Wirecard is a global technology group that enables companies to accept payments from all sales channels. The German company operates in 35 countries and in over 100 transaction currencies with connections to more than 200 international payment networks, including American Express, Alipay, WeChat Pay, Apple Pay and China UnionPay, among others.
With its acquisition of Citicard’s prepaid business in 2016, the firm is expanding its presence in the U.S. Deirdre Ives lead Citicard’s prepaid business and now is the managing director for Wirecard North America.
Deirdre Ives is our guest today for the Tearsheet Podcast.
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Below are highlights of the episode, edited for clarity.
The driver of payment innovation
Ultimately, I see customers driving innovation. It’s their preferences and comfort level with things like convenience and security that we need to meet. In the end, that’s what drives all our technical innovation. It’s not tech for tech sake or trying to convince consumers to use what’s best for us but the needs and preferences of real people.
Security in payments
I see two major themes when it comes to innovation: security and increasingly flexible, personalized mobile payments. If you look at the rise of Europay, Mastercard and Visa and contactless terminals have been a boon to U.S. retailers, especially for brick and mortar shops trying to stay competitive in a ecommerce-focused environment. It’s helped merchants stay competitive and ease consumer concerns about the safety of their personal information. As part of that, there’s been a tremendous advances in tokenization. It’s quite possible that credit cards are the most secure form of transaction out there especially when integrated with a mobile wallet.
Biometric identifiers have improved security significantly. Things like thumbprints have become standard practice. We’re looking at biometrics like facial recognition and retinal IDs. As sci-fi as these sound, at the end, it’s all about reducing risk and adding value for the customer.
Payments, personalization, and social tools
When I look at the world today, much of the innovation we’re seeing in the industry is coming from the rise of mobile payments in the context of social tools. The most famous examples come from China. Statistics on wireless payments there are staggering. WeChat Pay, the mobile wallet function of the WeChat app, is actively used by 600 million consumers each month. 44.5 percent of people use the app to avoid carrying cash. Alipay has 520 million worldwide consumers. Both are Wirecard consumers and the one thing we’re looking to do is how to introduce these and similar platforms to the U.S. market in order to serve that global consumer base in North America.
Slow mobile wallet adoption in the U.S.
These things always take time. Historically, consumers take a while to come around to new payment methods. It’s generally been the banks, merchants, and payment facilitators helping consumers adopt new payment methods. If you think about it, checks were first used in the 1680s to help farmers and businessmen, but they weren’t widely adopted until centuries later. The earliest credit cards were introduced in the 1950s and now they’re a central part of our lives. But that was a decades long process and what got them there was banks and merchants offering perks to drive adoption. The same applies to mobile wallets. They’ll mature as retailers roll out better reward and loyalty frameworks for them and make them easy to use. So, when we reflect back on how Wirecard can help, it’s up to us to drive adoption, both in how we go to market and in the technology we develop.