Visa program gives SMBs a helping hand to get onboard with digital payments
By Neil Caldwell, Visa's Head of Merchant Sales and Acquiring for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa
Digital payments and eCommerce have become the preferred choice for many consumers who want the convenience and speed of making contactless payments or doing their shopping online. The pandemic greatly increased the uptake of digital payments, especially contactless payments, with 68% of consumers worldwide saying that COVID-19 has permanently changed how they will pay for things. Digital payments are clearly vitally important to keeping customers, but for many smaller businesses, getting onboard to accept digital payments can be a challenge.
It is not that SMBs don’t understand the importance of digital payments – they do. Visa’s latest Back To Business Study shows that globally two in five (40%) SMBs- that figure is 49% of SMBs in the UAE - say accepting contactless payments is among their top investment priorities to meet the demands of their customers. SMBs understand the opportunity that lies in accepting digital, and the risk to their business if they don’t.
The big barrier for SMBs to digital payments has been that the onboarding process is frequently very complex and time-consuming. Acquirer banks have strict requirements for accepting a merchant as a payments customer, and the traditional onboarding process requires manual procedures for KYC and underwriting, which result in long timelines and high costs for both merchant and acquirer. In the past, many SMBs found it was simply not worth the effort of going through all the steps that were needed to be able to accept digital payments.
After the pandemic hit and all its resulting movement restrictions, SMBs have found that to survive they could not afford to ignore this customer demand and are now hungry to join the digital payment era - but for many, the barriers with banks still remain.
Visa understands the challenges that face SMBs and acquirer banks with the current onboarding process. A strong SMB sector is vital for economic resilience and growth, and Visa is committed to removing obstacles that prevent SMBs from participating in the digital economy. One step is through Visa’s collaboration with Mashreq Bank, one of the largest card acceptance providers in the UAE, to create the Rapid Seller Onboarding Program, a new initiative that has been specifically designed to support both small businesses and acquirers with a faster, seamless and more cost-effective onboarding solution.
A first for the Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region, the Rapid Seller Onboarding Program enables acquiring institutions to enhance the merchant onboarding processes whereby SMBs can digitally engage and complete the requirements with the acquiring institution and start accepting digital payments from their customers in-store or online. Eventually, by submitting a single merchant application form through Visa’s Small Business Hub, a SMB can start, be approved, get notified and get their preferred acceptance channel up and running in just seven days.
In the future, Visa plans to roll out the Rapid Seller Onboarding Program to other markets in the CEMEA region. Visa has an ongoing commitment to small businesses, and we believe that supporting small businesses attain easier access to digital payments can enable them to compete on equal terms with larger businesses, reaching new markets, new revenue streams, and create new opportunities for growth.