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Visa’s Dubai innovation centre to focus on digital payments

Visa has opened a technology innovation centre in Dubai to focus on cashless payments

Global payments company Visa recently unveiled an innovation centre in Dubai Internet City to instigate industry collaboration on cashless payment technology.

The centre, in the Gulf’s largest information and communications technology community, will serve the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (Cemea) market and is part of a global network of Visa innovation centres.

According to the company, the 4,000ft2 facility supports its commitment to drive cashless economies throughout the region.

The Dubai facility has been designed to replicate the success of Visa’s flagship One Market innovation centre in San Francisco and the Asia-Pacific innovation centre it opened recently in Singapore.

Kamran Siddiqi, group executive, Cemea, at Visa, said the world of payments and financial services was changing rapidly due to mobile, cloud computing, big data, social networks and the resulting changes in consumer behaviour.

He said new players were looking at the payment space from different angles, with the likes of Uber, Google, social networks and e-commerce firms shaping the payment world.

“How we shape the future will change very significantly. We have been successful in creating products and services which are proprietary to Visa, and sharing them with our partners to the benefit of consumers,” said Siddiqi. “We don’t know what the future will look like, but we intend to find out.”

Finding answers to customers’ problems

John McGuire, vice-president, innovation and strategic partnerships Cemea at Visa and head of the Dubai Innovation Centre, said the facility would have a dedicated team of veteran financial technology experts, the larger Visa network and partners to conceive and develop commerce and payment prototypes.

McGuire said the centre was a platform for Visa to understand the commercial problems customers faced and help solve those problems. “This is not just about technology innovation. Visa has invested in this facility to work with clients to find solutions to the problems they face,” he said.

Jim McCarthy, global head of innovation and strategic partnerships at Visa, said: “What the Dubai Technology, E-commerce and Media Free Zone (Tecom) Group is doing in Dubai Internet City speaks to why we want to be in Dubai, get close to the marketplace and expose our capabilities in a way that will allow us to pioneer and develop solutions that address business challenges for merchants and our banking and finance clients in the Middle East and around the globe.

“Visa isn’t going to build mobile phones or create the next big software platform, but we have one heck of an asset in VisaNet, that we wanted to keep easy and allow third parties to work with our clients to consume those assets and create new capabilities,” he said.

Malek Sultan Al Malek, CEO at Tecom Business Parks, said the timing of Visa’s Dubai innovation centre opening was perfect because it came almost at the same time as the UAE federal government and Dubai government unveiled innovation strategies.

Collaborative partnership

Tecom Group is a strategic business enabler of 11 communities in Dubai that are home to more than 5,100 companies with a total workforce of 76,000. “Visa was one of the few partners that approached us to discuss collaboration both in a formal and informal way,” he said.

Al Malek added that part of Tecom’s approach to innovation was to establish its own innovation hubs, similar to what Visa has brought with the opening of the Dubai facility, where prototyping of products or solutions can be shared.

“When you look at the market in this region, most of the business opportunities are towards digital transformation and digital transactions,” he said. “We feel Visa is not only a partner in the innovation space, but an infrastructure enabler for incubation activities.”

Charles Lobo, head of operations, retail assets and cards business at Dubai-based Visa banking partner Emirates NBD, said enabling customers to choose how they pay in the most secure manner is where the partnership between Emirates NBD and Visa comes in.

“We are working with Visa on the Visa Developer Platform and we were one of the early adopters in the Middle East. The platform allows us to build mobile payments for customers, irrespective of what device they use. So it doesn’t matter whether they are using Apple, Samsung or Google devices or Emirates NBD’s own wallet,” he said. 

Lobo said Emirates NBD wanted to provide a consumer experience that was seamless and frictionless, whether for physical face-to-face transactions or e-commerce transactions.

“In this regard, we are working with Visa on something called Visa Checkout,” he adds. “Visa Checkout is the easy, safe, simple and speedy new way to pay online. This allows consumers to make faster online payments in a secure way.”

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