Māris Čakste is sales director at MeaWallet. He is partly responsible for the fact that one of the world’s TOP 5 companies creating digital contactless payment solutions is from Latvia. While MeaWallet may be a company based in Latvia-Norway with some functions in Norway, five years ago when the idea of starting the firm first came up, Māris and technical director Kārlis Balcers agreed with their Scandinavian partners that the programming centre would be located in Latvia. “Latvia has lots of smart and knowledgeable people who want to learn new things and prove themselves. In just five years, our team in Riga has grown from two to nearly 30 people”, says Māris.
MeaWallet’s field in contactless payments. The firm’s knowledge helps us pay for goods and services using our phones, watches or other smart devices. We don’t have to worry about the security of our money in the cloud, as MeaWallet has taken care of this. Whereas from the users’ viewpoint it all seems simple, e.g. the bank terminal + the phone = payment made, looking deeper at the technological side of things, MeaWallet’s expertise is combining plastic card functionality with technologies which connect them with the bank, ensuring payment by the smart device. One of the biggest banks in the Baltics, Swedbank, has just made this option available to its clients. Māris says that just two or three years ago, such a payment system was a pipedream. When he first approached Swedbank, payment via phone seemed utopian, but Māris’ first phone payment in the presence of a Swedbank representative was convincing. “We met at a café in Riga where at the time the first Swedbank contactless payment terminal was installed. I paid for our order using my phone. The Swedbank rep said to me: “Great, and now please pay once more – I’m going to film it.” He sent the film to his team, then step by step we built up the cooperation we have today – making contactless payment a reality. This was reality check which worked brilliantly, and here we are...” recalls Māris. In two months since payments with phones became available, over 15 000 Swedbank clients in the Baltics made some 300 000 transactions in this way.
MeaWallet’s first client was a bank in Bulgaria. But there aren’t many banks around the world who have implemented such a payment system to date. In Europe there are only 40-50 such banks, e.g. ~10% of the market. Contactless payments with smart devices have been the centre of attention at international conferences for at least four years but change on the ground is gradual. “Contactless payment service will be on the global agenda for at least the next two years. At the moment it is still a "nice to have” feature, but it is increasingly something which is "daily" and "convenient". The potential is huge,” says Māris.
There are around 40 enterprises worldwide who work in a similar area to MeaWallet, but only around ten in exactly the same specialisation. Asked about MeaWallet’s key to success, Māris explains: “People work with people. In our firm, everyone has earlier career paths, experiences of cooperation, contacts. It is vital that banks trust you and know you and your team as individuals. That’s one of the crucial factors. Of course, they also look at what the company offers and how they do it. Banks realise this is a new industry and you can’t expect that a solution which has only been around for 3-5 years will work perfectly. I also want to give credit to our team in Latvia and Norway, who are truly fantastic. I am very proud of our team! We have this chemistry – we come to work every day with stars our eyes. It is the desire to do it so well that afterwards you can say with pride – I did it, and now anyone can pay securely in a store with their phone.”
MeaWallet has emerged from the start-up environment and continues to follow this culture on an everyday basis, as this helps it grow. However, the need for various certifications and affirmations of compliance is also part of life in this sector. These include various safety certificates which build trust in the minds of clients. “There are still many amongst these 40 global enterprises who trade on “papersoft” – just the concept. We also began at that point because you have to start somewhere, but we have now moved beyond this stage,” says Māris.