Digital payments are growing in Asia Pacific and wearables are leading the charge. Source: Shutterstock

Digital payments are growing in Asia Pacific and wearables are leading the charge. Source: Shutterstock

How is Mastercard preparing Asia Pacific for the era of digital payments?

GOING digital is every business leader’s dream — be it a small business, a mid-sized enterprise, or a large organization. One of the things that makes an immediate impact on customers, therefore, is digital payments.

In Asia Pacific, cashless, digital payments don’t just mean accepting a credit or debit card on a point of sale (POS) machine. Customers expect vendors and merchants to accept e-wallets and bank cards via near field communication (NFC) on smartphones, smartwatches, and other smart devices.

At the Singapore Fintech Festival this year, for example, Mastercard is showcasing a variety of cutting-edge payment methods that it has developed for the APAC and global markets.

Mastercard APAC Head of Digital Payments & Labs Ben Gilbey spoke to Tech Wire Asia ahead of the conference in Singapore to discuss the company’s vision for the future and shared how the business is facilitating the adoption of new technologies through collaborations, partnerships, and customer education.

“The use of smartphones has accelerated dramatically and prices have dropped, particularly in Asia Pacific. We expect the same things to happen around wearables and other connected devices.

“The spectrum of wearable devices that can be enabled for commerce is ever-expanding.”

Gilbey pointed out that as the adoption of wearable devices such as fitness accessories, rings, and even jewelry goes up, consumers will expect payment solutions to evolve.

“The cost of incorporating payments technology and payment capability into wearable devices is dropping dramatically as well.”

Mastercard, who developed partnerships with wearables giants Fitbit and Garmin, believes the company is ahead of the curve when it comes to helping businesses delight customers with new-age payment solutions.

Their confidence was reinforced by the recent acquisition of Fitbit by Google — who owns its own payment solutions arm that is hugely successful in India — for US$2.1 billion.

In Asia Pacific, wearables have a great deal of potential, which is why Mastercard partnered with Tappy to enables contactless payment through virtually any wearable accessories such as rings, bracelets, and even sunglasses.

“The innovation allows the company to target a completely new consumer segment of tech-savvy fashionistas, showing that the rising wearable payments category is on the cusp of its strongest growth yet.”

Gilbey believes that Mastercard’s ability to accelerate its adoption and implementation of technology, for itself as well as its customers, has been a result of the company’s digital-first vision and its ability to partner with fintech companies.

“We’re advancing Mastercard as a financial innovator by partnering with other FinTech companies. This is really about the evolution of Mastercard into a true financial technology player.”

Although wearables, IoT, and other innovative payment methods are the focus of Gilbey’s efforts, the reality is that the company aspires to be agnostic to how people pay — be it with cards, QR codes, smart devices, or even their face (using facial recognition), Mastercard’s real aim is to make its customers future-ready.

In Singapore and around the world, the company runs several incubators, accelerators, and partnership programs to support fintech companies, collaborate with them, and build smarter solutions that help merchants accept payments from a wide range of customers, using a variety of methods.

Most recently, the company launched another accelerator – Fintech Express in Asia Pacific — which is designed to help fintech players increase speed-to-market, reduce barriers to entry, and scale globally.

Obviously, with technology adoption, the biggest challenge is security. However, Gilbey assures customers that security is top of mind when it comes to enabling new, digital payment methods.

“We don’t collect any personally identifiable information (PII). We leverage our tokenization capabilities to obfuscate the card number and provide higher levels of security. So, you know, we started with tokenization to power up what we call the x-pays such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google pay.

“Now, we’re extending this into the IoT space and into the merchant e-commerce space to really offer that same degree of security, privacy, safety to all devices that are enabled for payments.”

Leveraging its image and reputation, Mastercard has been educating customers with authority and confidence and driving inquiries and implementations of cutting-edge payment solutions in Asia Pacific.

In the coming year, Gilbey is excited about the myriad new offerings that the industry will see, but also the surge in demand as a result of customer expectations.