The unprecedented global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen an unraveling of world economies and seismic strategic industry pivots, unlike anything witnessed in decades.
On the homefront, Jamaica’s tourism and key sectors have suffered similar negative setbacks, enduring what seems to be irreparable damage to the economy until at least another full calendar year.
Despite the bleak economic forecast, some local industries, like their global counterparts, have identified opportunities to remain viable, if not vibrant.
Alliance Financial Services (AFSL) is one such company.
According to Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) data, remittance flows into Jamaica, as at July 2020, have increased more than 14 per cent year over year. Predicting and capitalising on this growth spurt, AFSL, through a related financial technology company – Alliance Payment Services Limited (APSL) – introduced a card solution to support various business products and services with an emphasis on remittances.
THE ALLIANCE ePAY MASTERCARD
AFSL, a longstanding primary agent for MoneyGram in Jamaica, and a principal member of MasterCard, is the leading issuer of prepaid cards in the country. This, the company’s leadership believes, obligated AFSL to strive to deliver a safer and more convenient remittance solution for its growing customer base.
“We know very well the economic hardship that many of our customers face, which only intensified this March when we were all caught off guard by COVID,” said Robert Chin, deputy chairman and vice president, Alliance Financial.
“We immediately sought ways to fasttrack the use of our existing technology to work for our customers, which set a series of events in motion, leading to the acquisition of the card services portfolio of APSL.”
The Alliance ePay MasterCard is a multifunctional prepaid card solution that can not only be used for shopping – as you would any MasterCard product – but customers can also receive remittances directly to the card without ever visiting the shops and earn rewards while doing so.
The game changing ‘direct-to-card’ benefit, which is a first for Jamaica and now features a convenient app, allows customers the peace of mind of receiving funds virtually, during this precarious period, where leaving theirhomes comes at great risk to health and public safety.
ACQUISITION OF CARD SERVICES PORTFOLIO
After receiving approval from the BOJ under the Electronic Retail Payment Systems Regulations in 2014, APSL began issuing ePay prepaid cards, growing the customer base significantly and partnering with large corporations to white label prepaid cards, primarily for commercial and HR purposes. In 2017, APSL became a principal member of the MasterCard network. This allowed the company to enhance its card offering by issuing prepaid ePay MasterCards that allow increased access to purchasing opportunities via the vast MasterCard network.
In February of this year, BOJ replaced the Electronic Retail Payment Services Guidelines with the Fintech Regulatory Sandbox Guidelines, which allows the company to employ even greater agility and innovation in product development and service delivery. As a result, the MasterCard principal licence was transferred to AFSL on June 18 and, effective October 1, AFSL acquired the card services portfolio of APSL (ePay) as required by the BOJ.
The impact on the AFSL ecosystem is significant, as now the company can not only provide prepaid MasterCards to its growing base, but also engage other entities with co-branding opportunities, some of which are currently in place while others are in train.
The biggest winner, however, may be underserved, unbanked and underbanked Jamaicans.
FINANCIAL INCLUSION AND THE UNBANKED
Over the years, there have been many attempts by institutions to create viable products to include Jamaica’s large unbanked and underbanked population in the broader financial ecosystem. The Alliance ePay MasterCard successfully achieves this by creating a distinct advantage for persons who are not able to participate in the formal banking sector or simply choose to add the card to their suite of payment solutions.
“Since March, we have processed over J$125 million in remittance proceeds, directly to our prepaid cards, outpacing all financial projections,” said Chin.
“This, combined with the encouraging inflow reports from the BOJ, is testament to the resilience and continued importance and support of the Diaspora to our economy. AFSL will continue to do our part to innovate for the betterment of all customer categories – we already have a few major partnerships linked to the card in the pipeline, which we will announce in due time.”
The Alliance ePay Mastercard boasts a wide range of features, which include bill payment, direct-to-card remittance, purchase of talk time, person-to-person cash transfers and can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted.