An Interview with Vipin Kalra


Sainsbury: What are your top priorities for the next 12-18 months?

Kalra: Over the next 12-18 months, I am focusing on four main priorities to grow our business in Australia.

First, we are looking at new ways to drive growth from our core product categories – credit, debit, prepaid and commercial.  We continue to see significant growth in Visa Debit in particular, as Australians look for more control over their spending online, overseas and over the phone.

Second, we are investing in the future of payments which will see contactless payment technology evolve from cards into other devices such as mobile phones; person to person payments where cardholders can send and receive funds from other cardholders anywhere in the world; and, our digital wallet.

Third, we will continue to broaden our acceptance footprint in cash-heavy merchant segments to further displace inefficient forms of payment such as cash and cheques.  Visa payWave is key to this – we are seeing double digit month-on-month growth in the number of Visa payWave transactions in Australia.  Innovations in mobile point of sale solutions are also an exciting area that will expand acceptance.

Finally, we will continue to advocate for a regulatory environment for the payments system that results in fair competition and the best outcome for Australians.  We will continue to work with the RBA on its review of card surcharging practices in Australia, to help define and implement card surcharging caps based on the cost of card acceptance. We will also continue to raise awareness of the need for a more balanced approach to payments system regulation, including consistent treatment of all four-party credit card schemes. 

Sainsbury: Payments is currently a hotbed of innovation; how do you decide which innovations to focus on?

Kalra: It certainly is an exciting time to be in the payments industry. As a company we are always looking at ways to innovate and enhance our product offering to make safer, easier and more convenient ways for our cardholders to make purchases and for our merchants to accept payments.

Bringing greater efficiency into the way we pay remains a key focus for us so a we are working on a number of innovations designed to replace more inefficient forms of payment.

In the physical store environment we are doing this through contactless payments to help reduce queues and speed up the checkout process. We know Australians love to shop online so we are also developing, our digital wallet, to make it even easier for cardholders to pay for goods and services in an online environment.

Finally, we want to extend the acceptance of Visa to bring the benefits of electronic payments to those environments that have been traditionally cash based.

Sainsbury: Given Apple’s iPhone 5 will not support NFC, what impact do you see this having on consumer uptake of NFC services?

Kalra: While I think many people were surprised to hear that the latest iPhone is yet to support NFC technology, there is more than enough uptake of alternative smartphones that do support NFC technology to keep up the momentum around developing NFC services including payments. We believe NFC technology provides an exciting opportunity to the payments industry, and evolving contactless payment technology is a key part of our innovation roadmap.

Sainsbury: Virtual currencies such as Bitcoin are gaining mainstream traction. What role will Visa have in this space?

Kalra: Last year Visa acquired Playspan to bring the power of Visa’s network to the purchase of digital goods and services online from within games and social networks. Playspan allows publishers and developers to monetize their content by enabling consumers to make safe and convenient online purchases – from game credits to digital goods – using more than 85 global payments methods in 180 countries. Playspan has relationships with 700 of the top application developers on Google Android and social networks such as Facebook, as well as publishers of the top 300 online games and digital media including Warner Bros, Nickelodeon, Microsoft, Disney and Adobe.

Sainsbury: Contactless payments comes with a new set of security concerns. How do you engage with customers to promote best practice on financial security?

Kalra: Security is one of Visa’s highest priorities. Cards with our contactless payment application Visa payWave offer the same security benefits as all Visa cards.

Visa payWave cards carry multiple layers of security and are based on the secure EMV chip technology which means the cards cannot be counterfeited. In addition, because the card never leaves the cardholder’s hand, we actually think this technology can be more secure than traditional cards.

However, because contactless is still a relatively new technology for many Australians, we understand some people may have concerns. As such we work closely with our issuing banks to inform their cardholders as to the benefits and security parameters in place for all of our products.

In addition a number of merchants have used information at the point of sale to inform customers about contactless payments. We have just launched our second television commercial educating cardholders as to the benefits of the Visa payWave and we have set up a Visa payWave website with a FAQ section.

Sainsbury: Incidents of mass credit card number theft are becoming more common. What does Visa do to help manage these security breaches?

Kalra: Back in 2009 we launched our seven point security agenda to strengthen the payments system in Australia. We have made good progress with initiatives such as migrating all of our cards to the secure EMV chip platform, making sure merchant acceptance terminals are chip capable, and working towards the broad rollout of PIN as verification for all domestic transactions. These initiatives have helped to strengthen the ‘card present’ environment (where payment is made in person at the point-of-sale).

However, fraudsters will always look to explore other avenues for fraud and we need to keep working on strengthening the ‘card not present’ environment (when payment is made online or over the phone).
Functionality such as Verified by Visa and Card Verification Value, which requires shoppers to input a security code for online or over-the-phone transactions, have been put in place to further secure the card not present environment.

In addition, all merchants and service providers who store, process or transmit Visa cardholder data must adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. This is a multifaceted security standard that includes requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design and other critical protective measures.

Sainsbury: What opportunities do you see in social media for financial services?

Kalra: Over the past few years social media has played a growing role in everybody’s lives regardless of what industry they work in. I think social media provides the financial services industry with immense opportunity to connect with our peers and broader consumers through a variety of new and exciting channels. 

At Visa we are using online and social media channels in a number of ways from sharing our views via our blog to promoting financial literacy skills through a financial literacy themed Marvel comic. We are constantly reviewing the ways we are communicating with our stakeholders to make sure we are giving them the information they need in a timely fashion. I think social media is going to play a more and more important role in our communications mix heading into the future.  

Sainsbury: How do you encourage innovation within your team?

Kalra: As an industry, and in particular at Visa, I think we are lucky to have employees who are genuinely interested in technology and innovation. As a result innovation has become a key ingredient in our culture and is central to what we do at Visa. Structurally within the organisation we also have an innovation team both globally, regionally and locally; and it is their job to drive the emerging product and new technology channels.

Sainsbury: Which business leaders inspire you, and why?

Kalra: I think it would be hard for any modern day business executive to say they haven’t been inspired to some extent by the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Richard Branson. I know I have. But closer to home, I am lucky to work with a great team at Visa and also many great leaders at our financial institutions here in Australia. Gail Kelly, Mike Smith and Cameron Clyne to name a few, are all world-class business leaders I admire and take inspiration from.

Sainsbury: Every business leader, particularly at your level, has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?

Kalra: I am passionate about the payments industry and everything we do at Visa, however I’d have to say innovation is a topic particularly close to my heart. I feel proud to have played a role in driving innovation in the payments industry here in Australia, from the introduction of the EFTPOS terminals in early ‘90s, to the first chip card in 2001, to the first Visa payWave card in 2008, to seeing the widespread roll out of Visa payWave acceptance in major retailers across Australia.

Looking to the future, I hope to maintain momentum in the innovation space to help bring consumers and retailers faster, more efficient and more convenient ways to pay and be paid.

Related links:

Vipin Kalra will provide an update on Visa’s digital wallet and NFC payments at FST Media’s 3rd Annual Technology and Innovation – the Future of Payments conference on the 6th December 2012 at the Hilton, Sydney.