DELL RAPIDS, S.D. • Trent Sorbe, CEO and founder of Central Payments in Dell Rapids and Sioux Falls, S.D., uses an analogy to describe his business.

Different brands of toasters are on the market, he said, but no matter which one a person buys, it’s expected to do what any toaster is supposed to do: Make toast.

Similarly, “People have a lot of different ways to make payments, to move money around,” he said, noting his business is not the toaster, but the utility that makes the toaster work. “It’s our job to be the infrastructure, or utility, behind all those that connect to any (financial) application out there,” no matter what they use to make payments or transfer money.

Sorbe, who has been in finances and banking for 28 years, founded Central Payments in 2014 after officials at the Central Bank of Kansas City approached him, saying they wanted to figure out a way to continue to grow the bank, drive deposits, and do it in a way that stayed true to its mission. They didn’t want to drop branches in fluid areas of Kansas City, “which was not really true to the community bank’s neighborhood inner-city mission,” he said.

“They really looked at nationwide payments and fintech and all the things that are going on in this more digital financial services world and said, maybe that's an area of growth for us. So, they reached out to me.”

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Central Payments is really about ‘money movement’ in a ‘very white labeled environment,’ says the company's CEO and founder Trent Sorbe. Meaning, customers won’t see any CP logos on their credit cards, for instance, but it works behind the scenes to move the money.
Central Payments is really about ‘money movement’ in a ‘very white labeled environment,’ says the company's CEO and founder Trent Sorbe. Meaning, customers won’t see any CP logos on their credit cards, for instance, but it works behind the scenes to move the money. Image: Courtesy of Central Payments

Financial technology – or fintech – are applications that seek to improve and automate the use of financial payments. In short, Sorbe said, Central Payments leads the bank’s presence in the payments industry.

Today, there are three offices in South Dakota, each with around 30 employees. Clients are from many parts of the country, and some are from around the world.

Trends and the Future of Electronic Payments

People are not using cash as much as they used to. That’s nothing new, of course, because credit cards have been popular for many years. But the pandemic has elevated people’s concerns about using paper money, which gets passed from one person to another. Nowadays, Sorbe said, many people don’t want to touch such items that easily carry germs.

“Perhaps the only good news out of the pandemic is that people have started to use digital payments more than ever before. Sometimes that's because they're doing much more shopping online, which has to be digital because no cash is moving online,” he said. “And then also, just from a safety and cleanliness standpoint, people are not using cash as much, and so there's been a tremendous rise in digital payments.”

More people are buying gift cards, more people are using payment applications such as Venmo, “and all those things have really accelerated the speed of digital payments.”

But he sees a time when even credit cards might go the way of the dodo bird, as more online billing and payment methods are utilized.

“The days of plastics are going to feel like the days of check cashing,” he said. “It started with your cellphone, then it moved to your Apple Watch, but it's only going to continue. There's going to be a means to make a payment embedded in, I think, about everything that is electronic in your life.”

He mentioned the Internet of Things or IoT -- a term used to describe physical devices connected to the internet -- that also is primed to keep growing and, at least supposedly, make people’s lives easier. IoT is, in fact, powering a global revolution in the payments space, according to FinTech Magazine.

“The implications are astounding, and adoption is progressing at an incredible pace,” the magazine reported. As more devices go online, there are more means for digital financial transactions to take place.

Examples are more automobiles and household items connected to the internet, with the ability to make purchases from the devices. Underway are things like the future refrigerator that detects when a food item is getting low and purchases groceries to refill it.

A Business Insider magazine report in 2019 said there were an estimated eight billion IoT-enabled devices active around the world, but by 2027 the number could reach 41 billion.

That’s not a far-off tale but a reality that is coming, and in some areas it already exists. It’s doubly exciting for people like Sorbe, who works in the financial industry.

For starters, with continued digital transactions -- and more devices to make them -- it means job security for people in his line of work; but it also means the industry is doing exactly what it is meant to do: finding new ways to adapt and evolve with the times. To do otherwise is a frightening scenario he doesn’t even want to consider.

Serving the Business Community

Sorbe said Central Payments is really about “money movement” in a “very white labeled environment.” Meaning, customers won’t see any CP logos on their credit cards, for instance, but it works behind the scenes to move the money.

As an example, he said, when a customer purchases a pair of contact lenses, there might be a refund attached to it. The rebate card might have a big-name brand on it, but it is Central Payments that is empowering that rebate card.

A main focus of the company is to make the financial experiences of its clients and customers better by striving to be compliant, fair and transparent. The company has a knack for tailoring implementation plans that fit with a business’s objective, revenue plans, and timelines.

Sorbe said South Dakota is a great place to keep his business, but who knows what the future will bring. Another office, perhaps?

One thing is for sure: digital transactions will only keep enhancing instead of diminishing in today’s internet-of-things world. And he’s happy about the continued role Central Payments will play in that world.

“When you go out and buy whatever, a toaster, once you plug it into the wall you know that it's going to work, and that's not that different from what our business is like,” he said. “It's our job to be the infrastructure or the utility behind all those that connect to any application out there, no matter the toaster they’re using.”