Visa Inc. (NYSE:V) Bernstein 39th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference May 31, 2023 4:30 PM ET
Vasant Prabhu – Vice Chairman, CFO
Conference Call Participants
Harshita Rawat – Bernstein
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the Bernstein’s 39th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference. I’m delighted to be joined today by Vasant Prabhu, the CFO of Visa. We have about 50 minutes for a fireside chat. Audience members can submit their questions via the Pigeonhole link on the agenda provided, and I’ll leave those questions throughout our conversation today.
And with that, let’s begin. Vasant, thank you so much for joining.
Nice to be here Harshita, can you hear me? Okay.
Q – Harshita Rawat
So Vasant, let’s start with a topic that’s on everyone’s mind. So you put out an 8-K yesterday discussing May spending trends in Visa cards. So let’s start there. What do you see in terms of current spending environment?
I think the easiest way to answer the question is March, April, May in the U.S. have been pretty much stable, really not much change from what you saw in April into May, roughly 5% growth, similar growth rates in credit and debit, e-commerce growth has been ticking up a bit from where it was, but on a full year comparison basis quite a lot of stability.
On the cross-border side, continued recovery. I know when we showed you the April numbers at the end of April, there was some concern that cross-border looks a little soft. We told you it was because of the shift of Ramadan compared to 2019 when it was in May. This time, it was in April. So you saw a May pick up on a full year comparison. So cross-border is essentially tracking fairly well.
So if you look at the numbers, I mean, it depends on sort of how you want to interpret them you could say 5% seems like a lower growth rate than it was before. But if you dig below the numbers, what you find is payments volume, as you know, is transaction times ticket size. Transactions growth actually has been very stable for quite a long time.
Transactions are between 7% and 8% in May, they were between 7% and 8% in April, they were between 7%, 8% in October and — in November and December before we got into the Omicron comparison. They were between 7% and 8%, if you look at the compound annual growth rate since COVID. There’s sort of in at the long-term trend line.
So transactions have been very stable at the long-term trend line. That would suggest not much has changed. It’s ticket size, but then you could say, well, I mean, isn’t ticket size declining 2%, a bad thing. But then you have to look at where is ticket size versus pre-COVID, it’s still 15% higher even in May, roughly.
And that’s 3% to 4% growth versus ticket size was increasing at 1% to 2% pre-COVID for many, many years. So ticket size is actually about the trend line. What happened was during the COVID years, initially ticket size went up because people stayed home and there were fewer of those smaller in-person transactions.
There was a shift to e-commerce, et cetera, in 2021. Then in ’22 as the economy has opened up and all that normalized, ticket size stayed stable instead of coming down because inflation kicked in. And then since the fall of last year, inflation has been moderating, especially fuel and some goods inflation. And that’s why ticket sizes down a couple of points.
So generally speaking, it still feels like it’s stable. If you want to be glass half full, you’d say, it’s stable, it’s all explainable. If you want to be glass empty — half empty, you’d say, why isn’t the consumer spending that extra money on other things. But then you have to look at last year that there was a lot of stimulus money and the comparisons are very tough.
People were doing a lot of home improvement projects, buying a lot of big screen TVs, maybe that explains some of the ticket size delta. So, I think we need a little more time to see if there really hasn’t been a change in trend.
On the cross-border side, just to finish up, the Asian recovery continues. The China recovery is probably a little slower than one might have thought. Travel out of China is a little slower to pick up. Some of it has to do with Visa. Some with getting air capacity back and so on.
So Vasant, earlier this year, you announced your plans to retire by this fiscal year-end. What drove that decision? And what are you planning to do next?
Well, it’s very simple. I started out as a public company CFO in September of 2000. So I’ve been doing this for almost 23 years across three different industries, almost 90 earnings calls, I think that’s plenty. I’m done with this. As simple as that, this will be my last conference and so that’s on the personal front.
