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IN-DEPTH 28 June 2017
Paul Marcantonio: Why ECommPay is a trailblazer in the payments industry
Having been appointed ECommPay’s Head of UK and Western Europe in January 2017, Paul Marcantonio speaks to Gambling Insider about his ambitions for the business, and how the payments provider is positioning itself as an increasingly important partner to the gambling industry.
By Gambling Insider

How have you found your role at ECommPay so far?

It’s been very exciting. The company has been going for a little over six years, and one of the things that struck me initially was the passion of the individuals that are working in the company at a global level, and the fact that they have built their business around important values. Those core values run all the way through the business. That was one of the things that I identified when I was speaking to ECommPay before I joined, and I’m really pleased to say that I’ve not been disappointed. They are passionate about being the best at what they do, and are constantly challenging themselves and each other – all I can say is that only a few months in I am still learning the business, but I have a big smile on my face and I feel really motivated to help drive things forward.

Having begun your career in the video games business, what led to you choosing to move your career into the payments industry?

That’s quite an interesting story. I spent a long time in video games at the publisher level. I was selling physical products to the big chains, so I had relationships with Asda, Tesco, Game Group and HMV, and also in the digital landscape with Play.com and Amazon.co.uk. I was in the video games industry for 12 years or so, and it became more and more difficult for me to sell physical products, due to the big conversion to digital. I felt that in order to improve my career prospects and to move in the right direction, I needed to position myself in the digital landscape.

I initially started speaking to a number of video game companies from a digital distribution point of view, but at this point digital distribution was still in its infancy. I had a payments discussion with a company that were looking to build their video game vertical, and they liked my background as I had a wide network of contacts in the industry. Having had that conversation and put some thought into the concepts, I thought that payments would be the best place to be. Whether you’re in video games, gambling, or products and services, wherever there is some form of digital distribution, there will need to be a payment. It rang true and seemed to be an obvious place to position my career, and ultimately I haven’t looked back since.

What are your short and long-term targets in your role at ECommPay?

My short term targets are to build and continue to improve the brand presence and awareness of ECommPay. I must stress that this is not just with a focus on the UK, and that we are looking to Europe as well. Although we are working with a lot of big players in the industry, I still don’t feel that we are quite yet ‘on the map’, in terms of where we are as a recognised and bona fide top-end payments provider. My short-term aim is to establish ourselves as a major player in this space.

Looking to the longer term, I want to build out my core vertical of focus, and be the best in-market in terms of the service and resource offering that we can provide in the digital payments landscape.

To expand on those verticals, we want to continue the great work we are doing in video gaming, betting and gambling. We are also building our retail and travel businesses, alongside our Forex binary business. The approach that we’ll take will not be scattergun. We want to put specialists in those fields in place, so that they can live and breathe those areas and really drive them forward.

Is having a quality payments provider an undervalued aspect for digital operators in terms of what they offer to their players?

That’s a really good question. More businesses are now taking notice of the need to have the right payments provider in place, whether that’s for payment methods, geographical reach or technology. One thing that I remember hearing a short while ago at a conference was a speaker speaking of payments in the context that they are a necessary evil. I was very surprised to hear that, because that is not why we are in business. Payments suppliers like ECommPay are there to make their lives easier and more efficient.

That comment stuck with me, and now whenever we talk to a potential client we look to emphasise the fact that we are not just about signing contracts and making money and then moving on – we are working on the basis of being a partner. By that I mean we look to how we can improve efficiency, profitability and the customer experience when using that platform or service. I think that it is now becoming more valued, but also that there remain businesses out there that do not give the payments industry the respect it deserves.

We have 160-plus alternative payments methods in a goldmine of a region that is untapped by many businesses
What are the key services that ECommPay emphasises when talking to businesses?

One of the most important parts of what we offer is that we try to really get under the hood of the businesses, to get a proper handle on what is and isn’t working. In some cases we will solve a problem that the business didn’t even know that they had. We look to take that extra time and due diligence to understand the business, rather than taking an off-the-shelf product that we can then plug in, in the hope that it works. We take every aspect of an integration very seriously, looking at the customer journey, the payments flow that we have in place and the relevancy of the alternative payments methods that we offer. We have various fraud risk tools that enable companies to be more efficient in terms of how they are accepting payments and how those payments then go through to conversion. We spend time to understand all aspects of what a client needs and wants, and then we go ahead and build a solution for them.

Are there any aspects of your offering that you tailor to gambling operators?

Again, if we are speaking to an operator that needs to improve or wants to expand their current payments ecosystem, we want to understand what they want to achieve. We ask them to take us through the customer journey, as we work on the methodology that if your customer journey is not optimal, you are going to lose X per cent of players in that journey. We need to make sure that we minimise the time for a customer to complete that transaction as far as possible. A key part of our proposition is that we aim to improve our clients’ business by 10%, through either conversion or increased efficiencies, which leads to increased profitability.

How significant a factor is localisation to ECommPay’s offering?

I think that when you’re putting a payments system in place that it must be relevant – it needs to have the right payment methods and alternative options, and the right functionality for that particular consumer or geography. For example, we have a really strong understanding within our alternative payments portfolio of the CIS region, which can be a difficult region for our partners to get into and understand. We have 160-plus alternative payments methods in a goldmine of a region that is untapped by many businesses, which is a key aspect of our ability to localise a particular payments ecosystem.

What are the biggest challenges that the payments industry is facing, and how does ECommPay intend to overcome them?

The obstacles that I see are cyber security and mitigating fraud, which I think will always be a key factor in the growth of online and digital payments, because there are still a lot of consumers out there who have not made the transition from physical to digital shopping. I would maintain that this potential market is still nervous and unsure of putting sensitive financial information online – there are cases of consumers receiving phishing emails or being the targets of fraud, and they do lose money. This is something that I think needs to be continually invested in.

In terms of how ECommPay solves that problem, we are very proud of our proprietary software, Fraud-Stop. What it aims to do is mitigate as much risk as possible – no system is 100% foolproof, but we believe that with our internal processes and the third-parties that we work with, alongside the fact that we have a fraud team in place, that we do everything we can to protect against any potential fraud or security breach. Where we’ve seen a great improvement in terms of conversions and profitability against our peers is on fraud/risk capabilities alone. We are letting the right transactions go through and are not being hit by needless fraud.

Driving profitable growth is also something that is very important. When dealing with a supplier, the margins that you’re working on are very small, and with the weakening of the pound and the extra-competitive nature of our space, margins can continually be squeezed. I think that what we will see is that if payments systems in place are not optimal, you will be in a situation where you are losing money as opposed to making it, and failing to have a profitable relationship with your service provider.

The final point would be the technological challenge. We all know technology is moving at a rate of knots, and the prospect remains that some of the merchants out there are using the same old or outdated systems that they have relied on for many years, and have moved to bolt on upgrades over time, which can lead to their systems being quite unstable. I think that keeping up with movement in technology, and making sure that when you’re integrating with a supplier, in our case a payments supplier, it is crucial that you are integrating with a very tech-savvy business that can work with you seamlessly and without causing more problems. As I’ve alluded to, we have a team of very smart people at our office in Moscow who look at disruptive payments and technology, making sure our system is as streamlined as possible. We look to take that pain away from businesses using outdated systems.

What technological trends do you envisage having the greatest impact on the payments industry this year?

For me it’s an obvious answer – I think we will continue to witness the growth of mobile payments. I think the growing use of NFC and rise of digital wallets will be an interesting factor here. What the likes of Apple Pay have managed to do is make digital wallets more welcoming. It’s all about instant gratification – people don’t want to wait anymore. There are apps now that will send a message when you are in the vicinity of your favourite shop, and provide with alerts for product deals, that you can pay for using a smartphone. This kind of instant gratification through technology is something that will only grow, and it’s exciting to see it develop and add to the revenues generated in ecommerce.
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