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Visa partners fintechs to reach the unbanked

The payments giant says its fast processes are key to attracting startups.

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AS THE digital payment space continues to grow, global payments provider Visa aims to be the connector that fintech startups will turn to for their expansion plans, and sets its sights on reaching the unbanked and underserved population.

"It works both ways as a great symbiotic relationship," said Chris Clark, regional president for Visa Asia-Pacific, in an interview.

Fintech startups, he added, can leverage Visa's global digital payment platform when they reach out to the underserved and unbanked. Startups can also use their network to connect to a wider audience.

On the other hand, Visa can extend the reach of their networks to the unbanked and underserved populations through these fintech startups.

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"With fintech, we are not only focused on micro and small enterprise businesses, we are also enabling people to participate in the formal economy," said Mr Clark, adding that digital payments can help those in unbanked regions grow their businesses and livelihoods, as well as contribute to economic growth.

Looking at fintech startups as a key driver of growth, Visa has announced a slew of programmes and services that cater to the needs of fintech startups.

In September this year, Visa announced the launch of Visa Partner, a portal that allows fintechs to access the digital payment company's technologies and networks online.

"Fintechs are constantly innovating on our network and creating new solutions that help to solve pain points and problems in payment flows," said Mr Clark.

He added that the company is trying to help startups speed up their processes further through the Visa Partner portal, by simplifying processes and making more resources easily available.

For example, through the portal, fintech startups can apply for licences online with a few clicks, instead of handling many pages of licensing paperwork. They can also find and link up with payment partners to help them go to market as well as access educational videos.

This, he said, will allow startups to continue to operate in an agile manner.

"Startups need to have simple processes, because they want to build stuff, test it and then implement those solutions as quickly as they can," said Mr Clark.

"We want to make sure that we can support the fintechs to be able to participate in everything that we do, but do it in a way that is agile, and as quickly as possible for them."

The company also has a Fintech Fast Track programme, launched in November 2018, to help onboard startups to their platform in less than four weeks. To keep the approach simple for fintechs, Visa deliberately reduced the number of onboarding conditions. The programme also links fintechs to platforms that are already verified by Visa and connects fintechs to sponsoring banks.

"We believe that working collaboratively across the industry is the best path to making tomorrow's payment experiences a reality," said Mr Clark.

Visa has also announced investments, acquisitions and partnerships with fintech startups such as Razer, Gojek and Revolut, all of which capture the new wave of payment flows.

Through these new collaborations, Visa hopes to "expand electronic payments into new segments, focusing on the unbanked and the underserved population in South-east Asia", said Mr Clark.

For example, Visa's investment in Gojek's Series F round aims to support the ride-hailing player's payments services across South-east Asia, to expand financial access in the region.

This is still an untapped market opportunity for the fintech space.

According to the 2017 Global Findex database, 1.7 billion people around the world are unbanked, or do not have access to traditional banking services. Visa's annual report also states that US$17 trillion in consumer payments are still made through non-digital ways such as cash or cheque.

Right now, Mr Clark said, Visa plays a connecting role that bridges the gap between these fintech startups that have innovative solutions and bigger financial institutions such as banks that have the customer base and scale.

"No one can do it all by themselves," he added. "When you take this partnership approach, everyone benefits."