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The the largest fintech community in the world. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest in news opinions, and all things financial technology.

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🎧 The TWIF Podcast: Merusha Naidu of Paymentology & Rey Saeidi of Visa

"Financial inclusion needs to be the cornerstone of every single financial institution, whether it's a FinTech or a bank. And so from that moment on, I was just like, challenge accepted." - Merusha Naidu

🎧 The TWIF Podcast: Merusha Naidu of Paymentology & Rey Saeidi of Visa

Sponsored Podcast

Dive into the thrilling world of fintech with the latest episode of the TWIF Podcast, a must-listen for anyone keen on the intersection of finance and technology.

Discover inspiring stories of innovation and partnerships, like Paymentology's collaboration with Visa, and explore the transformative impact of financial inclusion, particularly through prepaid card solutions for underbanked communities.

This episode delves into the challenges and opportunities of creating equitable digital payment platforms, making it an essential listen for those fascinated by the ethical and practical dimensions of FinTech. Packed with insights and expert perspectives, this podcast episode is your gateway to understanding and appreciating the dynamic world of financial technology.

In this episode, host Helen Femi Williams was joined by two incredible guests:

Listen here:

‎The This Week in Fintech Podcast: TWIF Podcast ft Paymentology (Merusha Naidu) & Visa (Rey Saeidi) on Apple Podcasts
‎Show The This Week in Fintech Podcast, Ep TWIF Podcast ft Paymentology (Merusha Naidu) & Visa (Rey Saeidi) - 28 Nov 2023
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"Financial inclusion needs to be the cornerstone of every single financial institution, whether it's a FinTech or a bank. And so from that moment on, I was just like, challenge accepted." - Merusha Naidu


Helen 3:27
Lovely to meet you both. I'm Helen the host of Hey FinTech friends. It would be good to know a little bit about you guys, what you do and how you explain it to your non FinTech friends. Merusha, do you want to start and then right after Rey?

Helen 4:35
Wonderful to meet you. Thanks so much for having me. I'm Merusha. I do I am from Paymentolgy. We're a global issue processor. My role is I look after partnerships. You know, the way I explain it to my FinTech friends, is I'm really a relationship manager working really closely with the schemes to make sure that we create kind of a mutually beneficial partnership. Because if you look at payments, if you look at the payments industry, it's all about having really strong partnerships and collaborating, working together to build, you know, new and wonderful payment ecosystems. So yeah, head of partnerships globally..

Helen 5:53
Amazing, and so, like you, you obviously, both work for different companies, but you work together like payment ology, and visa work really, really close together. So it would be interesting to know a little bit about that partnership and like, what that looks like and how you guys work together and also how that came about.

Merusha 6:39
Thanks, Rey. And just to add, so, on the Paymentology side, we are like Rey says, we're a client of visas, but we work really, really closely with banks and fintechs, to connect them to, you know, the visa network. And so on the payment ology side, I think our very first Visa card was in 2010, when we did the Visa cards for the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. And, you know, our relationship with Visa has just grown from there, where, you know, there was a need in the market to create a card, a prepaid card that was really simple to issue. We needed to make sure that the card could be used everywhere. And so that's really what's, you know, started us on this journey of, you know, being a partner of visas. I think, for us, it's really grown. I've been with the company for 13 years now. And for us, making sure that we have really strong partnerships with schemes with Visa across the globe is instrumental to our business, right, it's, it's pivotal to both of our success, you know, we connect to visa across five regions. You know, that's Europe, the UK, Middle East and Africa, Latin America, as well as an APEC. So the fact that we, you know, provide a service for, you know, fintechs, across the globe, having these really strong connection to these partnerships with Visa helps us just do things like fast track implementations, create new, exciting, you know, payment services for customers, you know, create rails that really are borderless. And so I think that's really where our partnership, you know, helps all of us and, you know, every single FinTech that enters the market, having both visa as well as palaeontology as a part of that ecosystem, you know, really helps to, you know, drive their business forward.

Helen 8:31
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and actually, Mershua. Like, if we stay a little bit on you, it would be good to know about some of those use cases that have really excited you like you just mentioned South Africa, like, has there been anything? Or has there been like a moment or a specific use case with Paymentology where you've been like, Oh, this is why I work here. This is why I've decided to do this.

Merusha 8:55
Absolutely. And I think there's so many to choose from the FinTech space is, it's such an interesting space to be in because it touches you know, if you look at payments, payment, touch payments, touch touches every single person's lives on a daily basis, right? Every single thing we do, there's some kind of embedded finance involved. And so if I look at what I call, my aha moment, was very early on, when I first started that payment, ology, you know, it was to to cut then we had a very, very simple product, which was like a payroll card.

