January 29th, 2014
Last week, T-Mobile announced that it was ‘taking on the US banking market’ with a mobile app and a prepaid card. The story stated that the company was targeting this service at the 68 million Americans that do not have traditional banking accounts, many of whom rely on expensive alternatives like payday lenders. The account boasts no minimum balance requirement and no charge for activation, monthly maintenance, or for replacing lost or stolen cards.
Reading this story, I wonder if T-Mobile has missed a trick. It is widely accepted that consumers need more than just a new facility if they are to ‘go mobile’ with their financial behaviour and the provision of value added services (VAS) are commonly cited as the bonus that can trigger the change. Had T-Mobile taken the step to link their customers’ accounts to a rewards or incentives programme that would generate cash back and receive discounts at popular stores, as some of the best e-money providers do, its offer to this demographic would be enhanced greatly.
Prepaid cards are nothing new and the global e-money industry has been working tirelessly over the years to support the unbanked by providing a sustainable alternative to the recent flood of sub-prime financial providers, such as pay-day lenders. Waiving the fees is a good move but in the absence of additional incentives, it will be interesting to see how many people adopt the solution. Having invested the time, energy and money to bring this product to market, one wonders why they didn’t go the extra mile.
This is a project to keep an eye on. It will be interesting to see if T-Mobile publishes adoption figures in the months to come and also how it develops the solution in order to catch up with the most innovative and comprehensive prepaid providers in the market.
Posted in Blogs
January 21st, 2014
Senior Hire to Drive Business Development across the Baltics, Poland, Scandinavia and CIS
In response to market demand for its integrated prepaid, debit and loyalty payment solutions, Contis Group, one of Europe’s leading e-money institutions, has extended its international business development footprint with a new Baltic Region HQ in Riga, Latvia. The new office, together with the appointment of Country Director, Baltics, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, Ingrida Kovalioviene, is reflective of the group’s increasing corporate investment in Eastern Europe and its neighbouring countries.
Based in Riga, Kovalioviene, formerly deputy CEO at JSC SNORO lizingas, one of Lithuania’s largest consumer finance companies, will consolidate existing Contis business in the region and drive new growth for the Group, focusing on major accounts in vertical markets such as banking, transportation, retail and postal services.
“Contis Group demonstrated its innovative powers to this region last year, with the ground breaking airBaltic Visa Payment Card,” comments Kovalioviene, whose business development remit covers the Baltics, Poland, Scandinavia and CIS countries. “This was a product that showed major companies in the region that integrated payment and loyalty solutions can be used to extend their brand, generate revenues and drive greater value in their customer engagement. As a model, it holds vast potential for this region. The need for innovative payment methods and instruments is evident across multiple industries in this region. Companies are less dependent on traditional banking infrastructures, so have greater flexibility to implement customised programmes, meaning the opportunities for brands to establish themselves as players in prepaid and debit are greater than elsewhere. To maximise returns, however, solutions must be tailored precisely to the needs of customers. Achieving this requires a dynamic and agile partner capable of bringing bespoke, integrated payment products quickly and efficiently. The Contis Group has collated in-house all of the elements needed to do this. Together with its major brand experience, it has a very compelling and powerful market proposition indeed.”
Commenting on Kovalioviene’s appointment and the opening of the regional Riga-based office, Peter Cox, Executive Chairman of Contis Group adds: “Investing in local market knowledge and expertise is critical to the Group’s continued global expansion. Adding a regional HQ to our existing local language call centre facility, also in Riga, will enable us to establish a strong business development and account management resource to support our continued growth. Ingrida’s extensive executive experience with institutions like JSC SNORO, AB Parex Bankas and Nordea Bank make her the ideal figurehead for the region. We warmly welcome her to the Contis Group.”
With head quarters in Skipton, UK, Contis Group has also established a wholly owned software development and payment processing arm based in Ahmedabad, India. The Group maintains total end-to-end ownership of all implementation and programme management processes required to effectively launch and operate a Visa prepaid or debit card initiative: BIN sponsorship, card issuance, payment processing and administration management. The result is a seamless service offering for clients, which delivers cost efficiencies, greater agility in programme development, a much faster time to market and simplicity of management; all services that are delivered in-house through a single customer point of contact.
