Viewpoints

Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints

PERSPECTIVES ON DIGITAL CURRENCY

Jun 20, 2013

Benefits of Digital Currency

Aid Disbursement: Extending Relief & Bringing People Into the Formal Financial System

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 42.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee from their homes due to conflict, natural disasters or persecution.  Much of these are from the geography I oversee; Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa. As the world comes together on June 20 to recognize World Refugee Day, the occasion serves to raise awareness about the hardships these displaced persons endure and reminds us of the importance of extending relief to them.

While great strides have been made in delivering much-needed assistance to displaced persons since the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees entered into force in 1954, relief and assistance to refugees still largely come in the form of food and supplies.  While these forms of aid provide valuable assistance that can make a world of difference, they can also be expensive to transport, inefficient and ineffective.  For example, food and other supplies may be prone to spoilage or theft, and may go unused and wasted if donated supplies do not meet the needs of the local environment.  In places prone to corruption, relief in the form of cash may never reach those in need.

Today, evolutions in technology are enabling new industries, such as electronic payment systems, to play a vital and complementary role to the work that aid agencies, governments and civil groups do to disburse supplies and assistance.

Electronic payment network operators, such as Visa, have been working alongside governments, NGOs and others to improve and streamline the delivery of aid through electronic payment products. This not only makes the delivery of aid instantaneous and secure, but also extends access to basic financial services to those in need.  As such products can be linked to a bank account at a licensed financial institution, this is often the first opportunity for many people to be included in the formal financial system.


 

For instance, in Pakistan, the National Identity Agency of Pakistan, United Bank Limited and Visa teamed up to distribute badly needed aid to families fleeing their homes after fighting broke out in the country’s Northwest Frontier Province.  The partners distributed aid on Visa prepaid cards, each loaded with 25,000 rupees (US$300), and installed terminals in local businesses to accept payment cards and connect them to the global payments network. These terminals helped displaced persons use their preloaded prepaid cards to buy much-needed food, medicine and other essential supplies from local merchants, and gave these businesses the opportunity to participate in the global economy. As a result of the program, more than 270,000 new bank accounts were created, offering otherwise excluded citizens access to secure and reliable financial services.

In July 2011, flooding devastated the Philippine island of Mindanao, the second largest island in the country. More than 120,000 families and 7,000 acres of crops were affected. Visa, together with Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) member Action Against Hunger/ACF International and Philippine Veterans Bank, delivered a voucher program using Visa prepaid cards to affected families. The beneficiaries used the cards to purchase food and supplies at supermarkets in the area. The program rolled out in eight days, and two monthly fund transfers were made to the recipients via the prepaid cards, helping to automate the disbursement process and alleviate the burden on the families.  

As we come together on World Refugee Day to reflect upon the importance of extending relief to people displaced from their homes due to conflict, natural disasters or persecution, we are encouraged by innovative solutions that can help bring greater transparency and efficiency to aid distribution.  These have the power to provide displaced persons with the dignity and flexibility to obtain the supplies and assistance relevant to their needs, and stimulate the local economy.  As we survey the realm of possibilities, Visa, for one, is excited about the opportunities ahead to better serve those in need.

 

READ MORE

Posted by: Erin Steinhauer, Corporate Relations, APCEMA on June 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

Feb 27, 2013

A Dollar a Day, Slowly Frittered Away

Keeping track of cash can be a hassle, especially with today’s busy – and increasingly globe-trotting – lifestyle. In fact, the recent Visa Payment Attitudes Study has revealed that we lose on average US$365 each year by using cash instead of cards. If you worked from 20 years old until you were 65 and lost that much every year, it would amount to a whopping US$16,425!

This consists of US$80 worth of idle change just lying around the home, car or office, and US$285 worth of unused foreign currency lost after trips abroad. This seemingly small amount, that averages a dollar a day, is actually equivalent to the cost of 6.5 grams of gold or supporting a family of four in Bangladesh for a year!

The study also revealed that keeping tabs on our hard-earned money and worrying about carrying cash around is a concern for us too. The majority of respondents (54 percent) said the key reason they have a debit card is because it is more convenient to carry around, rather than being weighed down by a large amount of cash. They also like debit because you can use it to make online purchases (45 percent) and to keep their finances in check, with over half (53 percent) saying it is good for smart financial management because the payment is debited directly from their regular bank account.

We’ve long known that carrying cash can be inconvenient and unreliable, and now this research proves that we are out of pocket by using cash too! See the infographic below for a breakdown of the results and which countries are losing out on the most by sticking to cash…

 For more on the study visit
 

READ MORE

Posted by: Jag Mistry, Corporate Relations, Visa Inc. on February 27, 2013 at 6:35 am

Feb 21, 2013

A Penny-Free Canada

 

 

It’s official. As of Monday, February 4, the Royal Canadian Mint stopped distributing pennies to banks and retailers in Canada. Pennies are now more expensive to produce than they are worth and so the move is cited to save Canadian taxpayers around $11 million a year.