Merusha 9:30
And, you know, I had just started out in payments back then. And, you know, I have a, you know, I had a helper who used to help me around the house. And, you know, she was always saying to me, like, Oh, it's so dangerous. You know, if I pay her in cash, you know, it's really dangerous. And at that stage, she didn't have a bank account. And so, you know, at Paymentology. We had a very, very simple, kind of, like, prepaid payroll card. So I said to, like, you know, let's try it out. You know, I'll pay you on a card and let's see how it goes. And for me, that became it was such a pivotal moment in my life, because for the very first time, I could see that what we were actually doing was helping everyday people, you know, be included in the financial, you know, the financial sector in, you know, in a very, very simple way. So, for me, it was really like, okay, there's a simple prepaid card, I can pay my helper on, you know, using this card, it's now changing her life, because she now has a form of, you know, a safer way of, you know, receiving her payments, she now can make payments using that card. And for me, it was like, why are we not doing this everywhere? Like, we financial inclusion needs to be the cornerstone of every single financial institution, whether it's a FinTech or a bank. And so from that moment on, I was just like, challenge accepted. And I'm gonna make financial inclusion, you know, pivotal to every single thing that I do going forward. And so that was, that was the moment for me.

Helen 10:59
Yeah, that's such a great moment. And actually, as you were speaking, I was really thinking about, I guess, a lot of people who do need, who will need like, who need prepaid cards for so many reasons, like, we live in such a cashless society. And I just think of like, for instance, like a lot of vulnerable people in society or a few, for instance, had to leave home for any reason, like a lot of women are not necessarily just women, but like people going through dv, and then they need ways out, or ways to kind of have money that separate. And I know, not necessarily, that's the use case that you're thinking of. But I guess when you were speaking, I was just thinking of like, all the kind of intersectional reasons why someone may or may need a prepaid card, and cash, like you said, is just not really an option, like it was or we just don't use it as much. And so I so I think that's really cool. And especially coming what I'm not a from Britain, but my heritage is Nigeria, and I can think of, again, in, you know, the Global South, there's so many use cases for something like this, which is being explored by Paymentology

Merusha 12:12
You're absolutely right. And I think if you look at emerging markets, and you know, I've, you know, obviously, I'm from South Africa, but I've lived in Thailand, Singapore, you know, we've, I've kind of managed the whole of our Asian business. So if you look at emerging markets, and you know, the the really creative things that fintechs are doing in these emerging markets, it really is just such an exciting space to be in, but they're solving for everyday consumer challenges. And I think that's what makes, you know, the FinTech space, so incredibly interesting, and also vital to our business. I think there was an interesting stat that was like 2%, of, you know, global revenue runs through fintechs. And I mean, that is an incredible statistic, because at the end of the day, you know, we can see that fintechs are really playing an important role in, you know, how consumers are actually taking part of getting involved in the financial sector. So, yeah, it's really interesting. And I think also, when you look at what we're kind of seeing come out of Africa, out of Latin America, out of Asia Pacific, we can see that, you know, the the use of competition in all of these regions, and the creativity that's coming out of, you know, all of these fintechs in these emerging markets. There's a lot that we can also share with emerging markets like the UK, like Europe, like the US to say, look, there are FinTech strings to really cool things. And we can also embed those into even emerging markets.

Helen 13:40
Yeah, no, that makes sense. I guess I was thinking of times when, for instance, I am it like, even this year I was in Gambia, and things that should be so easy, like getting money, that it's all of a sudden way more difficult than it than it needs to be. But like you said, because of the way these countries have been structured, there is so much creativity because people haven't been able to rely on maybe the same levels of infrastructure as other places. So there's so much creativity and like how consumers develop, develop things like like you said, Merusha.

Merusha 15:36
Yeah, I was I was just gonna agree with Ray, I think that use case is one that we're seeing everywhere, you know, that fund transfer, being able to remit funds, you know, you want instant, you know, you kind of want the cash to be there instantly, whether it's, you know, dispersed onto a card or third party. So that's what we're seeing. It's a global trend that we're seeing.

Helen 15:56
Yeah or maybe, this isn't necessarily the use case you're thinking of, but even again, as you both are talking, I'm thinking about just the amount of people that migrate, like I just moved countries, and maybe I don't, I haven't used a FinTech, prepaid card, but for some payments, it probably would be easier. Or there are so many people who are in vulnerable situations, like I said, like refugees or something. And like you said, the like Ray, the ability to not have to carry cash. And these types of things create such seamless and easy ways to, you know, to do transactions in a way that just isn't there before. So I can definitely see where your passion where both your passions come from and why you're in this space. I was I was wondering Merusha, like what the kind of long term milestones are for payment ology, obviously to kind of solve the issue of the underbanked. Is there anything else that we can think of?

