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PERSPECTIVES ON DIGITAL CURRENCY

Oct 28, 2013

Cherie Blair on New Mobile Financial Services Initiative for Women in Nigeria

 

This week I’m speaking at the Financial Inclusion 2020 Summit, an event that is promoting a global campaign to bring ordinary financial services – banking, credit cards, pensions, etc – to more than 2 billion people around the world who are currently excluded from these everyday services.

It’s an issue that is particularly important to me and my Foundation for Women, which promotes women entrepreneurs in the less developed parts of the world, and through which I’ve learned how hard it is for women to run a business without banking facilities. More than that, everyone needs financial services to manage their day-to-day lives and prepare for a better future. But very few in middle-income and especially low-income countries enjoy the access to quality services from formal financial service providers that many of us take for granted.

In wealthier countries, nearly 90% of the population have basic bank accounts. Most middle-class people are supported at every turn by financial services – such as credit cards for everyday purchases, mortgages to buy a home, quick and easy payment services, insurance or pensions. But in low and middle-income countries, the story is different.

More than 2.5 billion people lack access to quality financial services and at least half of that number will include women. If we want to make an impact on financial inclusion, that effort has to include women. Recent research findings from my own foundation, Visa, BFA and GSMA show that not only are women missing out on access to mobile financial services, they are also missing out on the retail opportunities related to these services.

In partnership with Visa, my foundation aims to address this gap, with a focus on Nigeria. Our project will result in 2,500 women becoming agents in the retail network of a leading financial services provider. As retail agents, they will bring branchless banking and mobile financial services to tens of thousands more women in Nigeria. Alongside the retail agent opportunities, the women involved will also benefit from training and capacity building support.

Our primary aim is to enable a greater number of women entrepreneurs to enter the electronic payment value chain in Nigeria – a sector that is set to grow tremendously in the coming months and years.

Why start in Nigeria? Women in Nigeria experience cultural, social and systemic barriers to entrepreneurship including poor infrastructure, lack of connectivity and other barriers. Three times as many men as women have the benefits of being registered as self-employed in the country, and while there are women entrepreneurs in Nigeria, the majority of them are forced to operate in the informal sector. This collaboration would offer opportunities for women to set up registered businesses in a growing sector.

There is a commercial opportunity as well. With only 30% of Nigeria’s population (84.7 million) using banking services and with more than 159 million mobile phone subscriptions, there is great potential for agent banking and other models which enable remote access to financial services in the country. This is as yet an untapped market representing a multi-million dollar industry.

This partnership is a significant step forward towards financial inclusion for women in Nigeria. Economically empowering women by giving them access to the same financial services as men,  is not only a smart way to raise the status of women and their quality of life but also brings benefits to the families and communities of the women who succeed. My foundation is looking forward to developing this project further and driving financial inclusion for women in Nigeria.

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Posted by: Cherie Blair, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women on October 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Oct 28, 2013

Feeling Generous? Visa Joins Starbucks With Tweet-A-Coffee

Many of us take to Twitter on a regular basis to share our opinions, thoughts and lives with others. Starting today, consumers can use Twitter to share something different with their followers – a coffee.

Visa is teaming up with Starbucks to let Americans send the gift of coffee to anyone on Twitter  through tweet-a-coffee. As of this morning, Twitter users can sync their Starbucks account to Twitter and Tweet to @tweetacoffee, allowing you to send any of your Twitter followers a coffee. The person of your choice will receive a $5 Starbucks Card e-gift that can be redeemed at participating U.S. Starbucks locations. And today through November 6, the first 100,000 customers who tweet a coffee using their Visa card will also receive a $5 Starbucks Card e-gift, courtesy of Visa and Starbucks. Limit one per person.

You can learn more about how to tweet-a-coffee at www.starbucks.com/tweetacoffee, where you can also set up a Starbucks.com account if you don’t already have one.

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Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on October 28, 2013 at 6:16 am

Oct 23, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success Series: Insider’s Perspective with Nikhil Arora (Video)

In our last video blog by Donna Fenn, she sits down with one entrepreneur who tells her when he starts thinking of holiday planning for his business, and also a campaign that gives back just as much as it gets during the holiday season.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Secrets of Small Business Success Series: Insider’s Perspective with Nikhil Arora (Video)

We sat down with Nikhil Arora, the co-founder of Back to the Roots, to talk about how his company, which makes grow your own mushroom kits and aqua farms, prepares for the holidays. Hint: you can’t start too soon!

