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The FUTURE is NOW: Iain McLean


Iain McLean, Senior Vice President, Canada Market Development at Mastercard

Iain McLean is the Senior VP Market Development at Mastercard in Canada. Having been with Mastercard for the last 8 years, he’s contributed towards developing and researching on new ways were Mastercard can benefit consumers and business owners across Canada. Prior to joining Mastercard in 2010, Iain worked for several different organizations where he gained experience in e-commerce shops and sales. He’s a strong believer that the future of the economy is heading towards a cashless economy and that may be sooner than we think.

What would you say is the number one benefit for Small Business Owners to accept payments via Mastercard?

The number one benefit of accepting electronic payments is delivering a seamless and secure checkout for consumers. For small business owners, this is a very efficient means of accepting payment and the costs are lower than other forms. Factors such as efficiency and speed are also important, as electronic payments let staff focus on customer service instead of handling cash.

In your opinion, what would you say are the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face when it comes to accepting payments from their customers?

I’d like to see all businesses and entrepreneurs realize the accessibility of electronic payments. From the outside looking in, it can feel like a complex space. So it’s fantastic that over the last few years, card payments have become more and more accessible for small businesses to deliver the kind of payment experiences that large businesses are able to do. If you look at e-commerce, accepting electronic payments is of course crucial for small businesses. With the accessibility of electronic payments, small businesses are increasingly delivering customer experiences that consumers have come to accept of larger businesses in-store and online.

More and more merchants are accepting payments by cards. Some are even refusing cash and only accept either credit or debit cards as a payment method. What are your thoughts on that? Are we moving towards an age of a “cashless” payment environment where businesses will not accept cash as a method of payment? If so, does Mastercard have any predictions on how many years away we are from a completely “cashless” society in Canada/US?

More and more merchants are accepting electronic payments and it’s important to offer choice to consumers. They will gravitate towards the payment methods that they prefer. If you consider some of the technology that has become prevalent within markets like Canada, we can see the move towards an increasingly cashless society. For example, the growth of “tap and pay”, where we see customers preferring to “tap” their card and move through the queue quickly. The business owner also experiences the benefits of being able to serve more customers.  

Overall, in Canada, we’ve been seeing the cashless trend over the last couple of years. And as cash becomes a less efficient means of payment, it will be a trend that will continue.

With food and ride-sharing apps, consumers are moving towards using e-commerce and mobile channels. In fact, the fastest growing portion of our business is small e-commerce businesses. As we continue to see technology driving new consumer experiences, we’ll see a greater portion of payments move towards the electronic method.

We believe that electronic payments carry benefits for consumers, businesses and government.

A lot of SME owners still have concerns about accepting credit cards due to fraud risks. How would you respond to that?

Within the face-to-face environment, levels of fraud are incredibly low. Chip and PIN technology has virtually eliminated fraud in bricks and mortar locations in Canada.

We do still see levels of fraud in e-commerce due to the rapid growth in this space. We are working with our partners within the payment environment to introduce and grow new technologies, that once adopted will drive down the levels of fraud. Technology such as Mastercard Identity Check allows for similar levels of authentication security, by bringing together biometrics, machine learning and AI to help verify a consumer. These technologies are getting better and better, and are available to all merchants.

Would you say that Mastercard is the best payment option for business owners as well as customers?

We certainly believe strongly that Mastercard and electronic payments provide the best options for business owners to deliver the services that consumers expect. Electronic payments allow business owners to process payments efficiently – the time to count, store and safeguard physical currency is all eliminated. It also allows for an improved customer experience, such as the ease and security of “tap and go.”

Data can help SME owners discover many facts about their clients so that they can better serve them. What is the number one benefit of using Big Data for SME owners?

We talk about this in terms of how small businesses can use data-driven insights to understand their customers and business overall. For example, through services like Mastercard Local Market Intelligence, small business owners can see how their business is performing relative to the competition – benchmarking to compare themselves to other businesses. We can help businesses understand how to get more customers and where they can expand their business in the future.

Do you believe that customers will see the value of business owners using data when it comes to understanding their habits or will they see it more as an invasion of their privacy?

We believe that customers already see the value in using data to understand their habits and anticipate their needs. For instance, large businesses, such as grocery stores, offer loyalty programs, and the service providers in such situations have the highest standards when it comes to security and privacy. Similarly, Mastercard is committed to maintaining the highest standard of privacy for our cardholders.

 What advice can you give to SME owners who have just started their business?

Payments can form a really important part of getting the consumer experience right. Our advice would be to ensure that you think about payments as an SME owner and how you can deliver what a consumer is looking for when they walk into your store or while browsing your website. There’s nothing more frustrating than walking into a store and not being able to “tap” or use certain standard payment methods on the website.

Be aware of technologies – such as for reducing fraud and friction – to provide a greater experience to your consumers.

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