Digitally-enabled and financially inclusive economies are more resilient

Last updated on September 15, 2021 at 03.20 pm

While payments, citizen services, and cashless economies have always been important, today more than ever, they are at the top of the government agenda, said Andrew Torre, regional president for the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region at Visa.

Speaking at a virtual media briefing, he noted that governments have increasingly relied on, and have helped, facilitate electronic payments during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. “They have realised that economies that have more consumers and more merchants that are digitally-enabled and able to participate in digital commerce result in more resilient economies.”

Torre also shared several changes that are happening across the payments landscape and how the Visa brand is transforming in line with its business strategy.

“The future of money is no doubt digital,” he said. “We are seeing some key trends that are shaping the future of payments and commerce. One of the first things that we have seen, that has really picked up over the past 18 months, is a rapid move to online commerce. We are home to one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world and the Middle East and Africa region in particular is the second fastest growing market of all in terms of e-commerce. In 2019, it was valued at around $16 billion and we expect it to triple in the next two years.”

Another trend that he highlighted was the rapid rise to contactless payments. Visa in the CEMEA region is the fastest and most contactless adapted region, and now nine out of 10 transactions are contactless, he revealed. “This is partially because both consumers and merchants love it. During the course of the pandemic, 68 per cent of the consumers said that they are going to change the way that they pay and they feel more comfortable and secure with contactless payments. In the UAE, 75 per cent of consumers said that they felt that it was absolutely vital for them to shop at a place where they offer contactless payments.”

“We see not only payments, but the movement of money as core to our strategy going forward,” he added. “While previously we had been challenged in the physical distribution of plastic to consumers, the ability to push virtual cards in mobile phones and other devices has been a real game-changer for us and we have seen these virtual cards really growing in popularity.”

Torre also spoke about the opportunities for Visa to grow further in the market. “If you look at the numbers, you have over 680 million unbanked consumers and waves of those who are under underserved and new to banking each year. We also have over 60 million untapped merchants that are living in a world that is all cash, and we think that they are being excluded from a service that is life-changing, especially over the last 18 months.”

On September 1 this year, Visa unveiled the initial phase of its brand evolution, spotlighting the diverse capabilities of its network and commitment to enabling global economic inclusion. Aligned closely with the company’s business strategy, this phase includes the debut of a dynamic global marketing campaign and a preview of a modernised look for Visa’s iconic brand. The UAE is one of the first of Visa’s more than 200 markets globally to roll out the brand evolution, reflecting Visa’s commitment to the growth of digital commerce in the emirates.

Mohammed Ismaeel, SVP for Marketing at Visa – CEMEA, shared several updates on Visa’s new brand identity being introduced across the region, and explained how it expresses Visa’s purpose with themes of access, equality and inclusion.

“There is a direct correlation between higher brand preference and higher share of wallet, so it is essential for us to stay ahead of the curve,” he said. “To execute on the new strategy, we need to ensure that our brand is being future-proofed. It needs to be able to mean more to people in the future than it does today.”

“At Visa, we believe that economies should include everyone everywhere,” he stressed. “We invest heavily into listening to our consumers, and it is clear, especially over the course of the last two years, that consumers are expecting more from the brands that the engage with. Gone are the days when just your products and services are enough; they want you to stand for something more.”

He added that recent research has shown that 94 per cent of global consumers say that it is important for them to engage with brands that have a strong purpose; and that half of the consumers will walk away if your brand values and theirs don’t sync up. “This is heightened in the younger generation – those that are under 30-years of age – 60 per cent of them said that they prefer to only engage with a brand that has a value system beyond their products and services.”

Visa currently has 21 offices across the CEMEA region, with 379 million Visa cards currently in use, and around 7.1 million Visa-enabled merchants. Over the last five years alone, Visa has invested $9 billion in technology to shape the future of commerce, delivering a differentiated set of products, services and benefits.

Looking ahead, Torre also shared his thoughts on the opportunities that Visa sees in the cryptocurrency payments sphere. “Where it is allowed, we are looking into Visa credentials being used to buy and sell cryptocurrency. We worked with 50 cryptocurrency platforms to be able to allow them to access and issue Visa credentials so their consumers, that have a stored value in cryptocurrency, can make purchases which directly access those coins. We continue to work with governments and other providers on a consultative basis to see how the space is evolving.”

Rohma Sadaqat I am a reporter and sub-editor on the Business desk at Khaleej Times. I mainly cover and write articles on the UAE's retail, hospitality, travel, and tourism sectors.Originally from Lahore, I have been living in the UAE for more than 20 years. I graduated with a BA in Mass Communication, with a concentration in Journalism, and a double minor in History and International Studies from the American University of Sharjah.If you see me out and about on assignment in Dubai, feel free to stop me, say hello, and we can chat about the latest kitten videos on YouTube.