Mikael is the CEO of AstroPay, a pioneer in payment solutions for consumers who want to make online purchases on international sites. Leveraging his background in engineering and experience in providing cross-border payments as well as connecting global merchants to emerging markets, Mikael combines a unique blend of technical expertise and practical experience to drive innovation and solutions in payments.
Latin America’s igaming sector is poised for explosive growth. Colombia is up and running, with strong momentum in Brazil, Argentina and Chile set to expand the addressable market further. As ever, technology moves at a faster pace than regulation, potentially creating barriers such as legal restrictions, limits on transactions in a specific currency and even cultural differences that limit card usage.
Digital wallets avoid these issues through a centralised currency, minimising conversion rate costs, increasing convenience and speed when playing online and enhancing security for both the operator and player.
New data from US financial services giant FIS finds that 32% of the global population use mobile wallets (increased from 21% in 2020). The simplicity and speed of ewallets, combined with increased security measures, have made it an essential asset in newly regulated markets. .
Digital payments specialist AstroPay was an early mover in the digital wallets space, pioneering its first solution in 2009. This meant that when the pandemic shifted transactions from cash to cashless, it had more than a decade’s experience.
“We found a niche in 2009, where some people wanted a bank account, and they didn’t have access to credit and debit cards,” AstroPay chief executive Mikael Lijtenstein explains. “So understanding the users’ needs in that time was key for us to start creating the company. We’ve now had that product for 13 years.”
Having started in Brazil with the AstroPay Card, the company then began expanding into other markets throughout Latin America, allowing customers to access funds in any currency. It is now one of the biggest payment providers in Latin America and Asia, and rapidly developing its global reach across Europe and Africa.
“We are in Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Mexico. Exploring other markets and understanding what they needed helped us understand that the gaming industry in these jurisdictions needed payment methods in each market. It was key for us to cover a range of regions” Litjtenstein says.
AstroPay now has access to more than 5 million users, 1.000 merchants and over 200 payment services. With the global data collected from the launch of their ewallet, they can now operate across a range of emerging markets with an upgraded user experience.
Major suppliers and organisations have upscaled their payment solutions to adapt to the digitised landscape, introducing cashless payments on gaming machines and service kiosks with QR codes and tokenised wallet transactions to improve user experience.
Regardless of whether epayments are set to become the mainstream form of payment, they are established as a key transaction option for igaming.
Lijtenstein says AstroPay aims to remain a frontrunner by maintaining a customer-centric approach, through gathering customer insight regularly. Doing so, he adds, allows the business to innovate faster than its peers.
“After receiving feedback we took the decision to upgrade our product to One Touch integration, the digital wallet solution.
“What makes us strong is how agile we are – we are an adaptable company due to years of moving very fast. Digital wallets are one of the biggest innovations in the world.”
Lijtenstein says that having teams in each jurisdiction is important to the success of AstroPay due to giving them a threshold above their competitors. ”We are processing in Brazil, India, Europe and Africa- having dedicated teams in each market helps us to bring to the users the most successful product.”
From fiat to crypto
This focus on agility and innovation has resulted in AstroPay integrating cryptocurrency payments into its offering. These digital currencies are growing in popularity, especially with younger generations.
“We launched our crypto offering recently and are now offering 6 cryptocurrencies,” Lijtenstein says.
“Crypto has become a trending topic for many years. As a company we have been discussing creating dedicated teams to understand what we can do for our users – we want to give the users the trends.”
But this creates new risks. Cybersecurity has become more important than ever. Lijtenstein says that protecting their customers is their primary goal, and their digital wallets are made with the intention of creating additional levels of authentication.
“We have our own risk prevention system. By using our own devices, we have a better understanding and it enables us to maintain an easy and fast service.”
What’s coming for AstroPay?
Lijtenstein says that as a company, the lessons they have learnt in Latin America and other emerging markets have prepared them for Europe. “The lessons learnt in these regions help us improve our technology, and offering” he says.
“Europe is a huge market. We decided to start from three countries, the UK, Spain and Portugal, with the UK being one of the biggest markets in Europe.”
“There are a lot of competitors in Europe but there’s always space for a new one. For a different one. We want to be localised in terms of communication and culture, so we can understand what the user needs and wants.”