Mastercard strengthens presence in the Caribbean

(Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay)

Opens new office in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN — The general manager of Mastercard in Puerto Rico, José Vargas, announced the opening of the company’s first office on the island, at the Chardón Tower in San Juan.

With this new location, the company seeks to expand the use of electronic payment methods in Puerto Rico. Its credit and debit card market share is of about 20% on the island, according to company data.

“For a long time, customers asked us that they wanted to see us more and have local services. Thanks to that customer demand, in addition to our strategy, which we were working on since 2018, we were able to start making local contracts in several sales areas, business, product and merchandise development. Each of these functions will have a person in charge. We are still evaluating how many more people we can add in the future, depending on market demand,” Vargas said.

“These functions will always continue to have the support we have in Miami and from different global teams in the company. Before the end of the month, we hope to have filled all the positions for the Puerto Rico office,” he added.

However, as a matter of policy, Mastercard did not offer data on the investment required for the new office.

Meanwhile, Mastercard’s communications director, Marcus Carmo, also indicated that a “customer delivery” area will be available by year’s end. This service is dedicated to the delivery of projects they do with clients such as banks.

The main objective of Mastercard is to bring new technologies to the island to allow users to have a secure experience in physical and digital commerce.

Through Mastercard’s own solutions or the companies it has acquired, the company can provide solutions to its business partners. Among those offered is tokenization with its Mastercard Digital Enablement Service (MDES) solution, which is a set of “on-behalf services” (OBS) that manage, generate and provide digital payment credentials on mobile devices to allow simple and secure digital payment experiences by substituting sensitive data with a non-sensitive equivalent, or a token, that has no exploitable value.

Similarly, the company seeks to improve the real-time experience in “person-to-person” (P2P), “person-to-merchant” (P2M), “business-to-business” (B2B) payments, among others.

In addition, the company provides a variety of value-added services, including consulting and data analysis to address business problems, through the “Mastercard Advisors” program.

“We have recently seen many positive economic indicators such as unemployment that has come down and new investments as part of the recovery after hurricanes. All these things are crossing at the same time so that now is the ideal time to have that local presence,” Vargas noted.

In 2018, Mastercard established an office in the Dominican Republic and confirmed that its third office in the Caribbean is scheduled to open in October, in Kingston, Jamaica.

“The opening of the office of Puerto Rico, the second in the Caribbean in less than a year, is a great leap in our regional expansion strategy. In the coming years, we hope to continue expanding our presence constantly. This strategic corporate approach provides a greater relevance for the Caribbean region, while giving the business team greater local decision-making power in areas such as market investment and expansion of operations,” Vargas pointed out.

On the other hand, the company will expand and study users on the island more closely to offer more data to customers.

The Digital Evolution Index, a study produced as a partnership between Mastercard and the Fletcher School at Tufts University, did not include Puerto Rico. However, Marcus said that from now on, after the establishment of this office in Puerto Rico, the island will be part of the analysis of how prepared it is in technology in general, market penetration, cellphone use, and other metrics.

Mastercard’s payments processing network connects 50 billion businesses with 40,000 financial institutions in more than 210 countries and territories. With 2.5 billion debit, credit, pre-paid card accounts, among others, the company processed 56 billion transactions a year.




Alliance established to foster women-founded-business growth

(Courtesy)

Evertec, Business Institute for Women to provide tech-focused training

SAN JUAN – Transaction processing company Evertec and the Instituto Empresarial para la Mujer, or Business Institute for Women, have formed an alliance to drive the growth of businesses founded by women through training that will address the need to expand their knowledge in the use of technology to establish, manage, streamline and grow their businesses.

“The use and knowledge of technology for a company is a catalyst that facilitates its administration and drives its growth. More and more businesses are founded by women and we want to provide the support necessary to make a difference and that they can grow sustainably,” explained Alexandra López, senior vice president of Communications, Marketing and Innovation at Evertec.

As part of the agreement, Evertec will offer training on point of sale systems, digital payments, e-commerce, project management, accounting systems and human resources. In addition, it will provide Business Institute for Women members the opportunity to participate in the beta and pilot phases of new payment solutions that Evertec develops.

“We are very pleased with this agreement with Evertec as it helps us expand the Institute’s services and reach more entrepreneurs,” institute Director Limaris Aponte said. “In addition, it gives our participants the opportunity to [learn about] issues that are highly needed for the establishment, development or expansion of their companies, in hands of the leader in the payment and technology industry. Thanks to Evertec for their support and for promoting our philosophy: Women who want to develop as a businesswoman have the right to an environment, space and the support needed to succeed.”