On the business front, it’s a good time because we’re out of the COVID era, the post-COVID, is getting going. I think Visa is in great shape. It’s a vastly different company than it was eight years ago. We have a network that has got significantly more capabilities. We’ve created three engines for growth, consumer payments, new flows and value-added services. So, it’s a good time for a transition.
There’s a new leadership team taking over. Al’s retiring. I enjoyed working with Al. He’s moving on. I think Ryan should find the CFO, who can be his partner for the next decade. So, it’s a good time from that standpoint, too. So everything suggested this was a very good time to be transitioning out.
So, Vasant, just to follow up on that. Ryan recently doing the helmet Visa, felt like a very well-planned succession. Can you just talk about that leadership transition? And also what are some of the organizational and other changes that’s Ryan implemented?
Sure. Look, I mean, Ryan has been here as long as I’ve been here and the team that is there now has been there for a very long time. So everybody has been in the business for quite a while. The leaders who are going to take Visa forward have been very much part of the strategy that we are now executing. They were part of everything we’ve done in the last seven or eight years.
We know that what we’re doing is working, and we need to keep executing well and modify it or adapt it as we go along. In terms of changes, Ryan has formalized something that’s been underway for a while, which is we have three engines of growth. We have consumer payments, value-added services and new flows.
So while we had them for the last several years, we’ve now acknowledged the need to have a single leader for new floors, a single leader for value-added services. So you have Oliver, who’s going to oversee all the regions, make sure we all work together global basis. You have Chris Newkirk who leads new flows and you have Anthony Cahill, who needs value-added so leads value-added services.
So it’s an acknowledgment of what the future growth trajectory of the business is and the need to have clear accountability and clear focus and clear leadership of the two new engines of growth. And over time, I’m sure Ryan will modify as needed and adapters needed and tell you what other changes he’s making.
So Vasant, you talked about new engines for growth, right? So I remember at the 2020 Investor Day, you made out this framework for why Visa’s revenue growth for the coming year should be better than the historical pre-pandemic run rates. And over time, you’ve reiterated your confidence in that kind of improved growth trajectory. What is driving that confidence? Is it new flows, value-added services?
Yes. So, I think if you break it down, we have three engines of growth versus eight years ago, we had one, which was consumer payments. I’ll set that aside for a minute and just talk about new flows and value-added services. We all believe that Visa that new flows and value-added services can grow faster than our traditional consumer payments business for a very long time.
I’m particularly excited about new flows for a whole host of reasons because new flows is essentially new use cases. What we know how to do, what’s in our DNA is how to digitize cash or check or wire transfers. And what new flows is doing is doing it in many, many more use cases than the consumer payments, merchant payments use case.
And every one of these use cases has lost total available markets whether it’s cross-border remittances or whether it’s marketplace payouts or whether it is P2P or whether it is disbursements of various kinds or whether it’s payroll. If we execute well, each one of them has massive, massive long-term opportunity, and we’re in the early stages. So, I believe that this is the future of Visa.
And assuming we execute it well, it can grow much faster than consumer payments for a very long time. Value-added services is a different kind of animal. If we can get more transactions in our core business and in new flows, we now have the ability and the intention and the capability and the focus to keep layering on additional services to increase the yield on those transactions.
And the opportunity in value-added services is to expand the number of services just like we did by acquiring Currencycloud or Verify and others we may do. It’s to take our existing services and make them available globally, not all of them are global. And most important of all, to layer them on to as many transactions as we can so there are three vectors of growth there, and that can drive growth for a very, very long time.
So those two businesses can clearly grow faster than our core traditional business. And you know how big they are as a percentage of our total. They’re pretty sizable now. And let’s — I’m going to give you a hypothetical numbers, not precise numbers. Let’s say they’re 30% of revenues. Right now, they’re growing at 20%.
I’m not suggesting that, that is what management is going to tell you at the next investor conference is the long-term growth rate. But is the core business hypothetically grows at 10%, these grow at 20%, and they’re 30% of the total that adds a meaningful amount to the overall growth rate. These are all hypothetical numbers.