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 23, 2013 at 9:31 am

Oct 22, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: The Price is Right: Use Pricing to Maximize Holiday Cash Flow

All good things must come to an end. We hope you have enjoyed the Small Business Success Summer Series with Donna Fenn. This will be her final blog post, but stay tuned tomorrow for her interview with Nikhil Arora, the co-founder of Back to the Roots.

For her final tip on making the holiday season a smashing success, Donna had the chance to sit down with three small business owners and chat about how to maximize holiday cash flow, which can be overwhelming with all the holiday hustle and bustle.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

The Price is Right: Use Pricing to Maximize Holiday Cash Flow

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

Many entrepreneurs have love/hate relationships with the holiday season.  At this time of year your business may be firing on all cylinders and the cash may be rolling in, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed unless you have a solid strategy for keeping the flow of business on track.  One great way to do this is by using pricing to your advantage.

Use discounting strategically. At ScanDigital, a company that digitizes photos, slides, and film, CEO Anderson Schoenrock, says he typically sees a 40% increase in sales over the holidays. While the company offers discounts throughout the year, “we offer our final discount of the year on Black Friday,” says Schoenrock.  “From that point forward, all orders are processed at full price.  Between better efficiency due to the sheer volume, as well as more full-priced orders coming through the door, we see profitability increase by 10-15% during the fourth quarter.” Last year, the company offered 20% off plus free shipping (which essentially amounted to 30% off).  This year, Schoenrock says he’ll offer a straight 30-35% off to drive larger volume, and he’s considering a tiered discount structure to incentivize larger orders.

Connect your price break to a cause.  “When you’re buying a gift for someone, it’s nice to feel that you’re giving back,” says Joy Chopak the founder of Gunamuna, a startup that makes wearable sleep sacks for infants, which can help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Chopak offers a 20% holiday discount on select products to retailers and directly to consumers in October, which is also SIDS Awareness Month. “We donate to the Safe Sleep Campaign and we also ask retailers and consumers to pass some of their savings on to the charity as well, “says Chopak. The price break also encourages retailers to stock up early for the holidays, which gives Chopak’s cash flow a boost and makes her own holiday schedule a bit more predictable.

Stand firm on pricing. “We don’t get into a race to the bottom on pricing,” says Chris Zane, the owner of Zane’s Cycles in Branford and Fairfield, Conn. “So we don’t ever have a holiday sale.” What he does instead is make post-holiday returns very easy for his customers. “All year, we have an unconditional return policy,” he says. If customers know they won’t have a hard time returning an unwanted gift, they’re more likely to spend, even at full price. After the holidays, Zane typically gets $15,000 to $20,000 in returns, which can wreak havoc on cash flow. So he offers every customer the choice of a full refund or a store gift card with an additional 10%. “90% of people will take the gift card,” says Zane. “So we don’t lose cash in the drawer at a time when we really need it.”

 

Remember that your primary goal should be to make your customers feel comfortable buying your product or service sooner rather than later.  Offer early discounts, promotions, or other incentives for them to pull the trigger before the rush. And when your promotion ends, stand firm on your pricing; an eleventh hour discount will only encourage the procrastinators.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 22, 2013 at 8:54 am

Oct 15, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: Strategic Online Marketing for the Holidays

While some believe that “if you build it (your website), they will come,” most small businesses should face the reality that there is a lot happening online to distract their customers. How do you cut through the clutter and stand out? As part of her holiday series, Donna Fenn shares tips from successful small business owners on how they are differentiating themselves from competitors via online promotions. From working with bloggers to getting in the gift-giving sprit, you’ll have four bases covered this holiday season.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Strategic Online Marketing for the Holidays

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

Chances are you’re ramping up your online marketing campaign for the holidays right now – along with everyone else, unfortunately! As you look to reach your current and potential customers, the challenge is to market to your customers in the places where they’re most likely to notice you, and with messages compelling enough to convert prospects into buyers. To help differentiate yourself from your competitors, consider trying these online marketing strategies:

Court the right bloggers. Diana Charabin, founder of Tiny Devotions, taps into bloggers who write about yoga and contemplative practices to help her get the word out about her mala beads, which are frequently used in meditation. Rather than approach very high profile bloggers who are typically inundated with requests to review products, Charabin instead targets “the mid-range bloggers – the ones who may just have a few thousand Twitter followers, but they’re very die hard.” She sends them her products, but makes it clear that there’s no obligation to write about the company. It’s a strategy she can use throughout the holiday season, as bloggers are always hungry for content that can be turned around quickly.

