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Monday 22 April 2019
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Behind the scenes in e-payments TT

“IF YOU know someone who is interested in moving out of that firefighting mode and to embrace a more strategic position, please let them know,” Faheem Mohammed, programme director of the Master of Information Systems and Technology Management at the Graduate School of Business, said.

“We savour that real-time practical transfer of skills.”

He couldn’t have been more prophetic.

The event offered perspectives on the local payment industry as seen through the experiences of Aldwyn Wayne, CEO of WiPay and Ian T Alleyne, founder and director of Paywise.

Paywise has been in business since 2013, facilitating the electronic transfer of cash using the National Lotteries’ (NLCB) payment system. WiPay arrived three years later, with a much broader mandate to facilitate e-payments in a struggling local e-commerce landscape.

They aren’t the only players in the space, but they were the ones on the stage at the Yara Auditorium last week telling their stories and responding to questions.

The two men couldn’t be more different, their challenges similar, but their responses mapped divergent courses and outcomes.

Alleyne came from a traditional finance background, spending nine years in IT at Royal Bank, working with Development Finance Ltd after taking his MBA then striking out with his own business.

He hit the stumbling block that all digitally enabled businesses must hurdle, accepting payments online and started his own network to solve the problem.

Alleyne rolled the nascent Paywise into the finance network that underpins NLCB, a service run by International Gaming Technology, the successor company to GTECH.

NLCB’s advantage is an established network of 900 agents nationwide.

“Money is the business of trust, we won that trust through consistency, reliability and responsiveness,” Alleyne said. “It took us a while to build that trust. If you don’t have that, all the marketing in the world won’t work.”

According to Alleyne, 65 per cent of their business is from small businesses, the majority of those run by women.

Last week, Paywise notified its clients that “From April 3, 2019, NLCB agents will no longer accept Paywise payments.”

The company has since announced plans to rebuild its agent network.

Aldwyn Wayne offered a different take on tackling the payment problem.

Fresh from university and seeing his school friends head off to Silicon Valley, he instead came home to find a financial landscape he felt he could improve.

He didn’t go along to get along, preferring instead to confront assumptions and patterns by establishing WiPay and answering questions later.

“There was a point when we had a Central Bank meeting every Wednesday,” Wayne recalled.

“You have to understand the law, understand the regulator. We were threatened regularly with shutdowns, but now we have a good relationship with the Central Bank.”

WiPay needed to find an inflection point, somewhere to plant a lever to make a decisive change and got it when they beat four banks to build the CourtPay system for the judiciary. Wayne is proud of the fact that his company got a mention from AG Faris Al-Rawi in Parliament for CourtPay’s resilience. So much so that he found the clip on his phone and played it into his lavalier microphone.

“We chose to understand. If we choose to be in this space, then 99 per cent of the time, the answer will be no.

“The banks that are my partners now shut down WiPay’s account within a week.

“The people who regulate in the space are risk averse. We needed to take the time to explain that this isn’t going to cause us to be derisked or blacklisted.

“You cannot lead with regulations; you have to lead with innovation.”

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there.

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