Within the core business of creating tailored payment solutions, where lies the greatest opportunity for growth for Network International?
Network International has a deep commitment to continuously innovate and build on the customer value proposition. With the growing popularity and use of smartphones, we see the biggest potential around mobile devices and e-commerce as customers demand ingenious and convenient payment technologies that also offer the highest level of security. Another area that has great implications for the UAE payments sector is financial inclusion. Through our partnership with Emirates Identity Authority, we aim to play a pivotal role in launching the UAE's first smart wallet using the Emirates ID card. We have already demonstrated the use of Emirates ID cards in mainstream financial applications. The addition of a smart wallet will provide a further boost to the UAE's goal of achieving greater financial inclusion in the country.
How will international partnerships, like the one recently struck with PayPal, play a role in the development of e-commerce within the Middle East?
As the leading provider of payment solutions in the MENA, one of our strategic objectives at Network International is to enable the growth of e-commerce across the region through developing speedy and secure payment solutions. Our partnership with PayPal empowers UAE-based merchants and start-ups by providing safer and quicker access to cash payments as local merchants with an online presence can now receive cash in AED from their PayPal accounts directly to any bank in the UAE. To provide you some perspective, up until recently merchants in the UAE could only withdraw funds in dollars from their Pay Pal account via a credit card, regardless of the currency of the transaction. This process could take at least seven days, and of course was also subject to currency conversion charges. This was in addition to various applicable fees. The only other public option was to have a US bank account, which only a handful of merchants in the UAE have. Moreover, we have also recently launched Network Online (NeO), a sophisticated online payment gateway that is expected to provide a substantial boost to e-commerce in the UAE. With NeO, merchants will have access to a mobile and e-commerce payment solution that includes industry-leading security protocols and fraud monitoring capabilities. It includes the added security layer of tokenization, the replacement of sensitive data with a unique identifier that cannot be mathematically reversed, to render payment card data meaningless to hackers.
What are your company's expectations for the year ahead?
Although the global economy is at a crucial juncture today and facing strong and complex cross currents, things are looking brighter in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, especially in the UAE, thanks to heavy government spending and robust private sectors. The level of optimism and positive market sentiments in the UAE have certainly helped Network International make significant progress in recent years, enabling us to stay true to our commitment to our partners and customers. With the wider move toward a smart economy, this is a very exciting time for the payments sector in the UAE. In 2014, we processed more than 550 million transactions, amounting to $22.6 billion in acquiring volume, and had several instances of over 100 transactions per second. While these numbers are indeed impressive, we believe that we can offer even more to the industry, which is why we continue to invest in our core assets, namely intellectual capital and technology. With the roll out of our world-class Network One platform, we will soon be capable of processing several thousand transactions a second, making us an extremely valuable partner for merchants in the region.