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April 2023


9 - 10 Minutes

HIGHLIGHTS: The Visa CEMEA Security Summit 2023

Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) has gone through an unparalleled digitization that has completely transformed the world of commerce, payments and money movement.

The rapid adoption of new payment technologies such as contactless and ecommerce has changed spending both online and offline. It has also coincided with a rise in fraud and cybercriminal activity. These challenges have spurred players across the entire payment ecosystem to focus on resilience and security, invest in cutting-edge technologies and strengthen collaboration with trusted partners.

With 2023 well underway and new opportunities for cash displacement arising fast—coupled with a burgeoning demand for frictionless, secure and instant payments—we found this a fitting moment to convene our Visa CEMEA Security Summit and share the latest insights surrounding the future of trusted digital money.

This year’s event, held in Dubai, on 1-2 March, brought together over 200 financial institutions, merchants, payment service providers, media representatives, and industry thought leaders from across the CEMEA region.
The theme of the Summit was “Trust 360”, reflecting Visa's comprehensive approach to building and maintaining trust among all of its stakeholders.

Why “Trust 360” – A Message from Visa’s Regional Risk Officer

In his opening remarks, Charles Lobo, Regional Risk Officer for CEMEA at Visa said: “Trust is not a one-dimensional aspect of our business. It is a comprehensive, 360-degree approach that encompasses all aspects of our operations - from the security of our payment systems to the transparency of our policies and practices. We believe that trust must be earned through consistent and sustained efforts to protect our customers' data and ensure their financial well-being. This is why we invest in the latest technology, collaborate with our partners, and prioritize ethical and responsible business practices.”

To that end, Visa has invested over $10 billion in the last five years on cutting-edge cybersecurity to combat increasingly sophisticated criminals. This includes artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced data analytics to reduce fraud and prevent it before it even happens.

2023: Where are We Heading - A Chief Economist's View

We had a chance to hear from Wayne Best, Visa’s Chief Economist. He kicked off his remarks as: “A funny thing happened on our way to a global recession,” meaning an economic slowdown is still expected but risks are becoming more balanced. He shared that CEMEA’s long-term economic fundamentals remain favorable as both Africa and the Middle East have young, tech-savvy populations. In Africa, 42% of the population is under 15 years old and in the Middle East that figure is 32%1. This coincides with the changing face of the median consumer in the region, as Generation X passes the baton to Generation Z. Not only that, but the middle class is also expected to grow by over 50% in Africa and over 55% in the Middle East by 20372.

CEMEA’s Path to Digital – Sustaining the Forward Momentum and Scaling-up

Andrew Torre, Regional President for CEMEA at Visa, broke down all the reasons why “the future of money is digital”. He said the trend of digital acceleration shows no signs of slowing down, with Visa’s CEMEA payment volumes rising steadily after the dip caused by the pandemic in Q3 of 20203. Data shows the accelerated adoption of seamless and secure payment experiences across CEMEA. Contactless payments grew to 82% of all CEMEA transactions in 20224 and the security feature tokenization has reached ~25% of all Visa transactions in CEMEA5. Taken together, the broader money movement flows such as peer-to-peer, business-to-business, business-to-consumer and government-to-consumer represent a $15T opportunity in CEMEA6.

Securing the Future of Digital Money

We also had the unique opportunity to hear from Paul Fabara, Visa’s Chief Risk Officer who joined Andrew Torre for a fireside chat on securing the future of digital money. Fabara described what he calls “a convergence of crime” which saw traditional cyber coming together with fraud and Anti Money Laundering all at the same time, as opposed to single task, siloed behavior. He said the pandemic gave crooks, “the time to learn,” and accelerated their ability to cause harm.

Fabara also highlighted the alarming trend of social engineering, a popular tactic that cybercriminals use to extract confidential information from consumers, jeopardizing their security. Social engineering can come in various forms like phishing, pretexting, baiting, and tailgating, and can be used to access personal information, financial data, or even corporate secrets. Knowing the risks and recognizing the common techniques employed in social engineering can assist individuals and organizations in safeguarding themselves from such attacks.

Accelerating Action on Cybersecurity

Subra Kumaraswamy, Visa’s Chief Information Security Officer discussed the accelerating action being taken on cybersecurity. He shared the “staggering” figures that the global economy lost $7 trillion to cybercrime in 2022, which equates to $19.2 billion per day or $200,000 per second7. With this much economic activity and opportunity at stake he highlighted the need for greater security awareness and constant vigilance. He outlined that Visa’s cybersecurity strategy consists of five key elements:
● Top Talent – a complex threat landscape requires diverse talent.
● Zero Trust Architecture – which means never trust, always verify.
● Adaptive Defense (AI/ML) – using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create automated defense tools to prevent and detect advanced threats.
● Data Protection – using expert capabilities to “devalue data” as in the use of tokens.
● Supply Chain Risk Management – a continuous monitoring and verification of security posture.

