The online payment sector is undergoing drastic evolution. Processing transactions is no longer just a necessity, it’s a moment of engagement when user experience is crucial. We met with Paola Trecarichi, VP of HiPay Italy—a global platform with an integrated offer that goes above and beyond the moment of a transaction. According to watchdog Mobile Payment & Commerce, the whole New Digital Payment market will exceed 100 billion Euros as soon as 2020, but after this irrefutable date, I’m curious to know how a sector will evolve when it’s already creating opportunities for marketing and digital entrepreneurs. It’s uncommon to meet female managers in the payments sector, which is part of the reason I wanted to tell Paola’s story.
How did you get started on your career path, and what brought you to HiPay?
I got a degree in Economics and Commerce and built up experience in different sectors, from a traditional bank to consultant for a cinema, and finally landed in the world of payments. I was living in Rome at the time out of personal choice, and I got an important opportunity in a tech company that focused on carrier billing, or payments through phone credit. I had the good fortune to watch this branch of the company grow really quickly, and over a few years I took on various roles within the business unit. After 5 years in the sector I was contacted by HiPay, and I decided to go back to Milan, ready for a new challenge! At that time HiPay was offering several solutions in Italy for purchases using phone credit, but it was also starting to introduce an e-Commerce platform to the market. My arrival coincided with the separation from HiMedia and subsequently when it became publicly traded in France. Initially I managed the whole commercial side on my own, and soon after I started to construct the Italian company in earnest, hiring external consultants for the more administrative duties.
Right at such an important moment for my career, I had an unfortunate accident which made things a lot harder for me. I was a kite surfer, and I broke my ankle. The sport had always been my passion, even this slightly risky version. But regardless of the multiple operations, the cast and the crutches, I took part in my first Netcomm Forum with HiPay. So it was a tough time, but I still managed to find the strength to grow the company, bring on new resources and expand the Italian market. Now the Italian team is made up of 5 people, and I have some people dealing with the Italian market from the HiPay headquarters in France. I also chose to set up a structured branch in Italy because merchants need support and want to be taken care of.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your work on a day to day basis?
I work in a predominantly male sector, but my challenge is twofold. It’s not just about enhancing my professional position beyond gender, but also keeping up high standards internally. At HiPay I deal with the development of the Italian market. It’s growing quickly, but unfortunately it still doesn’t have the same volume of clients as in France. That’s why it’s vital to prioritize the right projects. HiPay is really targeting Italy, so as a company we’re making important investments, but my goal is to keep up the French team’s focus on us. I’m succeeding in sending the message that Italy is a country where e-commerce is growing rapidly and will hold many surprises in the next few years.
The challenge in the Italian market is to be recognized not only as a brand but also as an avant garde technology. Many businesses are still tied to traditional banking payment providers, and that might be enough for some but it’s no longer cutting it for others. So my aim is to raise awareness among merchants about this innovative and technological Fintech product.
What requirements are there for a woman working in your sector?
Really I think that, just like in any other sector, ambition is the game changer. I see plenty of young women who don’t want to have a career, probably because that requires different priorities in their lives. It takes sacrifice and dedication, which not everyone can balance with their family obligations, though of course every situation is different. I believe for a working woman, especially in a managerial role, it’s crucial to have someone by your side to keep you going and celebrate your successes, who doesn’t see it as a competition and supports you during the hard times.
And let’s not forget that preparation is absolutely necessary. You need to study and always stay up to date, and never appear unprepared. This type of work includes a lot of interconnected ideas, which you mainly learn by doing. Of course you need to know the basics but you then get to know the economic, commercial and technical side of things. As I said before, dealing with male managers is complex in this sector. In many companies, businesspeople and CEOs are used to talking with men about economics, finances and managing cash flows. Getting advice from a woman about how to manage money is not always well received. But you can win over even the most traditional men through skill and competence.
What do you think is the biggest problem for entrepreneurs in Italy?
The real problem for Italian entrepreneurs is not being able to move quickly enough to take full advantage of the digital culture that is taking over. For example, when it’s time to integrate with our gateway payment solution, many companies pass the work to their web agency and this slows down the go-live process. Many are starting to internalize the technical side, but the trend is slow to catch on. Regarding HiPay specifically, the main problem is that we’re still seen as a banking product, but we’re much more than that—we are a technological and innovative product.
How is the Italian e-payment market evolving?
Cash is still the preferred method of payment in Italy, and changing people’s attitudes towards electronic payments is a challenge. In any case, for companies who sell both online and offline, payment providers are a necessary cost. That’s why merchants often don’t pay much attention when choosing a payment provider, they just look at the cost. On the contrary, our goal is to help them understand that the checkout is a critical time for user experience. In fact, it’s at that moment that both brand awareness and optimization of the transaction come into play. The challenge is to convince merchants to make the switch on this fundamental idea and make them see that there’s an advanced product that can take some pressure off their resources and all the tasks they have to do, so they can focus more on their core business. We also offer extra services beyond managing payments, like an anti-fraud tool and a business intelligence platform. Anyone who gets into the e-commerce world is vulnerable to fraudsters and hackers just like anyone in the IT sector. As per international regulations of the main circuits, we suggest that companies equip themselves with security that can completely protect them even from potential data breaches. It’s important for merchants to understand and act in a secure environment and we’re able to suggest how to facilitate the process, by keeping up with improvements and innovations.
How does your tool work in terms of artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence speeds up transactions that used to have to be manually verified by an operator during anti-fraud checks. Now thanks to the introduction of a smart decision system, the HiPay platform learns to automatically manage the riskiest operations and improve the purchase experience, so that the user isn’t left waiting for manual checks to be carried out. This relieves businesspeople and their teams of some of the operative tasks so they can spend their time on other things. The marketing side on the other hand, focuses on business intelligence. When a company allows it, we integrate the platform with data from Google Analytics so that we can we can observe them in greater depth and examine how much a certain campaign brought in terms of net profit. Payments are the center of a company’s business, but they’re often not analyzed carefully and this is a real shame.
What are the next steps for HiPay?
Our future is omnichannel. We’re already offering it in France but it’s slower to catch on in Italy. We’re looking to offer complete management of retail payments, both online and offline, in a single integrated platform that creates a positive and fast experience. Another thing we’re focusing on is data: for marketing it’s essential to know where a user made a purchase, whether through e-commerce or a physical store, so that you can create a targeted communication strategy. My priority has been to consolidate the HiPay brand in the Italian e-commerce world, and soon we will also break into the world of offline payments. I should clarify that we are not a competitor of Italian Acquirer Banks—the opposite actually. The technology gap in Italy could be bridged by a company like HiPay which, by collaborating with banking institutions, can contribute to their technological innovation. We can confidently say that we are the technology that will help the “traditional” part of the sector.
« Se scrivo ciò che sento è perché così facendo abbasso la febbre di sentire». - Fernando Pessoa Giornalista e co-founder, vivo il digital come imprenditrice e appassionata. Percepisco il cambiamento come un'opportunitá mai una minaccia. Occhi spalancati e orecchie aperte, sempre pronta alla condivisione, la chiave di ogni evoluzione.