Posted in Latest News
December 19th, 2013
Mike Fromant | Managing Director of Contis Group
As the popularity of prepaid e-money solutions continues to grow, Mike Fromant, Managing Director of Contis Group takes a look at the areas where the market will develop in 2014 and the trends to look out for.
1. Rise in loyalty platform integration
We will see e-money and loyalty scheme providers leveraging their technology, client portfolio and experience in order to broker introductions for customers with strategic partners who also operate on their loyalty platform. Through these introductions, customers are able to establish commercial partnerships with other brands, with mutual gain derived from the quick and straightforward integration of systems. This provides e-loyalty customers with new avenues through which to establish additional sales channels for their gift cards, including gift card malls, virtual malls and the sale of virtual cards together with the bulk sale of gift cards to large enterprises. This can result in cross-brand tie ups – with loyalty points for one shop usable in another, for example – or one-time promotions around an event or season, increasing loyalty and revenues.
2. Unconventional uses for prepaid
2013 saw a number of interesting uses for prepaid which capitalised on the flexibility of prepaid e-money accounts; a trend that will continue into 2014 and beyond. Some airlines, like AirBaltic, are now using branded card schemes to offer additional value to their customers. Benefits include an international payment instrument and exclusive incentives such as flight discounts when the card is used for purchase, miles programme integration, competitive eFX rates and integrated loyalty schemes for consumers. In return, these schemes ensure issuers receive increased brand recognition, customer engagement and retention, in addition to a new revenue stream.
Prepaid adoption amongst migrant worker recruitment agencies will also increase in 2014, as they seek to support workers without a bank account. Prepaid e-money accounts are already revolutionising this procedure. Agencies can load wages onto cards and issue them to workers, removing the necessity for large amounts of cash to be kept on the premises, making the process simpler and safer for all concerned. The best solutions even enable migrant workers to apply for an additional card to be associated with the account, which can be sent back to their home country, enabling family to avoid international money transfer costs by withdrawing funds from an ATM.
3. Curtailing corporate credit
Credit is no longer king. In austere times, unnecessary corporate spending is the first area to be reigned in. Prepaid cards are an easy and effective way to bring spending back under the control of finance departments. Switching corporate expense systems to prepaid removes the ability for an employee to overspend, only offering the option to use money that has already been sanctioned. This system is easier to administer for the finance department and enables instant loads for specific requirements such as business trips or events. This places thrift at the forefront of employee’s minds and eases the pressure on internal systems.
4. Cross-border expansion
Regional brands will increasingly leverage the benefits and flexibility of e-money accounts as a vehicle for brand expansion overseas, through recognition and loyalty. We have already seen airlines offering prepaid cards to customers as a tool to aid expansion into new markets through payment and added value, and this could equally work for organisations like car rental, hotel chains and national retailers.
5. Mobile marches on
In 2014, we will see e-accounts go mobile, placing quick, convenient and secure money management facilities into consumer’s pockets. Adoption will be quick amongst consumers as they look to keep even tighter control on their finances while on the move. Taking this one step further, once users are familiar with the process and functionality of mobile money management, we will begin to see tailored loyalty programs offering value direct to app users. Already, retailers are offering tailored discounts to frequent customers and some are even offering location-based deals, leveraging the GPS on customer’s phones to know when they are close and tempting them as they walk past. Expect to see more of this in 2014.
As with so many industries, successful diversification will be the key. 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for e-money and those players with the ability to spot opportunities, and the agility to react to them, will increase market share and thrive.
Posted in Blogs
December 6th, 2013
A research report from Citizens Advice earlier this year revealed that nine out of ten benefit recipients will be ‘unable to cope’ when the government’s flagship benefit scheme Universal Credit rolls out across the UK; a situation that will inevitably place huge financial and logistical pressure on care providers, social landlords and welfare support providers.
Universal Credit requires claimants to manage all financial commitments from one monthly imbursement, paid directly into a bank account. Today, most benefit recipients budget on a weekly or fortnightly basis, according to how often their benefits are paid. There are many who currently struggle to manage their finances effectively from one week to the next and many who will find it difficult to revise their financial behaviour.
