Visa’s Singapore centre to innovate for corporates

When Visa launched its innovation centre in Singapore, its first outside the US, on April 28 many of the demonstrations showed solutions for consumers.

It turns out, however, that US financial services giant is also developing new models for collaborating with companies, and it is working on software that will help businesses ranging from the largest corporates to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The new facility at Robinson Road is the first in a network of new innovation centres that Visa plans to open in various locations around the world later this year and in 2017. It builds on the success of Visa’s flagship innovation centre which opened in July 2014 in San Francisco.

Engaging banks and merchants differently

Partnerships are the way forward in developing new solutions, according to Jim McCarthy, Visa’s global head of innovation and strategic partnerships. Rather than following the path it has historically followed of working just with banks, Visa is rebooting by partnering with “companies building the future” such as Apple, Samsung and Google.

“They helped us understand how we could enhance their experience,” said McCarthy and out of those discussions also came Visa’s decision to provide partners with access to the company’s application program interfaces (APIs).

“Our clients, banks and financial institutions, are struggling with the pace of change,” he added. The centre brings tech companies, start-ups and Visa engineers together to “create new use cases that connect consumers and merchants, to deepen the relationships.”

The world is ready for APIs, claimed Matt Dill, the company’s global head of innovation and strategic partnerships. While different banks are in different phases and some may not want to publish APIs, companies on the digital side might have greater flexibility in publishing APIs. “Our responsibility as a network is to publish what we can and make our services available. The big change we’re making, in going beyond banks being consumers of APIs, is exposing them to developers who can be more creative.”

On the political side, the ways governments look at merchant accounts and taxes are more challenging than the payment facilities. “Our push is to help with education, expose technology to allow others to build it in,” said Dill.

McCarthy commented that one additional change in many markets is that smaller merchants may no longer need a traditional account. “I’d be sending money to their card. They don’t need a merchant account.”

New solutions for merchants of all sizes

Around the world, Visa is working on new solutions for merchants and discovering what McCarthy called “use cases we’d have never predicted.” Among the examples, discussions are ongoing globally with 14 automobile manufacturers. Visa is working on connecting cars, and it can develop solutions in Singapore for services such as parking, tokens and road pricing.

Another is fuel pumps. “We’ve done work with fuel retailers, automated the pump,” he announced. “Drive up and it recognises your car – you don’t wait for anything.” Visa created the proof of concept for the solution in eight weeks. “The beauty of APIs is commerce starts to converge,” McCarthy said.

In Singapore, Visa is also working on the merchant and retail experience. “There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity,” said Dill. “Digital deployment, move up and connect tightly with the physical world in e-commerce and retail. It’s something that can happen in a city the size of Singapore.”

The overall goal at the new centre, according to TS Anil, Visa’s head of product for Asia Pacific, is to solve real world problems. “Those problems change by market.”

For “tuk-tuks” or taxis in Bangkok, for example, the owner might go directly to mobile, which is the form factor on top of the network, rather than using a point-of-sale (POS) terminal. What Visa is looking at, he said, is how to make everything work from a mobile first perspective. “Give them a greater user experience and a richness of transaction.”

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