On the core business side, I still think there’s plenty of runway. You have — we all know that penetration rates in developed markets can grow over 90%. So there’s still a long way to go. And then there’s extraordinary opportunity in emerging markets.
We have made our network far more capable in reducing friction both for issuers and for — both for issuance and acceptance whether it’s tap to pay on one side or whether it’s easy ways to accept on the other, that there’s just — it’s just much easier to be part of our network.
So when you put that all together, it just makes you feel pretty good that not only can historic growth rates be sustained, but you also have the opportunity to accelerate them because of these new businesses.
It is very compelling. So Vasant, let’s zoom in then on Visa Direct. So why do you think Visa Direct is likely much larger than other similar offerings in the market?
Well, first of all, Visa Direct is not a product. It’s a capability. And it’s a capability that can be applied to many use cases. It’s sort of like a platform that can serve many different use cases. And in that sense, its scope is very, very huge. We — thanks to someone my name of Bill Sheley who was the first to see the opportunity here within Visa and became a real evangelist, and I would describe him as the one who created Visa Direct.
We were on to this very early on. And we’ve been working on it for many years. I think we are further along than our competitors. It’s because we didn’t get distracted on other things like building RTP networks and things like that. We decided that we would use existing rails. We would be a network of networks. And we would allow Visa Direct to send money wherever it needed to go and whether it was card-to-card or account-to-card or account-to-account, Visa Direct would do all that.
What makes Visa Direct unique is unprecedented reach. Very few people can offer that, global in scope. It comes with extraordinary reliability and that is more reliable than any alternative. It comes with all the security that our network offers, it comes with fraud protection that we bring to it because of our experience in our core business that most alternatives don’t offer. It comes with dispute resolution, which almost no alternative offers.
It comes with the capability because Visa Direct connects to a vast number of ACH networks, RTP networks and other proprietary networks. Think about it a little bit like FedEx, right? You ship a package with FedEx, it shows up in the other end. You don’t know where along the way, whether it rode on a FedEx Jet or something else. You just know it got there. It was a FedEx-branded service.
That’s what Visa Direct offer you is the Visa-branded service. It has everything you accept from Visa, reliability, security, dispute resolution, you name it. You don’t have to worry how it gets there. It may be on our rails, it may be on some of the rails, but it’s going to get there. And that can be applied to so many use cases. So I think Visa Direct is a huge proposition.
And Vasant, you had good product market fit on Visa Direct in use cases such as person-to-person thing as I’m thinking. When can we start to see more higher yielding use case, for example, in remittances, which feels like almost like a country-by-country build or quarter over quarter build.
Look, I think over time, you all will need to look at profitability I mean, yield a little bit differently as Visa Direct becomes more important. In the traditional business, everybody got used to looking at yield as bps on volume. But remember, I mean, in the end, what matters is what’s the revenue you make per transaction, because our costs move with transactions.
And so again, hypothetically, let’s say, a typical consumer payment transaction to a merchant is $25. And hypothetically, let’s say, our yield is 10 basis points. That gives you a certain sense per transaction. In the Visa Direct space, it works more on a per transaction basis in most cases because the transaction sizes can be larger cross-border remittance typically is not a $25 transaction.
So if we had a $100 transaction in the Visa Direct business and your yield was on a bps basis, 2.5 bps instead of 10, you’re still earning the same on revenue. So it’s a very lucrative business because the cost structure is the same as our traditional business. You leverage the same interest structure has the same characteristics of having very good incremental economics.
We shouldn’t just focus on looking at yield on volume, but look at dollars per transaction. And even today, the Visa Direct businesses, even though you may not think P2P is that attractive. It’s quite attractive on a per transaction basis. And some of the other use cases like cross-border remittances and what we may do with marketplace payouts can be even better than that.
So, there are many different ways to assess profitability. Over time, I think it will evolve because it’s becoming a multiuse case business. And in every use case, you have different competition and you have to price based on what the competitive alternatives are.
