Case Study

Block

Fostering economic empowerment through a financial ecosystem.
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Block (formerly Square) is arguably one of the most innovative companies of our generation. What started as a payments dongle for micro merchants has transformed into a modern day, full-suite financial services provider.

Block listed on the NYSE in 2015 (NYSE:SQ) and given it sat so comfortably within TDM’s domain expertise of payments and SMB software, we tracked the business closely, finally becoming shareholders in 2019. At the time of our investment, we believed the market underappreciated the size of opportunity Block had ahead of it, and how well it was placed to grow both sides of its ecosystems.

Block’s letter to shareholders in 2015 is a wonderful example of aligned values with TDM as it relates to long-term value creation.

“We’ll measure ourselves by our commitment to take the long view and focus on building a company that creates value over decades and not just a few fiscal quarters out.”

Growth

The business’ core product offering, Square, is centred around an integrated Point of Sale software and payments solutions for micro-hospitality and retail merchants. Over time, Square has expanded its platform to offer a range of software solutions to help manage day-to-day business operations.

More recently, Block has entered consumer finance – initially with its proprietary Cash App — then through its acquisition of the Australian-based buy-now-pay-later provider, Afterpay. As a standalone business, Cash App is one of the fastest ever businesses to reach $1b in revenue. Block continues to innovate and find ways to connect its merchant ecosystem, with its consumer ecosystem (Cash App), and the opportunity to do so only hastened with its acquisition of Afterpay. This, coupled with the continued independent growth of each ecosystem, both in market share, customer type and geography, has given us high conviction that Block will become a financial services generational winner over the next decade.

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People and Culture

Block is a passionate, mission-driven organisation led by a forward-thinking founder, and supported by a world class management team. We were also attracted to Block’s mission of economic empowerment.

TDM’s structural advantage of an evergreen pool of capital and our long-term investment horizon allowed us look through the short-term market noise and invest in an underappreciated and undervalued next-generation winner.

 We believe we are backing and supporting a great management team to unlock significant long-term shareholder value. Our recent engagements with management on issues such as capital allocation and disclosure have only increased our conviction on this.

Competitive Advantage

Our primary framework for assessing competitive advantage is Hamilton Helmer’s 7 Powers. Find further details in our Four Pillars Framework.

Both Cash App and AfterPay exhibit strong and growing networks. Connecting these two networks in the coming years will only add to Block’s competitive advantage.

Like every successful financial services company, trust in the brand is imperative. In Block’s case, this is certainly the case for both built ecosystems. It is a brand built on customer centricity and innovation.

Approaching $2b in EBITDA across the business, there is growing operational leverage to continually deliver a great customer experience all the while innovating and investing for future growth.

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