14 June, 2022

Keeping up with evolution

AstroPay CEO Mikael Lijtenstein explains how payments have evolved in recent times, as well as delving into the latest trends and technologies within the industry

How has the payments industry evolved in the last 5-10 years?

In the last five years, and with the pandemic in the middle, the payments industry has evolved a lot, and technology has helped that to happen. I believe we have seen an acceleration of people becoming digital-first. People used to go to a store to pay for some things; and from one day to another, they needed to change their daily routine to start paying from their homes, to start paying from their phones, to start paying in a different way. So for sure, the payment industry and FinTech needed to evolve to support that acceleration. We started seeing an increase in the number of digital wallets; more digital wallets in terms of users, and different and new options for users all over the world.

Because of that, AstroPay upgraded and we developed our own digital wallet. We started many years ago as a prepaid voucher, and with this acceleration and the evolution of the sector, we decided to develop our own digital wallet. We went live in 2020 when the pandemic started. We’re very happy and we have a lot of users all over the world.

Security has always been an important issue when it comes to payments. How can security be tightened?

Users are always looking for a solution they can trust. They look for payment options that are secure and, in terms of a digital wallet, one they can trust and be safe with their money.

We have identity validation, for example, where the user needs to take a selfie and upload the documents so we can be sure the user that is loading the money is the same that is using their wallet. We also study in depth the different behaviours and patterns of users, so we know the user from the first moment to the last moment they are in the wallet. We have our own cybersecurity team dedicated to that.

How much potential do you see for payments in the gaming industry?

The gaming industry has also evolved over the last few years, so it’s key to have payments companies to support gaming companies and accompany them. Here it’s very important to talk about the user, because the user is the one who wants to load the money as fast as possible, who wants it to be instant. So in that way, the payments companies need to support the trend and the evolution of the sector.

We need to be dynamic and agile, to support what we are seeing and to change every day. From our side, we encourage the team to move fast, to iterate and to test things so we can be at the top of what is happening today. Merchants and users are both looking for better solutions every day, so we need to provide them with easier solutions, with fewer steps and a better user experience.

Given AstroPay works in many different regions across the world, how does the company stay on top of changing regulations?

We have a very good team, a very professional team being very proactive. We process all over the world, and have different situations in Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa. So we have teams all over the world, like the UK, Kenya, India, Brazil, that are available to be proactive to work on this; and have the initiative to understand the changes and be ahead of them, so we can be compliant.

AstroPay has previously spoken to Gambling Insider about targeting the LatAm region. How has the region been developing in recent times?

We started in Brazil many years ago, so we know Brazil very well. Now we’re focusing on growing in other markets like Colombia, Peru, Mexico, we know they are evolving too. It’s important to have a good solution for them; we know that there is a good mobile penetration. Many people are looking for digital solutions, so we are seeing more payment links, QR codes, mobile payments. It’s important to be ahead of that to understand what is happening, to bringthat experience and knowledge to our company, so we can provide better products for merchants, and better products and service for the users.

What are the latest trends or new technologies in the payments industry?

For sure: digital wallets. We have updated our product from the voucher to the digital wallet. For this, we try to be as close as we can to the user, to hear their feedback, to see what they are seeing and what they are looking for.

Today we have younger generations, more millennials attached to apps, to their mobile; so they are looking for instant payment journeys, instant payment flows, fewer steps. Also the user experience, it’s a challenge and it’s very important here because, as I mentioned, users are looking for an easy and simple payment method.

And what are AstroPay’s goals for 2022 and beyond?

We are focused on growing a lot. We have been growing in the last years and we want to keep continuing on that path, the continual expansion that we’re having over the world in different markets: in Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe. We launched in Europe some months ago, so we are focusing on it too.

In Europe specifically, we’re focusing on the countries that we started in, because we launched recently. This needs a lot of hard work to understand, to iterate, to improve the product, so we’re still focusing on the UK, Spain and Portugal; the ones we started in. But we will keep conquering the other markets, we want to be everywhere. It’s a path we need to follow.

Today we have more than six million users, more than 1,000 merchants that we are partnering with, and we are offering more than 200 payment method solutions. So we will continue the path of knowing what the merchants and the users are looking for, to provide them with the best solution we can.

We’ve also done some sponsorships and are going to have more. We will continue on the path of being in the Premier League as a brand image; we know that it’s important for those fans. And there are also new things that will be coming in the next season.

There is also the 2022 World Cup coming up, and South America is of course a huge region for football. How excited are you for the tournament?

From my side, Uruguay will be there, so I’m very happy; perhaps we can get something. But yeah, it’s a World Cup, it’s great. It’s in November, so we have a lot of things to do before that, but we are positive.