Michael Ioannides, General Manager of JCC Payment Systems Ltd, explains how his company’s secure payment systems offer “efficiency, real-time reconciliation ability and advanced customer service resulting in lower costs and effective bill collection, which always translates into monetary savings for all organizations, especially the government sector.”
JCC Payment Systems cannot be understood without taking into account the human capital behind the company. During the last 19 years you have been working in different positions within JCC Payment Systems so you know inside out the institution that you are leading today. But, we would like to know, who is Michael Ioannides?
As you mentioned, I’ve been working in JCC for the past 19 years. All of those I was involved in the area of finance as the chief financial officer of the company. My previous employment history goes back to Deloitte as an accountant. I worked with Deloitte in the audit, financial advisory and tax, prior to moving to JCC in 1996. Since then I covered the finance department up to end of February 2015 when I took the position of general manager.
Due your professional experience in one of the key institutions within the Cypriot banking sector before, during and after the crisis, what are your insights and your perspectives regarding the upcoming end of the adjustment program?
Definitely the Economic Adjustment Program has proved to be very successful. The improved physical indicators manifest this. The Cypriot economy is gradually entering in a path of recovery, however, we all accept that are challenges ahead.
Cyprus’ economy has recorded positive growth since early 2015, while the banking sector is gradually recovering as well. This positive growth could be highlighted in certain milestones such as the adoption of the Insolvency Framework by the House of Representatives quite recently, the implementation of the foreclosure law, and the Autumn projections obtained from the European Commission, anticipating 1.2% growth compared to the initial projections of negative growth of 0.5%.
For 2016, the growth is expected to move to 1.4% whereas this will increase to 2% in 2017. Unemployment rates have been reducing although we’re at 15.6% and we anticipate that this will be reduced to 14.6% in 2016 and to fall to 13% in 2017.
A great milestone achieved in 2015 is the completion of the Troika program. Thereafter we have the Moody’s upgrading to B1 from B3. We also need to highlight the upgrading of Cyprus’ economy by Fitch and Standard & Poor on October 23 and September 25 respectively. Also Moody’s expects that the public debt will drop below 100% in 2016, and by 2020, this is expected to become 80% of GDP, which is quite an achievement.
Of course great challenges remain ahead, the most important one being the non-performing loans. This is a challenge for the Cypriot economy to move further but I’m quite sure that a lot of work is being performed in that particular area.
Last but not least we should mention the great achievement of Cyprus’ government. Late October, the government achieved the issuance of a 10-year government bond for €1 billion. This was oversubscribed and the rate that was reached is 4.25%, which is the lowest ever achieved by the Cypriot government for a 10-year bond in the primary market.
Because of the intrinsic nature of JCC Payment Systems providing services to almost every sector of the economy, which are going to be the sectors that will contribute to boost the economic growth of Cyprus in the near future?
For sure the whole economy in Cyprus has to move forward and the primary sectors would be the services industry, banking, and telecoms along with the tourism industry. All of them will help us to brand the new Cyprus product. Unless we have all participating factors of the economy moving forward we won’t see the success. I’m quite convinced that all principal actors in Cyprus have taken this matter very seriously and that’s why we have achieved positive results, as I already highlighted.
Without a start-up mentality and with the proper investment in research, development and technology Cyprus will overcome the proper challenges of a more competitive global scenario. One of companies that have invested more in new technologies is JCC Payment Systems. Could you tell us briefly about the continuous adaptation of JCC?
JCC Payment Systems Limited is a company that was created 25 years back. The intention was to provide services at highest standards that would also include technological edge programs and systems out on time.
Our mission is quite important: to be the trusted partner of banks, merchants and consumers providing them with consistently superior payment services and value added products through a strong commitment to people and technology. This means a lot. But also we value our cardholders and the best results can only be achieved through investing in people and technology.
JCC is a principal member of Visa Europe, MasterCard and Diners Club (DCI). We also offer full acquiring processing services to American Express cards in Cyprus. The turnover levels achieved (value of transactions that have been cleared) in 2014 reached the level of €2.4 billion. The estimates seem that for 2015, this can be achieved very easily and we could also see a gradual increase compared to 2014.
We’re very proud to be PCI DSS compliant in terms of security and we have also the ISO 27001 in terms of card personalization services. To this respect we should note that JCC offers card personalization services to almost all banks in Cyprus. We personalize both contactless and non-contactless and definitely all cards are EMV enabled so PIN base.
