Khevin Seebah, CEO of ICPS, talks of ICPS’ journey so far in the payment industry. He shares insights of how ICPS Ltd intends to leverage Moroccan company HPS, which recently completed the acquisition of ICPS, to expand its operations. Abdeslam Alaoui Smaili CEO of multinational technology company HPS, based in Morocco, also sat with Investor’s Mag while on a trip to Mauritius to discuss how HPS and newly acquisitioned Mauritian company ICPS are working towards becoming the champions of the payment solutions in the region and worldwide.
Could you tell us, briefly, about ICPS and its activities?
ICPS Ltd was set up in 2008 as a joint venture between MCB and HPS.
HPS is present in 90 countries with more than 450 customers. ICPS has predominantly been in the payment business, with payment technology based on the solution that the HPS group is using today, which is PowerCARD. We have been over the years doing payment from a technology perspective and from a business operations perspective.
The idea of setting up ICPS was to have a blend of technical and business people positioning themselves as subject matter experts to respond to the demand of the payment industry.
We started at the beginning with 10 staff and today ICPS represents 100 plus staff in Mauritius.
How big a business is this?
The business today represents a turnover of USD 100 million. ICPS being part of HPS group, we are looking at an expansion at international level. The payment industry is a dynamic environment and ICPS being present in Africa and in the Indian Ocean, is also looking at going into Asia, to expand the business.
How does ICPS optimise Switching & Card Management Systems processes?
Unlike other businesses in the same industry, we’ve tried to bring everything under one roof. What I’m trying to say by that is today we’ve got the traditional payment processing with the issuing, acquiring platform, e-commerce platform, the mobile platform but we’ve come to realise that it’s also very important for us to address a major pain for banks today, the back office activities, in layman language, reconciliation and settlement.
So our offer today includes payment processing, back-office operations, card personalization, business training, IT security audits, and consultancy, which gives the financial institutions a one-stop-shop address where they can outsource everything. So today, the operations being done at a technology level or at the business level, can be done from Mauritius at ICPS.
The business today represents a turnover of USD 100 million. ICPS being part of HPS group, we are looking at an expansion at international level.Khevin Seebah | CEO | ICPS
How has new technology disrupted ICPS’ operations?
We all know that we are facing technology disruption and being part of the payment industry, we also have to make sure that we keep pace with the evolution of technology.
So we have been, for the past few years, investing massively around 8 to 10% of our revenue in research and development. We are moving at the pace of the evolution of technology; thus, ensuring that whatever services and products we put on the market meet the strict standards on networks and requirements of what our customers are looking for.
While the payment mobile industry is taking a higher market share, we have for the past 10 years, invested massively in our mobile payment solution to come up with a product which has been a success so far and which suits different types of markets, whether it is in Mauritius, Africa or even in the Southeast Asia area where we are also present.
It’s also worth noting that with the open banking transformation for banks and financial institutions, by sharing of data, we have built an open platform allowing for simple and seamless integrations with third parties.
In what ways has Covid-19 affected ICPS?
Covid-19 has impacted different organisations in different ways. At ICPS, we have also been impacted by closing down the business for not operating on site. But we had somehow been prepared in the sense that people could work from home from day one. What I mean by that is we had the technology in place. We had a business where we were supposed to operate seven days a week/365 days, and we had all our people being able to deliver from home to our end customers.
We have all seen the panic buying trend during the beginning of Covid-19, the number of transactions picking up on the system has been one of the events that we have not seen in normal circumstances. We had a robust system which has enabled us to be able to cater for such peaks in such difficult times.
What’s your outlook for your industry?
If we look at the future, the customer experience will change. Post-Covid has shown that many customers are now using technology to transact. When we look at frictionless payments, and e-commerce payment, the volume that we have seen recently, we can definitely say that people will more and more use payment as an instrument. The use of cash will be reduced and the customer experience would be important for them to trust in a whole ecosystem of the payment industry. At ICPS, in our business, we are also focusing on reaffirming our employer brand, which we believe is important in terms of skilling and motivating our people, in the new normal of what we are doing in terms of business. It’s the right time for ICPS to show in the Indian Ocean and in Africa, based in Mauritius, how far we can go in terms of what we are delivering in terms of payment technology.
Abdeslam Alaoui Smaili | ceo | HPS : “ We want to be the champions of the payment services, not only in the region, but also worldwide”
What is the reason behind this strategic move of acquiring ICPS?
HPS has a very clear strategy in terms of growth. We decided, years ago, to have a very aggressive external growth plan. This plan would enable HPS either to get into new geographies or to get into or to capture new technology. In other words, we are accelerating our growth. ICPS is giving us access to countries where we are not, that is, in the Indian Ocean, in West Africa, and also in Southeast Asia, and this is really fitting 100% in what we want to do.
How does ICPS fit in the HPS tree?
In reality, HPS and ICPS histories are the same. Because HPS has been from day zero, involved in ICPS, and as you know, we owned 20% of ICPS. So our histories were interconnected from the very first day, with differences. And that made the integration of ICPS in HPS easy because we know most of the people very well from the very first day, so it’s the same history; it has just been consolidated a bit more.
Where do you see ICPS and HPS, 10 years down the road?
What we have shared with the team is that – we told them – it’s gonna be shaky. We want HPS and ICPS to be brilliant in 10 years. We want to be far ahead of the competition and we want to be the champions of the payment in the region, but also worldwide. From the HPS side, we are growing in Europe, in North America and in Asia. From the ICPS side, we want to grow in Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa, and why not go further down the road?
What do you think of the payment business in the region?
I think payment is diverse in this part of the world. We have economies that are of different sizes and of different shapes. We have mature economies, or very advanced economies compared to others in the region. I’m talking about South Africa, for example, compared to other emerging countries in the region. And I think we have an ecosystem in this part of the world that is most probably unique because these ecosystems are different from one size to another, and here, we need to offer something that is adapted to these various economies.
We have the technology, both at ICPS and at HPS, which is today the same company, that is responding to the specific needs of this region in a perfect way.