Interview with Makis Antypas, CIO at Viva Wallet, on card acceptance, could-based payments, and technological advances in the payments ecosystem
How did Viva Wallet come to be and what merchant needs did the company identify that were not being addressed by incumbent players?
The company was created 18 years ago as a software house, mainly developing software for banks and the financial sector. Back then, we also created software platforms for airlines, telecom operators, and big online retailers. Our engineers gathe red experience by designing and deploying large-scale transactional systems, by always putting security first. Working with banks and big merchants for all these years allowed us to fully understand their needs and come up with intelligent solutions that can address them.
Having a reliable payment platform that never goes “down for maintenance”, card terminals that can be purchased off-theshelf and instantly activated, powerful APIs for integrating with third party accounting and ERP software, real-time reporting and push notifications and, of course, an online issuing platform for company debit cards and corporate expenses management allows us to address the needs of each of our customers. You see, legacy technology and monolithic banking systems running on mainframes cannot support the above. They lack the agility that any modern business requires and cannot quickly adapt to rapid changing environments. This is a great business opportunity for Viva Wallet across Europe.
What do you see as the most important challenges retail merchants face when it comes to card payment acceptance? How is Viva Wallet helping merchants in overcoming these obstacles?
The three most important challenges for retailers are complex and time-consuming onboarding processes, lack of alternative payment methods support, and, of course, high and not always transparent acquiring fees.
Viva Wallet responds to all of the above by offering card terminals that can be ordered online or purchased from retail stores and can be instantly activated. The merchant registration follows a fully electronic process that allows them to accept payments the same day. On top of that, our card ter minals accept multiple international and local card schemes and several other alternative payment methods. To address the challenge of high acquiring fees and offer a truly competitive solution, we combine our card terminal solution with a company debit card. Merchants that use their debit card can completely eliminate acquiring fees, effectively setting card payment acceptance fees to 0%.
What do you believe are the benefits of cloud based payments platforms?
Without a doubt, the most important benefit of a cloud-based payment platform is increased security. A payment system that is properly designed for the cloud can benefit from several highvend security features offered by modern cloud providers. Those features cannot even be compared to any on-premise platform that runs on legacy infrastructure in a traditional older generation data centre. Another advantage of the cloud is high availability. A payment system that runs on the cloud, distributed across multiple regions, is a truly “always-on” solution. It works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, uninterrupted, is fully fault tolerant, and never goes down for maintenance. Last, but not least, there is scalability. A cloud-based payments service can easily scale out without human intervention and can handle transaction peaks by using increased resources whenever required.
Your company develops large transactional systems for the airline and telecom industries. What are the main payment needs of these industries?
The payment needs in travel and telecom are similar to the needs we meet in any other industry and for any big online retailer. They require a solution that is secure, highly available, and capable of automatically scaling out and managing peaks whenever demand suddenly increases. Apart from the technological needs, these merchants also require competitive and transparent acquiring fees.
How do you see technological advances, such as pin on glass, impacting the payments ecosystem?
Whereas this is not an one-size-fits-all solution, accepting PIN on a commercial off-the-shelf device, like a consumer smartphone or tablet, is, without doubt, the next big thing in payments. I believe the technology has the potential to disrupt the ecosystem and change the card terminal business as we know it for many years. Viva Wallet will be one of the first acquirers to launch a solution using this technology in Europe, aiming to be one of the players that will shape the future in payments.
What developments do you predict for payment terminals and the merchants using them?
The future is never easy to predict; in the payments sector, we already live in the era of the smart payment terminal, a device that goes beyond card payments and allows merchants to develop their own applications that integrate with third party services and alternative payment methods.
Therefore, similarly to a smart tablet, the card terminal will stop being a black box running proprietary software and will become a device that will unleash the potential of the global developer commu nity. However, like all devices once designed to serve a single purpose, the payment terminal too will become obsolete at some point in the future, either because of cashier-less stores, or IoT devices and wearables that can be used for both making and accepting payments in different forms. Both hardware and software technologies grow exponentially and constantly transform the way we use devices and interact with them. Payment terminals are no exception to this rule.
About Makis Antypas: Makis Antypas is the CIO of Viva Wallet, as well as part of the Board of Directors of Viva Wallet Group, leading the technology division. He is responsible for delivering the software at the heart of the company’s innovative payment cloud-based services. He is a senior IT professional, with over 17 years of experience in implementing large scale transactional systems for the banking, retail, ticketing, and ecommerce sector in the UK, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Poland.