A high proportion recipients also don’t have a bank account, nor any means of obtaining one. The transitional period will no doubt be disruptive and many recipients will miss vital payments for rent, care provision and other services which were previously settled by the state on their behalf. According to a national survey by KANA Software, three quarters of UK social housing landlords fear potential mass rental arrears when Universal Credit is introduced. Elsewhere, Housemark, a performance improvement services organisation set up by the Chartered Institute of Housing and the National Housing Federation, indicated that Universal Credit could cost up to £1.4bn in additional unpaid rent every single year.
Significant support will therefore be needed if recipients of Universal Credit are to budget effectively and keep up with the regular payments which fund the services they receive. To this end, welfare support providers must take steps to protect their interests and ensure they remain commercially capable of delivering on their service contracts. But where will this support come from? Action must begin by ensuring that all service recipients can obtain an account facility of some kind into which their Universal Credit can be paid. Then, sufficient facilities must be made available to enable recipients to manage their financial affairs effectively.
The e-money industry has been working hard to create solutions for this sector. The best of these deliver far greater benefits to account holders than traditional banks currently offer, linking their account to rewards and incentive programmes that enable individuals to generate cash back on the money they spend. e-money institutions can offer anyone a prepaid e-account complete with an account number and sort code. This enables them to arrange standing orders, transfer funds between accounts and withdraw cash from ATMs worldwide. Additional cards can also be made available, meaning a relative or carer can play an open and active role in managing a claimants financial affairs, should they be unable to do so themselves. No bank in sight.
We even provide an Envelope Facility, where cardholders are able to separate incoming funds into different ‘envelopes’ for different purposes, facilitating effective monthly budgeting for those unfamiliar with the practice. As cardholders can only ‘spend what they load’, prepaid solutions can also help to mitigate against debt.
With an anticipated eight million Universal Credit payments expected over the first four years alone, financial solutions designed for low income individuals and those with developing financial skills will grow dramatically in 2014.
The Universal Credit crisis, therefore, can yet be averted. By working with e-money institutions, social landlords, care and welfare providers can support those they serve with the required tools and account facilities at no additional cost to them. Furthermore, there is an urgent need for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to consult with the e-money industry in order to gain a better understanding of what online payment and budgeting facilities are available to recipients of Universal Credit. So, for both the DWP and social welfare providers, now is the time to act in order to mitigate the disruption caused by Universal Credit and provide UK’s unbanked with the support they need and deserve.
Geoff Leech is Managing Director at credEcardplus
Posted in Blogs
December 4th, 2013
Credit unions and housing associations brace to support members with e-banking and budgeting facilities ahead of 2014 national rollout
04 December 2013 – credEcardplus, the UK’s leading e-money current account, Visa debit card and loyalty programme, today reports a sharp increase in partner issuing contracts nationally, as credit unions, housing associations and other welfare support agencies take urgent steps to arm the UK’s 1.5m unbanked benefit claimants with the prerequisite e-banking facilities needed to receive Universal Credit.
In recognition of an impending ‘Universal Credit crisis’*, a national total of 79 credit unions, housing associations and other support agencies are now issuing credEcardplus to members who, despite being excluded from the traditional banking system, will be required to open an account in order to receive monthly Universal Credit e-payments. As the new benefits system rolls out in 2014, unbanked claimants will also be in critical need of the initiative’s free online budgeting Envelope Facility which has been designed help them manage the sudden increase in personal financial responsibility that Universal Credit will impose.
The credEcardplus team is working extensively with both individual and partnered welfare support organisations in order to tackle the problem. Since January, the team has agreed contracts with 27 new credit unions together with an additional seven housing associations in recent months.
Commenting on Medway Credit Union’s adoption of credEcardplus and on the benefits of working with the e-money industry, Councillor Vince Maple, Medway Labour Group Leader, adds: “Partnerships of this kind demonstrate the value of credit unions as an ethical financial alternative. I have been critical of high-cost options such as payday lenders for some time, so seeing our community credit union offer an even wider range of inclusive financial options to Medway residents is a great move and one I am sure people will welcome. Overall, it is great to see partnerships between credEcardplus and credit unions supporting local communities through ethical and sustainable financial services.”