Vasant, you talked about how Visa expanded its network endpoints to billions of debit cards, dozens of ACH. And our RTP systems and also feels like digital wallets in a way, just remind us why expanded endpoints is a big deal.
Well, the value of a network is, there’s something called Metcalfe’s law. He did it for other networks, which drove every network, right? The value of our network is, grows with his law grows with the square of the number of nodes, right? The value of network as a number of nodes it has especially nodes that want to interact with each other. And the more nodes you have, the more valuable your network.
And so, our network today is immensely more valuable than it was seven or eight years ago. We just have many, many more credentials of the traditional variety of the network. Even today, our credentials are growing 8% to 10%, as you saw. But not mean that, we’ve now added nodes by riding other rails that are open to us like ACH rails or RTP rails or other proprietary networks to substantially expand the nodes.
So if you can have a network with the most nodes, that’s global in scope, where almost anybody that wants to do anything can use it. It’s immensely value, which is why you and I can walk out of the home today. I don’t check my wallet anymore, if I have cash.
I don’t even know what cash I have in my wallet or if I have any cash. That wasn’t even true eight years ago or 10 years ago. It’s because the network has become so available now and has so many more nodes that you now believe that there’s almost no place I can go to that won’t accept Visa. That’s the value of the network.
So that’s why we focus so much on the nodes on the network. But the other two things you need on top of that, of course, are has to suit the purpose it’s built for. In this case, it’s payments, which means that it has to be very secure. It has to be reliable. This is not one of those things where it doesn’t work when you need it because the consequences to you are horrible.
If you have to pay for something and you can’t you have to have the ability to feel safe from fraud. And you have to have the ability, if you made a mistake to cure it. We’ve invested a lot of time and money to figure out how to do all that. So that makes a network that much more valuable, not just the nodes.
And then the last thing is, you can have a great network, but if it’s very hard to get to in loses value, we’ve been working so hard on reducing the friction, right, tap-to-pay takes a lot of friction out of how to use our credentials.
On the acceptance side, even five years ago, you had expensive dedicated point of sales equipment, land lines, et cetera. Now you can just print out a QR code and that’s all you need. You can take any smart phone and you’re in the business of accepting, so making the network very easy to interact with.
And then the last thing is making the network very friendly, meaning, we shouldn’t view anybody as an enemy or a competitor. We should welcome everybody on to our network because that’s the best way to make sure that your work is available for everybody to innovate on.
And so, we are the biggest enablers of innovation in financial services. We are the biggest enablers of every disruptor because we allow them to scale much, much faster than they could ever scale on their own. And that’s the best way to not be a disruptive is to enable the disruption, and that’s what we do today.
So Vasant, a follow-up questions on so many other things you said, but before I get there, can you talk about value-added services, right? So staying on this theme of growth opportunities for Visa, you’ve talked about how cyber source and Visa DPS has being one of the components of value added services among other solutions. Can you just give us some examples on what goes into in terms of savings products? Are you driving that services penetration up and growing that 20% year-over-year?
Yes. It’s the three things I mentioned. It’s a, getting better at selling it into existing clients. And you sort of have to go client by client and look at how much of our existing services are they using, what could they use and how do I sell it in.
And it’s not easy because you have to show them the value. You have to get them set up to use it, et cetera. Selling to large financial institutions is a long lead time business. They are slow to decide on something being valuable and then it takes a while to build it into their systems. So clearly, there’s a big selling effort involved.
The second is there’s a technology effort involved in making our value-added services, easy to use and also to make them available in as many geographies as you can because sometimes you have to do some work to make these services available in all geographies. So there’s a global scope kind of effort.
And then the third is adding services. We’ve added a few in the last few years, whether it’s dispute resolution through Verify or enhanced FX through Currencycloud or things we did before that with Cardinal authentication. There’s a lot of services you can add on. So it’s all three vectors are important. Selling is critical because you’re trying to get people to try something new and then ensuring that your services are easy to use would be next in line.
