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How a financial giant is quietly—and dramatically—reinventing itself

On a mission to be known as more than a credit card, Visa is embracing inclusiveness to level the global payments playing field for everyone, everywhere

How a financial giant is quietly—and dramatically—reinventing itself

When Mokgadi Mabela was a child, she sold honey her father harvested to her neighbors in South Africa. As an adult, she invested in her own beehives and expanded her customer base to the broader community. Her business, Native Nosi, grew gradually thanks to word of mouth—and then suddenly, it flattened out.

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“We had maxed out on how much we could sell because we were cash only,” Mabela says. “And when you’re a cash-only business, you’re not really considered to be a real business.”

To continue growing, she would have to accept credit and debit cards; however, her local banks required proof of high revenue growth before they provided card capability. Mabela faced a Catch-22: She needed to accept cards to grow her business, but her business had to grow before she could accept cards.

That’s when she discovered YOCO, a South African fintech company that partners with Visa to digitize payments for small businesses. Today, Native Nosi is a thriving operation devoted to selling honey, as well as promoting other Black, female entrepreneurs in South Africa.

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“We pride ourselves on being a company that looks out for everyone, everywhere,” says Lynne Biggar, Visa’s global chief marketing officer. “That’s the root of what we stand for—the foundation of how we do business. Access and inclusion are top priorities in how we approach who we decide to partner with.”

A DYNAMIC AND INCLUSIVE NETWORK

Visa is a company built on economic inclusion. Think debit cards, which Visa debuted in 1975. They provide easy payment access to individuals who don’t have access to credit. And for most of its 60-year-plus history, Visa has been synonymous with cards. However, in recent years the world has seen the company quietly—and dramatically—reinvent itself.

“We’re the infrastructure that moves a payment from point A to point B, whether that’s person-to-person between friends, cross-border remittance payments for family members living abroad, or real-time payments for hourly workers in the gig economy,” Biggar says.

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Thanks to Visa’s digital payments innovations, money can change hands across barriers that were previously inaccessible. Considering that Visa connects 3.6 billion account holders, 70 million merchant locations, 15,000 financial institutions, and 200 governments across the globe—well, that’s a lot of points A and B.

A DIGITAL LIFEBOAT DURING THE PANDEMIC

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was clear that many small businesses were not equipped to allow customers to transact digitally. Since then, Visa has partnered with fintechs globally to enable digital payment capabilities. For example, Visa’s partnership with Gojek, a mobile, on-demand service and payments platform, has helped nearly a million businesses in Southeast Asia transition to digital.

“We recognized early on that in the face of a global pandemic, transitioning to digital could be a make-or-break proposition for millions of small businesses. We soon pledged to help digitally enable 50 million small businesses globally,” Biggar says , “And we’re well on our way to achieving that goal, having just announced that we have helped digitally enable 16 million SMBs thus far.” For these businesses, the transformation comes at a crucial moment, when more and more people are buying things from home.

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Recent Visa survey data found that more than two in five (44%) global consumers wouldn’t shop at retail establishments that only offer payment methods that require contact. These dramatic behavioral shifts among consumers are proving to be extremely resilient: 68% of global consumers say COVID-19 has permanently changed how they will pay.

“When the pandemic hit, we focused on providing payment access to those who needed it the most, whether that was through Visa Street Teams or in partnership with our network of fintech, government, and corporate partners,” Biggar adds. “And for those that we didn’t provide direct access to, we aimed to provide valuable resources via consumer insights; accessible online tools, such as our Practical Business Skills; or even financial support in the form of grants to business owners.”

EMBRACING THE FUTURE OF MONEY MOVEMENT

That spirit of bringing equity and equality to the payments world expands beyond small businesses. Various individuals and entities alike have benefited from enhanced digital payment capabilities. For example, Visa’s push payments solutions are helping to ensure gig workers are paid quickly and consistently. Reimbursements for insurance claims reach the hands of claimants faster. And governments internationally have the rails to disburse payments in safe and secure ways.

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Through persistent innovation, Visa aims to level the playing field and elevate the payments space. To name a few emerging areas, this includes exploring and investing in cryptocurrency; NFTs; and buy-now, pay-later solutions.

Regardless of the next pursuit, at the root of these initiatives remains a commitment to ensuring that the benefits of digital money movement are accessible to more people around the world. Ultimately, Biggar says, Visa’s innovations come back to inclusion and the company’s enduring belief that when we uplift one another, we all succeed. After the turbulent times brought on by the pandemic, it’s never been more important that we support each other.

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