I’m writing this on the 4th of March, a Friday afternoon, in one of our Amsterdam offices with sunny skies behind me. However, a little over 2,000 kilometers away the world is on fire. It’s impossible for me not to make a note of the invasion in Ukraine. My heart goes out to everyone affected. More far-reaching than the evolving humanitarian crisis, the state of the world order — the relative stability we’ve enjoyed in the West since the Second World War — is seriously at risk. This is a note of reflection on the past year, as it is every year, and I hope sincerely that this invasion and its impact won’t be the subject the next time I’m writing this.
Onto 2021. In the annual exercise of re-reading last year’s annual report cover letter before writing this year’s, I was struck by the consistency in themes — in those that were addressed in the note I was reading, and those that I wanted to address here.
The theme of societies in lockdown and open societies existing side-by-side, the theme of focusing on wellbeing during a crisis without a set end date, the theme of Zoom and other video services acting as a great equalizer for the team. These were as relevant in 2021 as they were in 2020. The pandemic and its impact turned out to be a real marathon — and in many ways we’re still running it.
With the luxury of hindsight, I’m happy to have not attached any finish lines to the shifting realities we were faced with during the year. This is something we stressed at length internally — to focus on making our days engaging and productive and on working side-by-side with our merchants, not potentially naively looking forward to a hopeful end date. Quickly adjusting the company toward predominantly working online helped us become more resilient. We benefited throughout the year from infrastructure we put in place immediately as the pandemic hit.
It’s premature to say we’ve emerged from the pandemic, as its long-term impact is still to be properly assessed. However, if it is the case that the worst of COVID-19 is now behind us, I can say with emphasis that we’ve emerged from the pandemic stronger than we entered it. The team has grown to over 2,000, we processed over half a trillion of our merchants’ volume, and we continue to execute decisively. I’m incredibly proud of the teams across the world that have worked to make this happen. To build a growing company, at scale, with a different reality on a weekly basis — that’s an incredible feat from the team.
It’s equally true that the environment we now find ourselves in is markedly different from when we entered the pandemic. The acceleration of longer-term trends due to the rapid digitalization during the pandemic has changed the landscape, permanently. And with it, our position in it too. We’ve talked at length in previous publications about the fact that unified commerce has moved from what was previously a nice value-add to being critical infrastructure for businesses to survive and thrive. We’ve been able to be one of the drivers here as businesses were looking to adapt.
That’s not all that changed during the pandemic. Platforms had been successfully democratizing access to global markets for SMEs and smaller sellers for years. This too has accelerated greatly due to the pandemic, as an increasingly digital reality provided another catalyst for platforms across verticals. With this trend now entrenched, they are looking to deepen the relationship with their customers — with turnkey or plug-and-play solutions increasingly becoming the norm. To us, this is reason to look beyond the natural fit of our unified commerce offering to other embedded products. With our proven single platform and our licensing footprint, there is an opportunity here for us to serve as the infrastructure for a significant shift towards platform business models in the market.
We now operate at a different scale, amid a changing environment in which we are well positioned. As we look to capitalize on this opportunity, we are seeing a great appetite for office attendance and in-person cooperation in our growing team. Therefore, we’ve made a deliberate investment in offices around the world. We realize that this goes against what is largely a full-remote trend within tech and feel that the key is to find the right balance. What has changed from the pre-pandemic environment is that we now approach the working environment with a more flexible mindset.
As we continue to evolve in our role of providing financial infrastructure to growing businesses, our approach to social and environmental responsibility topics has grown too. Throughout 2021, this became evident in the build out of our Impact product suite, the growth of our internal sustainability and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts, and the maturation of our reporting frameworks. Our roots dictate that we do first, and tell stories later — having said that, this is an area in which I expect to be able to report significant progress going forward.
At over half a trillion processed in 2021, I want to end this note with an appreciation of the fact that what started as a moonshot goal in Adyen’s first years (one trillion in volume) is now well within reach. I remain firmly convinced that we will be able to again deliver on what now seems like new moonshot goals 5-10 years from now. We have the track record, we have the product, and we have the team to get us there.