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Payments Technology as a Career Option

The field of electronic payments is going through a massive transformation. Payment transactions enable commerce and have the ability to touch every human life. With technologies like the Internet and mobile phones being accessible to most of the population, making payments has never been easier. When buying and selling goods across the world, paying in local currencies has enabled a world of new commercial activity. Today, you can buy goods anywhere in the world through websites like Amazon, Alibaba and pay through your local credit/debit cards while receiving your shipment within days. These websites, along with the card companies, provide securities to ensure that both parties are genuine and that the transaction is valid. With the advent of social commerce, you can make payments using your social media applications like Facebook, Twitter and many other platforms. Mobile payments are enabling a whole new paradigm of payments with innovative options such as using only your mobile to make person-to-person (P2P) payments and using your account at the mobile service provider.

Payment Terminology:

- Instruments: These vary from cash, checks, traveler's checks, debit/credit/prepaid cards, loyalty/reward points, etc.

- Participants:

a. Merchants: The front-end entities collecting the payment in lieu of a product or service.

b. Acquirer: Processors that run the ATM/POS/e-commerce networks; acquires the transactions from merchants.

c. Issuer: Typically, banks issuing debit/credit/prepaid cards; they authorize the transactions.

d. Networks: These institutions create the interconnection between the various issuers, acquirers, etc., to guarantee a uniform worldwide delivery mechanism. Ex: Visa/MasterCard.

- Service Providers: Bank cards (debit/credit/prepaid), money transfer companies, retailers, mobile service providers, wholesale payments, transit companies, etc.

Payment Business: Banks are at the forefront of issuing various payment instruments like debit and credit cards which enable customers to transact at merchant sites. A whole new group of program managers are issuing special purpose, preloaded prepaid cards like Payroll, Gift, Travel, Transit, etc., to be used only for predesignated purposes. Merchants are also issuing loyalty cards to retain customers by issuing rewards points that can be used at their own locations. Money transfer companies worldwide are enabling person-to-person payments to transfer funds to one another. The acquiring companies are ensuring new mechanisms to accept payments across ATMs, points-of-sale, kiosks, e-commerce websites and mobiles devices. Near field communication (NFC) technologies are helping to implement secure contactless payment between cards, mobiles and merchant POS terminals.

Innovative companies across the globe are launching new payment products like M-PESA (Kenya) mobile money transfer, NPCI’s RuPay, Airtel Money, Starbucks’ mobile payment & loyalty app, contactless mass transit smart cards, Disney's MagicBand, Apple Pay etc.

Payment Systems: Banks and other payment companies are looking for smart technologists to help them build their next generation of payment systems. A plethora of exciting careers opportunities are available in areas such as building mobile apps, e-commerce front-ends, encrypting transactions, developing switching technologies, back-end host systems and many more. With the exponential increase in electronic frauds, the need for intelligent fraud monitoring and identification systems is on the rise. EMV-based smart card systems consisting of chips are being deployed to increase security and reduce fraudulent usage. Government controls on payment transactions have resulted in the implementation of sophisticated compliance systems that enforce regulatory guidance. Once the transactions are complete and stored in a database, they can be analyzed by analytics systems based on the latest big data technologies. These intuitive systems identify trends and patterns, helping unearth marketing opportunities and determining service quality.

These applications areas are very complex and relatively new, making electronic payments an exciting area to build a career on. One can expect to develop critical thinking skills in order to solve real-world problems, learn innovative design concepts and gain meticulous execution capabilities to deliver error-free software. Transaction processing systems need to respond to large volumes of requests in milliseconds and must be fail-proof. Furthermore, most of the data being transferred and processed needs to be securely transmitted and stored using encryption mechanisms. These requirements add a whole new level of complexity to designing these systems. Understanding the business needs beneath various technical solutions is imperative.

Building a technical career: By getting involved in the payments domain, one can look forward to becoming a top notch business analyst, product manager, user interface designer, technology architect, systems developer, performance expert, security guru and much more. You can expect to develop an intricate knowledge in the art of building large-scale transaction processing systems that deliver millions of secure and fast transactions across the globe to enable participants to complete a multitude of deals in a fraction of time.

Growing synergies with the new age technologies like mobile, cloud, big data analytics have opened up whole new areas of system and product development. There is a global opportunity in this space, with billions being invested in this area across the world.

To have a successful career in this field, it is important that one has a very clear fundamental knowledge of computer science concepts, the ability to think clearly, strong problem-solving skills and rigor and quality consciousness. Programming and other technical skills can be developed along the way to a successful career.

Having experience in technically challenging environments, coupled with deep business knowledge of the payment domain can help set one up for a fulfilling professional career.

In the field of technology, payments is an exciting new area that has innovative products and services being launched every day to enable the basic human need to exchange goods and services for some form of assured payment.

Addendum:

Payment Technologies: Mobile app developers, e-commerce (Java, HTML5), encryption (EMV, PCI), database (Oracle, Teradata), big data technologies (Hadoop, MapReduce, Cassandra, NoSQL, Tableau, Splunk) and cloud infrastructure (AWS, Windows Azure).

Payment Transaction:


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