 

 

Have a mobile strategy. Dr. Marvin Lee, a Los Angeles-based chiropractor, has been working with a company called Signpost to help him with online marketing and to ensure that his content and offers are mobile friendly. “I’m a doctor and I don’t want to wear a marketing hat,” he says. “But you need an online presence, and if that doesn’t translate to mobile devices, you’re behind the times.” For a quarterly fee of $375, Signpost promotes his business on multiple channels, including Yelp, Foursquare, MapQuest, Amazon, and Google. Over the holidays, he’ll promote a special $39 introductory offer that includes a consultation, a first adjustment, and x-rays if needed. “My job is to convert the lookers to regular patients,” he says.

Offer gift-giving advice.  At Book Bouquet, founder Kim Shanahan is already busy marketing her company’s book-centric gift baskets on Facebook. “Every day, we’ll have a post that’s related to how people within our company are using the special that we’re promoting,” she says.  That may include gift baskets for coffee-lovers, cooks or movie buffs. She also offers customers the option of spreading payments over three months.

Personalize your communication. Sure, your customers want to feel that you know them, but they also want to know you. Ada Polla, CEO of the family-owned skin care company, Alchimie Forever, says that email blasts containing images of and content about her mom and her three sisters “get click rates that are much higher.  We’re a family-focused company and email is much more successful when it’s highly personal.”  This year, Alchimie will offer a 30% friends and family discount on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the email blast will contain images of all four Polla sisters peppered with a bit of family storytelling.

Remember that one of your greatest strategic advantages over your larger competitors is your ability to connect intimately and authentically with your customers. Online marketing enables that, but also make sure that you’re not just “broadcasting.”  Now’s the time of year when you need to make certain that you’re also engaging in dialogue with customers who respond to your online marketing efforts.

Please check out other posts in our “Secrets of Small Business Success” series:

Secrets of Small Business Success: Your Best Strategy for Attracting New Holiday Customers is Hiding in Plain Sight

Secrets of Small Business Success: Holiday Marketing: Be Memorable and Meaningful

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 15, 2013 at 8:05 am

Oct 10, 2013

Consumers Rack up $1 Billion in Online Spend Per Day, on 188 Days in 2013

New data from Visa shows consumers are spending more online than ever before. eCommerce sales on the Visa network* have surpassed $1 billion a day for 188 days in the first nine months of the year, demonstrating that billion-dollar eCommerce days have become the norm rather than the exception.

The data coincides with a recent Visa survey – The Way We Pay: e- and mCommerce Trends – showing 27% of smartphone users and 24% of tablet owners have used their mobile device to make a purchase in the past 12 months. That growth in mobile shopping is continuing to help drive online sales, pushing Visa to process 16% more online transactions in the first nine months of 2013, compared to the same period last year.

The continued, dramatic growth in online sales means routing millions of transactions per hour through the world’s largest retail payments processing network, VisaNet. The network already handles 48% of global eCommerce transactions** and is prepared to handle another busy holiday season in the months ahead.

Other key findings from The Way We Pay are available in full here:

 

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Posted by: Sam Shrauger, Digital for Developed Markets, Visa Inc. on October 10, 2013 at 8:19 am

Category: eCommerce

Oct 10, 2013

Stress Test Prepares VisaNet for the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For many, the changing colors of leaves not only signify autumn, but the transition into the holiday season.  Here at Visa, we don’t wait for the changing colors to prepare for the heavy onslaught of shopping during the most wonderful time of the year.

Every summer, we run our annual Stress Test which pushes VisaNet – the world’s largest retail payments network – to its capacity in order to determine how we can better prepare our systems for the busiest time of the year. In order to do this, a group of VisaNet engineers packs their bags – which include hardware and software that emulates our network – and goes to Gaithersburg, Maryland where an IBM state-of-the-art testing facility is located.

Once there, our engineers create a mirror image of VisaNet’s authorization systems and the fun begins. For five days, they bombard the systems with simulated transactions. The objective is to validate the hardware and software configuration against expected peak message rates. At the same time, we look into extreme message rate scenarios to uncover any possible bottlenecks that may need future remediation.

