Interview: Ozgur Ozvardar, vice president and general manager, Verifone Middle East and North Africa
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Interview: Ozgur Ozvardar, vice president and general manager, Verifone Middle East and North Africa

Interview: Ozgur Ozvardar, vice president and general manager, Verifone Middle East and North Africa

How Covid-19 has accelerated the shift from cash to contactless payments

Discuss Verifone’s strategy in the Middle East. What are the services and solutions you offer and their unique USP?

At Verifone, we transform daily payment transactions into new business opportunities for enterprises. We combine real shopping experiences with the digital world by connecting payments to cloud-based platforms. We create a bond between consumers and merchants on our next-generation digital platform. We are like a business partner that stands by our clients. Built on almost 40-year of history and more than 35 million installed devices, Verifone provides services to a great many clients and partners in more than 150 countries, including the world’s best-known retail brands, financial institutions and payment providers including the most reputable retail chains, finance institutions and payment service providers.

In the Verifone Middle East and North Africa region, we are managing dozens of countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Lebanon etc. We offer products, services and innovative solutions to our partners and customers. By offering the most effective solutions and services for the changing needs and expectations of these different markets, we continue to maintain a leading position in the market. As a global player, we serve a diverse market, both advanced and emerging. We need to keep up with local market regulations and introduce solutions that enable merchants to meet these regulations and accept different types of payments in the most secure manner possible.

Currently, we are living in an age where the retail environment is dominated by the consumer. The adoption of innovative payment and commerce technologies in-store will strengthen the acceptance of cashless transactions, benefiting retailers and enriching the shopping experience for consumers. However, in the Middle East and North Africa today, we assume that majority of payments are still cash-based. But at Verifone, we are observing growth as we move towards less cash, to more digital and contactless payments in the region. By continuing to educate the market and to encourage the right environment for e-payment investment, we can increase acceptance availability and capability to include all types of non-cash payments.

Verifone’s innovation is focused on improving payment security and consumer experience. We enable the acceptance of new alternative payment types like digital wallets, Bluetooth, barcode and others. Biometric authentication offers higher levels of security seamlessly. Contactless payments have been increased during the pandemic whether in the form of NFC enabled cards, mobile wallets or payment apps. Banks are upgrading to enable contactless solutions, and third-party providers are developing solutions to keep up. We have offered contactless payment-enabled terminals since 2008 – the first in the industry to do so – and now, nearly all of our products can receive contactless payments. We are a pioneer in the world by always redefining the customer journey anywhere, anyway.

There’s increased interest in mPOS, contactless, and advanced payment method (APMs) solutions.

How did the payments sector evolve during the pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted lots of change in the way we live and work. And as we seek ways to minimise unnecessary physical contact as the world returns to normal, attention has turned to the devices with which nearly everyone interacts when visiting a restaurant, retail business or any other place where they might use a credit or debit card: the payment terminal. The usage of contactless payment technologies was on the rise even before Covid-19, but the global pandemic helped increase in their deployment mostly with the hospitality sector seeking ways for better serving customers who are much more aware of the surfaces they may be touching than they might have been at the beginning of 2020. As a result, there’s been an increasing focus on contactless payment solutions that enable the processing of transactions without users having to touch the terminal.

On the other hand, cash is no longer necessarily “king”: One of the most rapidly changing areas of the global payments space is Alternative Payment Methods or APM. In the past, consumers most paid with cash or a debit/credit card and today, alternative payment methods abound, ranging from mobile payments digital wallets to cryptocurrency. The benefits of APM are almost as numerous as the methods. For consumers, convenience, choice, and a frictionless experience top the perks. Merchants who want to expand their business on a global level will benefit from adopting payment methods that enable cross-border sales.

Discuss some of the technology trends in the payments sector especially relevant during this period e.g. touchless payments, NFC etc.
This year, we observe an increasing interest in mPOS, contactless, and advanced payment method (APMs) solutions. We are seeing very high demand across all sectors to update estates as fast as possible. Research conducted by Mastercard in April 2020 stated that 82 per cent of 17,000 consumers believe contactless payments as “the cleaner way to pay.” The same research shows that contactless payments are up to 10 times faster than other in-person payment methods, enabling customers to check out faster. Also, 74 per cent of consumers stated they will continue to use contactless post-pandemic.

Operators who haven’t already implemented contactless payment solutions at their point-of-sale are working to offer the capability, with many taking advantage of extended shutdowns during the height of the pandemic to upgrade their systems without affecting service. Countries around the world are moving to adopt APM, and soon it will be the norm. The key for businesses is to understand the payment preferences of each country or region, as they vary widely.

Covid-19 has been the constant backdrop of the payments landscape for the past year. Research conducted by Accenture has revealed that consumer spending has dramatically slowed, impacting major payments revenue streams. And companies are rethinking short-term priorities due to compressed revenue. The use of tokenized payments, like digital wallets, has sharply increased.

Portability is emerging as an essential ingredient to retailers’ point-of-sale solution.

How did Verifone manage the year 2020? What are your plans for 2021?
After a challenging 2020 for so many, I remain confident in our company, our partners, and the industry as we start the new year. Regarding the pandemic, we remain fully operational and accurately focused on helping our clients run and grow their business. Empowering our customers with a more robust omnichannel experience will be our major focus in 2021. We know there will be challenges for all of our business but we look forward to working together with our partners, clients to achieve even greater success in 2021.

With regulatory advancements, technological growth, and generational forces constantly changing the landscape, it is a challenge for merchants of all sizes to succeed and better serve their customers through the checkout experience. Verifone is committed to helping our clients navigate these market forces and drive growth by creating more next-generation POS touch points with high personalisation and accept payments in multiple formats, driving differentiated and higher-yielding consumer relationships to compete on more than price. reducing security and fraud risks, enabling omnichannel experiences and cross-border capabilities.

Does the sharp rise in e-commerce threaten Verifone’s business model? Why?
First of all, we are a trusted brand that builds next-generation devices and connects them with our expanded services to enable the future of payments and commerce. Where the payments going next, we are always there. As of 2021, it was clear that e-commerce continues to experience tremendous growth, with consumers increasingly preferring to shop and purchase online.

Also, Covid-19 has dramatically affected businesses around the globe and transformed the retail landscape. Marking a massive expansion to our omnichannel solutions, we have acquired 2Checkout, a global leader in digital commerce. 2Checkout brings an expanded suite of global digital commerce solutions that include payment, subscription billing, merchandising, taxes, compliance and risk – all focused on helping clients drive sales growth across channels and increase market share.

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