What is Visa?
We probably all have a Visa card in our wallet or digital wallet. The name is synonymous with making payments, whether that is via credit or debit card transactions. However, most of us probably never think of the technology that powers the service that we all expect just to work. Many of us do not even understand what Visa is. It is just a logo on our bank card or a sign we see in stores, so we know it is a payment service we can use here. In fact, the shocking thing would be not to be able to pay by Visa; we are so accustomed to it being how we pay for goods and services.
The Elder Statesman of Card Payments
Visa is very much regarded as the elder statesman of the payment services industry, aligned with the banking system rather than seen as a fintech disruptor. However, while it has been around since 1958, Visa was revolutionary at its launch. In addition, it is only through constant investment in innovation and technology that Visa remains cutting edge and relevant in a market full of challenger brands.
The Rest is History
Visa was launched in 1958 as a Bank of America credit card program. At the time, it was known as BankAmericard and was only available in the USA until 1974. International expansion took place from 1974 onwards. In 1975 the first debit card was introduced. The services were still under the BankAmericard brand at the time. In 1976 the name changed to Visa. Visa sounded the same in all languages and could be used to market a global brand. However, as late as 2007, it was still an affiliation of regional businesses around the world. In 2007 the businesses were merged to form one company, Visa Inc. Then, in 2008 Visa was floated on the stock exchange as a public company. That was one of the largest IPOs in history.
Visa now operates in over 200 countries and territories throughout the world. Their products are available as physical and virtual cards. What they offer is constantly evolving but they say their mission remains the same, i.e., to be the best way to pay and be paid for everyone, everywhere. That is undoubtedly how many customers and merchants regard the service. So whether you are paying for your fuel in the service station, playing roulette at the top visa casinos, checking out at an online store, or paying for your meal in a restaurant, it is reassuring to know that your Visa payment will be welcomed.
An Unsecure Space
When the idea of online shopping, or eCommerce as it was known, was first dreamt up, it was very much a dream. The website developers could create pretty sites and have great ideas of things to sell, but they faced two major headaches. First, the concept of eCommerce fueled the Dotcom boom. The headaches (or realities) were a significant reason for the bust. The first of these problems was that the internet was just too slow. Secondly, no one had any way of paying for the goods that could be bought. At the time, the most common payment method was by cash or cheque. Credit cards were there for spending on the never-never. Debit cards were still quite a novelty, and there was genuine concern about online banking and payment security. It was because of this that the peer-to-peer platform PayPal was created as no sensitive data had to be shared on unsecured networks.
Not wanting to be frozen out, Visa pioneered and championed the Verified By Visa scheme. This was one of the first publicly recognized schemes to provide extra peace of mind for online shoppers. It was, and still is, a password-protected authentication system that confirms the identity of the cardholder using a Visa card online. Since its launch in 2001, it has worked in the background alongside online merchants and payment platforms. The system has evolved over the years from dedicated web pages with codes and passwords to push notifications from online banks and in-app verification. However, the purpose remains constant – to keep the cardholder safe. Visa continues to offer cutting-edge solutions, from contactless payments to being available in a digital wallet on your phone.
Partnering with Emerging Fintech Businesses
It would have been easy for a company like Visa to resist change and to try and freeze out the emerging fintech companies whose aim was to disrupt the existing market. But instead, Visa worked with them and integrated its services into their apps, websites, and tech wizardry solutions.
Here are a few of the fintech developments that Visa is involved with
NIUM – an open money network to simplify cross-border transactions
Finaxar – a financing solution for SMEs offering them a fast and secure way to pay, manage expenses, and get working capital.
Chime – an innovative banking service for younger people that includes services such as early access to paychecks, free overdrafts, and automatic savings
Rappi – an innovative solution for the 300 million residents of South America who are unbanked but need access to digital payments.
Visa has kept itself at the cutting edge by both in-house developments and partnering with these emerging fintech ventures.