PANAMA - Finance
General Manager, PMS Panamerican Merchants Services
Ariel E. Barnett V. attended high school and law school in the US before working in the entertainment business. Later, he entered innovation and has been in the e-commerce business since 2008. In 2010, he created Panamerican Merchants Services, a company he owns in its entirety.
The first real experience related to massive electronic transactions in Panama came with the Metro: Panama became the first country in Latin America where commuters could recharge their public transportation card through the web, the phone, and kiosks, and we developed that tool. That was the first impact I saw in how Panama was moving fast toward plastic money and making life easier for customers. It was not a shock like I was expecting; people welcomed it with arms wide open and in less than a year were used to paying their public transportation with electronic money. From two years ago until this day, the market has exploded; many people want to go into e-commerce, and think that they are going to make millions. We know it is a hard business. We are pioneers in terms of security and have secured all our transactions; we use a company called Cardinal Commerce and the type of transactions are called Verified by Visa and MasterCard Securecode. We recommend our clients not use e-commerce without these tools.
Even though Panama was the last country in Latin America to have smartphones, we are top of the class in mobile payments. The use of mobiles for payments per capita in Panama is the biggest in Latin America. We are a small country; we have 6 million cellphones for 4 million people. Whether or not that is true, our online payment industry is growing by at least 10% per month.
We have a plan to do virtual money and have our own payment card; that is where we are moving. We want to work for people who are not yet in banking. We are looking at the risks and are talking to lawyers to see the best way to come out with a card that can serve as payment in taxis, for example, for people at risk of receiving counterfeit money. Therefore, our main challenge is convincing people to use plastic money. We are now installing several kiosks to help people to execute their daily transactions in every corner of Panama; though 60% will be inside the city, we are also targeting areas outside the city such as Chiriquí, Coclé, and many other provinces with our new kiosks. We have new significant projects coming up: we are developing a new tool for the media industry that will allow subscribers to pay for subscription to the virtual news via the internet or using special kiosks. We are also working with the government and with the public sector: We are developing a special platform to allow payments related to companies’ operating licenses.
We get many proposals to go abroad, but I do not think that 2017 will be the year we do so. For 2018, we are thinking about Colombia and possibly Mexico, but Colombia will be our first step.
In 2017 we should first have five banks working for us and using our payment machines. We have 91 billers or clients within our Epago alliance, not to mention the virtual coin coming out.
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