After the test is concluded, the VisaNet team determines the best configuration to maintain our higher levels of security and reliability when millions of transactions from all over the world hit the network during the holiday shopping season. As a result, they also come back from Gaithersburg with a number that represents the maximum processing capacity VisaNet can handle, which later is stamped on coffee mugs and distributed to the team involved in the test. This year’s “mug number” – as we like to call it – is 47,000 transaction messages per second, which is a huge step forward from 2012’s peak capacity of 30,000 transaction messages per second! 

While VisaNet only processes about a third of its capacity today, the Stress Test demonstrates Visa’s commitment to providing consumers, businesses and governments around the world with a reliable form of payment today and in the future. By future-proofing our network to handle incremental volume – whether coming from newly banked consumers in developing markets or from additional transactional data from emerging channels like mobile – we’re ensuring that consumers all over the world can always count on Visa to securely and conveniently handle their payments.

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Posted by: Manny Trillo, Head of Global Transaction Services on October 10, 2013 at 8:15 am

Category: VIsaNet

Oct 8, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: Your Best Strategy for Attracting New Holiday Customers is Hiding in Plain Sight

Sure, the holiday rush is exciting and a great boost for business, but what’s your strategy to drive even more business and keep those customers coming back all year long? Donna Fenn spoke with two successful entrepreneurs on how they tackle the holiday season and keep customers coming back for more.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Your Best Strategy for Attracting New Holiday Customers is Hiding in Plain Sight

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

At this time of year, consumers are more willing than ever to pull out their wallets to begin to make progress with their gift lists.  That means all you need to do is sit back and watch your sales multiply, right? Wrong! Yes, your tried and true customers are probably thinking of you already, but what about new customers? They’re out there, but you may need to make a special effort to reach them.  Do it right and you’ll not only increase sales over the holidays, you’ll add a significant number of new loyal customers to your database.  Here’s what two smart entrepreneurs have planned:

Ada Polla, the CEO of Alchimie Forever, a family-run skin care business, has struggled with the dilemma that “skin care is not really a gift product.”  No one really wants to open a wrinkle cream or anti-cellulite gel on Christmas morning! Her solution: create a new product specifically for holiday giving. “We tweaked the formula of our hand and foot cream to make a dry skin balm that’s neutral in terms of skin type,” she says.  She priced the product at $25, packaged two of them in a pretty gift bag and will price the package at $41. “We learned that if we just put two products together in a gift package and sell them at retail, that isn’t enough,” she says. “There has to be value.”  Another lesson learned from previous years is to take the gift package off the website after December. “We used to leave them on for the whole year,” says Polla, “but we found that people were buying them for themselves at the discounted price, and I don’t want that. We want them purchased as gifts for new customers.” Plus, she says, the gift packages appear more special if they’re more scarce.

At Back to the Roots, an Oakland company that makes grow-your-own mushroom kits and aqua farms (you can grow herbs and baby greens on top of a beta fish tank!), co-founders Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez also came up with a product-related holiday strategy. Their mushroom kits are currently on sale for $20 at retailers such as Whole Foods, Home Depot, and Safeway, but for the holidays they plan to produce a “mini” mushroom kit that will retail for just $9.99.  “Buyers tell us that when the price tag of an item goes from $12 to $10, it often doubles or triples sales,” says Arora.  “Going from $20 to $10 opens up a whole different world and will be a huge opportunity to drive sales and maximize our exposure and sell-through.” And $10, he says, is “a perfect stocking-stuffer price.” The company will also tweak its packaging to add a holiday theme that will appeal to retailers and encourage them to display the products prominently.

Bottom line: whether you make a product or deliver a service, you don’t need to launch an entirely new offering to attract attention over the holidays. Your best strategy may be hiding in plain sight, in the form of an existing product or service that can be tweaked with a holiday spin.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 8, 2013 at 8:02 am

Oct 2, 2013

OMG, 2 much info!


Visa publishes consumer oversharing data in time for National Cyber Security Awareness Month

A new national survey published by Visa today found that American consumers are sharing some of their most sensitive personal information on social networks.

More than 58 percent of consumers surveyed admitted to sharing personal details over social media that could put them at risk for fraud and identity theft.

