Step inside: Visa opens doors to its biggest ever innovation centre in London

Lynsey Barber
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Visa has embitious plans to be at the heart of fintech with its London innovation centre (Source: Visa)

Visa has launched a fresh bid to boost its reputation for innovation with the launch of a new centre in London to "build the future of payments" - from banking via voice assistant to shopping in virtual reality.

The 1,000 sq ft centre at its headquarters in Paddington will foster collaboration between Visa and its clients, partners and startups as it hopes to place itself at the centre of digital payments.

The centre comes less than a year after Visa Europe became part of the global Visa Inc company and follows the blueprint of the brand's existing locations in San Francisco, Singapore, Dubai and four other countries around the world.

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But, the London location becomes its biggest to date and will be the heart of Visa's European technology efforts drawing upon on the expertise of its new global network.

The efforts are a fresh push by the world's largest payments firm to adapt to changing consumer habits as they move away from cards, and to stay ahead of new and developing technologies.

The space is designed for hot-housing experiments and creating prototypes which can be brought to market more quickly than within the current set up of the business, and laying the groundwork for underpinning new ways people pay.

“What makes the approach we take in our innovation centres unique is that they're all about collaborating with clients to solve real world, consumer pain points or business problems using digital solutions,” said Visa's executive vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships Jim McCarthy.

The centre was welcomed by City Hall and is the latest example of large firms continueing to invest in technology in the country post-Brexit.

London's deputy mayor for business Rajsh Agrawal said: "As a successful fintech entrepreneur myself, I understand that quite often businesses need a little bit of help to turn the kernel of a good idea into something truly transformative.

"I am therefore delighted that Visa is launching this new innovation centre in London, bolstering our flourishing global tech and fintech reputation and proving that London is open to great ideas and innovation.”

Visa demonstrated several prototypes it has already created to show clients and other potential partners, such as banks and technology firms, what might be possible and spark the imagination.

That included connected car payments system that could let you fill up on fuel without leaving the car, or automatically pay the congestion charge in the capital, knowing when it enters the zone where it applies.

Biometric payments, increasingly a buzzword in finance, were also on show with hand-swipe payments at point of sale, as was a demo of using face and voice recognition to make payments within virtual reality worlds.

Visa also showed off an example of how voice controlled banking could work with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant on its Echo device, with functions such as checking a balance of transferring cash, just by asking.

The innovation centre differs from Visa Europe's Collab located in Shoreditch and set up in 2015, which functions as a more focused startup accelerator.

Read more: UK fintech VC investment plunged by a third last year

Visa opens the door on the new centre hot on the heels from the launch of its developer programme which opens up its systems to other businesses, big or small, opening up Visa money transfer and checkout technologies among other technology to others via an API.

The global payments firm has also partnered with IBM to push payments in the Internet of Things (IoT). Visa's token technology, already used with Apple Pay to allow card holders to use their phone to pay in a secure way, could allow connected devices such as fridges to become pay points combined with IBM's Watson IoT platform.

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