So Vasant, I want to ask about innovation. And it feels like Visa is innovating around the edges of its network at a faster pace versus history. I’m looking at the recent announcement of Visa+, which looks promising. But also, you talked about Acceptance Cloud, Token, Visa Direct. We talked about that. Tell us about some of the recent innovations that you are most excited about and which are probably less well understood?
Yes, I’d say I’m very excited about Visa+. I think it’s a live example of network of networks coming to life, right? We said for a while, we want to be on network of networks. Visa+ is taking — let’s take the example of P2P and the sea change we’ve seen in P2P. Seven or eight years ago when P2P started, it was all on ACH. And I know there’s a lot of talk of how we might lose transactions to ACH and RTP.
The only thing that’s happened to P2P in the last seven years is we’ve taken a big share of P2P that used to be on ACH, the opposite, right? We’ve taken share away from ACH because if you’re really thoughtful about how you use P2P, you’d use the debit credential because it’s far safer, it’s instantaneous, you have dispute resolution, et cetera, et cetera. It’s much better to do that than put your bank account in.
So we took a large share of P2P. We became the preferred rail on most of the major P2P networks. But the P2P developed as a closed loop system. So you had the Venmo network, the Square network, and what Visa+ is doing, is saying, “Hey, let’s open this up.” Why should I think about who I’m sending money to and whether they are on Venmo or not? Why shouldn’t I be able to send money to anyone who has a Visa credential on any credential on any network?
So that’s what Visa Plus is going to do. And open loops will always win or close loops and those who sign up will offer their consumers a better service than those who don’t. So I think that’s a great example of something that brings to life a concept we’ve been talking about for a while. I think a lot of what we’re doing in Visa Direct is, continues to be very innovative because every use case requires a certain level of adaptation.
I think what we did with Tokens by saying early on, look, this is good for the ecosystem. We’re not going to charge for it was the right thing to do. And it’s also good that we failed at some things because it means we’re trying things that don’t work. We did — and I joined, we were busy doing — what was it the button.
No, the first version of it didn’t work. What was it called?
Visa Checkout, right? We tried, it didn’t work. That’s fine. It’s good to try things that don’t look it shows that you’re trying. We were ready for BNPL. We had a variety of solutions, but nobody seems too interested. Maybe they will at some point. So, there — you also have to look at things you’re doing that don’t work because it means you’re trying stuff and some of it is going to work, and some of it is not going to work.
So Vasant, we talked about a number of growth opportunities for Visa. Let’s look at the other side of the coin and kind of talk about risk to Visa. As you know, there is some concern about disruption and payments. There’s always been concerns around disruption payments. And I’m thinking account to account, big tech regulation, domestic schemes, and I want to unpack some of these proceeds starting from A2A. Now as I think about A2A, on one hand, you can argue that the proliferation of real-time payments globally can accelerate the adoption of say pay by bank, for example. But in India and Brazil, you said there are like interesting areas. But on the other hand, the actual usage is kind of muted. So, how are you thinking about, A2A in the context of Visa?
Yes. Look, I think A2A has existed forever, right? ACH, it used to be called, and now it’s becoming faster about 60 years after we offered instantaneous money movement, ACH is catching up. So it’s not a new idea. So then the question is, does it pro disruptive, just because a rail exists doesn’t mean there’s going to be volume on the rail, right?
So the assumption is, “oh my god, there’s another alternative and everybody is going to use it.” You look at it from a consumer standpoint, let’s say if someone comes with a pay by bank solution, much has been tried in the U.K. many times. What incentive do I as a consumer have to change a habit that I’m very comfortable with?
I don’t have to pay to use a digital credential. I’m very happy with using my Visa. It’s everybody accepts it. Why would I switch to this other thing that I don’t know if everybody accepts? I’m don’t know how reliable it is. I can’t get dispute resolution today. I don’t know what the fraud is. It seems inferior to my solution right now, and I have no incentive to switch. So that’s the consumer.
