Angela Davies – full transcript of the podcast

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BY 08.10.2020

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Marcel Klimo [0:00]

We all know that sound all too well, is the time you pay for your groceries for your electronics or whatever else you just bought. But today, we actually don’t really carry that much cash around, we prefer to pay with our phones. We just tap our phones, we hear the nice beep, and off we go.
However, there are situations where people cannot or do not want to carry around their card on their phone and don’t want to carry around cash. So what’s the obvious solution? The good old fashioned payment card. But what if you don’t want to touch the pin pad, especially in the times of Coronavirus, or if you just want to make the whole thing more secure, but at the same time, not have to touch anything while you are paying.
There’s a solution for that. It’s called a biometric payment card and it’s one of the things I’m going to be talking to Angela Davis, the head of sales for Thames Technology today. In this episode, I’m not speaking to a founder of a FinTech, I’m not going to be talking about the software powering fintechs and modern banks. I’m going to be talking about the hardware. I’m going to be talking about the cards.   
So let’s go straight to Angela. What is Thames Technology, what do you do and what makes you unique?

Angela Davies [1:52]

We are a manufacturer and we manufacture cards. We are also present within the kind of gift card market as well in a retail environment.
But within obviously the scope we manufacture payment cards certified with Visa, MasterCard soon to be certified with UnionPay, and yes, we actually do the manufacturer all the way through to the personalization. So we have one site in the UK, which is quite unique actually, because most manufacturers, they have multiple sites with manufacturing in one country, personalization in another country.
We do everything in one location. So we have the manufacturer of the cards and then they go through into our Bureau where we personalize the cards. I’m on a call off basis for our clients. And they’re dispatched directly on the home, mostly directly to the end user. So when you receive your new prepaid card or your credit card or debit card, it would be coming from a manufacturer just as, like Thames.

Marcel Klimo [02:16]

Wonderful. So what makes you unique out of all the manufacturers? Of course there’s a lot around the world, many people might know one of them just because they manufactured their own card, but what makes you unique? What makes you different in the market?

Angela Davies [02:30]

We tend to work mostly in the challenger bank kind of FinTech space, mostly because we have not necessarily always been involved in banking.
So we’ve entered the banking world, we were certified in 2003, which actually is quite recent compared to any of our competitors. And also our kind of lead times do actually in our development and lead times do tend to suit that particular space. So we’re quite quick to deliver cards. I’ve seen again, having it all in one space, we can have cards out within a matter of weeks, into our personalization Bureau and out the door
So actually we tend to be a better place in that kind of FinTech environment.

Marcel Klimo [03:08]

So when people hear personalization, they think down to the person. Is this personalizing them all the way to the name of the person?

Angela Davies [03:16]

So obviously depending on the scheme that will other programs that we’re working on, and we do some clients who will be actually company driven. But no, there would be personalization to the actual individuals.
Our data center, they would be receiving files from the processes, that like serve GPS, for example. And first data, those guys will actually be sending us data on a daily basis. Naturally we have to be very secure as a site. So there’s a lot of regulations that we have to follow as a site. And we have to go through annual audits with the schemes and with PCI to remain compliant.

Marcel Klimo [03:50]

Okay cool. So what happens after you receive the data?

Angela Davies [03:54]

We receive the data and then we actually, we’d be picking the cards from the secure vault that have already been produced as a base card. And then they go through our machines personalized into a pack. That might be a quite bespoke slider type pack with a little box or could just be straight onto the carrier into an envelope and then they join the postal system.
And you can view up ultimately. So it’s fair to say that the majority of the cards would go into the UK postal system therefore UK customers. But actually we do a lot that goes out all the way across Europe. And we tend to find that, yes, okay, it takes two or three days to actually arrive with the customer through the postal, but if we’re fulfilling the card within one-two days, and then we’re still providing a very good service for that and for that cost.

Marcel Klimo [04:42]

Great. So looking at this from the perspective of somebody who would like to manufacture cards to issue to their end consumers, would they be working directly with you as a fintech or would they be working with an issuer who is already working with you?

Angela Davies [04:59]

We work with a number of the kind of higher profile fintechs, but we also work with actually issuers who might manage the card programs for their clients.
And so the actual brand is not necessarily who our client is. They might actually be the issuers. And do a lot of that work where we are managing lots and lots of different card programs for one particular issuer.
And in some respect as well, we kind of also manage a full retail pack. So that’s become more and more popular recently where it’s secure, we actually refer to it as our ultra secure pack and we can actually package up a Visa, MasterCard, prepaid card, non-personalized, or non personalized to an individual, and secure it into a retail pack, which is then sold within the high street, for example. And so that’s another option that’s available with Thames.

Marcel Klimo [05:50]

So we met at Pay360. This is actually where we’re recording this interview. This is an EPA, Emerging Payments Association event that unfortunately this year had to be virtual. However, we still got to attend a virtual round table where we spoke about the future of payment cards and where they’re going to be heading.
One of the things you brought up, which is actually one of your products, which really picked my interest because I’m just really interested in cool new technology in this space, is biometric payment cards. I’m just really fascinated by the fact that you can now actually have payment cards that have biometric readers in them so that you can actually authenticate people, as they’re paying on the actual card. So let’s talk a little bit more about that.
How is it different from regular contactless or what people might be used to already?