In response to both increased market demand and in recognition of his significant contribution to the growth of the credEcardplus business, Geoff Leech, former Head of Partner Development has been appointed Managing Director, credEcardplus. Geoff will draw on 20 years of financial planning and rollout experience to drive the strategic direction of credEcardplus. Balvinder Basran and Esme McQuillan also join the expanding credEcardplus team as Partner Development Managers in order to better support the organisation’s growing network of issuing partners.
“The IT problems that are delaying the rollout of Universal Credit are, in many ways, a blessing in disguise; neither claimants nor welfare support agencies are ready to cope with the impact of Universal Credit,” adds Geoff Leech, Managing Director, credEcardplus. “We are working with Medway Credit Union to help them prepare their unbanked members for the onset of Universal Credit in order to mitigate the disruption that the new system will cause. Thinly staffed credit unions all over the country will be flooded with requests for guidance and financial assistance. Social housing associations face mass rental arrears. Vast numbers of unbanked claimants will suddenly find that they have no means of receiving the benefits to which they are entitled. e-money solutions, like credEcardplus offer a no-cost solution to the problem, but agencies must act quickly if they are to give their members time to adjust to the demands of the new system.”
By partnering with credEcardplus, housing associations and credit unions – like Medway, Citysave and Riverside – are able to support those they serve with the required budgeting tools and account facilities at no cost to them. Cardholders benefit from an e-account capable of supporting standing orders, money transfers, bill payments and ATM withdrawals. Earlier this year, credEcardplus also launched its Envelope Facility, a new budgeting tool that is designed to help account holders avoid getting into financial difficulties by ring fencing essential funds for rent, care provision and utility bills, for example, leaving the remainder of their monthly income free to spend or withdraw as cash.
“These services are of crucial importance right now,” adds Leech. “Our solution not only enables consumers that have been marginalised by the traditional banking sector to receive Universal Credit’s single, electronic benefits payment, but also to take control of their financial affairs. The partnerships we are building deliver basic banking facilities to a sector of society that is so often overlooked, which is why we are seeing such demand.”
*Contis Warns of Looming Crisis for Credit Unions following Citizen’s Advice Study
Posted in Latest News
December 4th, 2013
Medway Credit Union teams up with credEcardplus to help local residents on benefits prepare for Universal Credit
04 December 2013 – credEcardplus, the UK’s leading e-money current account, Visa debit card and loyalty programme has teamed up with Medway Credit Union, to enable the financial co-operative to arm its benefit claiming members with the e-banking facilities they need in order to transition to the government’s new Universal Credit scheme.
Commenting on Medway Credit Union’s adoption of credEcardplus and on the benefits of working with the eMoney industry, Councillor Vince Maple, Medway Labour Group Leader said: “Partnerships of this kind demonstrate the value of credit unions as an ethical financial alternative. I have been critical of high-cost options such as payday lenders for some time, so seeing our community credit union offer an even wider range of inclusive financial options to Medway residents is a great move and one I am sure people will welcome. Overall, it is great to see partnerships between credEcardplus and credit unions supporting local communities through ethical and sustainable financial services.”
By partnering with credEcardplus, housing associations and credit unions are able to support those they serve with budgeting tools and account facilities at no cost to them. Cardholders benefit from an e-account capable of supporting standing orders, money transfers, bill payments and ATM withdrawals. Members of Medway Credit Union can also take advantage of an envelope facility budgeting tool, designed to help cardholders ring fence essential funds, such as rent, care provision and utility bills, leaving the remainder of their monthly income free to spend or withdraw as cash.
“We see this initiative as a major step forward,” comments Caroline Swift, Chairman, Medway Credit Union. “The card allows our members to budget effectively and prepare for Universal Credit next year. It also enables them to save money through a loyalty scheme linked to a wide range of high street retailers. Cross industry partnerships of this kind are helping credit unions deliver more and better services to members in these difficult times.”
