We recently spoke with William Lam, Chief Commercial Officer at OTT Pay.
As the CCO, what do you see as the biggest benefits for businesses in offering Chinese digital payments?
The fact that business owners are thinking about adopting Chinese digital payments means that they have already seen that there are Chinese consumers in their shops. By adopting Chinese digital payments, business owners are making it easier for their Chinese customers to spend more. It really is a no-brainer. There’s minimal cost, and the signage saying that they accept Chinese digital payments is like welcoming Chinese customers with open arms.
We are already the largest provider for Chinese digital payments in Canada. We started out with WeChat Pay and Alipay, and recently, we enabled UnionPay QR Code as a third payment method for our merchants. We’re seeing a positive reaction from our merchant base, and we’re continuing to look for new products and services to offer our clients.
What are some of the new products and services that OTT Pay will be launching soon?
We are always talking with our customers, looking to identify any pain points they might have. Right now, we provide our own terminal, but we will soon be launching an integrated payments solution with some banking partners that will provide a more seamless experience with the existing hardware that merchants might have already, so that they can accept these payments more easily.
In China, there really isn’t a card-based infrastructure for payments, and mobile payments using smartphones pretty much bypassed credit and debit. Transactions happen in one of two ways: either the mobile phone populates a QR code, which the merchant scans, or the phone’s camera function is used to scan a static QR code. We support these static QR codes, especially for smaller vendors or microbusinesses. But for businesses with multiple employees and multiple checkouts, our next-gen POS device will have a slightly larger screen, which will let the POS terminal display a dynamically generated QR code. This will mean that even if a customer is buying multiple items in a single transaction, they can still pay using Chinese digital payments.
We’ve listened to our customers, we understand their pain points, and we know what they need. We want to continue to expand our footprint to new payment tenders, and we’re forming new partnerships to serve our clients better.
Why do you think OTT Pay stands out from the competition?
First and foremost, we have a strong history in Canada. We’ve been around since 2006. In comparison, some of our competition have only been in business for a couple of years. Our brand is well-recognized within the Chinese-Canadian community, as well as in prominent cities in China. We also have strategic partnerships, such as with Tourism Toronto, Tourism Montreal and Tourism Kingston, that set us apart from the competition. Finally, we’re very well capitalized as a startup, which helps us continue to innovate and really push the envelope on how we think about payments, and how we remove frictions within the payment processing space.
What changes do you see coming in the payments landscape? What innovations will OTT Pay be working on?
This is an interesting time for payments, and the landscape is changing rapidly. There are new fintech and paytech entries that are providing better services and technology to the general population, and there are also new regulations coming that will better monitor the entire landscape. There are a lot of macro factors that are changing, and these are the things that OTT Pay, as a fintech, needs to pay close attention to.
Also, the space that we’re operating in is really serving the needs of a niche market – Chinese consumers – in Canada. And so, I would say that this is a challenge, but it’s also a competitive advantage. We’ve found a way to navigate through the cultural differences between the Chinese and Canadian communities, and we’re able to tailor our products and services for this market.
In Canada, most consumers are more comfortable using their debit and credit cards to make payments, rather than their phones. Tap-and-pay is so convenient, it raises some questions about how we will really add value in this entire process. I do think that when phones are used more widely for payments, we’ll be better able to connect retailers with consumers. I don’t think there’s been a real winner out there yet who’s been able to do that in Canada.
And finally, since we’re experts in QR code-based payments, I’d like to point out that one of the main advantages of QR code payments is that they’re platform agnostic. As long as you have a screen and a camera, you can make a transaction. The payment landscape here is really fragmented – there’s Apple Pay for iPhones, and Android Pay for Google phones, and Samsung has their own wallet as well. QR code payments have proven to be scalable and reliable, and if this takes off in North America, OTT Pay would be in a prime position to be a leader in that space as well.
What have you learned about payments since you’ve joined OTT Pay?
My background has primarily been in financial services, specifically in the cards and payment space. As Canadians, we’re fortunate to have a healthy banking system with a great payments infrastructure that meets our day-to-day needs. What OTT Pay has given me is an opportunity to look globally at the innovations that are happening outside North America, and to reflect on how much room there is for improvement here.
As an example, I was downtown recently and had to pay for parking. I lined up at the pay station, then inserted my ticket. I had to wait a few seconds to insert my card, and then again to enter my pin. It didn’t take a long time, but it all adds up! But the last time I was in China, I was driving a car that was registered with my WeChat Pay account. It recognized when I entered the parking lot, and when I exited. Payment was seamless and automatic. Compared to the few minutes that I spent paying for parking in Canada, that I didn’t really think about, the whole experience was vastly improved in China. If I didn’t travel, I might never think that we need to improve. But since I’ve joined OTT Pay, I’ve had the opportunity to gain this global perspective, and learn how we can adopt products and services that can improve the lives of ordinary Canadians.
What do you enjoy most about working at OTT Pay?
First, we have a strong vision of what we want to be as an organization. And we have a sound and robust strategy to work towards that goal. For me, this is really important. When I wake up in the morning, I know that we have this strong vision, and that we’re working towards making it a reality. This is something that I’m passionate about, every day. Second, the team here is fantastic. Everyone here shares the same goals and objectives, and we all work well together. The senior leaders are willing to roll up their sleeves to get things done, and the more junior staff are supportive and take feedback well. Working with this team, and sharing this vision, these are the two things I enjoy most about working at OTT Pay.
If you could use one word to describe OTT Pay, what would that word be?
Innovation! But then I’m biased, of course, because of the work that I do here.