Here are some of the topline results of that survey:

  • 7 percent of consumers admitted to having shared their social security number over social media.
  • 20 percent of respondents provided their home address on social media.
  • 15 percent of overall respondents placed themselves at risk for burglary by providing their upcoming travel dates.
  • Consumers also posted additional pieces of information that, taken in conjunction, could be used to target an online account:
    • Close to half of respondents shared their birthdate.
    • 29 percent of respondents shared their phone number.
    • 14 percent shared their mother’s maiden name.

There are certain pieces of information, including you social security number, full birthdate, payment card information or banking information that should never be shared on social media. Other information, like your full name, mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, phone number, physical and email address may seem harmless, but can give criminals enough clues to answer security questions and break into your financial or online accounts.

Social media platforms are making it easier to share than ever before. It’s encouraged and even rewarded with more views, more clicks, and more followers. But with it also comes more risk.

New technologies can be built to the highest security standards, but consumers can also take steps to make sure they are not the weakest link:

  • Think twice before posting information publicly.
  • Monitor your financial accounts regularly, and report any suspicious activity immediately to your bank.
  • If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, contact one of the three national credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion – to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The FTC also has a toolkit with immediate steps to repair identity theft.


*The survey results are based on 1,000 telephone interviews conducted nationally from August 16 – 18, 2013 in cooperation with GfK Roper’s Omnibus Service OmniTel. The margin of error is +/-3 percentage points.

 


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Posted by: Jennifer Fischer, Head of Americas Payment System Security on October 2, 2013 at 5:00 am

Oct 1, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: Holiday Marketing: Be Memorable and Meaningful

Donna Fenn has shared expertise and insights from entrepreneurs who’ve seen it and been through it all. From innovation heroes to customer service champions, in her last installment of the Small Business Success Summer Series, she explores holiday planning for the fast-approaching season. In this blog, Donna spoke with entrepreneurs who learned the hard way that it’s never too early to prepare your business for the  busy holiday season.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Holiday Marketing: Be Memorable and Meaningful

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

For many small business owners, the upcoming holiday season is the most important time of year, as it represents a huge percentage of annual revenue. While consumers are in the mood to buy, they can be overwhelmed with marketing messages and confused by a huge number of choices.  So how do you rise above the noise? At this time of year especially, customers are more likely to do business with companies they like. Don’t wait until the crowded holiday season to start your holiday outreach. Instead, take the opportunity to meaningfully connect with them over the coming weeks and you’ll reap the rewards in the coming months.  Here are a few ways you can show your customers that you’re a cut above your competitors:

Be generous on social mediaZady.com is a new, multi-brand online retailer for people who want to be both stylish and socially conscious, says co-founder Soraya Darabi. “We don’t have a big marketing budget, so community is our first priority,” she says. Yes, she wants to drive consumers to Zady, but part of the company’s social media strategy is to be a trusted resource to people, even if it means sending them elsewhere. A woman recently asked Darabi where to find a great pair of boots. Her response: check out the used Ferragamos on eBay. “We want to position ourselves as experts,” says Darabi.

Host a party. At Zane’s Cycles, which has two bicycle shops in Fairfield County, Conn., holiday sales are just between 9- 10% of total revenue. Still, owner Chris Zane leverages the holiday season to thank and connect with a select group of important customers.  He hosts a VIP cocktail party with tenderloin, shrimp, and gift bags filled with Zane swag and a bottle of wine for 200 of “the customers who are most intimately involved in our business,” says Zane. “They’re the people who help us clean up after our big spring sale, or who wave the flags at the charity rides that we support. It’s about building community around our space and sending the message that we’re here for them.” He knows that message will pay off when it’s time to shop for bicycles in the spring.

Leverage cause marketing. At Back to the Roots (BTTR), an Oakland, Cal., company that sells mushroom growing kits and aquafarms, founders Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez forged a holiday partnership with Revolution Foods, which provides healthy meals to school children.  “For every Aquafarm that we sell at Whole Foods, Petco, and Nordstrom, we’ll donate a healthy school meal through Revolution Foods,” says Arora. The program, which starts this month, is part of BTTR’s philosophy to “partner with cool companies to do good things,” says Arora.

Of course, your holiday marketing should also include more traditional elements, such as email marketing to your most loyal customers and a holiday card. For a spin on that, check out OpenMe.com, a new social greeting card company that allows you to custom create e-cards (free) or physical cards ($4), with multiple pages and signatures, all managed online. Remember, it’s all about differentiating your company to customers in a memorable and meaningful way so that they fall in love with your company, not just what you happen to be selling.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 1, 2013 at 10:05 am