Interview with Mrs. Randa Bdeir, Group Head of e-Payment Solutions and Card Services at Bank Audi, on mobile payment services, the range of cashless products offered by Bank Audi, and her insights on how the Lebanese market is reacting to these new trends.
Technology is changing and growing rapidly: mobile apps, digital channels, mobile payments and services are becoming an integral part of people’s life around the world. Wherever your location in the world, the picture is always the same; you will find people using the hottest technology trends of the 21st century: mobile phones and the Internet. It is predicted that transactions via mobile payment technology will reach 9.9 billion in 2018. Visa believes that, by 2020, mobile payments could become the preferred method of both consumers and merchants.
Millennials are driving this fast paced revolution since they grew up with it and are comfortable moving not only towards the web and away from traditional businesses, but directly to mobile apps. They represent new consumers entering the work force, making money, and demanding a different relationship with institutions that safeguard their money. That money will represent $7 trillion in liquid assets by 2020. These millennials are looking to financial technology startups to change the face of the banking industry, leading the change on mobile payment adoption.
Mobile payments may soon replace physical payments (cash and credit cards). At least, big financial companies and payment services hope so.
Mrs. Randa Bdeir, Group Head of e-Payment Solutions and Card Services at Bank Audi, states that: “The Banking industry is also influenced by the change in consumer taste and the competition imposed by FinTechs who are offering innovative financial solutions to customers at prices lower than Banks. It is obvious that FinTechs & Millenials are changing the world. So facing those challenges, Banks are building a new Digital Ecosystem in order to defend their businesses and compete against progressive disintermediation from those new entrants. They are either engaging with FinTechs or collaborating or entering into venture with them. Nevertheless, there are still some barriers that are slowing the growth of this new mode of payment which is mainly due to consumer’s perceived security and awareness.”
Bank Audi has understood and embraced the rapid growth and evolution of the payments market, thus providing innovative ways for its customers to make their shopping experience more convenient without compromising security. Whether it is contactless or wearable tech, people are increasingly expecting to use new technologies to make payments, rather than relying on cash.
In this respect, the launch of the Tap2Pay NFC series of contactless payment technology in Lebanon in 2013 is the perfect example of how Bank Audi keeps up with international payment trends, drifting towards a cashless society via technology. Through the “Tap2Pay” NFC payment, the Bank has been promoting cashless payments to cardholders and merchants. As a matter of fact, in addition to providing value-added benefits to cardholders by offering them contactless payments via cards, mobiles (for NFC smartphones), stickers (for non-NFC enabled mobiles), wearables (watches and bracelets); it has also enabled merchants to operate more efficiently, reducing the risks associated with cash handling and differentiating itself from competitors. There are currently 4,500 contactless terminals across Lebanon, which have the capacity to accept NFC payments available at a wide range of locations including supermarkets, retail stores, gas stations, restaurants, theatres and tourist attractions.
There is no better market to launch these products and services than right here in Lebanon, a country often praised for its early adoption of leading-edge technology and where smartphone adoption and usage is very strong. Lebanon is indeed a market where the strong consumer demand for innovation in the payments industry has led Bank Audi to stay at the forefront of new technologies and provide its customers with solutions that make their lives easier, thus changing consumer behaviour.
I believe that in a few years’ times, most of our customers’ transactions will be done through their phone, since they can now make secure transactions at any contactless merchant in Lebanon or abroad via their smartphone. With time, people will start carrying less and less cash, and use their mobiles to pay for small and quick payment transactions, which will eventually lead to a cashless society. Personally, I think that a world beyond cash is a good thing since high levels of cash mean high levels of poverty, crime and corruption, low levels of tax collection, and difficulty in doing business.