Mar 05, 2024

The International Smart Card: Your Key to the World of Electronic Payment Interview with Mr. Ali Hussein Muneam (CEO).

News Details

International Smart Card was founded in 2007 through a partnership between the public and private sectors. The company's founder, Mr. Bahaa Abdul Hussein Abdul Hadi, worked on introducing the "Qi Card" biometric card project to the government banks Rafidain and Rashid with the aim of addressing the significant challenges faced by state employees, retirees, and beneficiaries of the social protection network. The company introduced electronic payment technologies to Iraq by providing more than 10,000 salary receipt points after being limited to about 250 branches of Rafidain and Rashid banks, which were not sufficient to cover the large number of employees and beneficiaries. On the other hand, the biometric fingerprint intersection technologies contained in "Qi Card" cards were used to combat corruption and detect thousands of cases of fraud and identity theft, as well as preventing cases of multiple salaries for the same person receiving salaries or grants from multiple government entities, where multiple biometric indicators (fingerprints, iris scans, facial recognition) were adopted to identify customers and were checked by the de-duplication system before activating thfe customer's account.


Today, "Qi Card" is working on launching a new generation of services that primarily rely on flexibility and providing all banking activities via smartphone, in addition to providing value-added solutions for individual customers and institutions. Our magazine interviewed the General Manager of The International Smart Card Company, Ali Hussein, and here is our conversation:


1- The world witnessed significant growth and greater reliance on electronic payment services after the coronavirus pandemic. How do you assess this experience in Iraq?

The pandemic contributed significantly to accelerating the transition towards providing most services and products remotely and in a self-service manner, and it helped in:

o   Increasing the adoption of electronic payment tools such as contactless payment and online payment.

o   Increasing the activation of the company's electronic application, where the number of users jumped from 500,000 to over two million users during the pandemic.

o   For the first time in Iraq, the process of applying for loans and advances was done remotely using the "Qi" services app, securely and without the need to visit any branch.


2- What types and specifications of cards do you issue?

We issue cards with biometric features that work within Iraq as local cards, and the company issues all types of cards, including:

o   Debit Cards

o   Credit Cards

o   Prepaid Cards

o   Gift Cards

These cards feature the ability to use biometric verification, and they are linked to an integrated system for identity verification, allowing institutions to remotely verify identities in addition to electronic payment.


3- After your cooperation with MasterCard, do you have plans to collaborate with Visa Card as well?

We are in the process of preparing to launch "Visa Card" cards, which will be available in the Iraqi market soon.


4- What are the security and protection standards against cyber-attacks that you rely on for your cards?

At The International Smart Card Company, security and protection are at the top of our priorities regarding our cards. We rely on leading global security standards to ensure data safety and protection against cyber-attacks. One of the most important standards we adhere to is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which aims to enhance card and financial transaction security. This standard helps us identify and address security vulnerabilities effectively and enhance our efforts to protect customer data. Additionally, we follow the ISO 27001 standard, which aims to ensure comprehensive information security and risk management. We apply best practices and policies to protect company and customer data from cyber threats and ensure business continuity.


These standards are indicative of our strong commitment to data security and customer protection, giving our customers confidence in using our electronic cards safely. We continue to monitor technological advancements and security requirements to maintain a high level of protection and security at all times.


5- What services do holders of Qi cards benefit from?

"Qi Card" cards are local and international cards that enable holders to pay at all points of sale and withdraw from ATMs around the world. We also provide a mobile application that allows cardholders to have full control over their cards and perform all banking activities through the application. Additionally, the card provides verification capabilities through biometrics and vital indicators through the duplication system.


6- Many electronic payment companies have been established in recent years in Iraq. How do you evaluate the competition, and what sets The International Smart Card Company apart?

The electronic payment industry in Iraq has evolved significantly in recent years, with the emergence of many new local electronic payment companies. This positive development reflects the technological and economic changes taking place in the country and indicates an increased reliance on technology in payment operations. As for evaluating competition, it depends on several factors such as service availability, ease of use, security, geographical availability, and technology's ability to meet the needs of beneficiaries and merchants. Healthy and effective competition requires companies to be able to provide innovative and attractive solutions to customers and meet their needs effectively, which sets The International Smart Card Company apart from other companies.


7- You say your goal is to transform Iraq into a cashless society. To what extent have you succeeded in this vision, and what are the incentives and challenges?

"Qi Card" worked on laying the foundations of this project, where it introduced the first payment system framework in 2008 and launched the first local payment cards that rely on biometric verification. The company also issued millions of cards and built an acceptance network for these cards throughout Iraq, shaping the current payment system. On the other hand, I believe that the most important development that will greatly accelerate the transition towards a cashless society is the orientations of the Iraqi government represented by Prime Minister Mr. Mohammed Shiaa Al-Sudani, who issued a series of decisions obliging all government institutions to transition towards electronic collection, in support of the Iraqi Central Bank's plan. Additionally, the Council of Ministers issued several decisions that will contribute to transforming companies and merchants towards accepting electronic payments, such as tax exemptions for institutions and individuals.


8- Do you offer loyalty points to Qi cardholders to encourage them to use electronic payment?

We are in the process of launching a loyalty system as part of the value-added services, where it will give points, incentives, and cashback for all cash movements to change the behaviour of Iraqi users and adopt electronic payment instead of cash payment in their daily lives, such as paying bills, purchases, and more.

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