Global Matters

Working together to forge a path to a broad-based, inclusive recovery

By Charlotte Hogg, Chief Executive Officer, Europe

Woman working in a cafe

Across the world, societies have been severely challenged by the coronavirus pandemic, and many individuals and businesses continue to experience real hardship. As a company, we have been working hard to do what we can to support, inform and protect society as everyone adapts to these challenges.

Digital payments have played an important role in responding to the crisis - online purchases and making contactless payments in-stores are no longer just a convenience but a necessity.

As Europe begins to re-open, I believe that by working together with our partners across the payments industry we can continue to make a positive difference. We are committed to a broad-based and inclusive economic recovery, one that does not leave anyone behind. And we are focused on supporting small businesses in responding to the way consumer behaviour has rapidly changed. As the backbone of our local economies, small businesses are vital in the recovery effort - without them, there will be no recovery.

Making it easier for consumers to pay digitally

Digital payments have played their part in enabling the social distancing that has become a way of life. Over the past few months, Visa has been part of an industry-wide effort to raise contactless limits across 24 European countries. As a result, consumers are able to make larger purchases without entering a PIN and can “tap and go”, not only in retail, but also on buses, trains and the underground. Contactless has become the preferred payment method for Europeans – more than 70% of Visa transactions are now made by contactless card or mobile device[1].

With many physical stores closed, it has been critical that the payments industry enables everyone to shop online simply and securely. Our data shows that fourteen countries across Europe have had a 25% or higher increase in e-commerce transactions year-on-year (April 2019 to April 2020)[2]. And many people who never shopped online, started to do so. In countries like Belgium and Ireland, almost 40% of Visa cardholders who traditionally did not shop online changed their behaviour after March to make e-commerce transactions[3].

Whilst more and more consumers make use of digital payments, we recognise there is still some way to go to make the benefits of digitalisation universally available. Many of our partners are launching innovative solutions such as NatWest’s companion card to support the vulnerable in accessing the digital payments they need. A digital economy that works for all depends on everyone having the skills and tools they need to participate. We are committed to helping make the transition to digital seamless and accessible to all.

Supporting small businesses in their recovery efforts

We understand that small businesses, who had often been reliant on cash payments and customers coming into their stores, are finding this period especially hard - many are not set up to thrive in a “digital-first” environment. In fact, Visa research found that less than one in two small businesses are enabled to accept payments online[4].

The great opportunity that comes with digital payments has always been its ability to enable businesses to reach beyond their physical borders. There are great examples of communities bringing together independent businesses with new ideas and solutions to encourage people to shop local such as Treorchy – the winner of the 2019 Great British High Street awards that Visa supported. This has never been more relevant than it is today, connecting consumers and businesses in innovative and digital ways that drive economic recovery.

Building on Visa’s long-standing commitment to championing small businesses, we are enlisting the help of our partners – big and small – and committing to digitally enable millions of small businesses in the recovery process. We will provide business owners with the tools, resources and expertise to adapt and build for the future. We are also working to harness the power of local community platforms – like and ShopAppy because we know that the recovery will be domestic first as well as “digital-first”.

Continuing to facilitate secure and reliable digital commerce

Protecting the users of our network has always been our highest priority and is more important than ever through this period of disruption. While the full impact of European lockdowns on fraud remains to be seen, early indications suggest the combination of Visa’s global fraud protection and industry-wide efforts have helped to keep fraud rates low for both contactless and e-commerce. It is crucial that we continue to work together to protect digital payments in Europe, giving consumers and merchants the confidence to carry on buying and selling.

Using our data and insights to drive the recovery

Visa processes an average of 500 million transactions a day. This data provides an understanding of where commerce is taking place and what is happening to consumer spending behaviour across the region. These important insights can help us understand what a recovery might look like; what sectors are recovering when and how spend patterns are tied to the opening up of an economy. We are working to share these insights with our clients, partners and governments so we can help inform a path to an inclusive recovery.

I believe that Visa’s ability to move money safely and seamlessly between consumers, businesses, financial institutions and governments will be critical in supporting the European recovery. That is why we will continue to work tirelessly alongside our clients, partners and the wider industry to make a positive difference to communities across Europe.


[1] VisaNet data, April 2020
[2] VisaNet data, April 2020
[3] VisaNet data, April 2020
[4] Visa SME acceptance survey October 2019

Tag: Social Impact Tag: Digital commerce