IBS Journal June 2018


Operating with global variety

IBS Journal spoke to Sebastien Slim, head of marketing and innovation at HPS, about the varying demands of the payments marketplace, and how the firm plans to tackle current trends and regionality

Senior Fintech Reporter Alex Hamilton


ery few industries move as fast as the payments sphere – it’s one in which a new solution seemingly appears every week. Attempting to ride the innovation wave can be a daunting

prospect for institutions, but companies like HPS aim to ease that task with targeted solutions. With regulation and change occurring in rapid time, says Sebastien Slim, head of marketing and innovation at HPS.

Slim says that HPS’s software covers “the entire payments value chain”, from issuing to acquiring and switching, and also provides a set of “surrounding solutions”, an example of which would be tokenisation platforms which support Apple Pay and Android Pay. HPS also provides a set of APIs which allows fintechs and banks to connect and make the most of the latest open banking regulations.

In May it launched PowerCARD Connect-Open API, an open banking platform which allows firms to build “innovative payments applications” on banks and other large financial institutions’ existing payment systems. A pilot version was launched in September 2017 – though the APIs were ready much before that – and is already live with ICPS, which used the platform to create a mobile banking app.

The firm operates across three main regions, Morocco and Africa, Middle East and Asia, and Europe and Americas. The firm’s mobile wallets and payments project in the former involves work across three card issuers, one of which is live as of Q1 2018, with more due to go live by the end of June. The project is going “step-by-step”, with the final stage involving person-to-merchant payments.

“When you look at Morocco,” says Slim. “99% of the transactions are based in cash. If you take the 1% that aren’t cash based, around 75% of them are used to withdraw cash, instead of payments.” There’s currently a big push from the Central Bank of Morocco to move the

country to a cashless society. “It’s a big step but they really want to provide the means for people to pay electronically.”

There are differences across the three major regions when it comes to the services required by the market. Mobile wallet solutions are more popular in Africa, and HPS is pushing those services with more emphasis. That’s not to say that there isn’t any interest in the other regions, says Slim, but HPS receives “a different kind of feedback”. NFC mobile payments and tokenisation comes to the fore in Europe, Latin America and Japan. “We adapt based on regions. The retail offering we have been promoting in London is mainly for Europe and Northern America, though we welcome interest from other regions as well.”

HPS recently broke America, a market which is notoriously difficult for “outsider” companies to get into. The firm signed its first deal in the region last year, replacing a local processor. The pain points which caused the US company to switch to HPS were a lack of visibility on reporting and a dearth of services. “They really wanted to be able to become a processor in their own market,” says Slim. “I really feel our software was a better way for them to service their customers – the merchants – and help them take control. They were looking for a flexible solution that could easily adapt to the US market and the differences in acquiring when compared to regions like Europe.” The soft launch occurred at the end of 2017, with a full launch planned for Q2 2018.

HPS is a “small company” of 500, which successfully punches above its weight. Penetrating a market like the US meant getting a “key” reference. Now that the firm has gained its first taker, it’s starting “an aggressive sales plan” in the region. The first point of attack is the acquiring sector, and then the issuing business. Local vendors, beware.

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