Bringing SMBs on board to tap digital growth
When two-thirds of consumers say the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how they will pay for things now and in the future1, merchants, payments providers, and banks have had to adapt quickly. The growth of contactless payments globally has been accelerated by the pandemic, together with the rise of eCommerce and the digitalization of services. In Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) consumers show an increasingly strong preference for contactless cards, mobile payments, and digital wallets, particularly in the UAE.2
“This shift puts pressure on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which typically have less resource to adapt to new technology, costs and paperwork and have to manage lengthy onboarding processes. Digital payments and eCommerce have become the preferred choice for many consumers, who want the convenience and speed of making contactless payments or doing their shopping online” says Neil Caldwell, Head of Merchant Sales and Acquiring for Visa CEMEA. “SMBs understand the opportunity that lies in accepting digital, and the risk to their business if they don’t.”
With the momentum behind contactless payments so strong in the UAE, it is a natural market for Visa to trial its Rapid Seller Onboarding Programme, a first for the CEMEA region. In partnership with UAE bank Mashreq, the programme is designed to support both small businesses and acquirers with a faster, seamless and cost-effective onboarding solution.
Typically, acquirer banks have strict requirements for accepting a merchant as a payment customer, requiring manual procedures for Know Your Customer (KYC) and underwriting. This can result in long timelines and high costs for both merchant and acquirer. The Visa and Mashreq programme aims to ease these onboarding pressures, by providing seamless onboarding of SMBs within seven days – whereas the process often takes several weeks – and removes a number of pain points that SMBs typically encounter in adopting new payment systems. These include a lack of digital touchpoints, lengthy onboarding timelines, and limited feedback mechanisms to communicate with technology providers and issuing banks.
Kartik Taneja, Mashreq’s EVP-Head of Payments, said: “Mashreq is glad to be the first in the region to partner with Visa for this innovative process of enabling merchant onboarding using digital acquisition.
“We are increasingly experiencing a shift from cash to digital payment methods in the SMB merchants’ segment. We are also experiencing unprecedented growth in the eCommerce merchants’ segment. The Rapid Seller Onboarding initiative will help to expedite the onboarding of these merchants with maximum convenience.
“A similar innovation implemented by Mashreq is its NeoBiz solution which offers a speedy digital account opening experience for SMBs clubbed together with value-added services such as payment acceptance via POS and payment gateways. We look forward to collaborating with Visa to continue our tradition of providing innovative solutions for our customers.”
“This new onboarding programme will accelerate the acceptance of digital payments among small businesses,” says Madhur Mehra, Head of Merchant Sales & Acquiring for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), North Africa, the Levant, and Pakistan at Visa. “This in turn will bring a number of benefits to them, including preventing revenue leakage and improving cash flow, and accessing the UAE's burgeoning digital economy. For acquirers, this automated onboarding process will save them money and enable them to increase digital payment adoption among SMBs.”
The direction of travel in payments is clear from consumer demand; the trend towards digitalisation and contactless transactions is irreversible. By lowering the barriers for SMBs to tap into these opportunities, Visa is helping to open a new avenue of growth for these businesses, the bedrock of the global economy.
“A strong SMB sector is vital for economic resilience and growth, and Visa believes that we need to remove any obstacles that prevent SMBs from participating in the digital economy,” says Caldwell. “We believe that improving access to digital payments is just the first step in supporting the digital transformation of the SMB sector. By giving small businesses easier access to digital payments and enabling them to compete on equal terms with larger businesses, we believe we can help them to reach new markets, new revenue streams, and create new opportunities for growth.”
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2 Visa COVID-19 Impact Tracker
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