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UAE - Finance

Salima Gutieva

Vice President & Country Manager - UAE, Visa


Salima Gutieva is the Vice President and Country Manager for the UAE at Visa. She has been at Visa for 17 years, most recently at Head of Sales at Visa Russia. Before joining Visa she worked at Zenith. She graduated from the North-Ossetian University in international affairs in 1997.

"We believe that an economy that is inclusive benefits consumers, communities, businesses, and national economies."

Salima Gutieva, Vice President & Country Manager – UAE at Visa, talks to TBY about the growth of digital payments, supporting the start-up and SME ecosystem, and objectives for 2023.

What have been the main highlights for Visa UAE over the past year regarding digital payments and advanced solutions?

I made the move to the GCC region in 2022, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to be based here in Dubai at Visa’s regional HQ for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region, which includes almost 90 countries. Our Dubai HQ is also home to the Visa Innovation Center, a space where we collaborate with our partners and clients from the region to bring the future of commerce to life. Visa’s journey began in 1958 with the first consumer and merchant credit card program in America. More than 60 years ago, when Visa was founded, few could imagine a world beyond cash and cheques. Visa’s founding vision to introduce a more secure, reliable and convenient currency in digital form began with a simple question: what if money became fully electronic? Today, Visa operates across more than 200 countries and territories, and continues to anticipate the future of digital commerce. Our network, VisaNet, one of the world’s most advanced processing networks, connects technology, infrastructure and innovation to secure fast digital payments for everyone in innovative ways. We continue to evolve, but our focus remains the same—to be the best way to pay and be paid, for everyone, everywhere. This past year has been both successful and eventful for the UAE, and I would like to highlight three key factors that drove growth in the digital payments sector. With the the resumption of international travel post pandemic, the UAE government launched several initiatives to boost travel and tourism. The UAE was also host to the overflow of visitors from FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, with research indicating that the UAE topped the list of preferred destinations for those travelling to the region to catch the sports event. Another factor is UAE consumers’ preference for digital payments over cash as the world has recovered from the pandemic. Adoption of digital payments among UAE consumers is high, with more than nine out of 10 digital payment transactions in store being contactless. Our recent studies indicate that the eCommerce sector in the UAE continues to grow, driven by rising consumer demand for digital payments. The 2022 Global Shopping Index: UAE Edition,” a PYMNTS and Visa Cybersource survey, has found that 72% of customers who shopped at brick-and-mortar stores were more likely than others to use smartphones to enhance their in-store shopping experience. Among shoppers who ordered items from their smartphones and picked them up in-store, 35% experienced more shopping friction than average, indicating a need for improved cross-channel shopping features.

Today, with tokenization keeping data and payments secure, there are more opportunities for merchants, fintechs and financial institutions in the UAE to offer consumers payment innovations such as wearables and facial recognition through enhanced eCommerce and mobile shopping experiences.

The third factor is a growing digital payments infrastructure in the UAE or acceptance of payments. To support merchants and SMBs looking to provide their customers with a seamless, secure shopping experience online and in-store, we launched different initiatives in the UAE. For example, to further grow acceptance we partnered with First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) and later Magnati to bring innovative mobile acceptance solution Tap-to-Phone—a low-cost acceptance solution—to UAE merchants, enabling them to accept contactless payments through smartphone devices. We also have an agreement in place with Statistics Centre – Abu Dhabi (SCAD), where we provide the Emirate’s policy-makers with actionable market data to inform their economic development efforts that will benefit the country’s residents and businesses.

Another example is growing new fIows—a term encompassing all money movement beyond consumer to merchant payments, including business-to-business, business-to-consumer,  government-to-consumer, and peer-to-peer. In 2022, we launched Visa Direct in partnership with Al Ansari Exchange. The solution enables Al Ansari Exchange customers to transfer funds to Visa cards globally in near real-time. There is also growing appetite for digital payments in the B2B space in the UAE. For the B2B space in the UAE, and with digitization of payments we’re seeing gain momentum there, Visa’s B2B Connect platform helps quickly and securely process corporate cross-border payments globally.

To deliver on our purpose—to uplift everyone, everywhere by being the best way to pay and be paid – last year we launched Visa’s global “She’s Next” initiative in four countries across Middle East including the UAE—for the first time—to support local women entrepreneurs in partnership with FAB and Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC).

To what extent does Visa support the startup of an SME ecosystem in the country?

We believe that an economy that is inclusive benefits consumers, communities, businesses, and national economies. This is not only a core belief but core to our business, and that is why it is essential to support SMEs, which make up more than 90% of the world’s businesses. Visa was founded on the principle that the best way to expand access to digital payments was through a global network of government, financial institution and merchant partners.

As a trusted engine of commerce, Visa’s top priority has been to help small businesses keep pace with and operate in a world that is rapidly evolving. We know that sustainable economic recovery is reliant on small businesses being able to grow, and that is why over the past year our focus has been on ensuring that small businesses have more tools and cost-effective solutions at their disposal to adapt, learn and evolve. Such tools includes Click to Pay, which helps consumers make secure and fast online purchases from various merchants and platforms. Tap-to-Phone, as mentioned earlier, is a low-cost mobile acceptance solution which can turn a merchant’s mobile phone into a payment terminal.

Another tool is Visa’s Rapid Merchant Onboarding, which enables the digital acquisition and onboarding of SMBs by allowing them to sign up directly with the payment acquirer to accept digital payments from their customers in-store/at the point-of-sale or online—in as little as seven business days.

Visa has also been focused on working with fintechs while helping our banking clients tap into innovations emerging from the fintech community. Working alongside our bank partners to drive the adoption of digital payments, we also launched our Visa Everywhere Initiative to empower more fintechs and startups in the UAE to showcase their groundbreaking solutions, which can help solve the payment challenges of the future.

Finally, financial literacy is key, which is why Visa conducts the annual Stay Secure campaign in the UAE, along with government partners Dubai Police and Department of Economy and Tourism to help consumers protect themselves from fraud, and provide merchants with actionable insights to help them build consumer trust in their digital offerings.

Visa’s network of networks strategy, aimed at facilitating the movement of money, is to bring innovation, trust, reliability, and standards to the broader payments ecosystem. We will continue to roll out new programs and resources that advance Visa’s commitment to digitally empowering SMBs, supporting business resilience and giving more people access to the digital financial system.

What are the company’s main objectives for 2023?

As part of our commitment to driving innovation within electronics payments, Visa continuously evaluates the opportunities and challenges rising from the constant evolution of the digital payment industry. Looking ahead, we will continue to work with our local financial institution clients, merchants and fintech partners to develop and deploy efficient, convenient and secure processes for offline and online commerce. That way, we can enable more and more businesses and consumers to participate in the rapidly expanding digital economy, which supports the UAE government’s digital commerce agenda.

In 2023, to make payments both more secure and more convenient, we continue bringing new products and enhancing capabilities, like tokenization, which protects sensitive payment information, creating opportunities for merchants, fintechs and financial institutions in the UAE to offer consumers payment innovations, or like Buy Now, Pay Later, while enhancing optionality and personalization. Another focus area will be capturing the digital remittances opportunity, which has become deeply embedded into the everyday routines for many overseas workers around the world, and digititizing money movement for businesses in the UAE, whether that be through corporate travel and purchasing cards, or cross-border B2B payments. Finally, we remain committed to supporting inclusivity and supporting women-owned businesses in the UAE, building on the work done in 2022 through initiatives like She’s Next in the UAE.



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