EDC’s Volker Schloenvoigt caught up with George Drimiotis, the CEO of Cardlink, the largest Network Service Provider in Greece. Cardlink operates more than 260,000 devices providing fast and secure services to merchants and consumers in their day to day payment transactions.
1. Tell us a little bit about Cardlink, its history, and position in the Greek market today.
Cardlink was founded in 2004 by Alpha Bank and Eurobank in order to create a common POS network for the two banks. Once this network was created it became apparent that Cardlink could do a lot more for the Greek payment acceptance market. In January 2015 the company was acquired by Quest Holdings and Edgepay Holdings with a view to create a truly independent payment services provider. Today Cardlink operates the largest payment acceptance network in Greece serving merchants and all major banks in Greece. Our network has approximately 250,000 terminals and processes more than 400,000,000 transactions annually. We also operate a payment gateway for e-commerce transactions serving approximately 10,000 merchants. At the moment we are busy preparing the launch of additional products and services which will be offered to merchants in the near future.
2. The Greek economy has obviously been in the press a lot over the last few years. How has Greek’s macroeconomic situation impacted the payments industry and electronic payments in particular?
The payments industry has been one of the very few areas which have actually benefited from the Greek crisis. The capital controls which were imposed in the summer of 2015 doubled the number of transactions performed by Greek consumers. And this happened literally overnight as significant restrictions in the access to physical cash forced people to use their cards. Transactions have continued to grow significantly since that event. Before the crisis, Greece was amongst the bottom three markets in Europe in terms of card usage with approximately 12 transactions per capita per year. We expect that for 2018 the equivalent number will be 60 transactions per capita per year. Greece is now one of three European markets where contactless transactions are 50% of the total transactions and more than 10% of the total transactions are below €10.
3. We have seen legal requirements for Greek merchants to have a POS terminal in-store with the aim of moving away from cash. What do you see as the key payment trends in Greece today and how are they likely to shape the industry over the coming years?
It is well documented that moving away from cash has significant benefits for the economy of a country in terms of GDP growth, tax and VAT collection. The mandated requirement for POS terminals which became a law at the end of 2016 led to the explosive growth of POS terminals and also provided further fuel for the growth of transactions that I mentioned earlier. The impact of this is gradually becoming apparent in tax and VAT receipts. I expect that this trend to move away from cash will continue as there are other trends in play. Card usage has become a habit with Greek consumers. They have seen that cards are safe to use and are not afraid to use them anymore. Another interesting statistic is that Greece has one of the lowest fraud rates in Europe. Also, merchants who accept electronic transactions are perceived as less likely to tax evade and that further encourages the use of cards. There is further development planned for the future such as e-invoicing initiatives and perhaps further benefits to merchants and consumers who use electronic transactions. As Greece emerges from the crisis and starts growing again we expect that these trends will further drive growth in the Greek market and may even make Greece one of the leaders in electronic payments.
4. What do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
In my spare time, I try to spend as much time as possible with my teenage daughter. I also read as much as I can about our industry, technology in general and management/leadership practices. As to my hobbies, I love to ski and kitesurf. I can’t practice these as much as I would like so in between I swim and run.
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