Lessons learned in 2020

It would have been shortsighted for businesses and industries to be ignorant of the changes that took place during 2020. Lessons of generosity and tolerance have humbled even the largest corporations during this time (another nod here to the famed A Christmas Carol, where I got my inspiration for this series!).

We asked our industry experts what lessons they have learned over the last 12 months and what they foresee will be the path of the payments industry in the future.

The opinions you will read below belong to:

Bethan Cowper – AVP, Market Development and Business Support, Europe

Patrick Mowatt – Regional Sales Director, Africa

Sergey Putenikhin – VP, Eastern Joint Regional Directorate Managing Director, Asia Pacific

Aleksei Chumakov – Head of Business Intelligence, Russia

Nayan Raut – AVP, Regional Business Development Director, Asia

Alexey Osipov – EVP, Managing Director, Russia and MEA

Rafael Marinho – Regional Sales Director, Brazil

Mohamed Hijazi – AVP, Regional Business Development Director, Middle East


BC:      From an FI perspective - from speaking to other experts in the industry and from our own experiences over the year, it is clear that FIs are taking stock of their technical stacks and exploring transformation strategies in order to both remain relevant and prepare for the future - whether globally or within their respective regions. The objectives of these companies vary radically, depending on size, vision and geography. However, one thing they have had in common in 2020 has been the clear trend towards wanting more control over the mission-critical, business differentiating aspects of their business. In brief, the overarching trend that will fall over to 2021 and beyond, is a need for underlying technology that enables the launch of new products and services quickly; to react to the market and be more proactive in their mission to ultimately gain brand recognition and market share.


PM:     Procurement processes and project implementations were hugely impacted during lockdown. To follow this, COVID lockdowns put pressure on governments and regulators to re-evaluate things, such as cross-border money transfers and implementing more card and wallet infrastructure to overtake the traditional “cash is King” mentality seen in South Africa. Because of this, once out of local lockdowns, I see the SADEC region moving into a boom phase. It is likely we will see new requirements or potential replacements - banks are busy with budget cycles and it can be expected that many projects will be approved, particularly as many were put on hold, or did not take place in 2020 due to the lockdowns.


SP:      Across Asia, more and more marketplaces are appearing and, due to the pandemic, we are seeing a lot of remote services appear. I see that we are moving towards more electronic commerce as no one is asking for cards anymore, the most common enquiries are for contactless or remote payment platforms.


AC:      In Russia and surrounding countries, we are already seeing consumers use less cash in favour of various electronic payments, and this is a trend I see continuing into 2021.


NR:      There has been a big change in my region (India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka) with increased adoption of mobile and contactless payments, and this change was spurred on by the Indian Government trying to reduce cash usage during the COVID pandemic. We have also seen new trends, such as neobanks attracting younger generations by offering a more personal and faster banking service compared to more traditional financial institutions.


AO:      The pandemic saw overall spending decrease over a few months but it seems that people are now happy to start shopping again. During 2020, the focus in both of the regions under my responsibility (Middle East & Africa and Russia) seemed to be the shift to remote services, this has caused an e-commerce boom which only looks to continue.

Statistics from Data Insight research agency predicts e-commerce sales in Russia will increase by 44% by the end of 2020 to 2.5 trillion rubles. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, a Checkout.com report revealed that 90% of consumers are now shopping online, 40% of those stating the pandemic is the reason for the switch.


RM:     The events of 2020 have advanced us into a new era of payments. The Brazilian market is now saturated with payment apps, instant payment solutions, digital wallets and open banking applications. I believe that in 2021 this movement will remain and grow even further.


MH:     Across the Middle East, there have been more government regulations imposed on financial institutions to support contactless transactions via ATMs, POS terminals, etc. I also foresee more interest in relation to remote banking solutions, including the ability to open a new bank account remotely.