1. Can you tell us a little bit about how you became involved in the industry?
My personal involvement began in 2000. I was the CEO of Omnicom who, at that time, were the largest French long distance telecom operator after France Telecom. Our daily problem was to send scratch cards, by secure courier, to 35,000 points of sales. In 2002, I started one of the first electronic top-up services in Europe in co-operation with Ingenico. The service used the payment terminals to deliver recharge vouchers to users. The solution portfolio has been expanding globally ever since, and now includes a broad range of processing services representing in excess of €17 billion of electronic transactions processed for our retail and distribution customers.
2. What can you tell us about Ogloba and its involvement within the payments industry?
Ogloba provides GSM mobile operators, large retail organizations, and distributors with a complete financial and logistics platform which enables them to operate and manage their gift cards, cell phone top-ups and money transfer operations. We also provide a secure platform for public transport ticketing payment via NFC ePurse cards and apps. We are an all-rounder, but I do not mean that to sound like we are unfocused. We have built up a great deal of expertise in providing solutions in all of these areas, and have worked very hard to develop a processing platform that works brilliantly in all of them. As an example, processing closed loop cards implies that we provide issuing, fulfilment, acquiring, clearing and settlement services to our customers, integrate their checkouts and legacy systems, develop native mobile apps, and so on. This is rather complex and requires strong expertise in a variety of technical areas.
3. What differentiates Ogloba from other issuers and processors in the market?
Firstly, I believe our expertise in a number of markets, as I mentioned before, actually differentiates us. Clients are often in need of a solution that grows with them. Our offering is based on a single, highly adaptable platform. This means that our clients and partners can start with a simple gift card program for example, and then expand this to include a loyalty program without the inconvenience of major restructuring of their current systems. This comes from the way work closely with potential clients to make sure we understand exactly what they need now, and might need in the future, before we propose a solution.
The fact that our incredibly talented team produce everything in-house means that we can provide new feature and functions quickly, and provide them to existing clients through regular updates of the platform.
4. As the world becomes ever more digital, what future do you think there is for plastic cards?
I do not think we will see an end to the use of plastic cards completely in the near future, because they are still so engrained in people’s lives. A majority of people still carry at least one of a bank card, credit card, transport payment card, or loyalty card. I believe that this has a lot to do with habit, but also because a physical artefact is still seen as having more value. As we have seen in the way people consume music, books, and film media though, ownership of a physical object is becoming less important than the convenience of accessing content when and where we want, on the mobile devices we carry with us all the time…
There are also what me might call “hidden” aspects of plastic cards. They are much more resource heavy in terms of raw materials and manufacturing, logistics and storage, display space in the retailer’s premises, and so on. Digital cards remove these problems and make the whole process from design to end-use more efficient and more cost-effective. The use of plastic cards is probably about to peak, and will then steadily decline over the next decade…
Ultimately plastic cards will become a niche like vinyl records, where there is an enthusiastic following keeping them alive for reasons of nostalgia, or because they enjoy the physicality of them, but the majority use digital means instead.
5. How do you see the industry developing in the next 5 years? What trends do you see emerging?
As we touched upon in the previous question, the industry will become ever more digitally focused over the next 5 years. Although this has been happening for years already, this digitalisation is unavoidable, and companies that have been somewhat resistant to change, will either have to accept the “digital turn“, or lose out to their more proactive competitors in the marketplace. There really is no going back.
As for emerging trends, it is clear that large social media players have increased their interest in developing closed and open loop payment means as a way to generate profitable revenues, and leverage their huge customer databases. WeChat and Line in Asia are good examples. Go Jek Indonesia, a local competitor to UBER, recently closed a $555 million investment round, and is launching closed and open loop programs for the same reasons. Traditional players are jumping on the new technology trend as well. For example, SALECO, a $4 billion operation of Saudi Telecom, is about to launch a program of very innovative services, demonstrating that incumbents can participate in the creation of new eco-systems.
6. How do you see Ogloba evolving to meet the new needs of the future user and merchant?
One of Ogloba’s key strengths is our ability to adopt change quickly. While we are large enough to meet the future needs of our clients, and we are growing all the time, we remain very client-focused. Ogloba evolve by recognising where our current and potential clients could benefit from our expertise, and then developing practical solutions that make a difference.
We already provide omni-channel solutions for retailers, but I see this as particular area for innovation for Ogloba. Retailers are suffering due to competition from ecommerce, but in our experience they do not react in the right way. What often happens is that they copy ecommerce retailers and forget that being a bricks-and-mortar retailer can offer a shopping experience consumers still value. What they should be doing is using new technology to empower their sales teams, and improve the in-store experience.