For information about these workshops and other services of the Business Institute for Women, visit: http://mujeryempresas.org/




ATH Móvil money transfer service reaches 1 million users in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN – Electronic payment processor Evertec and its ATH debit network announced Monday that their ATH Móvil person-to-person money transfer service has reached one million users.

“Since it was launched four years ago, consumer acceptance of the service has been exceptional, growing at an accelerated pace and allowing more Puerto Ricans to handle payments and transfers in a more efficient and safe manner,” Sylvette Ramos, senior vice president of ATH in Evertec, announced the release.

ATH Móvil allows people to transfer money and pay businesses and is backed by more than 80 financial institutions. At the end of last year, Evertec announced it had integrated Siri and Apple Watch within its new features.

Evertec launches initiative to support Puerto Rico businesses

ATH Móvil users will be able to make donations to nonprofit organizations soon. the company announced.

“We recognize the great work that nonprofits do for the underserved communities. Therefore, we are going to add a new functionality so that people can make donations more easily and together we can continue to contribute to Puerto Rico’s recovery,” Gustavo Díaz, product manager of ATH in Evertec, said in the release.

In June, Evertec and ATH launched the commercial version of the app: ATH Móvil Business. Designed for small businesses, the app allows for payments in real time and has more than 6,000 active businesses.

Evertec also announced it will hold a contest shortly to celebrate the one million users milestone.




Retail Associations denounce DACO payment methods ruling

SAN JUAN – About a dozen trade organizations protested at the United Retailers Association (CUD by its Spanish initials) headquarters against a new ruling by the Consumer Affairs Department (DACO by its Spanish acronym) to amend Act 46 of 2016 about payment methods at businesses.

The group indicated that the ruling, which it claims contains stricter dispositions than the very law from which it emanates, would limit available and globally known payment methods, and it constitutes a move away from the Gov. Alejandro García Padilla administration’s discourse of making local commerce a solution to the economic debacle the island is suffering.

Among the opposers were members of the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry & Distribution (MIDA by its Spanish acronym), the Gasoline Retailers Association, the Ice Industry Association, the Inspection Center Association, the Pharmaceutical Industry Association, and Coopharma, among others.

The mayor objection the businessmen presented was the limitation to use credit and debit cards through a point of sale (POS), categorically discarding other electronic payment methods. This, they said, not only contradicts Act 46, but also counters the federal statutes that acknowledge the use of electronic methods as available payment methods for the businessperson and the consumer.

The group pointed out that the “imposition” benefits two transaction-processing companies on the island: Evertec and Softech.

“The Ruling interferes in business determinations because it limits the conditions in the acceptance of payment methods, allowed practice in federal statutes. It doesn’t recognize the right to require a minimum purchase quantity for debit card use. This has a severe impact, especially in ‘PyMes’ [small and midsize businesses] with minimum earnings margins in sectors such as food, gasoline and inspection sectors, to name a few,” said Nelson Ramírez, CUD president and principal spokesman of the group.

He added that “in these cases, these businesses would be exposed to an imminent and significant transactions loss, since in some purchases, the processing cost may be higher than the product’s earnings. We emphasize that the law, in none of its dispositions, imposes that the use of a card as only payment method must be exclusively in physical form and through a POS. It doesn’t prohibit the use of cards through electronic methods, either.”

Likewise, Idalia Bonilla, president of the Community Pharmacy Association, worried about the transactions registry required by the ruling, which must be preserved for six years.

MIAMI - MAY 20:  Yera Dominguez receives a credit card from a customer for payment at Lorenzo's Italian Market on May 20, 2009 in Miami, Florida. Members of Congress today passed a bill placing new restrictions on companies that issues credit. The vote follows the Senate passage of the bill, which now heads for President Obama's promised signature. The bill will curb sudden interest rate increases and hidden fees, requiring card companies to tell customers of rate increases 45 days in advance. It will also make it harder for people aged below 21 to be issued credit cards.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

 (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“That imposition duplicates processes and requirement contrary to the public policy of this administration, which has made efforts to simplify the ease of doing business on the island. The business sector already registers all its sales in the Treasury’s terminal. We don’t see a reason for the requirement of another sector when this information is accessible in the terminals for the IVU [Spanish acronym for sales and use tax], accounting books, financial statements and informative annual business payrolls,” Bonilla said.

For his part, Coopharma Director Heriberto Ortiz brought attention to the requirement of having 50% of the POS’s for card processing, even when the law does not demand a specific number or percentage.

“The Act is clear; it states that the business must have two available payment methods, from which one must be through a credit or debit card. The number of POS’s for card processing is a business determination that each establishment should evaluate, parting from its economic situation. The law recognizes it as such, however, via ruling that it is limiting said prerogative. It is important to highlight that acquiring and maintaining a POS is costly. It involves equipment costs, Internet services, maintenance and processing charges for each effected transaction,” assured Ortiz.

