ARYZE spoke to Business Leader & Director of the Emerging Payment Association (EPA) in the UK, Tony Craddock, to discuss payments, trust, business, and the power of cultivating the community to drive innovation and ensure that the most financially vulnerable are not left behind. He is often described by clients as a visionary, knowledgeable, and avid networker with strong business acumen. Integrity and improving the lives of others through Business and Entrepreneurship are essential for Tony. When asked about his personal drive, he replied :
I have always been fascinated by the game of business in general terms. Entrepreneurship creates businesses from ideas and I derive enormous satisfaction by helping my customers help their customers. I believe we can use technology for making the world a better place and I am also fascinated by the role which community plays to strengthen human relations, more specifically, how it evolves under the constant advancement of technology. My work is my hobby and making money with joy is one of the best things you can do.
Tony has a degree in Management Sciences from the University of Manchester, and before entering the Payments Industry, he had previously worked 15 years in the field of CRM. When asked why did he get into this specific industry, he replied :
When you look at it, payment is a fundamental ingredient in a successful relationship. I became drawn to the notion of people exchanging value with each other. Of course, this also touches upon the topic of the relational capabilities of money, and basically the way we relate to one another. I am a community geek because it provides a crucial role in the business world that becomes increasingly important as technology evolves. Payments are a central part of it.
One of Tony´s greatest passions aside from business is cycling. Whenever he is not galvanising actions amongst the paytech community, he finds himself enjoying the outdoors by cycling bikes with skinny tires, participating in international endurance events or riding with his friends. When asked about which of his cycling adventures has been most meaningful to him, he replied :
One day my son suggested we bike together from one end of the UK to the other during the summer. This is approximately 1000 miles, and he was only 13 years old at the time, which was impressive. We cycled 120 KM a day over a period of 12 days, and when I look back at it, It was sort of a crazy idea, I mean, many things could have gone wrong and it would have been just the two of us. However, we managed to pull it off successfully, and this was a very formative experience in our relationship.
The Emerging Payments Association (EPA)
Innovation in payments can transform lives around the world. Globally around 31 percent of adults in the world are unbanked. According to a report by The Global Findex Database, carried out in 2017, this corresponds to 1.7 billion adults without a bank account at a traditional financial institution or a mobile money provider. Banks have long owned the monopolization of financial services, facing little to no competition, resulting in elevated fees and sometimes unethical practices against the consumers. After the global financial crisis of 2008, there was a shift in consumer-mentality and a backlash caused by frustration against banks and the entire financial system.
Alongside the advancement of technology, these events led to the rise of Fintech. The Fintech scene in London is very vibrant, and it is also known to be one of the most influential. On the other hand, The Emergent Payment Association (EPA) was born in 2004 to promote emerging payments and expand the payments industry to benefit all stakeholders. EPA concatenates the whole ecosystem of payments that involves all stakeholders in the equation: Financial Industries (including Fintech), Businesses, and Consumers alike.
We asked Tony how does the EPA achieves its goals :
The main goal is to drive innovation and change in the payments industry to create a more profitable sustainable payments ecosystem and create a global hotspot for payments innovation in London. We do that by bringing companies together across the emerging payments sphere, addressing the industry’s issues, providing information and thought leadership through events, ceremonies, targeted projects, and lobbying activities
The COVID-19 impact on consumer behavior
Payments are inextricably connected to the financial industry, which is currently pushed into reshaping itself by constant disruptive technological advances and digital native consumers demanding more instant gratification. This natural progression has intensified after the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, which has led the consumers to conduct many routine activities online that were previously conducted in person.
During the start of COVID-19 in the UK, cash usage reduced by 60% whilst online shopping increased by 80%. One can argue that we were already gradually heading into a cashless society. Still, the Pandemic’s onset has only sped up this process, causing record numbers in digital activities, including online banking. When crises of this magnitude emerge, people normally re-consider their consumer behavior and also demand more tailored approaches after examining the relationship to their banking service providers.
Tony believes that there are some current major deficiencies in the payments industry affecting people right now in general :
As consumers, we often jeopardize our own security online and become unwilling targets of crimes such as fraud and identity theft. Authentication plays a fundamental role in ensuring security in payments and therefore fostering trust in the consumers. People often suffer the consequences of these financial crimes because they either lack the education to spot potential scams or fall prey to cybersecurity loopholes
Are there any upsides to this crisis?
With devastating global numbers of lost lives and a desolating global economic ruin, it is difficult to see a silver lining. Nonetheless, Tony and his peers in the Paytech Community have spotted some positive outcomes of the business’s COVID-19 crisis.
When asked about them, he explained :
On the positive aspects, we can see that the whole concept of work is changing and we have the technology to thank for that. From a business perspective, there has been an increase in higher productivity, more clarity of reporting, less bureaucracy, better alignment of management, improved work-life balance, etc. On the negative aspects, there is a detrimental effect on people´s well-being, and some are probably becoming more private.
Tony believes that the key to navigating this crisis and many other inherent issues tied to the payment industry is based on technology and the community’s transformative power. His entrepreneurial spirit, coupled with the desire to promote others’ welfare and strengthen communities, has motivated Tony into participating in good causes and initiatives that encourage financial inclusion.
The Inclusion Foundation (TIF)
In 2019 Tony set up The Inclusion Foundation (TIF), a not-for-profit platform promoting products that help address financial inclusion. There is a correlation between digital exclusion, financial exclusion, and poverty. For example, in 2017, 1.7 billion individuals globally lacked a bank account. Whilst this phenomenon is more pervasive in developing countries, according to the Financial Inclusion Commission, the UK has over 1.3 million unbanked individuals.
TIF aims to improve the living conditions of millions by facilitating access to financial services for every person in the UK. Hereby reducing poverty and providing improved access to more inclusive financial services. This is achieved by offering the world of banking a broad range of essential services, so they are well equipped to be part of the solution. Another aspect is lobbying key stakeholders to ignite a collaborative effort comprised of government, commerce, and consumer groups.
We asked Tony about his motivation behind setting up The Inclusion Foundation. He replied :
The older you get, the more you want to help other people. It is more about giving than taking, and people, in general, are inspired to give back in their communities, and it just creates a collective reaction. You get a lot back by giving, and at the same time, the more solutions and business come your way with integrity and joy. I am a catalyst for helping other people assist others in choosing the right financial products
To learn more about connect with him on LinkedIn, or check out the website of The Emerging Payment Association. If you’d like to read more about crypto, blockchain, and tokenization, check out our blog or visit our website.