Ендрю Торре, регіональний президент Visa в Центральній та Східній Європі, на Близькому Сході та в Африці (CEMEA) /Артем Галкин

«The Ukrainian governmentʼs approach to digital transformation is as good as weʼve seen». Interview of Andrew Torre, Visaʼs Regional President for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA)

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Andrew Torre, Visaʼs Regional President for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA) Фото Артем Галкин

Ukraine has a longstanding cooperation with Visa. The company has supported the Ministry of Digital Transformation since its inception by signing the first memorandum in 2019. Over this period, in collaboration with Visa, the Ministry has introduced numerous consumer, B2B, and government payment innovations within the Diia platform. Recently, the new season of the visionary womenʼs accelerator «Vidvazhna 2. Scaling and Digitalization» kicked off, aiming to support Ukrainian women entrepreneurs in launching, developing, digitizing, and scaling their businesses.

Andrew Torre, Visaʼs Regional President for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa, visited Ukraine for the second time this year to meet with Visaʼs key partners. In an interview with Forbes BrandVoice, he delved into six global digital trends, Visaʼs strategies in Ukraine and worldwide, the new generationʼs expectations, and the empowerment of female entrepreneurs.

The Visaʼs Cooperation with the Ukrainian Government 

From your perspective, what impact do Ukraineʼs accomplishments in the banking and financial sector have on the global market? 

Today, youʼve got more than 20 million Ukrainian consumers using Diia. There is a lot to learn in Ukraine – in government digitizing and transforming citizen services. The Ukrainian government certainly has been very open to it, and weʼve been talking about our experience in Ukraine with other governments around the world. There were two things that were important to what the Ukrainian government did. First, the government and Mr. Fyodorov himself had a strategic mindset and a vision – they knew the things their citizens needed. Second, the government invited the private sector to work, bringing the best cases to be implemented. Theyʼve brought in us and other players here to create this powerful ecosystem. Last year, there was a Diia Summit in Washington, D.C., and our Executive Chairman at the time said that the Ukrainian governmentʼs approach to digital transformation is as good as weʼve seen. 

How has the war influenced your cooperation with our government?

Visaʼs main priority in Ukraine has been to ensure the smooth operation of banks and the financial sector, instant payment processing, and secure convenient digital payment services for Ukrainian consumers and businesses. For instance, we have implemented a new technology, Visa Cloud Connect, as some Ukrainian financial institutions were moving their data centers from the east or Kyiv to Lviv, to connect via the cloud. First, we have facilitated the migration of PrivatBank to Visa Cloud Connect to ensure instant operation of the banking system and reduce the bankʼs dependence on physical servers that can be damaged during hostilities. We also focused on our people, making sure all employees were safe, and we were in constant contact with the government, the NBU, to find ways to ensure that we could keep the financial system and payments operating. We have a large office here, one of the biggest offices in our region, and we continue to hire. Some Ukrainian employees provide support to our CEMEA region.

Andrew Torre, Visa

Andrew Torre, Visaʼs Regional President for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA)

In 2024 you also have a lot of projects in Ukraine, including Diia Business, accelerators, and the CDTO campus. Can you share which project currently holds your keen interest? What are you focusing on now?

We have new technologies, such as Visa Tap to Phone, for a small merchant who doesnʼt want to install a POS terminal. The technology allows you to take your phone and accept a payment. In Ukraine, financial institutions are sophisticated, there are lots of small businesses here. So, the Tap to Phone technology took off as well. 

Another technology – tokenization. By replacing 16-digit Visa card numbers, tokenization makes it impossible for the consumerʼs personal data to fall into the hands of fraudsters during in-store and online purchases. Itʼs a new technology that provides safety and security. We have also launched Digital Authentication Framework (DAF 3DS) with PrivatBank, which is a way to bring more safety, more security, and seamless transactions. Plenty of new technologies we bring out are adopted in Ukraine because the market strives for innovations. We find it a great place to work and bring out new technology.

The Global Financial Trends 

You are working with 90 countries and may know some trends in the global market. What are the primary digital trends at present?

  • The first trend lies in giving small businesses access to e-commerce solutions to open up to the entire world. For example, in Morocco, there are mostly female entrepreneurs. During COVID-19, no one was coming into the country, and they relied on people coming into their stalls and buying handicrafts. For over a year, no one was coming. There was a woman entrepreneur who was a part of our Sheʼs Next platform. She had the idea to create a website that would allow all women to sell all the handicrafts online. It opened up the entire world of consumers to be able to buy from them.
  • The second one is interoperability. The great fintechs and other players that are coming out are creating wallets and new solutions. Some of those are closed-loop, meaning they only work within their ecosystem. Here is a firm need to connect these wallets from one place to make it easy and seamless for people to pay.
  • The third huge trend is to share infrastructure. Companies must manage a technology stack, whether itʼs an enterprise or a financial institution. Itʼs great when one can take something great heʼs seen and just plug it into his system. So, this ability to use new infrastructure and quickly connect to someone.
  • The fourth trend is fintechsʼ ability to tailor solutions to consumers. For example, a financial institution is not good at doing this one thing, providing a great benefit or a loyalty platform to a consumer. So theyʼll find a partner and work with that partner to augment what theyʼre doing today. So you see these great partnerships out there.
  • The fifth is AI implementation. On one hand, AI becomes more productive in everyday activities, but there are also challenges with it. The hackers can understand who we are and create targeted messages. So, it poses both opportunities and challenges for payments from a security standpoint.
  • And the last one is the return of global travel. Consumers, after years of not being able to travel, are back. Weʼre seeing a lot more travel. But some of these things – simple solutions and contactless, touchless technology, remain.

