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For Payments Businesses, Profitability will ultimately remain more important – John Chaplin, Founder of Global Payment Innovation Jury

By Godwin Onyemaechi

Nairobi, Kenya; Friday 26th April 2024 Earlier this week in Nairobi, Kenya Interswitch Group, one of Africa’s most influential payment players formally unveiled their 2024 Global Payments Innovation Jury Report, a significant research effort into the outlook for innovation in payments globally, conducted in partnership with The World Bank, and notable international payment operators, namely HPS and Fime. This is sequel to the 1st unveil of the report in Lagos, Nigeria, where Interswitch is Headquartered in mid-March.


Presenting the latest report titled: “Market meltdown – impacts on infrastructure, regulation and innovation” at Interswitch’s offices in Nairobi, East Africa’s key hub for payments and fintech, John Chaplin, Senior Adviser/Board Director at Interswitch, and also the Founder and Chairman of the Global Jury unpacked some major insights encapsulated in the report, which analyses the in-depth perspectives of over 130 payment experts spanning all continents of the globe.


At the media presentation, which represented an opportunity to engage with key stakeholders in the region, Chaplin, whose career trajectory spans over 4 decades in the payment industry across leading payment companies including Interswitch, Visa, First Data Corporation and Global Processing Services reflected on the last 2 years of dynamic market activity in the global fintech and payments space, stressing that the unique insights of industry leaders across various markets has never been more needed than at a time such as this.


He particularly highlighted the jury’s depth of understanding of the causes and effects of macroeconomic changes and their impact on the long-term direction of the payments industry which helps the industry as a collective to understand how to navigate the turbulence of the times.
Asked which findings from the report findings were somewhat unexpected, Chaplin cited the general views expressed by the payments innovation jury alluding to banks being seen to have potential as long-term players in the mobile wallet space. According to the report, which plays up the growing importance of compliance and risk management as pivotal considerations as payment volumes grow exponentially, “Most of the mobile wallet buzz is around new market entrants (mainly MNOs in developing markets and fintechs everywhere) but the Jury thinks that the banks are not finished yet and that they are best placed for success once the market for wallets becomes more regulated, as they have so much experience managing compliance at scale…”


From a perspective of profitability versus growth, Chaplin opined “I think that profitability will remain much more important than hyper growth. Over the past few years, investors and the broader market have tended to believe that high growth automatically leads to profitability. I don’t think that is always right. Business leaders should always be seeking to generate a return for shareholders in the not-too-distant future.”
With research undertaken in collaboration with World Bank and supported by Interswitch, FIME and HPS, the 2024 Payments Innovation Jury is the most diverse in its 16-year history. 136 Jurors from all over the world participated in the research, all in senior roles at national payments companies, banks, fintechs, payments policy bodies, central banks and investors. This year, the number of central bank & regulators and investors each increased by 25%, enabling an even more representative picture of the challenges and opportunities ahead. The Jury was also delighted to welcome several Jury members from South and Central America for the first time, making the insights gathered truly global.


Commenting on the Interswitch Group’s frontline role in bringing the report to fruition, Mitchell Elegbe, Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer stated that “We are thrilled at Interswitch to also contribute our perspective, as a pan-African payments innovation enabler, to this report which, with every edition, continues to facilitate more balanced appraisal and better understanding of the global payments industry as it continues to evolve ever so dynamically.”
The 2024 Global Payment Innovation Jury report offers insight into many aspects of the payments industry that were impacted by the recent period of market turmoil. Key findings from the report are synthesized below:


The primary reason for previously high payment company valuations and funding rounds was investors bidding up deal prices and paying insufficient attention to profitability – a view shared by the investors canvassed.
The above has led to a greater focus on earlier profitability over hyper-growth, which the Jury overwhelmingly regard as a positive for the industry – although there’s a lack of consensus on whether this is a long-term market movement
The key differentiator between profitable and nonprofitable players is now cost management, not revenue growth, howbeit with a significant number of respondents positing that they believe this is ultimately a positive change for the global payments industry, tempered by equally valid concerns that direct consequences of the recently increasing focus on early profitability could be reduced levels of innovation which may impact future growth.


Businesses developing AI and climate fintech tools and technologies will benefit from the diversion of investment from payments businesses.
In emerging markets where cards have not yet gained a significant foothold, they will struggle to gain cut through when competing with account-to-account payments and mobile money.
Credit and debit cards will be hard to dislodge from their leadership role in developed markets, but growth will be much harder to achieve than previously.
Banks, rather than fintechs or mobile network providers, will ultimately be the major players in mobile wallets globally.
The talent acquisition activities of payment enterprises in developed markets are a significant challenge for those in emerging markets, with almost 60% of Jury members in emerging markets saying that they are losing an unacceptable number of staff with consequential risks to innovation programmes and sometimes even ongoing operations.


High-profile crypto exchanges failures, such as FTX in the US, can impact confidence in global markets – not just where the failures occurred. This is clearly a concern for national regulators but remains complex to address.
APAC retains its crown as the region with the most payment innovations, but perhaps more surprisingly, Africa & the Middle East was a clear second favourite despite Africa’s macro-
economic challenges, relatively low levels of investment funding and now a talent drain – a clear tribute to the resourcefulness of the continent’s entrepreneurs and policy makers.
Importantly, it is a foundational practice of the Payments Innovation Jury that all members participate on an anonymous basis, as this allows them to speak freely – unencumbered by the commercial priorities of their current organisation.
Download Market meltdown – impacts on infrastructure, regulation and innovation and all previous Payments Innovation Jury reports at innovationjury.com.


ENDS
For more information or an interview with the report author, John Chaplin, please contact erin.lovett@missive.co.uk.   
About the Payments Innovation Jury 
The Payments Innovation Jury was established by John Chaplin in 2008 to collect and analyse the views of successful payments industry leaders on how innovation happens and then to share their insights for the benefit of the industry. The Payments Innovation Jury, which is a not for profit initiative, produces reports in 3 main areas: 
The Global Payments Innovation Jury, looking at consumer and B2B payments innovation across all 5 continents
Regional Innovation Juries, so far looking at Africa and China  
The Domestic Payments Jury, looking at domestic payments in a series of reports since 2013 

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