Digital payments boost Pandemic-hit VISA: Jean-Marie de Crayencour

As a credit card provider, Visa has suffered from coronavirus restrictions imposed over the past year. Country manager of Visa Belgium Luxembourg, Jean-Marie de Crayencour, speaks about how the company is managing the crisis.

How has the pandemic influenced Visa’s activities?

Jean-Marie de Crayencour: Since the start of the crisis, we have observed a growing success of online shopping. In Luxembourg, more than 5% of active Visa card holders who did not make online purchases before covid-19 now carry out e-commerce transactions (March 2020-September 2020). This is an important progression. We have also seen that the debit card is used a lot for domestic purchases.

Finally, the third trend, contactless payment technology and contactless mobile payment such as Apple Pay or connected device, has experienced a very significant acceleration. In Europe, we see that over 80% of payments are now contactless (September 2020). In Luxembourg, we are at 70%. With the increase in the limit from €25 to €50 per transaction at the start of the health crisis, we saw a 10% increase between March and September in the use of contactless. We think these are habits that could endure.

Your latest quarterly results worldwide show three quarters of decline before rising in recent months. What was this decrease mainly linked to?

First and foremost, the travel sector, which has been very affected by the measures taken to fight the coronavirus. But I am positively amazed that, even though we are affected, we are holding ourselves up very well. The trend towards electronic payment has generally accelerated during the crisis and we do not imagine that the consumer is going to go backwards.

Obviously, restaurant closures have impacted us, but we have to realise that Visa is much more than restaurants or travel. We are a payment technology company that facilitates day-to-day transactions for all types of use. While some sectors we serve have experienced major problems, others, such as e-commerce, have grown significantly over the same period.

Visa enjoys a virtual monopoly in Luxembourg. How do you address this situation?

In all our markets, and in Luxembourg in particular, we are trying to understand what consumers will need in the future. And so, together with our banking customers, we try to build together the solutions that will allow them to offer the product that best suits current and future needs. We are obviously delighted to see that more and more banks trust us.

These trends of the future, where are they heading?

The main trend is payment by tokenisation, replacing the sensitive information on a card with a unique token installed in a connected device and which allows electronic transactions to be carried out in a completely secure manner. This is the technology that Apple Pay, Fitbit or Garmin uses.

New uses are being developed. For example, we could imagine that tomorrow we will no longer have to use the payment terminal at the gas station. The transaction could be carried out directly using a token installed in the car and which represents your payment card. You could also imagine installing a token on your fridge to be able to order missing goods directly from your kitchen. These are therefore potential transactions that do not yet exist. We still have a huge field ahead of us in terms of electronic payment.

16 European banks are setting up a credit card project to compete with you. How are you preparing?

With a significant portion of retail payment transactions in Europe still taking place in cash, it is clear that digital payments can thrive through increased innovation and open competition.

It is important to note that we share the view expressed by the members of the EPI [European Payments Initiative] in their announcement that any new pan-European payment solution must bring tangible benefits to European consumers and merchants, and we look forward to discussing the manner in which we can support this goal.

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