Aug. 6, 2021


Raimundo Sala Albert

Spain

Raimundo Sala Albert

Senior VP and General Manager, UniversalPay

“Mobile phones are a part of everything we do and using other platforms can be faster than using a bank.”

BIO

Raimundo Sala Albert is a senior executive with a recognized track record in the payment media sector: a member of the Bizum Board of Directors, Sala was for a year the corporate director of Bankia's Business Solutions to drive the digitization process of the entity. From 2015 to 2020 he held the general management and International Development management of PayPal, a company in which he had previously been responsible for sales in the same company, leading the commercial strategy of SMEs and large corporations in Spain and Portugal. To his entire successful track record, Sala adds an extensive experience of almost 20 years of work as manager and marketing manager in internationally renowned companies such as Inditex, GBS, Groupon USG People or ASAC Pharma, where he has played different leadership roles throughout Europe. The Middle East, South America and the United States. With a degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Alicante and the Hocheschool Zeeland in the Netherlands, and with an MBA in International Marketing from UCLA and a PDG from IESE, Sala is also a successful entrepreneur: the new CEO of UniversalPay has promoted the creation of its own businesses such as the LujoDigital association and the Shootfy Marketplace for photographers and videographers.


UniversalPay, the Spanish subsidiary of EVO Payments International, was founded in 1989 and has positioned itself as one of the main payment solutions companies. What has the evolution of UniversalPay in Spain been like, and what have been its main achievements?

The company entered the Spanish market through a JV with Banco Popular to grow and manage the bank's business portfolio by delivering specialized card acquiring products. Some of the main achievements include the completion of the 50% stake by Banco Popular, which helped to move towards the group's global platform. The next step was to develop our own technology in Spain: We have direct connection with payment network companies, e.g. Visa or Mastercard, which is not that usual in Spain; we were also the first to offer businesses the possibility of depositing their sales to their preferred bank. In other words, we do not oblige them to have an account with us, which is typical in Spain too. Once we have implemented our own technology, UniversalPay launches to develop its business with different distribution channels. We work with several partners including a distribution agreement with Liberbank in 2017 to support its business portfolio. In October 2018, we acquired a payment gateway, ClearOne, a company focused on payment solutions for businesses that allows us to integrate the payment with the technological solution of the store. Thus, we completed a portfolio of solutions that we did not have before because we depended on suppliers.

What are the differentiating aspects of UniversalPay?

We are the single company in digital boarding, which means customers do not have to print any documents when they contract our services, allowing even digital signatures with absolute security. We are significantly expanding our services among restaurants including the top groups. These services help to register a client's order in the restaurant in a digital way and make payment simpler. Everything is integrated, meaning the sales system and the payment collection are always in synch. This significantly helps restaurant's operations, and this technology can be aply to any sector making the ERP or POS of choice seamless.

What is your strategy to approach new clients?

Our strategy is extremely different because the distribution strategy has to adapt to each client and the collaboration with the different partners we have. We have a team of direct sales, which focus on larger opportunities, big corporates. We also have a bank sales channel that get new medium- sized clients: and for the smaller businesses, we have a partners channel – mainly ISVs (integrated software vendors) who refers customers to us. ISV help us approach clients to offer service to integrate their payment methods.

How has the pandemic impacted your business?

The impact has been huge in terms of business volume. In Spain, one in five card payments are made through cards not issued in Spain. The number of tourists has dramatically fallen, and there has subsequently been fewer foreign cards. Our clients in this industry such as hotel chains, airlines, rent a car… have been severely impacted; their activity has almost stopped. In addition, consumers are spending less due to the pandemic restrictions on mobility and trading hours resulting in lower consumer spending. At the same time, the use of cards has been increasing in small staple shops, as consumers find it more secure than the use of cash and most small ticket purchases are now made electronically. Therefore, in terms of absolute volumes we have seen a decrease but in terms of purchases by client using cards, we have seen a significant increase, but not only that, the card acceptance ubiquity has exploited across the country.

Can you share the main conclusions of your study called The Future of Payments 2020?

Although it was a research carried out before the pandemic, we can highlight that the main trends are the growth of card usage and the penetration of the contactless technology among consumers and in the shops, a technology, which can be found in watches (all kind of wearables), cellphones or cards. Hence, the acceptance of contactless technology has increased significantly: In fact, the contactless payment limit had to be reviewed for safety, and it has gone from being EUR20 to EUR50 now, with some exceptions. Another important change has been online commerce. It is not merely traditional businesses that want to start online, but also companies that have found in the online world the method to continue selling. There is a modality of e-commerce called pay by link, whereby the user clicks on a link, which routes him/her to a payment page. These methods are now being used in most traditional form of retail such as to purchase fruit and vegetables. I would like to highlight that the pay by link has grown exponentially in the pandemic, because it allows stores to make payments without having to set up a website. As I explained before, the store directly sends a link to the consumer that redirects him to a payment page. Unfortunately, although this growth of payments in daily life does not supplant the fall in sales, these new habit are going to consolidate, especially for security (previously related to fraud, but now more focused on the health field).

Virtual wallets from Apple, Google, and Samsung are clear competition for banks, since 53% of users prefer to pay with them compared to banks' own wallets. What is your view on that trend?

That is a trend to stay. Mobile phones are a part of everything we do and using other platforms can be faster than using a bank. It is easier to use one solution than several. Banks typically prefer to have everything integrated around their solutions, though that is not that comfortable for users. Banks have many challenges in this area today.

UniversalPay has presence in over 50 markets. What are your expansion plans?

We have announced new operations in Chile, and we continue to see many opportunities in Latin America. We are also looking at opportunities in Asia Pacific. We want to continue growing in Portugal as well. The rest of Europe is currently progressing well; we have operations in Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, UK and Ireland. In every country, we also work with one or more banks: In Mexico, we work with Sabadell and Citibanamex, for example. In Poland, Spain, and Germany, we have several partners, such as Deutsche Bank, PKO and Liberbank among others.

What are your goals for the year ahead?

We want to increase our partner channel, as ISVs continue to grow in providing integrated solutions to retailers in almost any industry. We recently signed an agreement with the leading software provider in hospitality and hope 2021 will see that cooperation grow significantly. We will also complete the migration from legacy systems. Following the migration from Popular platform we have completed the migration from Liberbank systems in Q2. This will simplify streamline our operations and make us more efficient to continue accelerating the growth.

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