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2023 CPPO Prepaid Symposium Recap: Innovation Without Limitations

At the 2023 CPPO Prepaid Symposium, we celebrated how prepaid is propelling innovation without limitations. During a day packed with new research from Visa, Mastercard and the CPPO, keynote speakers and panelists dove into the hottest topics in payments, including gaming and gambling, regulatory regimes, modernization, real-time payments and financial inclusion.

“Modern payments innovation brings better and more inclusive financial services for consumers, businesses and governments​,” said CPPO Executive Director Jennifer Tramontana.

“Prepaid is the modern payments technology platform flourishing in Canada, driving consumer-friendly competition and providing the gateway for exciting new ways to bank, transact, get paid and grow inclusive access to financial services.​…

“Today we are here to celebrate that innovation without limitations. You are going to hear from global experts in prepaid discussing new data and trends along with burgeoning use cases from gaming to government use and we will have direct conversations with our regulators about the issues that affect prepaid.”

Wrapping up the day, CPPO Board Chair Karen Budahazy from Peoples Group concluded the in-depth conversations highlighting the growing use cases for prepaid. We explored how prepaid is moving the fintech needle forward by providing a flexible, secure platform to integrate with and build upon to drive true innovation across the entire payments ecosystem.


Keynote: What's on the global horizon for prepaid: a research presentation
Kimathi Marangu - Global Head of Prepaid, Visa

During his keynote, Kimathi Marangu unpacked Visa research on how people around the world are using GPR prepaid cards — including how prepaid use cases extend far beyond the unbanked and underbanked population.

He spoke toward the rise of the multi-banked consumer, sharing global research that suggests a majority of consumers would consider banking with a non-traditional organization, especially Gen Z, who also indicated they would switch financial institutions for a better mobile app/digital experience.

Visa’s research on multi-banked consumers suggest that consumers are drawn to more banking options to improve money management, separate their finances by categories and to spread out their funds across different accounts. He highlighted how different financial products, like GPR prepaid and debit are companions, not competitors, to each other to enable greater financial inclusion.

“Prepaid has been a tool for unbanked and under banked. Prepaid has uplifted everyone everywhere,” Marangu said. “We at Visa are excited about advancing innovation in prepaid, a product for the digital-age.”

Visa’s global research on prepaid noted that GPR prepaid has key use cases including:

  • Setting money aside (budgeting, emergencies)

  • Getting additional safety (online shopping, traveling)

  • Paying others (P2P, remittances, youth, gig/freelance)

He also spoke toward top barriers to using GPR prepaid for current users, which included navigating the reload process, having a finite amount of money on the card at one time, and the perceived lack of acceptance. For non-users, the data suggests they already have a preferred payment method or lack awareness about GPR prepaid.

To enable greater adoption of GPR prepaid programs, his research suggested it was vital for programs to allow easy balance inquiry so consumers can check the card balance online or via a banking app/website at any time. Consumers also desire having in-app pr push notifications about their balance or fraud threats.

Similarly, consumers desire an ability to turn off their card in the app in case they lose the card, or it is compromised. Consumers also desire greater load capabilities and the ability to easily transfer from another account or the ability to reload at the point of sale or an ATM.


Research Presentation: Canadian consumers love prepaid (even if they don't know it)
Lisa Covens - SVP, Public Affairs and Communications, Leger

Lisa Covens from market research firm Leger shared the first look at the research conducted with the CPPO. The survey, which examined the usage and satisfaction levels of 1,000 Canadians with both traditional and new payment methods across credit, debit and prepaid, provides a comprehensive view of the rapid digital transformation across financial services and identifies areas where consumers’ evolving desires can drive further advancements. ​

Report Summary:

  • The research reveals a significant acceleration among younger and middle-aged consumers (those under 55), and those who identify as BIPOC, to adopt new and novel digital financial services in significant differentials versus those over 55 in Canada, a heavily traditional-banked country. ​

  • Payment method usage tied to digital and mobile options are gaining strength as surveyed consumers — particularly those between 18-35 — indicate a preference for convenient, flexible low-cost payment options. Behavioral and lifestyle shifts, compounded by the pandemic, have led consumers to seek non-traditional financial services in favor of more mobile payment options. ​

  • The survey findings indicate a growing trend among consumers toward a multi-banked approach, utilizing various payment and transaction methods for different aspects of their lives.

The full research report is available only to CPPO members and can be accessed here.


Keynote address on financial services innovation policy
MP Adam Chambers, Simcoe North

MP Adam Chambers gave a keynote address on financial services innovation policy. He shared the challenges Canada faces in adopting open banking and expanding financial services access. He emphasized the need for government officials and financial services companies to collaborate to better serve Canadian consumers and businesses.


Panel: Playing to Win — How Prepaid is Raising the Stakes on Gaming and Gambling

Moderator: Laura Titherington, Senior Director of Business Development, InComm Payments


Krishin Autar, Senior Manager, Operations and Payments - Canada, PointsBet

Mark Smith, VP, Strategy and Business Development, InComm Payments

Gaming and gambling are some of the hottest topics on the regulatory table, particularly in the iGaming environments of Ontario. Panelists shared where can prepaid level up this conversation, and how companies can lean into this industry, while overcoming regulatory hurdles.

