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Fast fact:
'The functionality and flexibility of the Upaid platform means that the service can expand in line with [VISA International] CEMEA's strategic roadmap to enable a range of customer friendly solutions for remote payments.'
Hilary Mitchell, VP, New Payment Solutions, Visa International CEMEA. - Press Release, London 13 January 2004

Ashley Ward, Upaidís CEO on deals with Visa and IBM
Source : Mobile Payments World

Mobile Payments World logo (05 February 2004)

In light of a recent high profile extension to its contract with Visa CEMEA and the inclusion of IBM in this contract, MPW spoke to Ashley Ward CEO of Upaid, to find out more of the details. UK-based Upaid offers an open service which connects banks, operators, merchants and card associations for secure mobile payments, providing the technology and connectivity for mobile payment services.

MPW: Upaid recently announced an extension to its contract with Visa in the CEMEA. What does this mean for Upaid?
AW: It means credibility: the service we run in conjunction with IBM is validated by that financial institution. It also means that we have a sales force in that region selling a service which as they succeed, we benfit from.

MPW: Has this been a natural progression for Upaid?
AW: Yes. We decided immediately in 2002 to offer this technology for mobile payments only as a service. This decision has proven to be inspired especially in light of the evidence available now that card associations and banks want to offer mobile payment services to the market while limiting the capital employed in these expensive projects. The Upaid platform is available on a transaction basis throughout the world, as Upaid and IBM have already invested in the scalable technology required.

MPW: Why did you aim your strategy at banks as opposed to the telcos?
AW: Banks are in a position to offer a wide range of mobile payment services to customers about whom they already have a detailed profile. This means that customers can use their bank account or credit card to pay for a wide variety of products and services including top-up of a prepaid mobile phone. Because mobile operators are not banks and generally do not wish to take credit risks on items other than low value content, the model lends itself more to being bank-offered. However, mobile operators could talk to their acquiring bank about delivering these services to them in order to save on costs for the top-up channel (versus vouchers, etc) and to facilitate payments for items where the customer does not have a 'wallet' or credit on a postpaid account.

MPW: What are the current major applications for Upaid?
AW: The majority of banks are starting with prepaid mobile top-up and moving quickly to the SMS payment of household and other bills, particularly such items as credit card bills where the amount to be paid from the total is defined by the consumer.

MPW: Is Upaid looking at the mobile data and content market for the future?AW: We are looking at all markets where there is a requirement to move value from one account to another. The bottom end of the content market does not lend itself particularly well to a bank transaction, as these are generally very low value transactions.

MPW: Could you explain a little more about the original Visa project in Morocco? Number of users, marketing campaign, etc.
AW: The project in Morocco was entirely undertaken to prove the validity of Upaidís service. The number of users on the pilot is classified and the marketing is only taking place with the transfer of pilot to production service.

MPW: As well as working with Visa, Upaid has also managed to pick up a very important contract working with IBM. Could you explain their role and what it does for your company?
AW: IBM's role is two-fold, that of a host for our application along with the integration services required for our customers globally. IBM is also a marketing partner whereby this service is being offered by IBM to its customers in line with IBMís e-business On demand strategy.

MPW: IBM has looked at the m-payments market very closely and is now investing in it. Do you think this means that the m-payments market is finally reaching a level of maturity in which we will begin to see mass-market applications rolled out?
AW: Within the next twelve months. This is not as a result of any particular changes in the market Ė but as a result of the mobile payments industry clarifying its proposition to the consumer and making it usable and desirable rather than a myriad of confusing technology.

MPW: Visa is very prominent in Asia Pacific. Does this automatically give Upaid a footprint there?
AW: No, it does not automatically mean that any other division of Visa will adopt this service. However, with a division that has been openly active in this market, we would naturally wish to ensure that other divisions were aware of the service success within the sister CEMEA division.

MPW: Apart from mobile top up for prepaid airtime, what do you see as the main use of m-payments in the future?
AW: Big applications will undoubtedly be prepaid cards and accounts for transport and road tolls, shopping, fuel, long distance calls, etc. Also, SMS is a convenient method for stimulating customers to pay bills earlier than they would traditionally pay them by cheque. As market adoption increases we see the technology being applied to payments on a more ad hoc basis. But again, such developments are subject to engaging merchants and consumers in such a scheme.

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