Let us start with the obvious question, how does the Covid-19 situation affect day-to-day business of your team and your customers?
Well, of course, the pandemic has pushed us into a new reality and it is affecting all of us in every possible way of daily business, planning, strategy, and so on. We all needed time to get used to working in a confined environment, no travel, no human touch, and with several screens around you and kids running around in the background. This is similar for millions of people around the world; however, we are the lucky ones, right? We are the ones that are lucky enough to be able to carry on and do business and serve our customers across the globe working from home. There is only so much that you can transfer via a call, video call or an IM. I am a bit old-fashioned on that side and I still believe there are things one needs to do and discuss in person. However, this is not possible and we needed to adapt. The key thing was adapting quickly, assessing how the crisis is affecting the customers, keeping in constant touch with the teams in the various countries, and speaking to all stakeholders daily across multiple channels. I did a self-review of the first week and saw that I was in 7-8 video calls per day, on top of voice calls, IM, social media, internal collaboration platforms and so on. I think we are not working less, actually quite the opposite. Since we are providing a crucial service to a very important segment of the finance and payment eco system, we wanted to make sure that the message goes out to all of our external partners as soon as possible: we are here for you, let’s work together through these difficult times.
Are you seeing a significant effect on the crisis in the payment and fintech eco-system?
I think there is already a multitude of initial analyses on how the crisis is going to play out in the payments landscape, some of them being pessimistic, some of them being overly optimistic. The fact is, however bad it might sound, the crisis has pushed businesses that were not even thinking about digitization before into doing so to survive. Small shops setup e-commerce overnight, delivery and payment, user behavior changed with contactless payment increase, and so on. We have a very diverse customer base. In the hard-hit industries with a lot of card present payment, we are seeing a significant drop in transaction numbers due to the lockdown. However, there is an increase in card present transactions with “life supply” merchants, which stayed open. What we are seeing as well, is a significant increase in contactless payment transactions even in some of our traditional “cash is king” markets. This is very important since it is not a trend and the adoption rate will stay the same even after the crisis. On the e-commerce side, as we all know the entire travel segment has been hit hard, so we saw a drop from one day to another from literally millions of transactions to almost zero. On the other hand, e-commerce in all other aspects is continuing to grow with spikes in some segments of up to 25% increase. So mid- to long-term, once the hard hit industries start to recover, I believe we will see a significant boost to the e-commerce growth figures across the board. The World has been pushed into the digital domain by the crisis much deeper and faster than years of digitalization consultancy; this is irreversible and will accelerate the transformation of the complete finance segment.
How about the adoption of SCA, PSD2 and regulation in general? Will this change?
There was a lot of discussion about the roadmap feasibility even before the crisis, and we saw a change and a push forward of the SCA adoption timeline. It is difficult to predict how the legislation timelines (or content) are going to be affected by the crisis. However, a further delay is not unthinkable. We are working closely together with our EMVco partners as well as with Visa, Mastercard and other scheme partners on this topic. What is certain is that our products will always be among the first ones to be certified for the new protocols and standards.
The customer facing team of Netcetera has grown significantly in the past two years, are you stopping with the growth plans and what are the next steps there?
Correct, we started the journey of building out a scalable sales and business development setup in late 2017, which can utilize the current customer base and be nimble enough to serve our growth strategy for the years to come. We wanted to take the best practices that made us a market leader in Switzerland, Germany and Austria and deploy them in the Global business playground. Two and a half years later, with almost 30 people in the Sales and Business development segment, I am really happy we have excellent expert teams across Europe, with Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, UK and the Nordics being only a part of them, as well as the Middle East and our newly opened location in Singapore. We streamlined the sales process, introduced Salesforce and other state-of-the-art lead generation platforms, kicked off the partnerships and channel sales. This revamp and the strong growth of the team has resulted in 2019 being the year where we won customers from 22 new countries across the Globe. The growth does not stop there, 2020 has so far been an excellent year business-wise despite the crisis and at least in our segment we are still growing continuously and serving our customers without interruption. We have ambitious plans, which although offset a bit later in the year, still foresee new locations both in Europe but a bit further away as well as new products and services.
Can you support such growth with delivery as well? Are you not afraid that growing so rapidly with customers is going to overflow “the supply lines”?
We are very proud of our Swiss way of doing things. As you may know, not only excellent quality software products but also careful planning is an integral part of the Swiss DNA. So no, we are always planning to scale each segment of our customer journey so that our renowned customer satisfaction level stays the same or actually improves J
Joking aside, we have customers among the biggest players in Fintech, Banking and Payment worldwide. However, we have a large customer base in the mid and small segment as well. We have been serving the complete eco-system for the past 25 years with practically no churn. Netcetera stands for quality before everything else, so this is something that we will only build further on and never change.
What are the long-lasting effects of the crisis for you and what are your 3 most important things you are going to do after the situation begins to normalize?
Putting aside the business effect for a moment, obviously the most dramatic and lasting-effect of the crisis is the human aspect, the vast amount of lives affected by the sickness and losing loved ones. The crisis has once again taught us that being agile in reinventing yourself, your business and processes, and even pivoting when needed is key to surviving in such times.
Three most important things? I am longing for the day I can see my team members and colleagues again, speak to them and have a coffee with them, I am looking forward to the first travel and having a beer and a bite in person with my customers and partners – video calls just do not transfer the entire humanity in such interactions.