FinTech Interview with Andrew Doukanaris, Business Director Fintech Europe at Intellias

FTB News DeskFebruary 1, 202323 min

Change and transformation are inevitable aspects of any industry, especially with technology in the picture. How is the finance sector changing with time?
Andrew Doukanaris , Business Director of Fintech Europe at Intellias

Andrew has been at the heart of the digital payments transformation for almost three decades, holding senior roles with Chevron/Texaco, Visa Inc., JCB Cards, and a Mastercard advisor in The Middle East - During which time has been based in Singapore, San Francisco, New York, and London. He is a Fintech mentor/board advisor at Level39 in London and the former CEO and Chairman of multinational QR code payments Pomelo Pay. Andrew joined Intellias in 2022 as its European Fintech Business Director. In this role, he provides oversight between potential clients and the sales and marketing teams at Intellias.

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey in the fintech industry?
I previously worked at VISA for 10 years, as Vice President of European Merchant Acceptance where my role was to introduce contactless payments across Europe. During the build-up to the 2012 London Olympics, I worked with multiple organizations including Transport for London to introduce these payments into the underground and iconic London Black Taxi network.
I’ve also spent time working at Mastercard as an advisor for the Middle East, as well as the Senior Vice President for Sales & Marketing at the Japan Credit Bureau (JCB). Outside of these roles, I have been a consultant for over a decade, was the CEO of the QR code payment startup Pomelo Pay and CEO of Blukite Network, an Open Banking platform – as well as a mentor at Level 39 and have worked with a range of both startup and established organizations all over the world.

2. Where do your passions lie? What do you think defines you as a person?
I’m very passionate about making payments easier for people. The industry has always over-complicated payments, making something that should actually be quite easy, quite difficult. There have been lots of entrants into this market in the last decade. For organizations that are more established and more experienced, some challenges are easier to navigate. For others, it can be much more difficult to overcome the barriers to success.
My background has been about going into organizations to turn things around and make them better, helping teams to grow professionally, and helping the organization become more recognized than it was before. For example, when I worked at JCB it had very low awareness in Europe – by the time I left, we were winning awards and recognition from our peers in the region.
I think what defines me as a person is not only my passion for making payments simpler, but also that everything I start I finish – I never pass the job over to someone else. I also keep my standards high when it comes to leadership, which I maintain as a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.

3. Could you tell us about Intellias and your role within the company?
Intellias is a global technology partner enabling change and transformation across industries, and generating long-lasting value for businesses, people, and the wider world. With 20 years in the industry and 100+ partners served, Intellias has cemented itself as a ‘go to’ technology partner across a variety of verticals from agritech to smart cities and of course fintech.
I joined Intellias as Business Director Fintech Europe to merge my experience within the payment sector and Intellias’ vision for bringing payments into the future in the form of contactless payments, open banking, and digitalization. I want us to take this away from simply an engineering product to a true payment solution. We have great people, and great engineers, but we traditionally have looked for a problem to solve. My job is to help Intellias have conversations earlier with clients, and develop a strategy for the space they’re moving into, rather than mirroring what their competitors are already doing.

4. What makes Intellias unique? How does it stand apart from the competition?
I believe there aren’t many organizations like Intellias because we have big development centers. We have lots of engineers but we also understand the fintech strategies that our customers need to embrace. We have people who understand the pain points that our customers are trying to work around. Add together all of our employees and we have hundreds of years of experience between us globally.
We’re not just another IT solution company; we bring much more to the table. We share in our client’s goals, values, vision, and mission to exceed expectations and become trusted partners for the long haul. With two decades of experience in the Fintech industry, we excel in navigating the highly regulated business environment, delivering high-quality and ‘clean’ code that meets compliance standards and passes audits. Our technology solutions have even received praise from independent auditors, such as the Microsoft auditor who reviewed the solution we provided to a prominent Middle Eastern digital bank.

