3V hits 500,000 users as it plots new payment landscape

31 Mar 2011

3V’s Keiron Guilfoyle believes the electronic payments business is on fire … in a good way. “Think of it as an industry; 10 years ago there wasn’t this industry.”

What Guilfoyle means is the global payments industry in which it operates, facilitating non-traditional businesses like retail giants and mobile operators like O2 to enter the electronic payments world, is now a trillion-dollar business that is a quarter the size of the global automotive industry.

Guilfoyle points out that there are 45 payment providers serving the retail industry in Ireland and none of them are banks. Established in 2005 and headquartered in Dublin, 3V Transaction Services has been providing payments products via 3V Vouchers – in other words disposable credit cards – for circa 500,000 customers in Ireland, Holland, France, Germany and the UK since its launch via 80,000 retail

“We’re expanding our footprint across Europe with our own core 3V product. Payments is a growing industry and the potential to grow in Ireland is enormous. We’ve just under 30 people working for us at the moment.”

Guilfoyle says that because the barriers to entry for established retail brands are so low, they can easily enter the payments arena by providing branded card services.

“The banks are hamstrung by technical charges for regulatory updates, and equally have little budget for technical development, so there are plenty of opportunities opening up for non-financial institutions. Because we don’t have a legacy system to deal with, 3V was able to build an open platform aimed at mobile operators intent on entering this space.”

3V’s focus

In effect, 3V is focused on becoming a white label provider of financial services to mobile operators and retailers who want to provide consumers with payment cards that are neither credit cards nor debit cards.

In recent weeks, mobile operator O2 began providing its O2 Money Card at 3V outlets and the service has attracted 15,000 customers. People can top up anything from €20 to €350 per day onto their card which, because it operates on the Visa platform, can be used almost anywhere that accepts electronic Visa payments.

Guilfoyle also reveals additional developments by 3V’s OPEN platform, including a new TextPay function.

“The TextPay function has considerable mass market appeal, the 3V OPEN platform will enable customers to transfer funds in real-time by texting to a short code the amount they wish to transfer along with the recipient’s mobile number.

“NFC (near field communications) will ideally help get rid of cash and make queues faster in shops, but the business case is yet to be there for it.”

He believes contactless cards are most likely to appear on the Irish high street before NFC-enabled stores.

“The Oyster Card for transport in the UK shows people are happy to use contactless cards. But in terms of NFC-based phones becoming your wallet, the average Joe in Ireland leaving his wallet behind is five to 10 years away.”

Payment options for businesses

Guilfoyle is in discussions with a number of mobile and retail companies about providing payment options that they can shoehorn into their traditional businesses.

“Other options are text-to-pay solutions, which would be pre-NFC and don’t require stores putting in new hardware.

“Contactless cards and NFC will be mainly about small transactions, such as buying a coffee or a book. At the moment in Ireland, most shops won’t accept payments below €10. The level of cash centricity in Ireland today is phenomenal. The average cheque usage in Ireland is 50 times the European average.”

Guilfoyle believes the arrival of the Dart card will help start a behavioural shift. “But it won’t happen soon and I can’t imagine any of the banks swapping out current infrastructure given the current state of affairs.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years