Then I’m a bank. I have a card I’ve issued, I have ACH. I get some interchange on the card. I get a little bit of a fee on ACH. I’m okay the way. This is a little better. What incentive do I have? I’m a merchant, and I say, “Oh, it’ll be nice not to depend on the Visa credentials and the Mastercard credentials, maybe it’s cheaper if I can get people to use pay by bank.” Okay. But you might have higher fraud. Is it really cheaper on a total cost basis?
And then how are you going to get consumers to switch. They have no incentive. I want to give them an inducement to switch, merchants have not been willing to do that. We saw that in the U.K. It just — the incentive they have to give is far more than what they’re already paying for the current form of payment. So it just hangs in there and nothing happens. And that’s been the history of VocaLink for the last decade plus. VocaLink is the same as fed now. It’s been around for over a decade.
There have been four or five attempts including by Mastercard to use VocaLink as a merchant payment system and all have failed. Again, I’m not saying we should be complacent about this. All I’m saying is the idea that the existence of an RTP rail will immediately result in movement of volume from us to them, it’s only — it’ll only happen if there is asleep at the switch.
And I guess, I mean, there’s a bunch of questions in Fed now coming from the audience, but I guess you’ve already answered the question in terms of value position. So Vasant, I also want to ask about big tech and some of these companies are very large merchants for you. But they’re also kind of interesting in the sense that they’re very highly engaged user base, they have control of the NFC chip, big pockets and kind of the desire to be successful in payments. I know it’s a — they’re a close partner of yours, but how do you think about the risk and opportunity from big techs.
Yes. Look, I think sometimes sort of an assumption is made that somebody has a community therefore they should be able to do payments too. It’s not as easy as that, right, meaning you have to have a credential that can be a payment credential. Today, it’s issued by banks and you’re going to be a bank. You have to have the ability to allow people to pay at various merchants. Are you going to go create an acceptance network?
You can’t escape creating a network for payments. You can’t just switch your existing network to a payments network. If you look at Apple, I mean, they’re riding our network, but they’re not issuers of credentials. They’re not creating merchant acceptance. If they chose not to write our network, they would have to issue credentials and they would have to go create a merchant network.
If we can give them what they want, if we can help them achieve their objective, which is to make that device a more valuable device because it can be used for payments. And we can do it with economics that are attractive to them, which they are and more attractive than going out on their own and spending the money and also an extraordinary amount of time to do it, then it makes sense for them to partner with us and that could apply to almost all of them.
So, it’s up to us to understand their needs to make sure that we are giving them what they want, that we’re able to do it with economics that make sense for them and that we still have the best network that any other alternative they come up with on their own will be a closed loop with fewer nodes and, therefore, less valuable.
So why would I do that? I mean if I’m Amazon, and I’m shopping at Amazon, and I like to use my United MileagePlus card, and I’m now told you can’t do it. Would I Amazon lose volume? Do I want to do that? Don’t I lose a lot more than how much what I might save on an MDR and that’s based on whatever MDR they’re getting and they’re big so they get treated differently, too.
So Vasant, can you also talk about online debit routing [indiscernible]. I know you’ve talked about no material impact in 2023 and without kind of like wait and see for 2024 and beyond. But taking a step back, can you highlight why merchant prefers Visa for routing, even when they have a choice of routing and why that becomes more important, especially in an online context.
Yes, [indiscernible] was what we had thought would happen. So we’re not surprised. Many of our issuers are already enabling multiple networks online, some who are not compliant, will be compliant. We have dealt with multiple networks on cards for a long time. So, we have a way of dealing with it.
In the end, you want to win the transaction based on the value you create. There are certain things we do that other networks don’t that cause merchants today to use us even though some may think we’re more expensive because it’s a total cost of use, right? If you want to use another network, but fraud is going to be higher, you may be better off using our network.
If on the other network, your consumer can’t get rewards, then — and again, in debit rewards is not as big an issue, it would be an issue if it was credit. Then there’s the dual messaging capability, dispute resolution capabilities.
