L'Usine Digitale: How did you experience the start of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Sri Shivananda:
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a new reality for each of us. At the beginning, we felt a bit of a slump, with consumers adapting. Gradually, behaviors have shifted towards online shopping. People are starting to get used to this situation, which has been going on for months now. May 1st was our biggest peak ever in terms of transaction volume, we surpassed Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday 2019. These new online purchasing modes, observed from the 2nd quarter, concern countries around the world entire. And I think these trends will be sustainable and involve providing the best possible services to our customers.

But it goes well beyond trade. Covid-19 has created a need for mutual aid across the world. We observe this with the development of online donations. Trust and reliability are also essential. Every transaction our merchants receive is critical. And that's what we deliver, for example by offering some of the best conversion rates in the world.

How has the crisis affected PayPal as an organization?
Our engineering team switched to remote work and we saw our productivity increase! Teleworking does not only have advantages: great innovation requires strong collaboration. But it went very well. I think a new normal will result from this. I'm no guesser, but this pandemic is accelerating the adoption of online payment and commerce, and will increase the amount of work we do remotely in the long term.

What technical challenges were raised by this sudden increase in transactions?
The first thing we had to do was organize ourselves to work remotely. PayPal is a digitally native company, employing 23,000 people worldwide. Engineers and financial services were already working remotely, but we had to train 6,000 other employees to work remotely for the first time, in less than two weeks. It was difficult, because as you can imagine, it involves setting up security rules, installing and configuring programs… We therefore had to ensure that everyone could work in good conditions from home. them.

For our customers, we faced another challenge and had to increase our capacities in the face of unforeseen growth and traffic. Finally, it was imperative to maintain the pace of innovation despite this crisis. I am convinced that we must not take a break, but continue to provide products while innovating as before. We did it, and I think I can even say that innovation has accelerated a little internally.

One of the major launches of 2019 is that of Xoom, your international money transfer service. Will PayPal become a bank?
All aspects of payments via digital wallets are experiencing new usage peaks and uses. Money transfers are therefore increasing, particularly from workers who send money to their families in their country of origin. I can't share numbers, but Xoom is growing.

Can digital currencies really help solve problems of inclusion and economic inequality?
If we look at traditional financial systems that have existed for many years, we realize that a large part of the world's population is neglected, even excluded. These people do not have access to the tools needed to manage and transfer money. For what ? Because the cost of these current systems for those who operate them is high. We have been working on digital currencies for some time. The cost will be borne by the merchant, but we want the cost to be as low as possible.

We believe digital currencies can close the gap for these underserved populations, 1.7 billion people, by reducing the costs of financial infrastructure. This ranges from digital currencies managed by central banks to cryptocurrencies. But it will take some time for this idea to take hold.

In fact, PayPal left the Libra association. When are you going to launch your own cryptocurrency?
We are still in the stage between zero and one, and going from 1 to 10 will take time! It will take time before consumers are comfortable with this technology. For this to work, it will need to reach a certain scale. We are still at the very beginning, and for certain use cases we need to carry out experiments.

Are you still in a prototyping phase?
Many cryptocurrencies are used by enthusiasts and amateurs, but access to the general public is not a technological problem. Financial systems are large ecosystems that bring together consumers, traders, platforms, governments, regulators, standards… The current system is complex, it was built over a long period so to change it, it will also take a lot of time.

Take the example of ATMs, which were created by Citibank. It took a while before they became popular. It was because of a snowstorm that occurred in New York in the 1980s that ATMs (Automated Teller Machines, Editor’s note) really took off. The digitalization of payments was considered complete, but it took off again with Covid-19. When the ecosystem is ready, there will be change. I think a lot of things will have to come together for that to happen.

Another hot topic is the explosion of user data leaks over the past two years. How do you ensure you maintain user trust?
Security is the company's number one priority, and there isn't a single second we aren't under attack. It's a constant battle, and technologically, what was good and efficient yesterday is no longer so today. We want to be sure to apply the best technologies, such as advanced cryptography of stored and moving data, new user identification techniques… We are also taking a lot of action to improve our fraud detection engine and risk assessment. This is ongoing work that we take very seriously.

Machine learning is commonly used to detect and prevent fraud. Do you think artificial intelligence could play a broader role in payments in the future?
We've been using it for over a decade. But the recent advances we've seen in computing power and algorithms and techniques have moved us forward, as we see in other sectors. When a trade is completed, we review all risk factors in 300 milliseconds.

We also use AI for customer support, infrastructure management, cybersecurity and creating personalized experiences for our customers. A few years ago, web and mobile development was the priority for many companies. This is exactly what is happening today with machine learning and artificial intelligence. The impact of these technologies is growing in all areas, for example helping to increase security and trust. Moreover, we are working on several internal platforms that democratize the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, while focusing on inclusiveness and eliminating bias from algorithms.

Selected for you

Fintech: despite a drop in funding, growth remains sustained

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours