Visa Inc. chairman and chief executive Joe Saunders downplayed concerns over the costs associated with implementing its new digital wallet on Tuesday, at the company's annual meeting of shareholders.
The San Francisco payment network has been developing a digital payments service, called "V.me," that the company says will include both mobile point-of-sale capabilities and streamlined one-click online shopping.
But several attendees at Visa's meeting raised concerns about the costs to merchants and small financial institutions to accommodate the digital wallet services. For example, many merchants will have to upgrade their card readers in order to be able to process payments made with customers' mobile phones.
"I've read that you're having a hard time convincing merchants to spend money to buy the equipment necessary to link cell phones to cash registers," one investor said to Saunders.
"That's only partially true and it's only partially true as it relates to putting a chip in the cell phone and waving the cell phone over the terminal, because most terminals can't do that right now," Saunders replied.
"But I think the thrust of what we're doing in the short-run, what's more important, is the single-click … which allows people to purchase via the internet in a secure, simple manner," he added.
He also said that the cost of implementing that technology can vary widely depending on a merchant's needs.
"The cost of terminals, it just depends on what you want to do. You can get something from Square if you are a small merchant and put it in an iPhone and that's your terminal. You can swipe a card on it, you can ultimately read a chip on it," Saunders said during the meeting.
"But for Macy's and Nordstrom and what they want to do and the information they want to collect…. Those terminals can cost $100, they can cost $200. It can go from almost nothing to a lot depending on what you want to do," he said.
Another investor who identified himself as Steve Bowles, chief executive of SRI Federal Credit Union in Menlo Park, Calif., raised separate concerns about the costs of Visa's technology upgrades.
"I have to applaud Visa for all the chip technology that they're getting into place…. But I'm concerned about the costs of this for the small institutions, and whether or not Visa might have a program to help defer some of those costs," Bowles said.
"I don't think that you should be concerned," Saunders replied, adding that he would meet with Bowles after the meeting to discuss any institution-specific worries.
"I think a lot of what we're doing with technology and what we're doing as a result of Durbin, we've made arrangements with most of the credit union processors to deliver what you need in an efficient way," Saunders said, referring to the debit interchange regulation instituted by the so-called Durbin amendment to the Dodd-Frank law.
The company is scheduled to report quarterly results on Feb. 8.