Viewpoints

Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints

PERSPECTIVES ON DIGITAL CURRENCY

Jun 20, 2013

Currency of Progress

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.

 

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

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

Sep 26, 2012

Money Management Made Easy

Helping college students manage money is an issue for millions of families today. For Japanese student Sho Ninagawa and his parents, Sho’s opportunity to study abroad at the University of Colorado presented a unique challenge with respect to money management. How could they quickly and conveniently provide Sho with funds when needed?  How could he avoid carrying large sums of cash? And how could they help him manage his spending?

A Visa Debit card provided the solution they needed.  The account made it possible to conveniently deposit funds in Japan for his access in the U.S., as well as solve concerns about his safety and the security of making payments—no need to carry large sums of cash that put him at risk of loss or theft, and Visa’s security features protect Sho and his family from fraud.  Plus, his spending could be tracked and managed, easing another parental concern.

We visited Sho and his parents to learn more about their experience with Visa Debit. See how it benefitted them in our video interview.

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Posted by: Lisa Kimberlin, Global Corporate Relations on September 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

Sep 13, 2012

Postcards From Russia: A Peek into Our Russia Office

One of the great benefits of working at a company like Visa, whose technology is used around the world, is visiting offices in other countries. We arrived in Moscow from San Francisco the evening before, and the next morning, we reported into our office in the Russian capital.

It was a delight to see the bright, airy office. Our smart and welcoming colleagues in Russia work in open pod configurations with low cubicle walls—highly conducive to collaboration. While the office has a uniquely Russian feel, I felt immediately at home when I saw the company-standard Visa telephones and Dell laptops.

The Moscow office was opened in 2001, and with more Russians embracing electronic payments in general and Visa in particular, the number of Visa employees based in Russia has grown to 140.

We have had so much fun in the office that I thought we’d introduce you to some of our colorful Russia team members. Here is the first in a series of postcards about our fellow Visa employees in the Russia office.

First up, meet Igor.

Name: Igor Gaidarji

Job: Head of Product Delivery Russia

How long I’ve been at Visa: 9 years

What I love about Russia: “There are unlimited opportunities, as a country and as a company.”

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Posted by: Richard Martin, Visa Corporate Relations on September 13, 2012 at 9:46 am

Sep 12, 2012

Postcards from Russia: Remembering Rubles

If you are like me and rarely, if ever, find the time to get local currency before you leave on a business trip, then the ubiquity of ATMs at airports around the world can give you valuable peace of mind.

As I exited the customs area in Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow , it was reassuring to see a multitude of local bank ATMs all bearing the Visa brand. We took this photo after a 15-hour trip from San Francisco to Moscow as part of our Currency of Progress video filming series. Fortunately I was not too jet-lagged to remember my PIN number and withdraw enough Rubles with my Visa card to get me to my hotel.

Over the coming days, we will be writing about our experiences here in Russia – from Moscow all the way to Sochi on the Black Sea.  We will try to capture a mix of Visa employees, senior government officials and regular consumers to tell the story of how Russia and electronic payments here are changing dramatically.

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Posted by: Richard Martin, Visa Corporate Relations on September 12, 2012 at 11:31 am

Sep 11, 2012

Canadian Economy Gets Boost From Electronic Payments (Study)

The benefits of electronic payments for consumers, business and governments are well understood but often difficult to quantify in real numbers. How do you measure the value to consumers who don’t have to worry about not having enough cash in their pockets; or for businesses that lower their cash handling costs and governments that improve efficiencies.

Visa Canada recently commissioned IHS Global Insight, a leading economic and financial consulting firm, to model and measure the total value and impact of electronic payments in the Canadian economy. The results are significant: electronic payments contributed $196 billion to Canada’s economic growth over the past 25 years. That’s equal to nearly 25 percent of the $786 billion in total GDP growth.

Benefits of Electronic Payments in Canada

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

  • Between 1991 and 2010, electronic payments contributed an additional $3.1 billion in economic activity to the travel and tourism sector.
  • Canadian businesses that use commercial card programs can better manage, track and control their travel and entertainment and procurement expenses.  Commercial card programs have been proven to reduce costs by as much as $71 per transaction when compared to a traditional purchase-order process.1 Across North America, commercial card use drives $38 billion in savings for businesses annually.
  • Online activity doubled over five years to $15.3 billion in 2010. In 2010, more than 11 million online shoppers spending an average of $1,460 every year.

To read more about the study, visit Canada’s Currency of Progress site or download the study here .

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Posted by: Wayne Best, Chief Economist, Visa on September 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Sep 11, 2012

A Bright, New Look for Currency of Progress and a New Site for Canada

Currency of Progress Canada Homepage

At Visa, we are driven by the idea that by extending the benefits of electronic payments to more people, businesses, and governments around the globe, we enable economic growth and progress.

