank account information.

FlexPay is an internet bill pay product that operates without a monthly per-user charge to financial institutions, but instead charges them per transaction.

Allied is working on a real-time payment product to “get payments expedited as quickly as possible,” Phillips said. “Nobody’s there yet, but we will probably be one of the first this year to arrive there.”

“It works just like you went to the biller’s site, except you can do it from one place. It’s a centralized payment from the banker’s site, but it gets there a lot faster than it does today,” Marcuccilli said of Real-Time Billpay.

Real-Time Billpay users will benefit from the transaction speed of visiting each biller’s website without having to go to each of them online and remember a sign on and password for each one, he said.

Real-Time Billpay also will come with an e-Billing feature, which can be used to store and retrieve electronic billing and bill payment documentation, much like an online filing cabinet.

The product is in beta-testing now and could be released as early as the next quarter Marcuccilli said.

“We’ve been doing quite a few things in the industry nobody else is doing, and this is going to give us some resources to bring on some more people and accelerate our growth,” he said of the Plymouth investment.

“They bring a lot of sales experience, and we’re making a significant investment … to grow the sales organization within the company so we can reach more partners and resellers of our products to financial institutions,” Marcuccilli said. “We’re working to grow those distribution channels.

“We’re also making some investment in additional people. We’re adding about five new employees, and many of those are in the IT area helping us develop new products.”

The banking industry has a hunger for technology improvements that will allow financial institutions to provide customers a sleeker, faster bill management experience, and the investment positions Allied to provide that, Allied President Kelli Schultz said in the statement on it.

Plymouth operates in the Great Lakes region and was honored as Investor of the Year in 2017 by TechPoint, an Indiana technology industry advocacy group.

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