Merusha 16:54
Definitely. I mean, there's, there's quite a few for us. Yes, financial inclusion is, you know, definitely something that we are pushing in all of our regions. But I think a huge one for us is, you know, digitization. It's so important, as Ray has already said, you know, you know, most of the populations, whether it's in emerging or emerging markets, you know, smartphones are now a way of life, right? And creating a digital solution for customers is absolutely vital to, you know, driving financial inclusion driving all of the different payment mechanisms that we're seeing come into play, including things like remittance fund transfer, even the way SMEs pay, you know, so when you look at the different segments that we're seeing evolve, even in the FinTech space, lots of them are around fund transfer. It's around, you know, if you look at SMEs and when I, when I talk about SMEs, it's also looking at, you know, digital content creators are now SMEs, right?

Merusha 18:00
And so it's really, for us a key milestone is looking at how we include all of the different segments of customers that we're now seeing, and making sure that, you know, on the Paymentology side, it's not just about cod, right? It's really about technology. And so what we are heavily investing in is things like how do we invest in our technology, so that we can create the rails and solutions for fintechs that can be embedded in any type of solution.

Merusha 18:36
And I'll give you an example, a really great FinTech that's coming out of Africa. Now. The founder is actually he's a musician. He was a hip hop rapper in South Africa. And you know, he's called Slicker. And what he's done is he's created a platform that is used for, you know, the youth. So it's a financial literacy app. So basically, anyone who wants to buy a concert ticket or merchandise to have a specific artist, they can go on to his website and actually purchase it, or they can get a prepaid card to spend at let's say, you know, a music festival. Now, when you look at fintechs, like this, what they're really trying to do is, you know, financial inclusion, financial literacy, create a safer mechanism, you know, for payments, but at the same time, it's all digital. And so when you look at the technology, and you know, what we're trying to create, it's a wonderful example of, you know, multiple channels in to one FinTech to really help them create a fantastic user consumer experience.

Merusha 19:51
So milestones and outside drive technology that actually helps to create these really unique customer experience. CES. Another one is to make sure that everything we do has the consumer at the heart of the experience, right? Whether that is an individual consumer, whether it's an SME, whether it's a travel aggregator, whether it's a retail card, you know, it's really making sure that our rails are agile and flexible enough to really service any type of customer in the FinTech space. I think the third one for us is also looking at, you know, how we embed things like loyalty. Because when you look at all of the fintechs, that are up and coming now, it's not just about having one payment mechanism, or just, you know, having one card, it's really about, you know, how do you create a holistic experience for the consumer, there was another really interesting fact 75% of all consumers are willing to switch their, you know, financial, financial institution, or their payment mechanism to one that provides, you know, more loyalty and rewards and benefits. So for us, it's also looking at how do we embed more rewards into our solutions. So technology, financial inclusion, digitization, and I would say value added services. Those are the key milestones for us as a company. That's

Helen 21:21
really interesting. And on the digitization point, it kind of reminds me of a conversation I was having a couple of weeks ago about Tik Tok and the fact that like, for create, like I know, you said, you made a really interesting point that SMEs, like when you think of SMEs, you know you're adding in creators and influencers in there. But I think it was that. And I don't know specifically what countries but I think a lot of countries in the Global South don't allow creators to get like payments. So they just get they get like gift cards, not actual money, because there's no way of these creators to access the money from Tik Tok. So instead, Tik Tok gives them tick tock gives them gift cards, whereas in like, other countries in the Global North, you get actual money from being a creator. So it continues to create this, like this lack of balance between like, you know, the Global South and the Global North. So I'm quite interested in that.

Helen 22:16
But I'm also kind of interested in, and this is for both of you actually, like Rey and Merusha, like, I guess the challenges when it comes to, you know, creating this agile digital loyal platform, because, and I don't know what you think of this, it seems as though like, you know, for a startup in your space, or, or, you know, a lot of spaces, you kind of have to be you have, you kinda have to create the app of everything. Like you have to add gamification, you have to have engagement, you have to create a platform in which like, users are constantly on it, and find a reason to do it. So you can't just I guess, create just a platform for payments. And I was kind of wondering how you get that balance? Right, I guess from a visa perspective and payment ology like, is is that okay? Like, is it is it fine that we have to kind of, I guess, gamify all experiences, including, like the financial experience for consumers, or is that a positive? I mean, the way I've just explained it has been quite negative, like there's so many positives to gamifying and digitising you know, and it allows so much more users. So just wondering your thoughts on that point. And also let me know if that point is not clear.