This is why we are pleased to introduce our redesigned Currency of Progress website, as well as the launch of the platform in Canada, which features unique Canadian stories and perspectives—both in English and in French.

All told, Currency of Progress is now live in eight countries around the world, featuring local stories in local language to better define the value we provide to our stakeholders.

On each of our sites, you will find all of the inspiring and immersive stories you’ve come to enjoy on the previous version of the site—videos, graphics, and case studies that celebrate the individuals, businesses, and institutions who are using Visa to spur economic growth and progress. Our new design of our global Currency of Progress website, however, enhances the way you experience the content. We hope you’ll find it cleaner, easier to navigate and more intuitive. What’s more, the site is now optimized for your mobile and tablet devices.

We look forward to hearing what you think of the new site and our new stories.

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Posted by: Doug Michelman, Global Head, Corporate Relations, Visa Inc. on September 11, 2012 at 10:24 am

Jul 31, 2012

Postcards from London: London Taxis Take Visa

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When I told friends I was traveling  to London, the first advice many offered was to carry cash in case I needed to take one of London’s famous black taxis around town.  While I was planning on riding the Underground as much as possible,  the expected traffic around the London 2012 Olympic Games meant I needed to be prepared for whatever transportation option would be the fastest.

So when I took my first taxi in London, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he not only accepted Visa, but that he enthusiastically did so.  He shared with me that people who pay with Visa tend to tip better by a substantial percentage and it requires him to keep less cash on hand. 

The London taxi driver’s view was similar to those of drivers interviewed for our Currency of Progress video ”New York Cabs Embrace Digital Currency“.

I’m off to another location in London–but expect more dispatches as I explore Visa acceptance and highlight Visa’s sponsorship of the 2012 London Olympic Games!

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Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on July 31, 2012 at 1:14 am

Apr 12, 2012

From Under the Mattress and Into a Bank: Increasing Financial Access for Women in Nigeria

Provisions seller in Nigeria

Today, Visa’s Chairman and CEO, Joe Saunders, joined with the President and CEO of Women’s World Banking to announce that our two organizations are partnering to advance financial inclusion for women in Nigeria. As part of the announcement, they shared their perspectives in an editorial in the Huffington Post about how financial inclusion can help transform the lives of women in emerging markets.

Nearly 2.5 billion people – almost half the world’s adult population – do not have access to formal financial services. Without basic payments and savings accounts, money often is kept in cash under the mattress then moved around from person to person, drastically increasing the risk of theft or loss. Even a task as simple as paying a bill – in person and via cash – can be unsafe, costly and time-consuming. The implications of this financial exclusion are significant and far-reaching, reinforcing the cycle of poverty and slowing economic progress.

In emerging economies around the world, this can be a particular challenge for women. In Nigeria, for example, nearly 77 percent of women lack access to financial services.  Yet, they often serve as the primary financial managers in most families, expected to stretch meager and irregular incomes to meet daily household needs, not to mention long-term budgeting for life’s unexpected shocks.

The initiative in Nigeria that was announced today will help provide women there with an opportunity to become economically and socially empowered through access to a savings account.

Read more about the Visa and Women’s World Banking initiative.

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Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on April 12, 2012 at 7:31 am

Mar 13, 2012

No Coins Required: Card-Enabled Parking Meters Grow in Popularity Nationwide

A recent article in the Washington Post noted the installation of forty-one parking meters in Bethesda, Maryland, that now accept payment via credit and debit cards, rather than just cash.  This reflects a growing trend of card-enabled parking meters popping up all over the country, from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Washington D.C.  It also speaks to the larger migration from cash to digital currency in the U.S.  Since 2000, electronic payments (including card brands) have increased share of personal consumption expenditure from 20% to 32% (CY 2010).[1]

Smaller municipalities have jumped on the parking-meter bandwagon as well, and some with significant gusto.  Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (population 74,900), recently added 300 card-enabled meters to their existing 100, partly as a result of consumer demand as the new parking meters have been the top request of downtown shoppers, according to the manager of the Downtown Bethlehem Association.  The city has certainly taken note:  according to Bethlehem Parking Authority Executive Director Tom Hartley, “the increased meter rates have more than doubled the authority’s meter revenues…the first two months of 2012 brought in $218,474 compared with $106,670 last year.”

The new meters require a capital investment, but as shown, they can provide more revenue than traditional meters because they are equipped with sensors that detect when cars pull out of a parking spot to absorb any unused time.  For drivers, it means less hassle looking for change to feed hungry meters.   

It seems the new meters are a win-win for all parties concerned, and that’s the kind of progress we support.  Learn more about the ways Visa digital currency is innovating to make transit more efficient for governments and consumers at Currency of Progress.


[1] SEC filings and press releases for card brands and IHS Global insight for PCE

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Posted by: Albert Coscia, Visa Corporate Relations on March 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm