Diana Kiguradze: Visa is extremely proud to welcome Apple Pay in Armenia

18.01.2022 | 11:53 Home / News / Interviews /
Banks.am’s exclusive interview with Diana Kiguradze, Visa Country Manager in the Caucasus region

Ms Kiguradze, how the pandemic has impacted business in Armenia?

The pandemic impacted our everyday lives in so many ways, from the way we work, to the way we shop, to the way we pay and get paid. Particularly, business was hit by Covid-19 from all over the world and almost overnight had to shift online and transform in a way to cope with new realities to survive. In sounds as a paradox, that pandemic increased the demand on digitization dramatically. The landscape of contactless payment functionality usage has been expanded. In this context, the pandemic has pushed the companies to move to a new stage of development. We observe and we see positive change of business ecosystem in Armenia, potential of innovations, that leads us to more productive working year.

I also would like to add that countries where banks, businesses and state earlier invested in developing digital infrastructure, including digital payments, e-commerce, logistic and delivery, e-services – they could navigate through uncertainty and challenges of pandemic with less damage. And Visa always stands for innovative and technological development of cashless and digital economy that society benefits from.

If we compare the countries of the region under your management, what place does Armenia take in terms of cashless payments development, and at the same time, in terms of innovative card technologies implementation?

Visa is a great supporter of Armenian business and we are happy to support the country and bring our contribution to the local economy. In terms of technological readiness of business, compared to Georgia, Armenia is still on the path towards cashless and digital development. One of our key priorities here is to introduce and implement innovative solutions and technologies.

More than a year ago Visa was the first on the Armenian market to initiate and launch the functionality required for tokenization – Visa Token Service. It allows tokenization of cards, that than can be used for new methods of payment with digital wallets, reduces fraud and protect private data, fosters development of e-commerce.

We offered to the market Visa Direct, as the fast, secure and convenient money transfers platform for consumers with P2P transactions. Many banks now are using this solution to provide more convenient services to their clients. Another trendy solution that we develop, is P2P transfers using only a phone number of the recipient. With this solution cardholders are not using any card details, they carry our all operation only inside of their banks’ applications, so in the end it’s a safe, fast and protected way to manage your money movement.

I would like to highlight that on Visa’s 20th anniversary in Armenia that we mark in 2022, we are extremely proud to welcome Apple Pay in Armenia. Together with partner banks we are offering all our cardholders convenient, secure and simple way to make digital payments, adding their cards to Apple wallet and using Apple Pay, both in face-to-face operations, as well as online. We believe it will boost further popularity and growth of digital payments in the country.

Armenian banks quite actively launch promo actions for Visa cardholders, what are the business results of such projects?

We work closely with our partner banks in Armenia to support and develop payment ecosystem in the country by bringing our technology, resources and tools. We have strong products and value proposition for our banks which they can offer to their customers, such as Visa concierge, airport lounge visits, travel insurance, etc. Visa cardholders are able to receive cashbacks from various merchants in Armenia and beyond and I think, receiving rewards have acquired special significance since the pandemic outbreak. From our perspective, providing cashback is one of the forms to reward a customer for being loyal, simultaneously creates a reliability between customers and brands.

In 2020 Visa announced about contactless transactions limits increase (to 25 thousand drams), when PIN code is not required cardholder’s authentication. How has it affected cashless payments volumes increase?

The advantage of contactless payments is primarily in speed, convenience and simplicity. According to Visa data by 2020 more than 43% of transactions in Armenia went contactless. Our payment technologies are in a high demand in the region and this drives our motivation to implement new solutions and make transactions easier, more accessible and comfortable for consumers.

Our decision to increase transaction limits to 25,000 AMD in Armenia, is aimed to allow consumers to enrich their experience with more convenient way to pay. Simply tapping to pay using Visa card, mobile phone or contactless wearable device for larger purchases drove digital payments more popular and positively affected contactless payments numbers. Hereby, we appreciate support of Central Bank of Armenia and cashless payment industry members to make limits increase possible.

At Visa we strive to daily progress and development of our technologies, implement innovative products in cooperation with our valuable partners in the region. At Visa, we see the results of our actions aiming at boosting cashless payments and are happy to start the year with big milestone and bring another breakthrough technology Apple Pay to the market.

Today, one can’t be surprised by contactless payments, technologies are extremely rapidly developing, introducing new opportunities, such as, for example, voice payments in Russia or the service of money transfers with a phone number. Do you plan to implement such pilot projects in Armenia?

One of the top priorities of Visa’s strategy is to create a culture of innovations across the world. But it also important that both sides: banks and business on one side, and consumers on another, - all were ready to use these technologies. In Caucasus our mission is to enable individuals, business and economies to thrive. We facilitate digital payments across the region in cooperation with merchants, financial institutions, fintechs, startups, SMEs and government entities. I’ve already mentioned P2P transaction using only phone number of a recipient that we launched. We promote and popularize new methods of payments with gadgets, like Apple Pay, we continue educating citizens about security of digital payments.

Another interesting project from Visa is Visa Commercial Pay, a set of payment solutions for the B2B segment. Can the Armenian business community expect such solutions?

Visa is facilitating more than 215 billion payments transactions between consumers, merchants, financial institutions and government entities across the globe each year. And it’s important for us that our innovative, convenient, reliable and secure payments network VisaNet, as well as our products and technologies, also serve needs of business: from micro entrepreneurs and SMEs, to large retailers and corporate sector. Portfolio of products for business can vary in different countries. In 2020 Visa made commitment to digitize 50 million SMEs globally, and in September 2021 we’ve already crossed 16 million mark, opening access to digital payments and acceptance to small businesses. We launched our global Practical Business Skills platform, that supports new entrepreneurs. In some markets we introduce Visa B2B Connect solution that enables non-card payments for large and corporate businesses. To meet request of SMEs for low-cost acceptance tools we developed Tap to Phone technology, that enables banks to build their softPOS solutions (apps), that turn Android smartphones with NFC support into mobile terminals. Together with banks we also offer special business cards and programs to businesses. Thriving business means growing economy. And now we specifically focus on support of SMEs that were mostly hit by covid-pandemic.

In 2020 Visa introduced updated Visa Secure technology, aimed to enhance security of online transactions. When the new protocol will be available for the Armenian market?

We introduced Visa Secure technology, an updated program to help make online payments more secure in 2020. It is available across the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region. Visa Secure has been designed to provide increased fraud protection, minimize cardholder friction, and increase the completion of sales, leading to a better experience for all parties involved. For merchants, Visa Secure delivers greater fraud prevention by sharing up to ten times more data with issuers for better risk analysis and advanced decision making. Consumers can also benefit from a smoother and consistent user experience across multiple payment channels, including mobile web, in-app and digital wallet payments, without any compromise in security.

In early 2020 it was announced that a $ 5.3 billion deal had been canceled between Visa and Plaid, an American fintech aggregator. In the suit, the US Department of Justice noted, in particular, that "the purchase could help Visa to illegally maintain a monopoly on the online debit card market." In this regard, I would like to hear your comment։ does Visa see fintech startups as an annoying competitor?

Approach driven by new, non-traditional players to solve consumers problems is an innovative way to solve them. In fact, they operate in the same direction as Visa, that offered revolutionary perspective to the world more than 60 years ago. At Visa, we appreciate our work with partners, to achieve common goals – improve consumer’s experience by offering modern, secure, accessible payment methods, help the local economies to blossom, support SMEs, fintech and startup companies. Moreover, we continuously invest in companies that have an exceptional potential to develop digital payments. Beside this, Visa is an active initiator of a broad range of programs and platforms for promotion and further development of innovation for the community of talented entrepreneurs and startups, such as Visa Everywhere Initiative, which is Visa’s global contest for startups, or Fast Track Program for fintechs, that provides extraordinary access to Visa’s experts in strategy, marketing, design, risk management, and more. We count more than 100 fintech companies cooperate with Visa, that accelerate everyone implement boldest ideas, find reliable partners and scale an effective business model.

I would like to highlight that the last year, our partner Georgian startup Payze became the winner of the CEMEA regional finals of the global competition "Visa Everywhere Initiative 2021". This region unites 90 countries from Central Europe, Middle East and Africa, and you can imagine, that Payze undergone a very competitive competition with more than 600 applicants, which is a great success for the whole region as well.

Please share your plans for the Armenian market this year.

Our mission is to drive cashless agenda in the region. Bringing innovation and technology development to Armenia, strengthening products, supporting small and medium sized business, women empowerment, working closely with financial institutions, fintech companies, banks, regulators, and a growing number of business partner companies, that are increasing day by day, remain key priorities for us. These areas, I have mentioned will be our perspective to work on and transform existing challenges into opportunities.
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