Mastercard’s Panagiotis Polydoros on how Cyprus could be a hub for pilot tech programmes

Panagiotis Polydoros, Country Manager, Greece, Cyprus and Malta, Mastercard has suggested that Cyprus’ size, and the size of its economy, instead of being obstacles when it comes to the introduction of new technology, make it the perfect location for pilot programmes.

Polydoros was speaking to journalists at a press briefing in Nicosia on 11 June and also revealed that, while the number of Mastercard personnel in Cyprus was currently relatively small in spite of the wide use of its products and services in the local market, there are plans for the company to grow its presence. Currently, the team overseeing the Greece, Cyprus and Malta sector is made up of 130 people, he said, with most based in Greece.

In his address, Polydoros noted that, at 17%, the rate of development of the use of cards for payments in Cyprus was faster than in Greece. And, according to Mastercard’s Country Manager, Greece, Cyprus and Malta, this rate of development also shows no sign of slowing down.

When it comes to using cards and related products for purchases, Cyprus shoppers also use their cards for higher-value purchases.

The average purchase by card in Cyprus is for €46 while in Greece it is for €30. Also, Cyprus households are the sixth in European Union when it comes to covering household expenses with cards, at almost 60% compared to the EU average of 40%.

“Coronavirus acted as a catalyst for electronic payments,” Polydoros went on to note, as people embraced using cards and related payment services over cash.

The public, he continued, has also embraced tokenized payment methods such as Google Pay, Apple Pay and Garmin Pay, linking their smartphone and smartwatches to their bank cards, and with this type of payment approach taking an ever-increasing piece of the pie.

The Country Manager, Greece, Cyprus and Malta said Mastercard’s future plans include supporting the transition to a sustainable digitized economy.

Steps in this direction include actions in chapters Polydoros, during his briefing, divided into ‘Augment Card Value Proposition,’ ‘Accelerate Innovation,’ ‘Protect the Ecosystem: Focus on Cybersecurity,’ ‘Optimize Payment Flows’ and ‘Doing Well by Doing Good.’

On the first, Polydoros elaborated this meant providing added value to each transaction. For example, as well as being used for purchasing a ticket, a Premium Card could also benefit its holder by giving them the right to use the fast lane at the airport or have access to concierge services. This sometimes also carried out through partnerships with other companies to enrich the users' experience.

When it comes to the part of ‘Accelerate Innovation’ an example of the innovation currently underway on a wider level sees people in Poland being able to pay for their purchases with an eye scan, showcasing the potential of biometric payments.

We could also use our fingerprints to pay to fuel our cars or cover toll costs from the comfort of our vehicles, Polydoros continued, with the payment seamlessly going from our bank accounts to the relevant merchant.

“I feel not enough has been done (in Cyprus) on a level of innovation,” Polydoros went on to suggest, saying that while the country’s size, and the size of its economy were sometimes seen as a deterrent, these elements could instead make it the perfect hub for the pilot testing of products and services.

When it comes to efforts connected to the ‘Protect the Ecosystem: Focus on Cybersecurity’ element, Polydoros underlined the importance of security, naming it the number one priority for users.

Earlier this year, he noted, Mastercard opened its European Cyber Resilience Centre in Belgium, an indication of the importance the company places on security.

The ‘Optimize Payment Flows’ part of the company’s actions meanwhile, includes but is not limited to making transactions simpler not only for customers and companies, but also for business to business payments.

Mastercard has been using AI for many years, Polydoros noted, including as part of its practices included in this section.

Moving on to ‘Doing Well by Doing Good,’ Polydoros revealed that Mastercard wanted to further expand some of its actions already underway in Greece, to Cyprus, including its work through the Priceless Planet Coalition, actions on the environment, empowering women, and helping to ensure vulnerable children are fed, among other efforts.

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