Charlotte Hogg, the head of the Visa business in Europe, is the quintessential British establishment. His grandfather, Viscount Hailsham, was first Lord of the Admiralty, his father, Douglas, served as Minister of Agriculture in the Government of John Major, and his mother, Sarah, who has the Baroness treatment, was the first woman to preside over FTSE 100 index company, specifically the venture capital group 3i. A way of being and being carved for generations in the educational centers of the local elite (Eton, Oxford, Saint Mary’s Ascot) provides enough phlegm to, on the day in which your company suffers the greatest reputational impact in decades, you can leave to a scenario in front of more than 200 experts in financial matters to lecture them about the payment system in the future.
“I would like to start by asking for forgiveness from clients and partners our mission is to connect the world through the most secure and resilient network, allowing consumers and businesses to interact, and for a few hours we have failed to meet those expectations.” This is how Hogg (London, 1970) began his presentation during the Money 20/20 event, recently held in Amsterdam. The board of directors, who worked for some years at Santander UK, apologized because on June 1 a technical problem prevented European customers from making transactions through the Visa platform. “Some will ask what I do here and I want to tell you that we have a great team that has worked hard to get the system back to normal operation.” Little has transpired since then about what happened, although the company rules out that it was the subject of a cyber attack.
After chanting the mea culpa, Hogg focused on the object of his lecture: the era of invisible payments. “Throughout history, the way in which commercial relations have been established has evolved a lot: First, barter was used, then coins and banknotes were introduced and electronic transactions arrived in the 20th century. However, we are in a new era, that of invisible payments. This world is characterized by the fact that we no longer pay for cash, we do not even open the wallet.In this stage, the important thing is not where we do the transaction, But the moment we do it, even certain objects like cars can act on our behalf “. he explained.
A conflict of interest
A family affair ended Charlotte Hogg’s career at the Bank of England. The current head of Visa was head of supervision at the British central bank for four years, since she catapulted him to the vice-presidency of the institution. However, a few weeks after her promotion, she was forced to resign since she had not made public that one of her brothers worked at Barclays, one of the banks she had to supervise. “It was a mistake,” acknowledged Hogg after his goodbye.
In his opinion, the new payment systems (mobile phones, biometric systems, smart rings, the internet of things… inaugurate a world of possibilities for sellers, who can offer different experiences to their customers. “By releasing them from the moment of payment, they will have more time to advise consumers” he predicts.
The revolution that digitalization implies for the transaction business, however, will not mean the definitive end of the wallet. “Money can not and should not disappear, we still need cash for certain complex operations, but the work of the means of the payment industry, however, should be to make it easier for customers to control their financial lives. We will have to control how it spends, where it spends and where our refrigerator spends money. And I assure you that it will be easier to control the refrigerator than my teenage daughter” joked the board.
Although money will not disappear, its role will be increasingly residual. The head of Visa recalled that in Europe the payments made with cash and checks fell in the last five years from 40% of the total to 31%. In countries such as the United Kingdom, Finland and Denmark, cash operations account for less than 10% of volume. “In this context, new requirements arise for the payment media industry, we have to work to make the use of money safer, more fluid and simpler”.
Visa took advantage of the Money 20/20 event, which is invited to several European media, to announce a closer collaboration with the world of new financial companies arising in the heat of technological advances (fintechs). The first line of action is a program designed to facilitate and lower the access of startups to the company’s global platform. “Any network should be open so that we can all benefit from the innovations, I know that historically Visa has not been characterized as a platform with which it is easy to work, we have acquired the commitment to change this attitude”.
Hogg came to office last fall. In 2015, Visa paid 21,000 million euros to acquire its European subsidiary, eight years after selling it to different banks. The recent crisis of the company due to the short-circuiting of its systems has reinforced its idea that in this business it is fundamental to weave constant alliances with any fintech that can provide solutions different from those developed by the company itself. “That is why we are going to launch a 100 million euro plan to invest in newly created companies in Europe, focusing mainly on those projects that focus on this world of invisible payments and help customers to have greater control of your money, “he said. In recent years, Visa has already invested in different fintechs such as Klarna, solarisBank and Payworks. Last year, the European fintech industry received investments totalling 4,700 million, according to KPMG data.