It's in the cards: ex-banker promotes switch from cash and vouchers to prepaid cards.

Author:Sutter, Mary
Position:TEN UNDER TEN - Company overview



Name: NovoPayment

Sector: Payment services

Founded: 2004 in Venezuela

HQ: Miami

CEO: Anabel Perez


MIAMI -- Cash still reigns supreme among many Latin American consumers, but NovoPayment CEO Anabel Perez aims to win converts to a different way of purchasing goods and services--prepaid payment cards.

Perez was working for the respected Banco Venezolano de Credito in her native Caracas at a time when the bank developing prepaid programs for food stores. Perez spotted what she believed was a yawning gap in the market and hatched a plan.

The career banker was keen to go out on her own with the idea, feeling it was difficult to pursue new concepts or ventures in a large organization. "You have to compete with other units for cash and resources," Perez said. Executives at Venezolano de Credito's holding company supported her vision and provided the initial financing.

Perez rounded up a team of fellow aspiring entrepreneurs from among her banking colleagues and contacts, launching NovoPayment in 2004. "We still work together," she said of the startup executive team. Each had a different area of expertise, whether it was technology, transactions or operations, she said.

While positioning the cards as a safer and more secure alternative to cash, NovoPayment's primary targets are corporations and government agencies that can generate volume transactions in the form of general-use cards or cards that replace paper vouchers for employee benefits like lunch subsidies. Individuals who do not use banks--who number in the millions in the region--represent another opportunity.

In Venezuela, NovoPayment's operating subsidiary Servitebca markets "Plata" branded cards that carry the Visa, MasterCard or Maestro imprimatur, enabling consumers to use them nationally, including online. Servitebca has teamed with mobile telephone provider Movilnet and La Electricidad de Caracas on co-branded cards.

Fees for NovoPayment's institutional clients are based on the value of the transactions. Individuals who want personal rechargeable cards must buy one for the equivalent of about $3.50 and pay both a small monthly fee plus the charges for each transaction.

Prepaid cards are widely used in developed countries. Store gift cards are a holiday staple in the United States, a country with both an extensive retail banking network and a thriving market for prepaid cards, according to Mercator Advisory Group, a Massachusetts-based firm...

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