Merusha 25:04
When you look at the industry right now, and as much as every FinTech says, Oh, we want to have a super app, and you know, an app that does everything, it's all about finding that balance, right. And I think when you look at how they actually do that, the customer is at the heart of it. So you know, my advice to any FinTech, that's starting out is know your customer, understand their problem statement, understand what you're trying to solve for. Right? They think if you do that, then you're able to kind of morph into, like racing, this embedded finance, where it's kind of an app that makes things simple for a customer, but at the heart of it solves the problem. So as much as you can have a super app, and you can try and, you know, plug everything into it, it's really about having that balance to say, am I solving a critical problem or need and be how do I then grow with my customer. So I would always say, you know, start off, you know, your core product should be solving the need upfront. And then you start to add on additional products, services and features, as your consumers grow.

Merusha 26:22
We are living in a time now, where customers are smart, you know, consumers are no longer happy with just, you know, the service financial services that they're receiving from banks, these days, customers say, I want to create my own experience, I want to be involved in the process, I want to understand what happens in the background. For example, I want to know what rate I'm sending money using, I want to know what all of the fees are upfront, I want to be able to, you know, budget for those fees. And at the same time, I know that if I am, you know, making x number of payments, I should be getting some kind of reward back. So I think, yes, having that gamification included into any kind of, you know, payment solution is key. Because it's not, it's no longer just a nice to have. It's what customers are asking for what customers need. It's what creates that stickiness and that loyalty. So it's important, it's it's also the most exciting part of you know, any solution is is the gamification of it. But again, find that balance.

Helen 27:51
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, I guess. Yeah. Like you said, it's about finding that right balance and not doing everything at once. Because it seems, of course, you want to like do everything, not do everything, but you're not I mean, as a company, you want to be able to have these solutions, and you've got long term goals. But yeah, maybe it's just around looking at your space, how you develop that and just growing from there. I'm going to move on. I'm going to ask you guys like a question from a previous guests. We'll see how long this one goes on for and then see if we'll do another. Okay. If you were to leave the industry to work for another sector enterprise or, you know, just space, what would it be?

Merusha 30:00
I think, for us being in the payments space, specifically working so closely with fintechs it's such a fast paced industry, you know, we're seeing, you know, we're seeing payments change the daily lives of consumers every single day. And that rush that you get from working in the FinTech space, I think is going to be really, really hard to replicate in another industry. But I think for me, my passion is technology, right? If you look at the way payments are kind of morphing, and embedding into so many different segments, you know, like travel, transport, the food industry, you know, we just look at the gig economy. Like, for me, there's so many interesting things happening in all of these segments. So I would probably still stay in the technology industry. And look at just other ways to kind of create inclusion, not necessarily, you know, specifically just as an issue of protest, but just thinking about being more creative around embedded finance is probably the space that I would stay in. And I think if I was to pivot, it would probably be more into the CSR. So, you know, corporate social responsibility. I think, for us as a company, CSR has been something that's really, really close to our hearts. And I think if you look at, you know, the state of the environment, and you know, all of these things, it's really important for us to come together as as people just to say, look, how can we make things better? So if I wasn't in the FinTech space, I would probably be in CSR or some other technology company.

Helen 31:40
I think those are all actually really interesting spaces. I think for me, I would do cooking. I would change industries and like, start hosting like supper clubs or something like that. So mine would be like, completely.

Helen 35:53
We've come to the end. But before we leave, I'd like to know from either of you what we should ask the next person on the show.

Merusha 36:40
I also have a two questions. One is probably more geared towards fintechs and the others more personal. So I think the first one for me is, you know, what is the problem statement? You know, what are they trying to solve for? Specifically, if it's somebody in the FinTech space or trying to create their own Fintech startup? You know, for me, it's always about what is the problem statement? What are you trying to solve? How are you going to change the industry? So that will be question one.

And for question two, I was actually at a woman's payments conference and moderator one of the talks had an excellent question. And she kind of said to everyone, like what was your first memory of you know, the first interaction in payments?


Signals is our subscriber only read and I'm going to read you a snippet from one of the latest articles.

In a few short weeks, many of us will be gathered in NYC for the Fintech Formal. A time where we can all forget about the lack of funding, the looming bankruptcies, bank partnership turbulence, and more. Did I really just say all that? 

But when we gather again in 2024, will the picture be as grim? We asked experts as well as the broader community, and the answer depends on who you ask and which sector or region you’re asking about. 

We also asked about what the biggest surprises have been over the past 6 months (bank failures) and what the biggest fears and predictions are for the next 6 (regulation is gonna be a hot topic). Note that not every person consented to their name being used, but they did give us their info when filling out the survey to confirm results. 

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