Roland Allen, general manager, EMEA, Futurex, chats with Rudolf Smit, Managing Director: Africa, Stanchion Payment Solutions
Roland: You work with payment companies around the world. Tell us about an interesting integration (or application).
Rudolf: As a system integrator, we deliver a wide variety of projects and integrations globally. More recently, we did several Token Life Cycle Management (TLCM) implementations that require legacy-issuing solutions to integrate with more modern systems, including mobile phone applications and the major card schemes (which provide tokenization services). We’re also helping Acquirers and Issuers with implementing QR code-based payments and integrating them into digital wallets such as WeChat and Alipay. These projects form the basis of our clients’ abilities to provide a frictionless user experience to their customers, while minimizing the need for physical interaction at the point of sale.
A new project we are about to embark on involves the implementation of an enterprise key management solution for a large financial institution, based on the Futurex Key Management Enterprise Server Series 3. This will require the cradle-to-grave life cycle management of security keys for various systems and applications in their environment, all fully secured within a single solution.
Common themes across many of our projects are the integration of legacy platforms and protocols to more modern web services-based systems and components, as well as compliance work — whether in the area of security, data privacy, or scheme compliance. This is being driven by a need for clients to be agile to meet the demands of a new generation of customer behaviour and increased competition arising from open APIs. As a result, our clients are looking to extend their core legacy investments so they can focus on the introduction of innovation that underpins revenue generation.
Roland: What is a big innovation in FinTech that you’re seeing?
Rudolf: Currently, most of the innovation is focused on the customer experience and removing friction from the payment process. Customers are demanding more payment options, seamless integration between channels, and faster payment processing.
One way this is achieved is with Open Banking, which provides massive potential for innovation by giving FinTechs access to customer data that can be combined to provide new types of services. Regardless of the particular new services, this ultimately relies on a many-to-many mapping between FinTech companies and Financial Institutions, which is a requirement we address with our Verto Payments Application Server.
In addition, we see a lot of innovation aimed at reducing costs and/or vastly improving the ease and speed of transferring money by using Blockchain-based technology to circumvent slow legacy payment rails, which can also be expensive. There are, however, constraints and risks to navigate in the form of central bank regulations.
Instant or rapid payment systems continue to be deployed in more countries and, in some cases, put pressure on banks to not only participate, but rather focus on providing a variety of overlay services on these new rails as new revenue streams.
Many organizations are also building offerings based on Big Data and AI to increase customer engagement through hyper-personalization.
Roland: How are you involved with the contactless digital payment ecosystem?
Rudolf: We assist Processors, Banks, and Retailers with implementing acquiring solutions using contactless cards, digital wallets, and QR codes technology on their existing POS/ATM/Kiosk infrastructure. More recently, we have also started offering a SoftPOS solution that provides contactless acceptance to SMEs using any Android-based NFC-enabled smartphone (near field communication). The combination of digital onboarding of merchants and the ability to provide a POS on the merchant’s own device drastically reduces the cost and speeds up the time it takes to get a merchant up and running with contactless acceptance.
We also assist Issuers with traditional EMV card issuance that enables them to issue contactless cards. In addition, we provide them with our TLCM Solution built on our Verto Payments Application Server so that cards can be tokenized on their customers’ mobile phones.
Roland: What best practice(s) would you offer to payment operations teams?
Rudolf: Embracing automation is key, not only to reduce the reliance on individuals and manual processes that are error-prone and slow, but also to cope with the ever-increasing deluge of events and notifications that occur in these environments as payment volumes increase.
Strongly linked to automation is skills augmentation, which is an area Stanchion specializes in with its highly experienced technical payment teams that are in multiple geographic locations around the world. As clients seek to extend their legacy environments and drive innovation, having access to skills to augment their internal teams is critical to delivering internal success and reducing operational risk.
It is essential to ensure that your operational processes are fit for purpose, well documented, and consistently applied. We have seen many organizations that are repeatedly impacted due to having suboptimal or insufficient operational processes in place, and therefore provide operational reviews and health checks to our customers in order to course-correct where their operational processes may be lacking.
Organizations need to be open to new systems and solutions that have the functionality and capability to drastically improve the payment environment in terms of high availability, scalability, and ease of operation. We see the benefits of this repeatedly with unique solutions such as Futurex’s Excrypt Touch and Futurex’s Guardian Series 3, to name a few.
Roland: How did you get your start in the payments industry?
Rudolf: I started my career in payments at a small (back then) Payments Switch Vendor (Mosaic Software), which has now grown through multiple acquisitions to become ACI Worldwide, with one of the most widely-deployed payment switches globally. This was back in the early 2000s where, as a member of the International Delivery Team, we developed, implemented, tested, and supported solutions for customers, locally and abroad. This led to various other positions, including managing delivery and support teams, managing channel partners in Africa and eventually also solution sales over a 10-year period. I joined Stanchion in 2013 and currently serve as Regional Managing Director for Africa.