A lot has changed since the penny was first minted in Canada in 1908. Today, most people are not in the habit of carrying around much spare change. In fact, according to the Retail Council of Canada only 22% of merchandising transactions in Canada are done in cash, and The Globe and Mail’s Editorial team recently said, “Soon, cash will be the least convenient way to pay for small purchases…we are heading toward a world in which cash will be less and less vital.”

In fact, we found in a recent  Moody’s study commissioned by Visa that the growth in the use of electronic payment products, such as credit and debit cards, added US$9.7 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Canada over the last four years by reducing transaction costs and improving efficiency in the flow of goods and services. Electronic payments allow consumers quick and instant access to their funds. Retailers no longer have to deal with burdens and risks associated with cash. And governments benefit from increased transparency.

As we say goodbye to the penny in Canada, we at Visa are excited to be driving payments innovation and we remain committed to being the best way to pay and be paid.

READ MORE

Posted by: Michelle Michalak, Visa Corporate Relations, Canada on February 21, 2013 at 11:30 am

Feb 19, 2013

Electronic Payments Modernize the Face of Government Benefits

From eCommerce to eBanking, digital commerce is changing the way people around the world shop, pay and be paid.  The Electronic Payments Association explains that the average business saves between $2,000 and $7,000 annually by using electronic payments rather than paper checks. 

 The cost savings, enhanced security, broad convenience and universal acceptance of electronic payments have recently prompted the U.S. government to mandate the trend and extend the benefits of digital payments to Social Security payment recipients.  Beginning March 1, 2013, paper checks for Social Security benefits will virtually disappear.

This will affect five million Americans still receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits by check, and save taxpayers more than $100 million a year.  The switch will enhance security, help decrease fraud and eliminate theft of paper checks from mailboxes by issuing funds directly to the recipient, electronically.

It’s clear that more than ever technology is shaping the way we live nearly every aspect of our lives.  Single function currency like cash and check comes with significant limitations, especially when consumers shop online, move between payment devices and need their payments to move seamlessly with them and work reliably wherever they shop.  Using credit, debit, and prepaid cards is the norm for many Americans and this is one more step in the march away from paper checks and cash.

For more information on the transition to electronic benefits, visit: http://www.ssa.gov/

READ MORE

Posted by: Jennifer Schulz, Global Head of eCommerce on February 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Jan 29, 2013

Visa and Citi Launch Financial Inclusion 2020

Visa joined with the Center for Financial Inclusion and Citi to launch a new global campaign — Financial Inclusion 2020 — with the goal of achieving a world with full access to quality financial services for all by the year 2020. By uniting leading companies, NGOs and policymakers, Financial Inclusion 2020 will build a roadmap to reaching universal financial inclusion. Achieving full financial inclusion will not only improve the lives of billions of people, it will drive economic growth, accelerate women’s empowerment and remove a major obstacle in the fight against global poverty.

Read more about Visa’s support of Financial Inclusion 2020 in an op-ed piece in Business Insider by Bill Gajda, Head of Global Mobile Product at Visa and Pamela Flaherty, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Citi and President and CEO of the Citi Foundation here.

READ MORE

Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on January 29, 2013 at 10:18 am

Jan 10, 2013

Will 2013 Be the Year of Cashless Restaurants?

The benefits of switching to a cashless operation have long been touted as an evolutionary asset of the restaurant industry. In such a competitive market, new technology must be researched, developed and introduced on an ongoing basis. This is especially true in New York City – a city known by many as a forefront of innovation and business, cultural, and educational opportunity. But could 2013 be the year that restaurants go cashless? Some trends are pointing to yes.

As the United States Treasury slows its printing presses and plastic becomes the preferred method of payment for consumers and businesses alike, industry experts predict more establishments will say goodbye to dollars and cents. There is simply no ignoring the convenience and security afforded by going cashless. Furthermore, if predictions are correct, 2013 will be a big year for mobile payment solutions among small and medium size businesses.

The popular New York City eatery Commerce is just one restaurant going cashless. In September 2009,  it announced that it would no longer be accepting cash in September 2009—and now the owners are scouting for locations in New York to expand the business to a cashless fast-food restaurant chain. “It’s because so little of our business is done in cash,” explained owner Tony Zazula, restaurant business veteran of over 20 years. “It’s the age of electronic transfers. There’s no reason to have two systems.”

As Zazula and his business partner Harold Moore are planning their new quick-casual eating venture, they remain steadfast in their card-only policy. Zazula explains, “It makes complete sense.”

