Jean Sideris (Director, Dubai) recently spoke with Abe Smith, Co-CEO at Paymentology. During the conversation, Abe introduced the firm and shared his views about the evolution of the issuing processing market and the singularities of the MEA region
1. Can you describe what Paymentology does and the types of clients you serve?
We are an issuer processor, bridging the gap between the scheme and the issuer. Our role is to facilitate card issuance and transaction management for banks, FinTechs, and telcos while providing them with the capabilities to scale quickly. Think of us as the essential infrastructure that handles data, decisions, and transactions between the scheme and the issuer. Our clients benefit from our unwavering commitment to customer experience, technology, expertise, and global reach to issue and process various types of physical and virtual cards (prepaid, debit, credit, multi-currency, BNPL, revolving, etc.) anywhere in the world, quickly and at scale.
2. How is the issuing processing market evolving, and how is Paymentology positioning itself to take advantage of this evolution?
The issuer processing market is undergoing a significant transformation with the emergence of new players, regulatory changes, and advancements in technology. In addition to traditional banks, fintechs, neobanks, and even telcos are now becoming issuers, offering diverse products which as a result are democratising payments. This evolution provides more choices to consumers, such as next-generation digital wallets, flexible credit solutions and one-time-use cards.
We recognise these market changes and are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this evolution in several ways. For instance, we focus on data insights to effectively manage risks and provide information to our clients to enable them to innovate and offer personalised products based on their customer’s behaviour.
Moreover, we understand the need for next-generation issuer processors that can meet the demands of this growing market. Legacy processors lack the necessary speed-to-market, rich API capabilities, and international efficiency. As a purely cloud-based global neo-processor, Paymentology is designed to address these requirements and provide a payment solution for issuers operating in multiple countries.
3. From your experience, how do you see the needs of FinTechs and banks in the MEA region differing from those in Europe and North America from an issuing processing perspective?
The needs of FinTechs and banks in the MEA region differ from those in Europe and North America, particularly when considering issuing processing, due to the following factors.
The Middle East's large transient/immigrant workforce adds a unique dimension to the region's financial landscape. Remittance, or the transfer of money by foreign workers to their home countries, is a significant aspect that requires attention.
There is also a massive effort in the MEA region to shift economies away from heavy reliance on government spending and the energy sector, towards economies driven by diversified private sector investments. This transformation has led to lower volatility and increased sustainability, fostering healthy FinTech ecosystems in the region. As a result, the demand for innovative financial solutions and digital banking services has surged.
Additionally, regulatory frameworks, financial inclusion, and market dynamics play a crucial role in shaping the needs of FinTechs and banks in the MEA region. Regulatory frameworks in the region have specific requirements and compliance mandates, necessitating modern issuer processors, like us, to integrate with regional switches to meet these demands. Our platform has a dedicated division that focuses on domestic switch integration, ensuring compliance with local regulations and facilitating seamless operations.
Furthermore, the level of financial inclusion and access to banking services varies across different demographics in the MEA region. Compared to Europe and North America, there are large groups of unbanked or underbanked consumers and businesses in the Middle East. To address this gap, we collaborate with institutions like Wio Bank PJSC, the MEA region's first platform bank dedicated to supporting small businesses. Through our partnership, we enable streamlined account opening processes and convenient payment options, empowering underserved SMEs, entrepreneurs, and freelancers in the region.
4. What do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
My top three hobbies are angel investing, cooking, and staying fit.
Over the last decade, angel investing has become a passion of mine. I get a real kick out of researching and identifying promising startups and early-stage companies that show clear innovation and have the potential for an exciting growth journey. By providing them with financial support and guidance, I feel privileged to contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and participate in the development of these ventures.
Cooking is a release for me. I guess it’s a kind of meditation – I get to tune out the rest of the world, follow a recipe (or, more usually, make it up as I go along) and slurp some wine. Sometimes it’s even edible.
In order to work productively, eat what I want and drink the odd glass of wine, I have no option other than to exercise! I suppose you could call it a hobby in that respect, but it’s definitely something I enjoy having done, rather than doing.
5. What book are you reading, or which is one of your favourite books/movies?
I’m currently reading Robert Graves' "Goodbye to All That," a memoir that vividly recounts the author's experiences as a soldier during World War I.
One of my favourite books is John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." I first discovered it in my 20s. The book's themes of poverty, inequality, and compassion, still resonate today. It's a must-read that I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone.
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