behind the idea FISERV
Behind the Idea Fintech Paytech

Behind the Idea: Fiserv

The outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions are changing the way people shop, which in turn is altering the way they want to pay. While contactless chip and PIN payments are common and continue to rise, an estimated over 23 million European micro-merchants, where the majority of business activities are done in lower transaction values, may lack the terminals to accept them. To keep up with market demand and the current climate, Fiserv understands that merchants of all sizes need the necessary tools to process and accept payments efficiently and seamlessly. The company is making sure that no merchant is left behind. 

Sebastian Gollwitzer

Sebastian Gollwitzer joined Fiserv, a global leader in payments and financial technology, as Head of Merchant Product for EMEA in February 2020. He has 15 years of experience in technology and more than ten years in the payment industry.

What has been the traditional company response to financial technology innovations nationally?

We’re focused on innovation not just for the sake of innovation, but to solve real-world problems for real people. While some innovation is driven by a “cool factor,” our innovation is purposeful and done with a view toward what will benefit the people that use our services, whether they are working in a small business, a large merchant, a financial institution or are a consumer. That innovation can come in many forms, whether that is creating a new solution or improving existing functionality or enhancing an experience. We’re disciplined about focusing on what can benefit our clients most. 

How has this changed over the past few years?

We’ve increasingly adopted a people-focused perspective on innovation. We know people aren’t thinking about financial services, but they are thinking about when their next bill payment is due, or how they are going to afford their next online purchase or how much they need to save to send a kid to college. Money is a part of our everyday lives and we’re committed to enabling people to move and manage money with ease, speed and convenience.

Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?

We have always had a strong client focus, and as consumer expectations have begun to evolve at an exponential pace, our clients have found that they need to offer services that meet those expectations, and they have turned to us to help them. So the speed of evolving consumer expectations and the need to keep up with those has let to us implementing processes, such as new development methods, that have perpetuated a culture of change within the company.

What Fintech ideas have been implemented?

In 2019, we introduced a first-of-its-kind PIN on Mobile capability.

The capability allows small businesses and merchants to accept non-cash payments of any amount and facilitate secure PIN entry for consumers on their own mobile devices, without needing any additional hardware such as a separate card reader or PIN-entry device.

Payments can be made with contactless cards, NFC-enabled mobile phones, or other NFC-enabled devices, such as tablets, wearables and key fobs.

What benefits have these brought?

PIN on Mobile is ground-breaking for small businesses and service providers that operate remotely because it enables merchants of any size to turn a smartphone into a card acceptance device, opening new market opportunities for merchants and allowing even micro-businesses to accept non-cash payments.

The ability to use a mobile phone to accept payments without additional hardware is a very attractive proposition for smaller businesses that may not have a card machine or that operate outside of a storefront – such as a plumber and other service providers. These businesses’ employees are not just running around with a card machine they can pull out of their jacket – but they do always have their phone with them.

PIN on Mobile helps democratise access to cashless payments for smaller businesses, and has significant potential to boost the worldwide use of smartphones and tablets as point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?

The way people interact with physical retailers has changed significantly. With fewer visits to physical stores, the use of cash has decreased. Cash is also seen as a potential source of infection, so even when essential shopping, such as grocery shopping, has continued, shoppers are looking for other ways to pay.

We were already seeing shifts to digital payments across the globe, such as Paytm in India and Boleto in Brazil. However, as we enter into the ‘new normal’, merchants will need to continue looking for ways to engage with consumers and provide the payment options they want.

Can these challenges be aided by Fintech?

Many businesses are adapting to entirely new ways of operating as consumers are looking for alternative ways to pay. We’ve seen the percentage of card and contactless payments increase significantly, which will likely continue to do so in the future. The rapid shift to cashless and contactless payments creates an ideal market for a solution like PIN on Mobile. Not only does it provide small businesses and merchants the convenience and flexibility to accept digital payments on their mobile devices, it also enables them to keep up with consumer demand for seamless and secure payment methods.

Any final thoughts?

All industries will see a significant shift in consumers’ payment mindset as businesses continue to reopen. They need to reconsider strategies to cater for how and when people pay and consume products and services.

Consumers are unlikely to revert back to shopping the way they did before. The models of shopping and digital payments are changing rapidly, and businesses will need to leverage technology to adapt and support a range of new payment preferences.


  • Gina is a fintech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

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