How do you plan to safeguard your customers against cyber attacks and other threats? 

Security and trust are the foundation of payments. Last year globally, we prevented about $40 billion worth of fraud through a lot of tools we have that are AI. We do this in many ways. At our network level, we invest a lot of money: weʼve invested over $10 billion in the last five years in technology. Weʼve also invested in securing the ecosystem. Another important technology aspect of security is Visa Token Service. However, even the most advanced technology is not omnipotent. Scammers use the main vulnerability of consumers—the human tendency to err—and apply social engineering to lure consumers into a trap. That is why another Visaʼs line of work to safeguard our cardholders against scammers is financial literacy campaigns. Thus, last year we held a pan-regional Stay Secure campaign in CEMEA (Pay Secure in Ukraine). We used the findings to prepare financial literacy materials for Ukrainian consumers that taught them how not to fall for fraudulent offers and messages.

What role does cryptocurrency play in the future of finance and commerce? 

Cryptocurrency and, more broadly, blockchain and Web3 is a huge area. Visa wants to be involved in any form of money movement or payment. We have a team of experts on crypto and Web3. In markets where itʼs legal, you can use a Visa card to buy and sell cryptocurrency. However, crypto is not used as a retail payment method – more likely as an asset. People buy it like they would buy a stock or something else. Weʼve also been working with governments. There are central bank digital currencies. The Nigerian government has launched an e-Naira. In Kazakhstan, we worked closely with the National Bank of Kazakhstan, they did an e-Tenge. We have a Visa card connected to that digital Tenge where they can buy things. They can still get cash at an ATM. Thereʼs going to be more to come in this space. Itʼs still early, but thereʼs a lot of promise.

Andrew Torre, Visa

Andrew Torre, Visaʼs Regional President for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA)

An Empowerment of Female Entrepreneurs

What are the reasons for the significant interest in women in enterprise? 

According to World Bank statistics, 90% of all businesses across the globe are small businesses. They account for about 40-50% of employment. It shows the power of small businesses to support economies and drive growth. They hire a lot of people. In Visa, we digitally enabled 67 million small businesses. Today we focus on women-owned businesses because their outcomes are worse than male-owned businesses. The average amount of funding they get is about 33% less than men, and male-owned small businesses are 60% more likely to get funding than women-owned small businesses . Thereʼs a problem. Women donʼt have enough community, mentoring, support, and skills.

We created our global platform called Sheʼs Next and launched it globally in 2019. Since then, weʼve had tens of thousands of women-owned small businesses across the globe that have participated, and we do them locally. In Ukraine, we started it in 2020 and we had 1,200 participants it the first year. In 2023, in partnership with the Ministry of Digital Transformation, we launched the first season of the Vidvazhna project. We had over 5,000. This year, we launched a new season of the Vidvazhna in partnership with USAID, and we expect the expansion of the community in Ukraine.

Could you share any success stories from the perspective of the Vidvazhna project? 

I like the story of Valentina Pavlyuk, she was the winner in Vidvazhna last year. Valentina created healthy gluten-free candy but was struggling to find a market fit. At first, she thought of distributing her goods online, but then she realized that the best way was through cafes and sports clubs. To tell more, now sheʼs not only distributing her goods through a cafe, but has gotten funding, and now sheʼs starting to open a chain of cafes. We give grants to such women entrepreneurs. When I watch these women get together, theyʼre not competing with each other — instead, they are helping each other and sharing their experiences. Itʼs a powerful program, and weʼre happy to be able to partner with the Ministry of Digital Transformation and appreciate the support of USAID as well.

Visa’s Priorities in 2024

What are your priorities in 2024? 

50 years ago, we had basic payment products, including a credit card. Today, we have contactless terminals; consumers can pay digitally with a phone, a watch, or another device and scan a QR code. The core consumer payments part is still there, but it is becoming much more digital and creating lots of different experiences. We have a whole series of outside of that value-added services we provide to our customers and clients. Itʼs Visa Advanced Authorization, the AI scoring. For example, if one of our clients is not able to respond to authorization requests, we can stand in and we will authorize just like they would. We would say yes and no to transactions exactly like they would. So thereʼs all these value-added services. Visaʼs largest 265 clients now use an average of 22 of Visaʼs value-added services products.

We recently announced the continued expansion of our global value-added services business with the addition of three new AI-powered risk and fraud prevention solutions. You can send money to a friend with a mobile number. Weʼve enabled that in Ukraine and weʼre enabling that globally. Weʼre investing in our network, allowing sending money to the 4.5 billion other cards on the Visa network. We continue to invest in our technology and infrastructure to support money movement and corporate and consumer payments.

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