Q&A with Pari Sawant, Elavon’s chief product officer.
U.S. Bank and Elavon recently launched Mass Transit Payments in the U.S. The company is one of the first payment providers to release contactless, tap-and-go, open-loop technology to transit operators. Cybersource, a Visa solution, serves as the gateway for the platform.
Mass Transit Payments enables public transit agencies and private providers of all sizes to offer contactless payment acceptance from any enabled payment card or mobile device. Train, bus and ferry passengers no longer need to purchase existing pre-paid transit cards or paper tickets. Riders travel throughout their day with trips submitted one time as a single transaction. This improves the consumer experience and increases efficiency for transit agencies.
Pari Sawant is Elavon’s Chief Product Officer. He joined the company last April from Adobe, where he was Head of Product for Adobe.com. He shares his perspective about Mass Transit Payments and other payment solutions in this Q&A.
Q: Why did the company develop a global payments solution for mass transit, and what kind of response have you received from transit agencies?
A: Payments are becoming ubiquitous and frictionless. Consumers are using digital wallets to tap and pay for almost anything from coffee to groceries. Previously, mass transit relied on closed loop payments where you could charge a transit card and use it to pay for your tickets. When you’re on the go, do you really have time to calculate how much money to load to your transit cards? With the advent of open loop payments, we bring the convenience of tap-and-go payments to consumers but also enable transit operators to lower their acceptance costs. There are also public health and security benefits by limiting cash transactions.
Q: Many consumers prefer contactless tap-and-go technology. What future opportunities are ahead for contactless?
A: Contactless payments have accelerated the last few years in the U.S. market. While we have seen growth in Retail and Transit recently, we expect other verticals to experience growth including Restaurants, Services, and Hospitality/Travel. We anticipate that both mobile digital wallets and QR codes will become the primary methods for contactless payments.
Q: The Cybersource gateway helps power Mass Transit Payments. Why are integrated payments partners important in today’s marketplace?
A: Cybersource is a trusted partner and they already had support for open loop payments. We use existing technology built by payments partners to increase our speed to market and deliver seamless integrated solutions to our customers.
Q: Under your leadership, what does the future of new product launches look like?
A: Elavon’s new products will be based on a common payments platform with a foundation in cloud and data. We want to enable our merchants to deliver the best of experiences to their consumers and provide insights on consumers, products and payment operations to help our merchants grow and optimize their businesses.
Q: At Adobe, you were Head of Product for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Is there a logical place for AI in payments?
A: I always believe in the motto “No data, no science.” You may have the best of AI technologies but without data there is not much AI can help with. With payments, we have the data to stitch together a unified view of the customers and their payment journey. Their spending habits/categories can drive insights to help our merchants better serve their consumers, whether it be product recommendations or promotions. In short, there is a place for AI, but the foundation needs to be in data intelligence.
Q: What attracted you to this role at Elavon?
A: We have been processing payments for years. I was attracted to the opportunity to evolve our products where we can use payments data to drive insights for our customer segments whether it be small and middle-sized businesses or Enterprise customers. In turn, we will deliver delightful, frictionless and secure payment experiences for consumers.
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