Automating manual processes through a secure merchant onboarding system

The journey to connect Chinese payment service providers to American merchants

  • Cloud-based applications

  • Business analysis

  • User experience design

  • Systems integration

  • Mobile payment

  • Point-of-sale integration

  • International business


The challenge

SynoPay wanted to create a solution to offer American merchants the ability to accept Chinese payment apps. When the company approached Thinkship, it needed to build a secure system to process thousands of transactions per day, calculate service fees and allow the flow of sensitive information between the U.S. and China.

There was a lot of complexity involved in this project, including automating manual processes and creating systems that would meet market regulations.

About synopay

SynoPay (信诺支付) is an Alipay, WeChat Pay and China UnionPay partner in the United States. It provides payment technology, services, and equipment to North American merchants, allowing them to sell products and services to over 3 million Chinese travelers and consumers.


By the end of 2017, China was on the path to becoming a cashless society. Mobile payment apps were extremely popular in the country, but the same convenience was not available abroad. Chinese tourists and students in the U.S. had their expenses limited to a foreign exchange quota of $50,000 a year, an amount college students spent mostly in housing and tuition.

Recognizing that Chinese nationals are a powerful economic force — they are the largest spenders worldwide and send more students to the U.S. than any other nation — the team at SynoPay identified an opportunity to bring Chinese payment apps like WeChat Pay, Alipay and China UnionPay to the U.S. 

With mobile payments, Chinese nationals would be able to use the funds available in their Chinese bank accounts to pay for living expenses in the U.S. Finally, they would have more purchasing power abroad.

Assessing challenges and opportunities

SynoPay reached out to Thinkship looking for a way to connect Chinese payment apps and American merchants. Besides point-of-sale integration, they wanted software to manage day-to-day operations. 

After studying the mobile payments industry, Thinkship identified two main priorities:

  1. Automating procedures to reduce transaction processing times and facilitate the calculation of service fees for each transaction.

  2. Building a secure system to allow the exchange of documents between American merchants and Chinese online payment platforms.

“Everyone at Thinkship was very patient,” says Nicole Nietfeldt, Director of Onboarding for SynoPay. “They gave us feedback and suggestions that improved upon our original ideas, and always kept the lines of communication open.”


Eliminating bureaucracy to generate efficiency

To partner with merchants, SynoPay had to comply with 'know your customer' (KYC) regulations — laws that require banks to verify the authenticity and risks of new clients.

KYC-related procedures were time-consuming and mostly done manually. Sensitive information was often shared through unsafe channels like email, and the whole process to integrate a new merchant could take hours.

After thorough research and a brainstorming session, Thinkship decided to build a secure repository to make the exchange of information easier. This repository needed to be safe, capable of keeping different versions of all files and allow the inspection of documents for up to five years to meet audit requirements.

Through multiple iterations, the team at Thinkship built a repository that complied with KYC regulations, making the exchange of documents easier. As a result, the merchant integration process was reduced to 30 minutes.

Automating time-consuming tasks

SynoPay agreed to split service fees with payment service providers and Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs). Thinkship needed to build a system capable of calculating and splitting the commission fee for each transaction.

This was critical because with thousands of merchants and daily transactions, it would be extremely time-consuming to calculate those fees without an automated process. 

Thinkship built a minimum viable product (MVP) and tested its efficiency with SynoPay clients. The final product was refined through multiple iterations to ensure it met quality standards.

“Thinkship took the time to understand our business’ needs. Their team asked all of the right questions during our weekly meetings to ensure that we received the useful, efficient tool we had envisioned,” says Nietfeldt.

There was a lot of communication throughout the whole process to make sure everyone was on the same page, from the beginning idea to the end user experience.

Changing the game

SynoPay started operating in the U.S., with an expanding presence in Chicago. The company is growing and adding new merchants every day.

Thinkship continues to work with SynoPay on the second phase of the project, focused on enhancing features for managing transactions and determining sales commissions.


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