Medway Credit Union’s actions reflect those of an increasing number of credit unions around the UK. In reaction to an impending ‘Universal Credit crisis’, a national total of 79 credit unions, housing associations and other support agencies are now issuing credEcardplus to members who, despite being excluded from the traditional banking system, will be required to obtain a current account in order to receive monthly Universal Credit e-payments. As the new benefits system rolls out in 2014, unbanked claimants will also be in critical need of the initiative’s free online budgeting tools, designed help them manage the sudden increase in personal financial responsibility that Universal Credit will impose.
Geoff Leech, Managing Director, credEcardplus, commented: “We are working with Medway Credit Union to help them prepare their unbanked members for the onset of Universal Credit in order to mitigate the disruption that the new system will cause. Credit unions all over the country will be flooded with requests for guidance and financial assistance. Social housing associations face mass rental arrears. Vast numbers of unbanked claimants will suddenly find that they have no means of receiving the benefits to which they are entitled. e-Money solutions, like credEcardplus offer a no-cost solution to the problem, but support agencies must act quickly if they are to give their members time to adjust to the demands of the new system.”
“These services are of crucial importance right now,” adds Leech. “Our solution not only enables consumers that have been marginalised by the traditional banking sector to receive Universal Credit’s single, electronic benefits payment, but also to take control of their financial affairs. The partnerships we are building with institutions like Medway Credit Union enable the delivery of basic banking facilities to a sector of society that is so often overlooked.”
Posted in Latest News
October 21st, 2013
Designed to help unbanked benefit recipients cope with Universal Credit
21 October 2013 – credEcardplus, the current account, Visa debit card and rewards scheme today announced the launch of its Envelope Facility® a new budgeting tool that is designed to help account holders avoid getting into financial difficulties by ring fencing essential funds and leaving the remainder of their monthly income free to spend or withdraw as cash.
The facility launches as thousands of unbanked benefit recipients are being forced to adapt to having all their benefits paid monthly and in a single electronic payment, following the introduction of Universal Credit. The Envelope Facility is designed to assist with this process of adaptation, by providing a simple and intuitive platform for better money management.
“Many organisations are expecting to see a significant increase in payment arrears as benefit recipients struggle to manage a monthly budget,” comments Geoff Leech, Managing Director, credEcardplus. “It’s not only Credit Unions and their members that will benefit from the credEcardplus, housing associations, care providers, utility companies and local authorities could all gain from issuing our cards. The greatest beneficiaries will, however, be the account holders themselves, thousands of whom lack vital experience of managing on a monthly budget. This will remain the case long after Universal Credit has begun.”
Account holders can access the Envelope Facility via their credEcardplus current account portal, selecting from their electronic statements which regular payments including, for example, rent and utility bills, should be kept separate from their disposable funds and placed in the virtual envelopes. When a payment amount changes, the member can simply revisit their account portal and adjust the amount that will be automatically placed in their envelope.
Across the UK, there are now over 80 organisations offering credEcardplus current accounts to 1000’s of vulnerable members and tenants; a figure that has risen by more than 400% since the government announced plans to introduce Universal Credit in 2010.
“With more than eight million Universal Credit payments expected in the first four yearsand a recent Citizens Advice study stating that nine out of ten benefit recipients will be ‘unable to cope’ when Universal Credit goes live, Credit Unions, housing associations and other intermediaries will come under increasing pressure to provide financial advice and support to those both inside and outside the traditional banking system,” adds Leech. “With administrative resources already stretched, it is vital that these organisations take steps to prepare for the increase in demand.
Those that are already offering credEcardplus current accounts and Visa debit cards have been able to reduce internal administration and streamline their operations in preparation of the transition that lies ahead.”
By partnering with Contis Group, the end-to-end prepaid financial solutions provider that owns and manages the credEcardplus solution, Credit Unions are able to offer members the money management facilities usually associated with traditional banking, like an e-account facility capable of supporting standing orders, money transfers and ATM withdrawals via the Visa network.
Account holders are also provided with a Visa Debit Card linked to a rewards scheme that enables them to generate cash rebates on everyday purchases from a variety of participating retail outlets, such as Asda, BHS and New Look.
 Department for Work and Pensions
 Details of the study available here.
Posted in Latest News
August 27th, 2013
27 August 2013 – Foreign exchange specialist, eWealthGlobal Group, has partnered with global prepaid solutions provider, Contis Group, to provide a powerful online international money management platform that offers individual and business clients favourable FX rates for their international travel and money transfer requirements.