Panel: Modernizing government payments to better serve constituents

Moderator: Noah Niznick - Managing Director, PAA Advisory | Conseils


Simoun Ung - President and CEO, OmniPay

Sam Paulos - Director Prepaid Services, RBC

Ronda Kent - Senior Account Executive, Government Solutions, Visa

Consumers and businesses have adopted digital payments for everything from paying bills and suppliers to ordering groceries and inventory. But what about governments? The public sector is leveraging technology to improve disbursements while driving greater efficiency into operations through the elimination of cheques. This panel discusses U.S. and Canadian case studies in delivering government payments safely and efficiently for disasters, emergencies, stimulus and social services.

This session dove into new and emerging use cases for delivering government payments quickly and safely. The group shared how prepaid serves as an innovative digital payments platform to easily integrate into other payment streams — streamlining efficiencies and serving consumers’ needs better as they evolve.

The panel also discussed how the industry needs to work with government stakeholders to better understand why issuing checks is not an efficient or secure way to manage government disbursements — including how to solve and deliver a really effective value prop for government officials that has a lot of competing issues.


Panel: 99% banked isn’t 100% accurate

Moderator: Ellis Odynn - Executive Director, Digital Finance Institute

Speakers: Michelle Beyo - CEO, Finavator and Interim President, Open Finance Network Canada

Jeff Johnson - Chief Prepaid Officer, Western Union

Leslie Shaw - VP of Enterprise, Koho

While Canada may claim that 99% of the population has access to a bank account, about 10% of the population doesn’t “bank” in traditional ways. And a growing segment is turning away from traditional financial institutions and adopting digital-first tools and institutions. How do we continue to improve the financial health of the underbanked and growing "branchless" consumer segment? What role might open banking play in helping more Canadians manage their money?

The panel discussed how to improve the financial health of the underbanked and growing "branchless" consumer segment. The panel talked about how the industry can leverage prepaid as the gateway for underserved consumers by building trust and education through access to help people access products that meet their financial needs.

It was discussed how achieving this goal requires dealing with the digital divide of people who have limited or restricted access to smartphones or Internet or laptops. The group discussed how prepaid is the “gateway to the only innovation for the digitally displaced,” but also recognized how a lack of awareness about how to use prepaid — and its benefits and use cases — is holding the industry back.


Panel: Real time innovation, without the RTR. How payments innovations are happening today, while we evolve the rails of tomorrow

Moderator: Karen Budahazy - CPPO Board Chair and VP Digital Enablement and Issuing, Peoples Group


William Lam - General Manager, Jeeves

Oliver Takach - Co-Founder and CEO, Keep Technologies

Ed Woodson - Chief Legal Officer, Onbe

The panel dove into real-time payments in an era that awaits the development of the delayed RTR. The panel, led by CPPO Board Chair Karen Budahazy of Peoples’ Group, discussed how prepaid is being used as a “rail” for real-time payments innovation as Canada waits for the potential of the RTR to come to fruition. The good news? Real-time and near real-time payments are already a reality for prepaid.

The panel also discussed how prepaid can continue pushing forward real-time payments innovations while we wait for the real-time real, and discussed use cases for real-time payments, including:

  • Early wage access in the gig economy

  • Insurance payouts

  • Compensation (payroll)

  • Incentives

  • SMBs (gap between A/R and A/P)


Fireside chat: Consumer-friendly banking and financial services: a look at Canada's current global competitiveness and leadership potential

Payments security, innovation, compliance and regulation were themes of the day. This included a fireside chat between Jacqueline Shinfield, CPPO legal advisors and Partner at Blake, Cassels and Graydon, and Bank of Canada’s Ron Morrow.

They discussed fostering responsible innovation and the latest requirements under the regulatory regime for the Retail Payment Activities Act (RPAA). During the discussion Shinfield and Morrow discussed the benefits of the RPAA to the Canadian financial ecosystem and services providers. Morron suggested that the Bank of Canada isn’t taking a one-size-fits-all approach to supervision.

In February, Finance Canada published the long-awaited draft regulations under the Retail Payments Activities Act (RPAA). On March 28, the CPPO’s GR Committee and legal counsel sent a response about the Department of Finance’s proposed regulations.

As part of the CPPO response, we emphasized that while the CPPO is supportive of the RPAA as a mechanism to safeguard Canada’s financial system, the CPPO joins other industry players who have identified several issues with the proposed regulations, including the prescriptive nature and rapid implementation timeline.


Keynote: The expansion of prepaid for small business
Nishant Raina - Director of Product Management for Small Business, Mastercard

"Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and fabric of our culture in Canada,” said Nishant Raina, Director of Product Management for Small Business for Mastercard.

Raina shared the obstacles SMBs face, and how the payments ecosystem can help support their growth challenges in today's economy. He shared Mastercard’s SMB research that highlighted that 98% of businesses in Canada are small businesses.

A few key points:

Digital is the path forward for Canadian small businesses:

  • 15% projected annual growth in eCommerce in Canada through to 2025

  • 90% of SMBs moved a portion of their operations online

  • 40% accelerated technology investments (sales and customer service)

  • 81% planning to offer contactless service

  • 51% are looking to secure digital payments

Prepaid cards can be used to quickly provide funds and rewards to employees:

  • Earned wage access: As 53% of Canadians live pay to pay, SMBs can use prepaid to send employee funds in real time

  • Reloadable prepaid cards can be used indefinitely as opposed to rewarding employees with gift cards, and provides more choice for the employees to spend with

81% of all SMBs are willing to integrate new technologies into their operations (digitizing their businesses)

Follow Payments Futures content for more recaps of each of the above sessions from the 2023 CPPO Prepaid Symposium.


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