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Passion pays off

Published on Friday, 16 May 2014
James Mirfin
Photo: Berton Chang

PayPal is preparing for the coming mobile-driven e-commerce boom by looking for staff who are devoted customers of the payment platform

It is not a stretch to say that the future of payment will be cashless and cardless, as e-wallets slowly replace traditional payment forms. Mobile device penetration is a major driver of growth in e-commerce, and PayPal - a company which processes online payments on behalf of vendors for a fee - is preparing for this boom.

"There's a lot happening in mobile payments in Hong Kong," says James Mirfin, country manager for Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan at PayPal. "I think PayPal is positioning itself really well to be a participant in that growth."

Based on the company's research, 2011 saw about 370,000 people performing mobile transactions in Hong Kong. This number grew to over one million in 2012. "[Mobile transactions] went from about one in five [of all online transactions] to 50 per cent within one year," Mirfin says. "We think that acceleration is continuing." These figures mirror global trends that saw mobile payments growing at just under 100 per cent last year.

In Hong Kong, this trend is driven by high smartphone and mobile device penetration rates, coupled with fast and large bandwidths. According to recent government statistics, Hong Kong's internet connection speeds, and broadband and mobile penetration rates - 85 per cent and 231 per cent respectively - are the highest in the world.

Mirfin says merchants and customers are increasingly using PayPal for two reasons: security and ease of use. "I think what we are going to see is that as people start to do more online mobile transactions, security is more top of mind for them," he says.

With increasing cases of cyber identity theft, customers prefer to use a middleman like PayPal, which guarantees anonymity and that personal information stays safe. "Furthermore, if you do an e-commerce trade, and you go to your PayPal checkout, we take you into a very simple mobile flow. You put your password and name in - it's that simple," he says.

PayPal has ramped up its presence and made mobile payments safer and easier by working with Samsung to include a biometrical PayPal app in the Korean firm's new S5 handset. The app enables fingerprint authentication, meaning payments can be made in one easy step.

PayPal has also been expanding by acquiring payment-processing firm Braintree and rolling out its mobile SD (secure digital) case. Cross-border trade accounted for the majority of PayPal's total payment volume in Hong Kong last year, as local merchants exported goods overseas.

"For anyone developing mobile apps with any kind of commerce element and payment, we try to ensure that PayPal becomes the default and that they don't even need to think about it when they integrate into the app," Mirfin says.

PayPal's expanding capacities have seen it remain in steady hiring mode. "Cross-border is going to stay very core for us, as is working with our merchants so they can grow," Mirfin says. "The way PayPal works is that we are only successful if the merchants are successful. We charge at transaction and it's really important for us to figure out how to help them grow. So it's important to fill the roles that we have open, and getting great talent in who can be part of the journey is really important."

Current and recent openings have covered a number of areas, including technical, sales and marketing, account management, business development, and leadership roles.

So far, given the company's pace of growth, new roles have been filled by new hires. Mirfin explains, however, that finding the right talent hasn't always been easy. "PayPal is a young company, and eBay [PayPal's parent company] is a very young company, so it's a very innovative company and culture," he says. "When I look for talent, I'm looking for people with the ability to innovate and execute. If you can find dreamers sometimes, then you've got great ability to get results. Sometimes you want to try to find somebody who can do both, but it's very challenging."

Mirfin explains that PayPal has a very open culture "that we live and breathe". As such, there is a big focus on being a customer. PayPal staff tend to be passionate about using PayPal, and are product advocates because they are familiar with the experience.

"I wouldn't say we are as focused on academic qualifications, as practical experience and being able to demonstrate some of our core values are what we are looking for in people," he says. "Hong Kong is a market that's rapidly developing, and we are trying to find people who are strong users of e-commerce - but it can be tough."


CHECKING OUT THE CHALLENGES

James Mirfin points out what he believes will be the top future trends in online payments.
Hong Kong goes global “Whether it’s online or mobile, we see consistent trends in terms of the corridors that [vendors] are growing, but in terms of Hong Kong-based merchants, they are starting to ship out to more countries.”
Mobile drives growth “Mobile is growing very quickly. Hong Kong has always been a global centre from a trade perspective, so I don’t see that changing. Our merchants are talking to us about entering new markets and growing new product lines, so we will definitely see that happening.”
More multi-platforming “People are transacting and interacting with merchants through all sorts of devices, whether it’s smartphones, laptops or tablets. They are also moving across those devices through the check-out flow, so they see something online and then they drop it in the basket on their mobile.”
Privacy remains priority “We never pass a consumer’s credit card information on. High-profile data thefts in the past few months have become a real concern for consumers.”


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