By integrating Contis’ credEcardplus prepaid Visa debit card, e-account and rewards solution with its online foreign exchange execution platform, eFX, eWealthGlobal Group’s international client base can now benefit from real time wholesale FX rates, which compare favourably to those offered by banks and other currency vendors, and transfer, exchange, spend and withdraw funds from anywhere in the world uninhibited by the excessive delays and charges commonly associated with the traditional global banking system.
“This really is a bank-beating scheme that we’ve created with the eWealthGlobal Group,” comments Mike Fromant, Managing Director, Contis Group. “The card operates like any other Visa debit card but the services and facilities that accompany it far outstrip what high street banks are currently offering. eWealthGlobal Group’s eFX platform provides more competitive FX rates and the Visa network that supports credEcardplus operates in real time, which, together with the prepaid nature of credEcardplus, means that moving money from one country to another via our e-account facility is unrestricted, low cost and instant. We’re very excited to offer this solution to eWealthGlobal Group’s international client base.”
“We evaluated a number of options before partnering with Contis and integrating credEcardplus,” adds Leigh Martin, co-founder and director of eWealthGlobal Group. “Contis has a wholly owned end-to-end solution which was already live, successful in the market and easy to integrate with our eFX platform. This meant we were able to maintain control over the whole process. The solution is extremely versatile so is well suited to both our corporate and individual clients. For individuals, it can be used for holiday travel money, or for transferring money instantly to extended family in foreign countries; a service that is not offered by traditional banks. Businesses also have the opportunity to issue multiple cards to their travelling workforce and use the centralised e-account platform to administrate their corporate expenses. There are also additional cash rebates and rewards available for our GBP cardholders, which is a great piece of added value.”
Contis is one of just a handful of payment solution providers to have total end-to-end ownership of all implementation and programme management processes required to effectively launch and operate a prepaid card initiative: BIN sponsorship, card issuance, payment processing and administration management. The result is a seamless service offering for clients, which delivers cost efficiencies, greater agility in programme development, a much faster time to market and simplicity of management; all services will be delivered in-house though a single customer point of contact.
eWealthGlobal Group uses state of the art technology to make international payments cost effective and enable clients to leverage its market leading online eFX platform to transact in up to 160 currency pairs. The firm’s objective is to make transacting in FX simple, secure and risk free providing a ‘trade and pay in under 30 seconds’ capability, together with 100% transparency in all FX pricing.
Posted in Latest News
August 21st, 2013
Following a series of new contract wins we’ve once again strengthened our head-office team in Skipton.
We’d like to welcome our new Sales Director, Salvatore Scarvaci; Michelle Bradley, who joins the customer services team, and congratulate Jaclyn Hughes who has moved into our client delivery team .
Salv joins Contis following 25 years’ experience working with national and international clients in the credit and prepaid card sectors. Previous clients have included Tesco Bank, BAE Systems and M&S Money. He has also worked with Credit/Debit/Smart Card manufacturers Oberthur, Schlumberger, G&D, Gemplus, Austria Card and Thames Card Technology.
Jaclyn has moved into the client delivery team following more than two years in Contis’ customer services team. Jaclyn’s work will include the implementation of all new prepaid card schemes while Michelle will help to bolster the customer services team.
Welcome to team Contis!
Posted in Latest News
July 11th, 2013
“In the wake of the Citizens Advice study published this week, there is an urgent need for the Department of Work and Pensions to consult with the e-money industry in order to gain a better understanding of what online budgeting account facilities are available to unbanked benefits recipients. The fact that nine out of ten recipients believe they will be unable to cope when Universal Credit is introduced in October is simply unacceptable. The great frustration is that the e-money industry is offering facilities to this sector that beat the offering of major banks hands down. Sadly, either the government is unaware of these facilities, or it is simply uninterested in promoting their use. Either way, it needs to wake up to the impending Universal Credit crisis and act now to address these issues before it is too late.”
Mike Fromant, Managing Director, credEcardplus, a prepaid card, e-account, budgeting and rewards solution for Credit Unions and the unbanked community.
 Details of the study available here.
Posted in Blogs