Rethinking Payments - Reconsidering Security

Godfrey Sullivan, Head of Strategy at Visa for CEMEA, gave an insightful presentation titled "Rethinking Payments - Reconsidering Security" during the final session of day one. Sullivan explored how organizations can use new trends and technologies to discover new growth opportunities, while also addressing the security challenges and considerations they must address. He discussed three global challenges, including increased geopolitical uncertainty, macro volatility, and greater government and regulatory intervention. Looking ahead to the medium-term, Sullivan sees the increased use of stable coin, and points to their current day-to-day use case in Nigeria as a store of value. This leads to many new questions for banks, such as “How do you protect stable coins from cybersecurity attacks?” or “How do you run AML (Anti-Money Laundering) checks on stable coins?”

Navigating the CEMEA Security Landscape: Dynamics & Imperatives

Day two of the Summit began with Charles Lobo discussing some of the biggest security-related challenges and implications in the CEMEA region. Namely, enumeration & ransomware, ecosystem integrity, and social engineering. He was joined on stage joined by industry experts and thought leaders – Aamir Kureshi, Head of Consumer, Agriculture & SME Banking at Habib Bank Limited, and Kartik Taneja, Executive Vice President, Head of Payments & Consumer Lending and Chairman of Neopay.

The Anatomy of Seamless Shopping Experience

Dr. Saeeda Jaffar, Visa’s Group Country Manager for the GCC region, moderated a fireside chat with Faraz Khalid, CEO of noon, the leading online marketplace in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt. As an innovator, Khalid shared how noon balances the need to offer pioneering new technology with security. He said the inventive parts of the company need to be “razor sharp and very fast” with little bureaucracy and a “deep bias for action.” While the parts of the company dedicated to security need to be “deliberate and slow and right.” Essentially, he believes in putting whatever processes in place that are necessary to prevent data leaks, calling it an “existential risk” to his business.

Data at the Nexus of Innovation, Trust, and Security

Walter Lironi, Head of Visa Consulting and Analytics for CEMEA, and Michelle Gervais, Vice President for Global Data Policy, co-presented a session on the intersection between innovation, trust and security. They reported that companies are sometimes underestimating the importance of trust as a foundation. Companies must build trust in order to get the data necessary to create products and propositions that are data driven, as that is the only way to be competitive in today’s landscape. They shared Visa’s latest findings on consumer sentiment. On whether companies are seen as “caring” or “selfish,” 52% of consumers think companies use data, policies, terms of consent and privacy policies to protect the company’s own legal interests8. In response, Visa is testing new tools, like a Consumer Consent Wallet and Consent Asset Manager, which are showing strong interest from consumers globally and in CEMEA.

Smarter Security Solutions – Beyond Risk & Resilience

Closing out the main plenary, Hector Rodriguez, Head of Transaction Security Solutions at Visa, looked at how the company is leveraging cutting-edge payment risk solutions to drive the future of secure and trusted digital money. He revealed how Visa Risk & Identity solutions work behind the scenes. For example, the AI/ML integrated platform builds, accelerates, automates, and simplifies data and AI product development and deployment. This has led to $27 billion worth of annual fraud prevented9. And Visa’s managed service of 24x7x365 proactive monitoring prevented $74 million in fraud for CEMEA Issuers & Acquirers.

After the main plenary concluded, participants had an opportunity to join breakout sessions on three critical topics: managing social engineering risks in a digital world; risk as a service; and smarter, faster and safer when it comes to fraud and data.

Throughout the Summit, Visa reinforced its commitment to its clients and partners, offering access to its global expertise, vast knowledge, and unique experience in the payments and commerce ecosystem.

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All brand names, logos and/or trademarks are the property of their respective owners, are used for identification purposes only, and do not necessarily imply product endorsement or affiliation with Visa.

1- UN population data, Visa Business and Economic Insights, analysis of Oxford Economics
  2- UN population data, Visa Business and Economic Insights, analysis of Oxford Economics
  3- Quarterly OpCerts client submissions excluding Russia 2. Index calculated vs. FY19 i.e., Oct 20 vs. Oct 19, Oct 21 vs. Oct 19 and Oct 22 vs. Oct 19
  4- VisaNet data (domestic + international) collection only & settlement excluding Russia.
  5- VisaNet data
  6- Projections include EY Market Size (2022); Accenture market Sizing 2015 projected 2021 (2015); World Bank Gov. Expenditure data 2019 projected to 2022 based on GDP growth rates (2019)
7- Cybersecurity Ventures, 2022, Checkpoint Research, 2023, IBM – Cost of a data breach report 2022
8- Consumer Survey Q31: Which of these statements comes closest to your opinion? In your view, are most company data use policies, terms of consent and privacy policies that you encounter (Global N=27,200, CEMEA N=3,200)
9-   Visa Data

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