The group also called attention to the fact that the ruling doesn’t exclude transactions where the business acts as an intermediary, such as the case of the payment processing of electricity and water bills, lottery, among others.

The businesspeople urged DACO to adjust the ruling and evaluate the technical amendments that the association groups recently submitted, so their implementation does not bring forth a price hike and that the businesspeople may comply with the law thoroughly, “without applying restrictions that affect Puerto Rico’s way of doing business.”

The recommendations to the regulation submitted by the business organizations to DACO were backed by the Small Business Advocate’s Office, the entity responsible for ensuring the compliance of government agencies with Act 454 of 2000 for administrative flexibility and for which all government agencies must comply with when regulations are enacted.




Digital Payment Options an Increasing Trend

SAN JUAN — In 2015, consumers embraced the increasing choice of digital payments options available to them, moving beyond the simple question of “what’s next?” Across the globe, cardholders are asking issuers and retailers to provide real-life, ready-to-use mobile payments options, proven by social media comments more than doubling in just one year.

These insights lead the findings from the fourth annual MasterCard Mobile Payments Study, developed in partnership with PRIME Research. The study tracked 2 million global social media posts about mobile payments across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Forums, Google+ and YouTube, up from 85,000 posts in 2012, according to a statement.

Supporting this increased interest was a continued positive sentiment about mobile payments technology, continuing a two-year trend.

“As more choices are made available to them, the conversation has evolved and consumers seem to be fully embracing the next generation of payments,” stated Marcy Cohel, vice president of digital communications at MasterCard.

Digital wallets including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay and MASTER Pass dominated – 97% – of total mobile payment conversations in 2015, centered on product launches, service improvements and how users are evaluating them. Outside of digital wallet discussions, contactless cards (47%) drove conversations, followed by biometrics (33%), personal payments (14%) and wearables (6%).

Mentions of wearables in the last quarter of 2015 were more than 30 times higher than in the first quarter of the year.

Digital wallets are gaining traction in social conversations worldwide. Within the last year, there was an increase in every region including:  Asia Pacific (+159%), Europe (+144%), Latin America and the Caribbean (+20%), Middle East and Africa (+111%) and North America (+519%), according to a statement.

The safety and security of mobile payments continues to drive conversations, as more consumers continue to take a positive or neutral view of the services being offered to them (94%). This reflects a three percentage point increase over last year and 24 points above the initial 2012 study.

In 2015, the end of passwords and biometrics were among the most engaging topics in 2015, reflected in social conversations in 163 countries around the world. Fingerprint and electrocardiogram (ECG) payments-related technology became an engaging topic for users throughout the year, while facial recognition remained a top driver (55 percent) of biometrics-focused conversation.

MasterCard, in partnership with PRIME Research, conducted its fourth annual Mobile Payments Study, designed to identify expanding conversations on new ways to pay. Mining more than 2 million social media posts over the past year across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Forums, Google+ and YouTube, the study covers unique audience discussions from 61 markets across the globe.




Evertec’s Red ATH Payments System Back Online After 2-hour Outage

SAN JUAN — Island merchants were slowly getting access back online to Evertec’s Red ATH electronic payments network around 7 p.m. after suffering a massive service interruption around 5 p.m.

Evertec is Puerto Rico’s largest electronic payments processor, practically serving all financial institutions and merchants on the island.

The two-hour disruption left merchants without being able to process electronic payments from debit or credit cards, as well as customers without access to automated teller machines, or ATMs, to withdraw cash to complete their transactions. Some online transactions were affected as well, with local cards being declined when attempting to rent a movie on Apple’s iTunes video service, for example.

Many merchants and customers resorted to complete their sales transactions using cash and/or checks.

The origin of the system’s interruption remains unknown. However, a heavier number of transactions than usual were reported as consumers ran to convenience stores to buy Powerball tickets for today’s drawing. The jackpot is of a record $900 million.

“At Evertec, we are confronting a service interruption, which is affecting ATMs and Point of Sale (POS) terminals at businesses. We are working hard to solve the problem as soon as possible,” Alan Cohen, Evertec executive vice president of marketing & communications said in a prepared statement.

The service interruption was detected between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., affecting the customers of all the financial institutions on the island, Cohen added.

Some merchants were reporting that the system was back online at around 7 p.m., but Cohen reiterated Evertec technicians were still working making sure the system remained stable and consistent.

The system, Cohen added, needed to be restarted, requiring it to be turned off and back on, just like a computer when it crashes, he explained.

By José L. Carmona