We offer issuing processing services for local banks and other banks abroad, so to this respect we enable a bank to become more efficient and avoid having issuing systems on their own. A bank could fully outsource the issuing processing to us and obtain from JCC a full service in terms of the particular needs and products of each bank. It’s quite a success and we’re moving forward with new customers for 2016.
We offer to local cardholders the option to purchase on an installment basis in collaboration with the issuing bank. We also offer to merchants the ability to create easier and efficient system connectivity enabling quick checkout, enhanced security and fewer transactional errors, since the merchant is not anymore prompted in errors by typing the amount on the terminal.
Regarding our contactless program, we are now at the level of 31%. Our next plan is that by December 2016 we’ll have 63% of our terminals being contactless enabled and by the end of 2017 this contactless ability will reach 95%. Currently JCC has quite high contactless penetration levels within the European Union.
Regarding e-payment facilities, JCC offers JCC gateway for internet merchants, and in terms of bill payments we have introduced JCC smart, which is a system that enables bill payments for numerous organizations in Cyprus. With the JCC smart system we service more than 100 governmental departments and we also support around 50 different municipalities and community councils. We also service telecom companies and also at least 100 utility payment companies. Furthermore JCC smart services at least 200 other merchant types, offering efficiency, real-time reconciliation ability and advanced customer service resulting in lower costs and effective bill collection, which always translates into monetary savings for all organizations, especially the government sector.
Security is everything in your business…
You are quite correct since JCC is considered the trusted partner in payment systems in Cyprus and safekeeping of information in terms of the security aspect. We should also note that according to Visa and MasterCard fraud statistics, we hold the lowest rates in the region. In terms of the latest Visa Europe average fraud statistics, the European Fraud average rates remain at six basis points, whereas JCC’s fraud rate is at 1.5 basis points, being substantially below the European average. The same applies to MasterCard fraud statistics, where JCC remains at around 2.5 basis point. Compared to six basic points for the European Average, this is quite an achievement and we emphasize that electronic transactions and electronic payments in Cyprus are very secure.
Another important aspect is the continuous investment in technology and real-time systems that provide fraud prevention services to all merchants and also fraud prevention services to issuing banks. In this respect we maintain a particular department for fraud monitoring offering services to issuing banks in Cyprus. The specific department offers security monitoring of all transactions happening with local cards either in Cyprus or anywhere in the continent. Our ability to monitor all local ATMs in Cyprus is very important since any fraudulent activity is easily and swiftly noticed and prohibited. We could easily note that we rely on our systems, on the technology developed, but also in our well-trained and experienced personnel.
JCC Payment Systems also works very closely with French-based companies, but also directly or indirectly works with merchants, tourists or companies that have any kind of transaction or e-payment in Cyprus. How has JCC become the trusted partner of foreign clients and which relations would you like to point out regarding the French market?
Your statement is actually well placed. We have excellent business ties with French companies operating in card systems and payment products. In this respect we would like to mention that our card systems in JCC are powered by HPS, a company registered and operating in France. One of our major partners in the area of the point of sale (POS) contactless terminals is Ingenico. Another major vendor is Gemalto, a French company providing systems and support in the area of card personalization systems.
Having noted all the above it remains that the business relationship with the French economy and companies is considered to be one of our major fundamentals. In this way both parties benefit from shared experiences as well as know-how in technological products and services, in order to bring the latest technology in electronic card payments to merchants and consumers in Cyprus.
Our mission and task is to enable people, businesses and government to offer efficient electronic card payment options to their customers any time and any place. I would tend to say that cash has proven to be very expensive and definitely the answer to that is to move away from cash and switch to card payments.
What will be your message to all those merchants, tourists or French companies that will look at these three initials of JCC while doing a payment, transaction or using an ATM in Cyprus?
The most important statement is that JCC remains available to service all business and consumer needs in the area of card payments anytime in an efficient manner. We are here to offer the best service in terms of card acceptance and electronic payments in a consistent manner that will allow a tourist to feel like home. The experience that should be given to those customers should be the same as the experience obtained in France. Quite simply a French tourist in Cyprus should have the same card payment experience as Paris or Lyon using his/her card at any merchant location.
We should emphasize that JCC’s mission remains the offering of superior payment services and value-added products to merchants and cardholders through strong commitment to people and technology, resulting in a high standard payment service experience.