Visa and Commerce have joined forces to produce the following mini-documentary about the restaurant and the new NYC spot opening soon. Hear directly from Zazula and Moore about why this initiative has been so successful, and how, as Zazula puts it, “going cashless allows [Commerce] to be true to [its] heart.”

Could 2013 be the year of cashless restaurants?

Also, be sure to check out this original video featuring Commerce’s cashless operation: http://currencyofprogress.visa.com/cashless-cuisine-debuts-in-new-yorks-west-village/

READ MORE

Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on January 10, 2013 at 7:05 am

Dec 6, 2012

Analyst Viewpoints: IntelliLink offers Card Solutions for B2B

Last week I shared Patricia McGinnis’ perspective on the future of the paper-based payments. In this second video featuring the payment industry vet from Mercator Advisory Group, McGinnis shares her viewpoint on how Visa IntelliLink Solutions functions as a unique tool in the B2B space. She thinks (among other things) that the flexibility that comes with IntelliLink allows corporations to create distinct card programs with specialized rules, compliance, auditability and risk controls. Check out this video for more of her thoughts on B2B card solutions. Also, I’d be eager to hear readers opinions on this tool so let me know what you think!

 

READ MORE

Posted by: Erika White, Visa Corporate Relations on December 6, 2012 at 9:34 am

Nov 29, 2012

Analyst Viewpoints: The Future of the Paper-based Payments in the B2B Space

Like many experts, Patricia McGinnis, a payments industry vet with Mercator Advisory Group, foresees a steady increase in card-based payments. She also notes that this shift is already well underway with checks accounting for only about half of B2B payments in the U.S.

I sat down with McGinnis recently. She’s been looking at trends in the industry for more than 15 years and always has an interesting perspective especially when it comes to the commercial market. During this conversation, I asked her how she saw the shift from paper-based to electronic payments playing out in the commercial space. While there is a huge opportunity, McGinnis notes that the opportunity is there for the taking and there are some challenges in the card market that need conquering. Check out this video for more of her thoughts. Where do you see commercial payments in 2013?

READ MORE

Posted by: Erika White, Visa Corporate Relations on November 29, 2012 at 9:42 am

Nov 13, 2012

Rwanda, Inc.: Developing a model for economic growth

As you know, last December, Visa and the Government of Rwanda announced a groundbreaking partnership to ‘electronify’ the Rwandan economy.  The partnership aims to connect 11 million Rwandans to the formal financial sector.  To do this, we have been focused on key areas including: developing the basic infrastructure needed to enable country-wide use of electronic payments, promoting electronic payments innovation by taking advantage of rapidly developing technologies like mobile payments, and building capacity and infrastructure through financial literacy and job training programs.

It is the clear vision and strategy for growth in Rwanda that Andrea Redmond and Patricia Crisafulli chronicle in their new book, Rwanda, Inc., which launched today.  We are proud to be in the company of such qualified individuals who also see Rwanda as the “ultimate turnaround” story.  The book describes how, in two decades, Rwanda went from complete devastation after the genocide 18 years ago to impressive economic development and GDP growth that has lifted one million people out of poverty in the past five years alone.  Through direct access to the Rwandan government, the authors take the reader through Rwanda’s complicated past, from civil war and genocide to the promising present.

Like Andrea, we believe in the opportunity that exists in the region, and have focused our financial inclusion strategy to target a very important customer base, both for Visa and the Rwandan government, to help build a model for other appropriate economies. Enabling individuals opportunities to better manage their financial lives is a significant step towards advancing economic expansion.

We are honored to support Andrea in the launch of her insightful book, and believe in its message. Rwanda is open for business, and we are proud to be there.

NOTE: Andrea Redmond is a consultant who works with corporate boards, CEOs, Fortune 500 companies, and private investors.  She sits on several boards of directors, including The Allstate Corporation, Children’s Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University Hospital, and the Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center.

READ MORE

Posted by: Doug Michelman, Global Head, Corporate Relations, Visa Inc. on November 13, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Sep 20, 2012

Going Cashless: One Minute With Gordon Cooper

Yesterday we announced Visa’s founding participation in the Better Than Cash Alliance, an initiative aimed at accelerating the shift from physical cash to electronic payments to help advance financial inclusion among the world’s unbanked population.  The Alliance builds upon Visa’s global commitment to financial inclusion, including our work to enable consumers to send, receive and store money electronically in a safe, reliable and affordable way. 

In this video, Visa’s Gordon Cooper shares his own “Better Than Cash” encounter and his thoughts on the challenges impacting cash-based economies. Gordon brings significant experience working with the world’s unbanked leadership  for our emerging markets solutions. Prior to his current role in Singapore, Gordon has been based for Visa in Tokyo London, and Ho Chi Minh City. 

 

READ MORE

Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on September 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm