One day, four sessions, and multiple keynote speakers from leading Italian and European companies, have outlined the situation regarding the state of the art prepaid market and its future prospects

It took place in Milan, at the Principe di Savoia Hotel, the annual Prepaid Summit Europe 2016 that was once again confirmed to be one of the best detailed and most updated events for the key players of the prepaid market. Organised by Cards International, the day was enriched by keynote speeches from some of the leading companies of the market such as Greg Sheppard, Head of Prepaid of Visa, Peter Moller Jensen, Director of Regulatory Affairs of Visa and SEPA delegate Ugo Bechis, who have outlined the state of the prepaid market, with a focus on innovations and a punctual analysis on the expansion of prepaid footprints in Europe.

According to Greg Sheppard, Head of Prepaid at Visa, payment needs are changing and prepaid is the payment platform that best serves this evolution, or even revolution. Prepaid cards have gone from being a simple, secure and reliable payment tool to building new payment eco-systems and core solutions to open new markets leveraging new channels to communicate with clients and offer content.

Indeed, Andrea Zamboni, Senior Marketing Manager for Southern Europe at Visa outlined how apart from e-commerce, which has significantly influenced the success of prepaid, there are other business opportunities in Europe that can support further growth for consumer travellers, corporate business travellers, youth and services for the unbanked or financially underserved people. There are also interesting opportunities in the segment of the closed loop cards, like for instance luncheon vouchers.

Innovations on prepaid market are not over. The advance of biometric systems for identification led consumers to trusting the use of prepaid cards more. The digital economy has required a bigger prevention of frauds, while protecting bank activity via Internet. Philippe Le Pape's, VP Presales and Partnerships of Safran Identity & Security, speech covered this theme, specifying how just like other debit or credit cards, prepaid cards can be susceptible to misuse by fraudsters and money launderers. This means that prepaid cards require the same level of due diligence reserved to bank accounts, since they deal with finance transactions. Verifying the identities of prepaid card users in a quick and secure way not only prevents money laundering but also reduces payment frauds.  A Know Your Customer (KYC) process, like the one proposed by Safran, becomes fundamental in preventing this popular form of payment from being misused, while letting financial institutions and their customers go through an identification process on their smartphone, in order to carry out their transactions in a secure way.

Among the many trends there are also the new solutions for wearable devices and the growing of Fintech platforms, meaning the application of advanced technological solutions to financial services. Bernardo Nicoletti, Director Europe and Middle East of Transigma Partners, talked about this new revolution while explaining how these initiatives are growing at a very high rate and represent a disruptive force in the traditional financial services system. It is estimated that roughly 66% of Fintech Business is in the realm of payments. The extreme example is provided by PayPal or Apple Pay. Particularly interesting is the use of a new technology denominated Blockchain. Born to record all the transactions completed through the use of Bitcoins, it is rapidly finding applications in new and traditional businesses. Another technology which supports many Fintech initiatives is represented by Big Data Analytics, meaning the use of new solutions to harness and harvest data, especially in support of operational activities. The approach of traditional institutions in respect to Fintech has been varied, but the most important is the one where traditional financial institutions partner with start up to upgrade their market offerings.

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During the day many case studies have also been revealed. One the most interesting is the one conducted by Amilon. Andrea Verri, Co-founder & CEO of the company focused his presentation on the new opportunities that are rising in loyalty and welfare schemes for prepaid products, and especially for digital ones. Amilon has briefed the Italian Institute Target Research to conduct a multi-country research aimed at investigating the differences among key European countries with respect to loyalty programmes’ perception and experience. It is also aimed at revealing the process of rewards digitalisation in loyalty programmes. What clearly emerges from the research – with some national differences – is the growing role of prepaid in loyalty rewards schemes: the Gift Card option is gaining ground as an innovative substitute of the traditional physical reward.

Andrea Veri has also outlined how recently the Stability Law in Italy has offered great opportunities for prepaid products in welfare services. The new measures encourage initiatives to improve satisfaction at work and in employees’ quality of life: the range of benefits eligibility has been extended and employers are being aided via the usage of simple payments tools, such as prepaid vouchers.

The innovations that are taking place and the exponential expansion of prepaid market in Europe are definitely bringing a change in the payment procedures. In this scenario, the future of digital payments is uncertain, as said by Nicolò Romani, Head of Innovation Lab of Sia. There is indeed a strong competition between the different players and a varied selection of instruments. Consumers are definitely at the center of this evolution and are constantly involved with more and more attractive services. In the end, instant payments could play a key role. Innovation remains the driver in the development of new payment solutions. In Italy, as in Europe, customers will award the best ones in terms of ease of use, convenience and safety.

As a conclusion of the event, the Annual Prepaid Europe Awards 2016 ceremony took place to honor the best prepaid projects realised in the last 12 months. Winners have been selected among 28 final candidates from all over Europe in each of the 17 categories.

The winner of the Annual Prepaid Europe Awards 2016:

  • Prepaid Innovation of the Year – Barclaycard
  • Prepaid Marketing Campaign of the Year – UBI BANCA
  • Best New Loyalty/Rewards Prepaid Card – CaixaBank Elctronic Money, EDE
  • Financial Inclusion Programme of the Year – Contis Group Ltd & Monese
  • Best Corporate/Pay Roll Prepaid Card & Government Digital Prepaid Initiative of the Year – Contis Group and Suits Me
  • 28Prepaid Mobile App of the Year – VFX Financial
  • Mobile Wallet of the Year – Barclaycard
  • Prepaid Security/Anti-Fraud Programme of the Year – Safran Identity & Security
  • Prepaid Service Provider of the Year – Prepaid Financial Services Ltd (PFS)
  • Prepaid Personality of the Year – Poste Italiane team
  • Best Prepaid Travel Card – Travelex
  • Best Basic Bank Account with Prepaid Card – U
  • Best Contactless/Proximity Payment Solution – Barclaycard
  • Best Contactless/Proximity Payment Solution – Vodafone Wallet
  • Best New Payments Start Up – Monzo issued by Wirecard Card Solutions

The sponsors of the 2016 edition: Visa as Title Sponsor & Exclusive Awards Sponsor; Tuxedo as Gold Sponsor; Amilon as Silver Sponsor; Contis Group, Epipoli e Safran as Brand Sponsor.

The Media Partners: Distribuzione Moderna, Mark Up, Pagamenti Digitali and