How the digital sphere is evolving to allow new modes of payments

Yasum Mirza offers insight into the digitization of conventional avenues of payments in the country, as online systems see a surge amidst the pandemic.

Yasum Mirza, Chief Business Officer at Access Group (DigitalPass), recently sat down for an exclusive Q&A session, with the Daily News Pk Editor in Chief, to talk about the effect of COVID-19 in their business and on the financial sector in Pakistan.

“The situation has challenged the existing financial practices and has brought in new opportunities as well”, he said.

On imagining the financial sector in a post-COVID world, he said, “In a way, COVID-19 has given a much-needed push to the consumers to opt for cashless and contactless payment methods in their day-to-day transactions.” He kept an optimistic outlook as he emphasized that the pandemic had reshaped consumers’ behaviors.

He talked about how the new guidelines and practices had evolved to make sure that businesses kept running smoothly under stressful circumstances, with startups releasing new innovative digital payment ideas that seem to have a promising future, lending an air of healthy competition in the business sector.

“In my view, the financial sector would be more resilient post-COVID-19, if we all, the financial institutions, payments schemes and most importantly the regulator; understand the real concerns and work together as an industry to mitigate them. SBP has taken good initiatives to work towards a digital economy, it is upon the consumers to adapt to them,” he said.

He talked about the challenges that FinTech has faced, in terms of how it has not been widely accepted by consumers and retailers alike. “The population that uses banking channels is only about 20%, compared to an average of over 60% in South Asia, leaving an untapped market for FinTechs to grow if they have the right product for the right consumer,” he said. While he agreed that Telcos made a huge difference in the ways that it allowed the easy transfer of money for lower-income individuals, he also assessed that there is room for growth and improvement, with Fintech obtaining this opportunity more at the time of a crisis.

“There has been a surge of FinTech in Pakistan over the past few years with companies at the forefront of payments, and then there is Access Group with the network of DigitalPass works closely with financial institutions like banks, payment institutions, and corporates to build operational technology, network acceptance, and payment innovation,” he said.

Observing how the country still operates on a cash-based system, he reflected on how most retail-outlets do not have the necessary facilities to support the acceptance of digital payments. However, a crisis means that there is additional support from the public required in the transition from a cash-based system to a fully digital financial system.

Mr. Mirza recalled how data was one of the key factors behind the success of FinTech. However, he viewed data as a gateway to understand consumer behavior and improve services, rather than monetization. “Companies like Amazon, Alibaba are a prime example of how effective utilization of data can be, and at times like these only a few companies have not only sustained but saw huge gains in their sales,” he said.

He reiterated that in the interest of identifying potential customers and delivering value-added customized solutions, the best utilization of data would be to improve services, innovate products, and for operational betterment.

He observed how there has been a sudden surge in digital payments and in the way that people deliver payments, and he viewed this as a positive sign. “Digital banking has a lot to offer, with the number of individuals especially the youth, which comprise of over 64% of the population of Pakistan are using smartphones and have access to the internet; the future is digital banking,” he said.

As the pandemic ravages the country, people have been surging forward to use non-conventional means to connect, for meetings, conferences, and education. With such a shift, Mr. Mirza believes that the public would be leaving conventional methods behind.

Mr. Mirza also commented on his efforts to help financial institutions face this current crisis. “DigitalPass (a part of Access Group) is a third-party service provider, bridging the gap between the retailers, banks, payment schemes, and financial institutions that contribute to the financial inclusion in Pakistan. With our dynamic digital payment ecosystem, we craft a forward-thinking digital payment strategy for all our stakeholders that opens unique opportunities for collaboration and innovation,” is what he said.

As partners of notorious and prominent financial entities, including bank and payment schemes, they have offered digital transactions and contactless payments for the ease and safety of their customers. Recently, they initiated the NFC capability for UnionPay cardholders, which allowed their customers to make contactless payments at retail outlets.

“We are also the digital payment partners of Mastercard for increasing the QR acceptance footprint at major brands across Pakistan. In addition to this, we are also working with other leading banks and telcos under a similar arrangement,” he concluded.

Source: Daily News Pk

Author: Wardah Javaid