So you want to have a service that is differentiated from the alternative. So the merchant can look at it objectively and say, yes, I mean the price they charge may be different, but the value is still greater here. And that’s the game we want to win.
Vasant, there’s a couple of questions coming in also on the competitive environment. So I guess, if I think about your revenue growth rate, it’s been very healthy. But I know investors also focus on client incent — based on incentives as a percentage of gross revenue, which have kind of been ticking up, and you’ve been talking about that for a number of years. So can you talk about the competitive environment and whether there have been any changes?
Yes. Look, I mean, things get competitive are the largest accounts always been the case. The largest accounts will do their best to make sure they get the best pricing. You would expect them to do that. This is a competitive business. The gross revenue incentives I think is a little bit of a distraction because what you really need to look at is net revenue growth and net yields.
And as long as net revenue growth is healthy and yields are stable to improving, which they are, then how you interplay gross and incentives almost doesn’t matter, right? You can have a high list price and discount of it or as long as you can find a way to keep net yields improving and deliver a good net revenue growth rate, the rest is just a distraction. I think that’s the best way to describe it.
Now if yields were not improving our growth rates were not strong enough, and it was because it looks like the incentives we have to provide are causing that to happen, that will be a different issue. So I think some of this is a little bit of a distraction. It may be just better for us to just report net revenues, but this is the way we’ve historically done it. And I would just say, just focus on net revenue growth and net yields. And if those look okay, then things are fine.
So, I also wanted to ask about open banking and it feels like it’s been more than a year since you closed the acquisition of Tink. Can you remind us how Visa thinking about the opportunity set?
Look, our approach to open banking is the same as our approach to a lot of other things, which is to keep a very open mind, right? We don’t know whether open banking is going to be a big deal or not a big deal. We really don’t. Nobody does. We know that in Europe, the regulators have been very keen for open banking to become very big.
And I know there’s been a certain amount of frustration over the years that it hasn’t — and in many ways, I think the regulators in Europe are probably happy we got into open banking because it meant that someone with a lot of influence and investment capability was getting into open banking to make a go of it.
I think the jury is still out on whether open banking is going to be a big deal or not. It’s not clear yet. I do believe it hasn’t taken off as much as perhaps people might have expected. Some of it because, in some cases, there’s no need for it, time will tell. In the meantime, we have the capability.
We will deploy it in other parts of the world outside Europe too. We own a company that has European scope. So we are very well established in Europe and probably the best player for anybody to go through who wants open banking capabilities. So if it takes off, we are well positioned, and that’s the reason we did the Tink acquisition. But time will tell. I think the jury is still out.
And in Europe, I think Vasant, you were talking about earlier, it feels like the Continental Europe, you’ve had kind of like a number of wins recently. So after the Visa Europe acquisition was closed, that was kind of like a weak area for Visa Europe, which you kind of have accelerated the growth rate.
Yes, because pre the acquisition of Europe — Visa Europe was an association. So they mostly serve the members of the association and the membership of the association was concentrated in the U.K., France, and to some extent, in Spain. And so there were many parts of Europe where there were no members of the Visa Association.
And so, it was underdeveloped. In Europe — the Continental Europe is probably the most underdeveloped market for Visa. We normally have a certain Visa share and market share, the Mastercard share position in most parts of the world. The Continental Europe was a unique one in that MasterCard share was stronger than it is typically in other parts of the world.
So clearly, it was an underdeveloped market for us. And as we started calling on clients post the acquisition, it was very clear that they were very eager to hear from us because nobody had been calling on them. So we’ve beefed up in various markets like Germany, the Netherlands, in Eastern Europe and so on, and it’s bearing fruit.
We’ve had a lot of success. Some of it is still not made its way through our volumes and P&L. I think Continental Europe will remain a growth opportunity for us. And it’s a good market. There are many parts of Continental Europe where cash penetration is still very low. There’s still plenty of growth opportunity. So, we hope that it can continue to grow at a rate that is much faster than the rest of our business.
So Vasant, I want to kind of move back to our macro discussion towards the beginning of our conversation and kind of even some of the questions that have come through. So in light of some concerns around the macroeconomic environment and also moderating inflation, can you remind us how to think about Visa’s financials sensitivity and potential downturn?
Yes. I would say that we’ve gone back have looked at recessions for 40 years and you can do that, too. And no one recession is the same as another. They’ve all been different. Some are shallow, some are deep. Some are — some hit the consumer hard, some hitting businesses harder. No one of them is the same.
So we don’t know if there’s going to be a recession and what kind of recession it’s going to be. So in that sense, it’s very hard to predict what kind of recession they’re going to have. And we’ve said very clearly for a long time now, we are not in the business of economic forecasting. We’ll leave that to others. What we’re trying to do is to be prepared for various eventualities. And so we have contingency plans.
In terms of our own business, the last recession we had was a long time ago, and we were a very, very different business then. In 2008, Visa was just going public, we didn’t have Europe. So we are more geographically diversified. We didn’t have our new flows business and our value-added services business to the size we have now.
So we are more diversified in use cases and services. Our non-U.S. business in emerging markets has grown a lot. So, we are far more geographically diversified in general. Our debit business is large, tends to be more resilient. E-commerce has continued to grow and become a larger part of the mix, especially in cross-border. And I think that could be helpful in the next recession.
Even travel, cross-border travel where you normally expect to see impact from a recession, they’re still coming out of the pandemic. You still have pent-up demand. Even with all the sort of economic uncertainty out there, people have shown a propensity to travel right now. So maybe this one doesn’t impact travel as much as past ones did.
So it’s very hard to predict what the impact is going to be. Our approach is to me is to have some contingency plans. And at this point, we’ve moderated some of our expense growth. We told you the expense growth will moderate through the year. But we’re not pulling out all the contingency levers yet. I mean we are monitoring trends, we are moderating expense growth, but we’re not in contingency mode yet. But we will be if we have to be.
And Vasant,, I know we are running out of time. We just have a few minutes left. So my last question to you. You’ve been with Visa for more than eight years now. And for these last eight years, you’ve received a number of questions and risk to Visa. As you reflect on time of Visa, what are the top two or three risks that you worry about for the Company?
Yes. I think the risks — there are two risks and they’ve been the same forever. The first is internal and the second is external. The internal risk is the risk every incumbent has, right? When you have a big successful business and it’s been doing well for a very long time, success is your worst enemy. And we all know that incumbents have had — that have been very successful, become complacent self-satisfied, entitled, rigid, change resistant, bureaucratic, we’ve tried very hard over the years to not let that happen and stay paranoid and try to stay flexible and innovative.
And so, I think you need to keep fighting that because success can be a worst enemy. So, I think we have a phenomenal business model. There is no reason why this model should be disrupted whatsoever. And to ensure that, we have to remain what we have been for a while, which is always willing to change always willing to try new things and not become complacent and self-satisfied. So I’d say that remains an important risk for management to manage consistently. And I believe the new team will do that.
The second risk is external. What we do is a very valuable service. Money is the heart of every economy and governments and regulators are legitimately interested in what we do. I’ve always said nationalism is not a bad thing. Every country is nationalistic because that’s why they exist. I think it’s our job to understand what the needs of various countries are, what is it the regulators want? What is it the government wants, make sure they understand what we can do for them, make sure we understand what they want.
And ensure that we’re always engaged because what you don’t want is for regulation to do something that may not be helpful to the country we’re operating in or to us. So I think we have to manage that internal risk and that external risk well. Other than that, I would say we should always continue on the track we are on, which is everybody is a friend and a partner. Nobody is a competitor. The only issue is to figure out how to make it worth their while to partner with us.
And so far, we’ve managed to do that, whether it’s with wallets, whether it’s with large tech companies, whether it’s with large merchants. And as long as we keep doing that and keep our network valuable for everyone, things should be fine.
Fantastic. Thank you so much, Vasant. I always enjoy our conversation and best wishes.
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