Visa’s fast-track programme empowers start-ups in region with access to visa net capabilities: Otto Williams

Daily News Egypt
11 Min Read

Visa’s fintech fast-track programme empowers start-ups in the region with access to visa net capabilities, the Head of strategic partnerships, fintech, and ventures for Visa Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA), Otto Williams, stated. 

In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Williams talked about the company’s new fast-track programme, how the company actively assists start-ups, and the future of mobile payments in Egypt. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:

Can you please tell us more about the fast-track programme which Visa launched?

Visa’s fintech fast-track programme provides innovative fintechs with a faster and an easier integration process with VisaNet, Visa’s global network, in addition to a suite of tailored digital solutions and growth capabilities. We just announced its expansion in the CEMEA region as part of its efforts in developing the next generation of digital payment solutions. The programme has already rolled out in Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific.

The fintech fast-track programme includes a consistent commercial deal framework in order to assist quicker decisions on deals with this community and to provide rapid onboarding to help start-ups in the region gain access to the capabilities that lie within Visa’s global network to empower their own ideas.

The programme has been tailored to Visa’s fintech partners’ needs, adapting to their realities and providing them processes which are faster, and which provide flexibility on financial requirements. We also aim to reduce the number of onboarding conditions, link fintechs to platforms that are already certified by Visa, and help connect fintechs with sponsoring banks.

How is Visa actively reaching out to fintech start-ups?

One of the most interesting shifts that the market has undergone in the last 5-10 years is how much more open it is in networking and sharing ideas. Visa has run a number of events including meet-ups, networking events, and hackathons to reach out to the community. In addition, Visa has run our Everywhere Initiative, a global innovation programme in various markets in the CEMEA. Visa’s Everywhere Initiative tasks start-ups to solve the commercial challenges of tomorrow, further enhance their own product propositions, and provide visionary solutions for Visa’s vast network of partners. Egypt has been well represented in Visa’s Everywhere Initiative with four Egyptian companies reaching the semi-finals phase in our MENA edition of the Everywhere Initiative, and one, which is ‘Swvl’, won the transit challenge. 

We have also been collaborating with the DIFC Fintech Hive in the UAE, on their start up-focused programmes that aim to accelerate 40 start-ups working in a range of fields impacting financial services innovation, such as artificial and machine intelligence, distributed ledger technologies, as well as digital and open banking. We are also partnering with the ‘Startupbootcamp’ accelerator and have just extended our partnership to include Egypt. Visa is currently sponsoring eleven start-ups and providing them with the knowledge, and tools to help them develop fantastic applications that solve problems for Egyptian citizens, enhance the quality of their lives, and create a memorable payment experience.

There are opportunities for people at all levels in the fintech community to talk to each other, share their challenges, and learn from each other. Visa is active at these events across the CEMEA region. We have experts dedicated to collaborating with fintechs across our CEMEA markets.

Why would a fintech/start-up want to work with a traditional player such as Visa?

After creating the world’s first digital payment network, VisaNet, which continues to be the foundation for innovations we have been over the past 60 years at the forefront of payment innovation because our mission has always been to connect the world to the most innovative and secure payments network which enables people and businesses to thrive. The fintech community also does the same by solving local needs in very innovative ways.

We believe a collaboration with Visa would work well for fintechs, as we both have similar goals and can bring several benefits to fintechs which are namely, scale as by plugging into our network, fintechs can access our global commerce ecosystem. They can use the Visa network to expand their footprint and capabilities in ways that they couldn’t before. The second benefit is brand, as Visa is the 7th most recognised consumer brand in the world. By partnering with us, fintechs can benefit from our global brand value. The third benefit is capability as Visa has been connecting the world through the most secure, resilient, and innovative network, enabling consumers, businesses and economies to thrive. We can help fintechs accelerate their time-to-market through our assets and capabilities.

As the world becomes increasingly mobile and digital, Visa also is establishing new partnerships with governments, clients, mobile network operators, software developers, hardware manufacturers, and others to expand the reach of digital payments globally. As we look to the future, Visa remains grounded in the principles of partnership, innovation, trust, and openness.

Visa’s strength lies in our network. Its reach, security, and capabilities empower commerce on a global scale by connecting 3.3bn Visa accounts, 53.9 million merchants, and 15,600 financial institutions.

We are working on making it simpler and quicker for early stage start-ups to connect with our network than ever before. Through providing rapid onboarding and reduced fees, we will help early stage start-ups gain access to the capabilities that lie within Visa’s global network to power their own ideas.

This is just one part of our wider programme of activity with the fintech community. We are committed toward being the most responsive and supportive network for both emerging players and long-term partners alike.

How do you define “start-ups” for this programme? Who is eligible?

There are a number of eligibility criteria for the programme. The start-up cannot be an existing member of Visa or have issued payment cards. The criteria include: credible business plan, attractive product for Visa, appropriate regulatory licence if required, no material adverse findings from background checks on directors or shareholders, in addition to a working capital and/or acceptable funding plan covering at least 12 months of operations

What about the global level – what is Visa doing with fintechs globally?

Fintech investments in the region are growing rapidly, last year they totalled around $600m, according to CB Insights. Visa is working on several fronts to continue supporting this entrepreneurial ecosystem. Visa has made a series of fintech investments globally including Klarna, solarisBank, Marqeta, YellowPepper and PayStack in Nigeria.

As for our partnerships, many payment platforms and fintechs are already collaborating with Visa to create new consumer and merchant experiences, including YellowPepper, NovoPayment, novae, Increase, Contis, EVRY, Jaja, Revolut and Wirecard.

Moreover, Visa works with fintech accelerators in the region such as 500 start-ups, Startupbootcamp in Mexico, and Kyvo and GSVLabs in Brazil in order to strengthen and add value to the fintech communities across the region.

How can mobile payments play a role in expanding the acceptance footprint in markets such as Egypt?

The penetration of mobile phones in emerging markets is growing at such a fast rate that the likelihood of consumers owning a smartphone is very high, even if they do not have a bank account. Today, individuals are always connected to their smartphones and, consuming an increasing amount of digital content and services. There is a growing tendency to use smartphones for making payments as well. In developing economies, mobile money systems are bringing digital payments to millions of people previously excluded from the financial mainstream. 

On the other side, we have the retailer or the merchant. Traditional point of sale devices are often considered costly for smaller merchants and also require a fixed line internet and power, which is not accessible to everyone. Again, mobile is a game changer. With a mobile phone and a USSD number, or a QR code – that little black and white box you now see on many products that can be read by your smartphone camera, suddenly a merchant can accept a payment via a mobile phone – allowing funds to go straight to their bank accounts safely, conveniently, and instantly.

Mobile payments can prove its effectiveness in bill payments, small amount transactions, and can significantly decrease the investments which merchants put into traditional point of sale.

In markets like Egypt, mobile payments can play a big role in expanding the digital acceptance footprint as it would empower significant portions of the population and enable them to transact digitally. Our work with the Egypt Post on the infrastructure enablement and empowering its staff, through workshops and seminars, along with issuance plans is targeting underserved segments in rural areas. This comes after launching mobile payment with our key clients. 

By digitising payments, we create economic efficiencies and transparency, which in turn bolsters confidence. We help the retail sector grow and unlock new channels like eCommerce. We enable more effective, and safer, travel and tourism by enabling people to use their cards, and carry less cash.

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