Dwolla names Dave Glaser new president, COO

Des Moines-based payments platform Dwolla announced this week that Dave Glaser has been appointed president and chief operating officer, bringing more than 20 years of experience in the enterprise payments space. Glaser’s first day with Dwolla was Monday, and he plans to complete his family’s move to Des Moines in April.

Glaser is the company’s first combined president and COO; previously, Charise Flynn served as Dwolla COO from 2012 to 2016 at a time when the company was supporting its consumer-facing mobile payments app. No other COO was named until Glaser joined this year.

Just a year ago, Dwolla entered the COVID-19 pandemic bracing for serious financial disruption to its business, CEO Brady Harris told the Business Record. The number of net new users dropped almost 50% overnight, Harris said, and the company either suspended or reduced billing for some of the early-stage startup clients as a measure of support. At an all-staff meeting, Dwolla’s leadership asked the staff to weigh in on potential decisions.

“We said, ‘2020 is going to be rough.’ I’d been on the job for a week and a half at that point,” Harris said. “We had a couple of options. Like most businesses, we could do layoffs and really hunker down, weather the storm. Or on a purely voluntary basis we can reduce salaries, cut expenses and do what we can to reduce Dwolla expenses, be in business and see if we can come through this without any layoffs.”

Every employee volunteered to reduce their salary, Harris said, and by the second half of 2020, Dwolla not only avoided layoffs but brought salaries and benefits back to pre-pandemic levels and saw trajectory spin to revenue growth.

“Every single person in the business raised their hand and said, ‘I would rather reduce my salary, cut benefits and do what we can to protect jobs to the left and right of me,’” Harris said. “We did everything we could to weather it, and then right around quarter three everything just came roaring back. By Q4, it was exceeding pre-COVID levels, so we were really proud of that.”

The company is now in the midst of raising a series C fundraising round, targeting about $50 million, and needed guidance from an experienced executive to help Dwolla navigate upcoming scaling.

“We realized that we were lacking some senior executive leadership on the operations side of the business,” Harris said. “It was really evident that we were going to be going through some serious stages of growth, and we needed to bring in some executives who had seen a scaling business before. The Holy Grail was a scaling executive with payments experience, and those are not always easy to find.”

Glaser most recently served as senior vice president of global acceptance solutions at Mastercard, leading new point-of-sale initiatives, acceptance products and solutions for acquirers and merchants. He previously held positions at Worldpay, leading that company’s IPO and a $10.4 billion merger with Vantiv, and at CyberSource, building that company’s global services division.

Glaser, who has known Dwolla founder and Executive Chairman Ben Milne for a number of years, was introduced to Harris after Harris assumed the CEO role in early 2020. Dwolla currently supports more than $20 billion a year in gross payment volume, adding $5 billion alone in 2020, and began hiring again to expand company staffing in the second half of the year. The company expects to eclipse $4 billion a month in gross payment volume at some point this year, Harris added.

Glaser cited Dwolla’s ongoing work adapting the ACH payments platform for modern business needs and developing an upcoming real-time payments platform as examples of the startup’s potential for growth in the payments industry. The company is preparing to release a real-time payments product in the next few weeks with a yet-named fintech company. Real-time payments systems allow instant deposits in accounts rather than the existing time span of three to five days with the ACH platform.

“With one system being modernized by Dwolla and the other system starting to be enabled by Dwolla, Dwolla itself is in an amazing precipice of things happening at the same time,” Glaser said. “I thought it would be really interesting to join with this team here and bring my experience in scaling large businesses to help them scale to the next level.”

Establishing partnerships between Dwolla and other companies — considered “payment gateway” companies such as Stripe or Square, or “payment acquirers,” banks or other financial firms like JP Morgan or Chase — would make Dwolla’s products an asset to a wider range of clients working with the established ACH payments system and still-developing real-time payments field, Glaser said.

“We see all these traditional sort of legacy companies that have done their business even today still by pen and paper and checks — we’re seeing that dramatically change,” Glaser said. “That will not change, that’s not going back to pre-COVID. This was an impetus for a lot of businesses that hadn’t joined the digital age to finally do so.”