MasterCard exec upbeat on ‘world beyond cash’ in Asia

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A world beyond cash is emerging in Asia, and will continue to rapidly grow, predicts MasterCard worldwide president for international markets Ann Cairns who visited Manila as part of her trip to major Asian cities.

“What strikes me about Asia is that it has tremendous opportunity for growth, as its economies are really vibrant, and in many places, the penetration of card products is still extremely low,” says Cairns, who is upbeat about the rise of consumers and businesses shifting to cashless transactions in the region, and sees Asia as key for expansion.

Today, 85 percent of transactions in Asia are still cash-based. The region is falling much behind Europe, where card payments accounted for 41 percent of all transactions in 2011 according to data from the European Central Bank.

To lead the charge into the Asian market, MasterCard employs different strategies and engages with various stakeholders. As Cairns explains, “We are working hard to make people realize the convenience, efficiency, manageability, and rewards of electronic payment solutions. We help merchants and banks understand the costs of cash to their business and change their behavior.”

“To encourage banks to move away from cash, we assist them in launching great card products with wonderful features and superior fraud control,” she adds.

MasterCard also actively promotes mobile payment technologies, a leading area of growth for cashless transactions in Asia according to Cairns. She especially envisions the installation of more mobile payment counters for consumer establishments and the spread of contactless solutions like PayPass, which became hugely popular in Australia and is now being embraced in Singapore.

Cairns is very positive about mobile payments taking off in the Asian market, that she feels it is no longer a question of the technological solution or the acceptance by the population, but of putting the right regulatory frameworks in place.

It is in developing these frameworks, she explains, that MasterCard will play a crucial role, drawing from its vast experience in many different markets around the world.

Above all, Cairns is confident about MasterCard entrenching its leadership in the Asian card payments market, through the company’s “very deep relationships with clients, customers and other stakeholders.”

In the Philippines, MasterCard reached out to different segments through product lines that cater to their specific needs. Today, it offers debit and credit cards targeting students, young professionals, women, corporates, among other niche markets. It is also looking to tap into the unbanked population by offering prepaid cards.

Moreover, the company has partnered with leading telecommunications firm Smart to launch the Smart Money MasterCard, a reloadable payment card. With similar partnerships in development phase, MasterCard is poised to achieve even more breakthroughs in the mobile payments domain, and the payment solutions industry in general.

Naturally, Cairns is proud of the accomplishments of the Philippine team. She says, “In the Philippines, we are now in an excellent position to seize the market, and realize our company’s vision of a world beyond cash.”

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