5. Could you give us a sneak peek into Intellias’ future development plans?
Intellias is driven by a commitment to innovation and staying at the forefront of the technology industry. In the future, we plan to continue co-inventing and building complex digital banks, payment systems, and other top-quality products with our clients. We’re also driving towards global expansion, building strong teams of local experts around the world in order to cultivate diverse mindsets and industry best practices. This will enable us to tackle challenges of any nature, scale, and complexity, while also tailoring our solutions to diverse cultural environments.

6. How have payment options for consumers changed over the course of your career?
Over the course of my career, I have seen the exponential growth of digitalization within the fintech sector, particularly within the payments sector. Gone are the days since cash was king and the digitalization of transactions has become a standardized form of payment.
Back in the day, a zip-zap machine would take an imprint of your credit or debit card using embossed numbers and carbon paper receipts. From there we transitioned through signatures, chips, and PIN, then PIN only, and now we’ve arrived at mobile and online card payments.

Payment methods have had to keep up with retail and consumer demand. Even then, different generations have different perceptions – some fought against cash, and yet now we’re seeing biometrics being used; change is unavoidable.

Covid-19 also prompted the use of QR codes. Once seen as an outdated gimmick, the need for remote ordering and minimal personal contact made them genuinely useful during the pandemic, although their use has notably diminished since. We can see further afield in China and Japan, QR codes – in tandem with Alipay and WeChat – are hugely popular methods of payment, which may well influence behavior globally.
Over my career, we’ve definitely seen a greater choice for consumers, and they’re leading this change. It’s not the banks – consumers are demanding more embedded finance, a one-stop shop for all their finance needs. The growth of fintech has been because of this need, and many banks have struggled to keep up.

7. What are your views on the current developments in fintech?
Right now we’re seeing virtual cards, open banking, and account-to-account payments. And there’s an environmental element to all this. There are approximately three billion plastic credit or debit cards in the world which won’t exist once these alternatives are widespread. With instant payments, you also benefit from less fraud, more security, and less costs.
However, this change does bring challenges as well. In terms of regulations, it can be hard to keep up. Innovation can be held up because of regulations – we’ve seen this recently with FTX where regulations weren’t in place, and it resulted in the company’s collapse.

8. What can we expect to see in the financial services industry in 2023?
The ever-increasing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) pressures will drive financial institutions, like most other large businesses, to introduce net zero policies. Faced with the very real threat of climate crisis and plastic pollution, emissions will be minimized and the use of plastic reduced. In 2023 consumers will be encouraged to replace traditional plastic cards with e-wallets and mobile contactless apps instead. The environmentally conscious Gen Zs and Millennials will wholeheartedly embrace these changes, but other older generations will in time follow suit. Plastic cards will not be eliminated completely in 2023, but around 10 years from now I predict there will be no plastic cards in circulation.
In terms of the industry itself, I think we’ll see lots of consolidation, with some players falling out of the market while the ones that remain will become stronger and more focused. We’ll see major banks and major schemes working much closer together with fintech than they have previously to provide a quicker and cheaper service for merchants. The growth in digital payments means retailers are paying higher costs in card acceptance fees. There are many countries around the world that are currently further ahead in the open banking journey than we are in the UK and Europe. Lots of developing markets are leapfrogging some of our methods straight to the most efficient, and in 2023 we will need to try to catch up.

9. What is the biggest piece of advice you would want to give to the financial services sector and fintech leaders?
To the sector, I would advise being less inward looking. It needs to look outside of itself and its comfort zone, see what else is happening in the world, and learn from it.
To fintech leaders, I would say they should take bold steps. Make sure you protect your partners, as you don’t want to become the next organization that collapses. Be regulated and follow the rules, and implement these rules from day one. There’s a tendency among startups to think that the rules don’t apply to them. Payments are all about trust – you are either giving or receiving money, so without trust you have nothing.

10. And finally, could you share a motivational quote that you always live by?
Challenge each other more. Too many people agree with each other nowadays. Mistakes are often made because of this. Be bold and brave. Be regulated, but don’t be afraid to take risks within these boundaries. Create something exciting, something that challenges what’s there but also excites people. Look for solutions, not products – how to make life easier. Focus on making someone’s life better than it is today.

FTB News Desk

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