Angela Davies [06:41]

Contactless, as you can imagine, has brought in an element of risk. We know that we’re not going through a two factor authentication when we’re using our contactless card. There’s no pin to add or a fingerprint that you might have on your phone.
So in contactless mode, we do have a cap and that cap has been raised doing lockdown to 20- 45 pounds within the UK. And to help try and I guess encourage the use of contactless, it’s a non-touch option for customers. They don’t have to touch a device that somebody else may have touched. And this is not a new product, the biometric payment card, but it’s been piloted has been encouraged through the schemes for quite a while now, but we do feel like this is probably the time that this will actually grow and will become much more prominent.
The payment card basically includes a fingerprint sensor into the actual card. So as opposed to having a card with a chip only you have a card with the chip and the fingerprint sensor. And the fingerprint sensor enables you to authenticate your transaction. So actually, instead of using a pin, you can use a fingerprint just as you do with your mobile phone to authenticate your usage of that phone or various different apps and use your fingerprint to actually power of the card.
It means that actually for a contactless transaction you don’t need to set a limit and the schemes are very much in favor of that, moving that limit for the contactless transactions. Because you’ve got your fingerprint is your authentication. And we all know that fingerprint s generally, the biometric detail around that is more secure than say a pin would be, as it isn’t something that you have, it’s that you are.
So that’s the premise behind the actual product. It means that you conduct and then you transact contactlessly for a large sum of money, and you don’t need to be concerned about having to touch the pin. There is a lot of security around that as well, so the chip is actually the method of holding your fingerprint as such, we know it’s not actually a fingerprint. It’s almost a kind of a model of your fingerprint, so it’s actually held on the chip as opposed to being held in a database somewhere as well. So it’s very much a secure method of actually authenticating the user of the card.

Marcel Klimo [08:54]

Wow. That’s wild. That sounds like some sort of sci-fi future where you’re pulling out that card and you’re authenticating yourself with a fingerprint. It seems very futuristic.

Angela Davies [09:06]

Yeah. Years ago we probably would have been seeing that back, but I suppose in a way, one of the reasons, and not just from a cope perspective, but one of the reasons that actually biometrics is sortable more acceptable nowadays, is actually because the likes of Apple and the likes of the mobile phone industry have really allowed us all to embrace biometric tech without feeling necessarily vulnerable in that field necessarily in any fear of our details. So we know it’s held locally, we know it’s held within our device as such, and I think as well, that would help the adoption of biometrics within general society.
And there was a lot of fear around biometric safety 5 to 10 years ago, but I think, I do feel as if there’s change, the tide is turned on that particular point, Again, mentioned earlier about the hygiene, concerns, within the environment, within the society now of  having to touch multi-use devices. I certainly don’t want to be using my pin at the moment where I can, in any way, avoid it.

Marcel Klimo [10:06]

Yeah and I guess, fintechs and banks or issuers out there would really like having this in their portfolio because it really showcases that they care about what’s happening out there in the world and they want to keep people safe and secure.

Angela Davies [10:19]

So from the issuer or the bank’s perspective, it makes absolute sense to go down this route. And to ensure actually that their cards, the ones that are picked out of people’s wallets, you could imagine, nobody walks around with one card anymore, or one account. We all have multiple.
And I wanted some, as soon as you open up that wallet, you’re making a choice. You’re making the choice of which card you use. So actually having that choice as being a hygiene or security choice, as opposed to, oh, that’s just a nice card design, or potentially that this is the account I want to use.
It’s actually a physical, it’s a much more kind of motive decision at that point. So I think there’s a definite argument that this will be the route that a lot of banks will take. Not necessarily straight away. They’ll no doubt want to go through pilots, but certainly in the next, I would say 12 to 24 months, they’ll see a real turn.

Marcel Klimo [11:09]

Oh, absolutely. And especially now in these high hygiene considerations that we have right now, it is something that is going to gain more interest from people out there. So Angela, I would like to thank you so much for taking the time today. There’s probably lots of questions that people have about Thames Technology, the types of cards you offer, the ways you can set them up and especially these nice biometric cards that we talked about today. So if somebody wants to find out more, how can they reach you? How can they reach the company?

Angela Davies [11:40]

Go to our website https://www.thamestechnology.co.uk/, and that gives you a contact us, or that would be absolutely fine, or find us on LinkedIn. So that’s, they’re probably the easiest methods. We’d love to help. That’s the thing, actually, we tend to work with startups.
So we’re quite used to that scenario of somebody completely new into the market. Just find their issue, or just talk to your processor and need to start thinking about how you go about issuing cards and our technical team can pull upon to hold and manage through that process.

Marcel Klimo [12:11]

Wonderful. Thank you Angela for your time. 

And to all the listeners. Thank you for listening. When I met Angela at Pay360 last month, I just needed to take some of her time to tell you more about biometric cards. We had a very interesting conversation and I wanted to tell you about what it is, how it works, and maybe this is something that you might want to use in your own business, in your own FinTech, in your own startup.
So if you enjoyed this episode and you want to hear more, you can definitely subscribe to more of these episodes where I talk to founders, to technology providers, to vendors from the fintech, payments banking industry.
If you have any recommendations for more guests, please let me know. Please subscribe on all major podcasting platforms and hopefully we get to talk sometime online soon.

This has been Inside the Vacuum. And my name is Marcel Klimo.  Take care. Bye bye.

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