How did this shift towards digital payment enablement come about? And how have you experienced its start at OT?
Marek Juda: As an industry, we initially approached this shift from a classical angle, trying to build a first generation of platform on the back of what we have been doing in our legacy card business. But with everything that happened in the industry, we realized that to build something scalable, and in line with where the payment industry needs to be, we had to revisit fundamentally the way we were going forward in terms of architecture. We came up with a very modular and very modern solution that we called the UCP or Universal Credential Platform. This is a real-time transacting platform that is not only able to process whatever we need to process today, but also to provision future OEM Pay or HCE models. As an enabler, it is important for us to provide a future-proof solution to all our customers. In six months, when suddenly there’s something new happening, they need some insurance that they will have the capability to adapt, thanks to us.
When you think back to what happened and the shift that was made, was there a particular moment that sparked everything?
Mehdi Elhaoussine: We had two main triggers. First, the HCE technology released two years ago by Google, which disrupted our industry. At OT we decided to embrace this change. We only had a few months between the specifications release and their endorsement by the major schemes. But, even as a large corporation, we demonstrated that we can behave as an agile start-up, backed by a reliable security group, and we were able to go live with a first solution version only a few months later. The second trigger was the Apple Pay launch. OT has been a pioneer collaborating with OEMs and payment networks, but the Apple Pay launch was the real industry trigger in that direction.
In terms of innovation that’s brought to the market, could you give a bit more background to this holistic and agnostic approach that OT offers with the UCP?
ME: Let’s take a quick look back at our history. We’ve moved from bank notes to plastic and then to mobile and digital. And in our core payment business, we see that payment methods are additive. In the mobile space, there were many debates on where and how we should secure the payment credentials. At OT, we decided to go beyond the debates. That is the foundation of our agnostic approach. We combined all the hardware and software technologies to achieve the flexibility and the highest level of security needed by the market. In that sense, I think we have been more open than most of the other players. By embracing the changes and implementing those technologies, we are releasing innovations that are putting us at the leading edge today.
MJ: This is really our philosophy: we are securing payment diversity. And we apply this beyond the mobile. In a sense, with OT MOTION CODETM, and its dynamic CVV, we are bringing tokenization to a card, and we enable this with a real-time super fast server. This is one example of the positive outcomes of our agnosticism – and we apply this approach in many domains.
More and more players are joining the digital payment ecosystem. From an OT perspective, how do you handle that?
MJ: Indeed, we are really at the crossroads of the industry, working with Financial Institutions, Mobile Network Operators, Handset Manufacturers and other OEMs coming to the play, such as car manufacturers or wearable providers. It is very important for us to stay close to our banking customers and embrace whatever they need. And we have also been building credibility for several years now with the OEMs, as a trusted advisor and technology partner. And of course they choose us because we have this proximity with the financial services industry. It is important for us to be agnostic and remain neutral technology enablers when it comes to, for instance, banks selecting what they want to do.
Other payment players are providing platforms for digital payments. What’s the differentiation of OT’s UCP against these?
ME: It is true. We are facing new players in this enablement chain. But we noticed that our partners see OT as an enabler, acting on their behalf. And they trust us to do so because we tend to be a more neutral and independent player. We also differentiate by our ability to facilitate all digital payment flavors: independent HCE issuer initiatives, as well as integration in OEM or MNO wallets. We are the only technology player that can allow a bank to provision its credentials in all this range of wallet types, and the only one able to grant them access to all the major OEM platforms.
And all of that is done within the UCP?
MJ: Yes and this is very important because it’s all done with the same technology vision, the same modular platforms and forward-looking technology approach.
ME: We tend to focus on proximity payments, but when a consumer is adding a card to his/her wallet, he/she wants to be able to use it in store, in app and online. In the portfolio that we’ve built, we also have solutions for online commerce with OT MOTION CODE™, as well as a mobile money platform that can address the needs of emerging countries. This 360-degree approach to digital payments is something that differentiates us.
You mentioned other OEMs entering the game like car makers or wearable device providers. Is this agnostic platform approach something that you extend to the Internet of Things (IoT)?
MJ: Indeed, tomorrow we are going to talk about “car as a service” with car makers entering the equation. We are anticipating this today by implementing the most modern technologies in terms of real-time transacting, real-time processing and scalability capability. This is the only way going forward, to remain relevant and really supportive as a secure technology enabler in this increasingly fragmented world.