In July, Fexco, an Irish fintech, will launch a rollout with Oracle helping its clients in the hospitality sector access any kind of payment. The partnership is global but the service will begin in Macau and Hong Kong.
California-based Oracle is a world leader in database management systems. One subset of these services is called property management systems (PMS) and Oracle serves a huge number of merchants in hospitality: resorts, hotels, gaming, food and beverage operators, and cruise ships.
“Our platform integrates acquirer banks, Oracle PMS systems, and any kind of point-of-sale machine,” said Hong Kong-based Katrina Harding, Fexco’s vice president and head of Asia. (Acquirer banks facilitate payments for merchants, as opposed to those providing credit cards or other payment services to consumers.)
That means customers of Oracle’s will be able to accept payments in cash, credit cards, or e-wallets such as AliPay and WeChat Pay. “Merchants can then have multiple acquirer relationships, or this lets an acquirer have a sticky relationship with a few key merchants,” she said.
The process starts at check-in, when people first step into a hotel or onto a ship. This is where customers are initially logged into Oracle databases, and from there they touch a variety of services and companies, from food and drink to spas to shops to casinos.
(Harding does not use the term “casino”; when pressed by DigFin, she reverts to “hospitality”. See here for a payments company that makes gaming its focus.)
Integrating all of these services into a single channel for payments is now technically feasible thanks to tokenization – the use of 16-digit tokens to stand in for a customer’s credit-card or other information, so that a person doesn’t need to present personal information in order to transact a payment. (See here for our explanation on tokenization and QR codes.)
What platforms are teenagers using now?Katrina Harding, Fexco
“By removing credit-card details, tokenization protects data and lets us focus on being compliant,” Harding said.
The partnership also required Oracle, with its massive customer base, to trust a tech partner that could build a payments interface that could be all things to all merchants or acquirers. Fexco has been a partner to Oracle for over 10 years; the company launched in rural Ireland in 1981 to provide foreign exchange to the first wave of multinationals setting up in the Emerald Isle.
Serving the AliPay generation
The integration is designed to help hospitality companies bring in Chinese customers whose mobile phone ends up becoming the point-of-sale machine. In China people are now habituated to ordering food and services from their phone, without calling room service or flagging a waiter.
Now that Macau has become a huge playground for Chinese, Fexco and Oracle are betting its hospitality sector will want to incorporate closed-loop systems like AliPay and WeChat Pay with their traditional card- and cash payment tools. Once that is made easy, hotels and other merchants can then add loyalty programs and other features on top.
Merchants can have multiple acquirer relationshipsKatrina Harding, Fexco
But the integrated service is not just for Chinese people. Harding says the rollout will begin in Macau and Hong Kong but will be global, and is meant to be compatible with other social-media based platforms – from messaging to ride hailing – as they also add payment capabilities.
But Asia will be the biggest arena, with markets such as Singapore, the Philippines and Cambodia likely to be next.
Harding is a New Zealander who got her start in Asian logistics and supply-chain management, working for the likes of Swires and Maersk, before joining TNS, an on-site payments tech company acquired by Mastercard that connects POS machines to acquirer banks. Fexco was one of her customers, and asked her to join as it sought to move more directly into payments.
She peppers her corporate tone with Kiwi zingers. For example:
Oracle has the big merchant relationships, but it doesn’t deal with the banks, which is where Fexco comes in: “We’re the meat in the sandwich.”
Fexco is trying to create solutions that will be relevant in the next several years, assessing what consumer-facing apps will grow into payments platforms, whether it’s WhatsApp or Grab. It’s not always obvious, but Harding says many e-wallets have failed because they were positioned as substitutes for brick-and-mortar banks or merchant services.
“What platforms are teenagers using now?” she said.