The future of payments is 'digital first' – interview with Viva Wallet

Monday 12 October 2020 10:04 CET | Editor: Anda Kania | Interview

Yannis Larios, Viva Wallet: The ‘digital-first’ disruption in payments will be the result of the disengagement from legacy card terminals, with smartphones and tablets as the main devices for card acceptance

How has COVID-19 outbreak influenced the development of the existing digital payments ecosystem? Has the industry struggled to adapt or to innovate? Or both? 

The COVID-19 outbreak has essentially worked as a ‘digital readiness checkup’ for businesses and consumers alike. Economy sectors and professionals with little or no digital footprint had to make leaps to join the digital economy overnight. Payments’ technologies and infrastructure, being the arteries of the economy, remained intact and helped the economy breathe amidst the pandemic. Digital payments emerged as the life-saving kiss for small and big companies who asked for even more digital tools, and faster onboarding to new digital payment services.

The payments industry reacted accordingly. The large legacy payment providers struggled to meet the unprecedented fast changes, having limited flexibility to launch new payment services in such short timeframes. On the contrary, the state-of-the-art technology-based payment providers acted swiftly, introducing innovations in card acquiring, new payment methods and digital tools to facilitate SME payments and address the rising demand. 

Viva Wallet followed this latter path, and during the lockdowns, we immediately introduced new tools. Our main focus was to help SMEs set up their own online payment gateways for card acceptance in literally 3 minutes from their digital onboarding, irrespective of whether they already had a website or not. We also shifted our card issuing business to ‘digital first’, and we strengthened our presence in digital platforms that facilitate a ‘plug-and-play’ setup of websites and ecommerce marketplaces.

It is said that digital-first payments are driven mainly by Gen Z and Millennials. What improvements can the industry bring to the market to meet this group’s needs? 

For the moment, payments have largely remained old-fashioned. Now, this is changing fast, but it is not driven by Gen Z or the Millennials. It’s driven by everyone who has been well-accustomed to digital processes in many other segments and activities of their everyday life, and who are now questioning the existing payment methods. 

The ‘digital-first’ disruption in payments will be the result of the disengagement from legacy card terminals, with smartphones and tablets as the main devices for card acceptance. But ‘digital first’ is also happening on the payee’s side: digital cards reside on smartwatches, payments are made at the move of a wrist. The payments industry is working towards this direction, yet it still does it as small pilots.

To embrace disruption, at Viva Wallet we have put ‘digital first’ as the highest priority in all of our payment services. Digital debit cards are becoming the default form factor for merchants. Frictionless card acceptance through smartphones for fast deployment across markets, minimal merchant costs and enhanced customer experience – everything encompasses our number one service.

What emerging technologies will shape the future of digital-first payments? 

Wearable payments technology, and especially payments through everyday devices like smartwatches are the way to go. Powerful smartphones and tablets will also become the NextGen card terminals, also embedding tools for measuring customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty schemes. 

At Viva Wallet, we are launching new payment concepts, which integrate smartphone payments and customer satisfaction digital survey tools, all in one device handed to the consumer while paying. These new methods and tools, which make payments ‘invisible’, will be the norm during the next few years. 

How does Viva Wallet stand out as an innovative player in the current payments value chain, and what’s next in terms of company’s developments? 

Viva Wallet has a unique localised offering for merchants, across each of 23 European countries. We offer card acceptance for both card-present and ecommerce, a local IBAN account for each merchant, as well as a business debit card with a local BIN number. Moreover, we are not just ‘passporting’ these payment services, but we are also setting up physical branches at each country, as well as local sales and compliance teams, and thus, we become active members of the local financial systems. 

This pan-European yet very much localised country-specific strategy allows Viva Wallet to not just offer card acceptance for international card schemes, but also to settle in all local currencies directly, to offer acceptance for dominant local card schemes, and to abide by each country’s specific AML/ KYC rules. As a bonus to merchants, by combining our card acquiring with our card issuing license, we offer merchants true 0% acquiring fee when both acquiring and issuing is used.As we are also providing an IBAN account with daily settlement (even at weekends!) we liberate businesses and professionals from the need to also have a bank account for settling funds. 

As we recently made a successful bid for acquiring a bank, Viva Wallet further plans to complement payments across Europe with merchant advance at instant approval, based on each merchant’s payments profile. 

Our strategy is quite straightforward. Europe, despite being a single market, is still a very much fragmented area, with payment-silos at each country, set up by local banks and local payment schemes. We work hard towards unifying this footprint of 23 countries by becoming the single payment provider that offers integrated payments and credit bundle for merchants across Europe. Our strategic intent is to offer all available international and local payment products at each country, so that any business, merchant or any other business partner can plug into our cloud-based payments infrastructure and have seamless access to a truly single payments market.

This article was published in our Payment Methods Report 2020, an extensive overview of what’s new in how people pay in the most relevant ecommerce markets.

About Yannis Larios

Yannis Larios joined Viva Wallet in March 2012 at the role of Business Development Director and he is currently the VP for Strategy. He is an Electrical and Computer Engineer with a PhD in Financial Risk management. He has extensive experience in the Payments and Financial Services Market of Europe, as well as in Business Strategy and Public Policy formulation in the fields of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) and eGovernment since 1995. 


About Viva Wallet

Viva Wallet is a cloud-based digital payments provider which offers Merchants across 23 European countries a local IBAN Account, Card Acceptance services (Acquiring) through card terminals and online, as well as a Viva Wallet Business Debit Card (Issuing). 

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Keywords: Viva Wallet, digital payments, mobile payments, payment methods, SMEs
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce