EDC’s Samee Zafar met with Isıl Akdemir Evlioglu, CEO of Garanti Payment Systems, part of Turkey’s Garanti bank. Garanti Bank is Turkey’s second largest privately-owned bank. Garanti Payment Systems was established in 1999 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Garanti Bank with the objective of providing the customers with a secure payment infrastructure.

Holding a BA in economics from Bilkent University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Isıl began her career as a business analyst with McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm, in 2003. Until 2012, when she left that company while serving in the position of an Associate Principal, she led a number of projects in various fields including marketing, strategy, operation and risk in the banking and payment systems sector both in and out of Turkey.

Having served as Executive Vice President of Marketing at Garanti Payment Systems since 2012, Ms. Evlioglu was named Garanti Payment Systems CEO from January 2017.

Can you tell us about Garanti Payment Services?

Garanti Bank is Turkey’s second largest privately-owned bank. Garanti Payment Systems was established in 1999 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Garanti Bank with the objective of providing the customers with a secure payment infrastructure.

As Garanti Payment Systems, we are the sector leader in a number of key financial parameters including an acquiring volume of approximately TL 12 billion, 7 million credit card customers and 10 million plastic cards.

Our main goal is to lead our sector and be the first brand to introduce novelties, while developing the infrastructure that will guarantee secure and easy payment for our customers. Our unchanging target is to offer products and services that steer the sector. Hence, our agenda is constantly defined by customer needs that mold our sector’s future while evolving at an ever-increasing pace. Developing customized products and services, and delivering them through the right channel at the right time needed by the customers, if not earlier, is our priority.

Payment systems have improved significantly in the past 15 years in Turkey and in the world alike. This progress, indeed, continues at the same pace as a result of technological innovations. In Turkey, more than 40% of household expenditure is now paid with cards. This ratio was around 10% 15 years ago.

Turkey is one of the world’s leading countries in payment systems. Thanks to the impact it creates in the market through numerous innovations and benefits offered to its customers, Garanti has become a market leading brand. Let me give you just a few examples: Bonus as the first chip-based credit card; introduction of Europe’s first virtual card and virtual POS by Garanti; introduction of the first bank POS that shows the bonus points balance and also allows points redemption; launch of the first-ever Transparent and Reflected credit cards; introduction of Bonus Trink, Europe’s first card used in mass transport and Bonus Trink Watch, Europe’s first watch-shaped credit card; side products addressing all segments (Bonus Genç, Bonus Flexi etc.), and introduction of NFC (Near Field Communication). All these are just some of the major firsts introduced by our company. Bonus Flaş, which we launched in 2015 and recorded more than 3 million downloads in just 1 year, and GarantiPay, the new payment method for online shopping we have offered in integration with BonusFlaş, enable customers to make their payments just by a digital password without disclosing any card information.

Can you talk a bit more about BonusFlas?

BonusFlas, the first of its kind in the world, is a banking application we launched in November 2015. Designed as a shopping app, it blends customer needs and our technological capabilities.

For BonusFlaş, we undertook a thorough customer research. We also consulted with our employees working in the call center, branches and sales departments, and tried to pinpoint the needs and expectations with respect to campaigns, card information and payments. We devised the app on three main axes in parallel to identified needs:

Campaigns: Until today, campaigns possessed a structure that relied heavily on texting. This structure did not allow personalized campaign communications. Our customers had to look for the campaign that suited their interests from among hundreds of others.

BonusFlaş offers it all in one: campaigns, shopping and digital purse. We conduct an average of 500 campaigns each month.

Within BonusFlas, each user has his or her personal page, a feature that we are familiar with from Amazon and Facebook. We know from which sectors our customers shop, at what frequency and in what amounts. Taking this as our starting point, we bring the campaigns that will appeal to our customers to the forefront. Our customers are able to take part in the campaign of their choice by hitting a single key, and monitor various data instantly, such as current spending, remaining limit and bonus points earned. This way, we believe that we have rendered the world of campaigns a more colorful and easier place.

General Card Transactions: Across Garanti Bank, 250 card-based transactions are performed per second. Previously, the call center received 110 thousand calls per month on average in relation to these transactions. Approximately 80 percent of the calls (85-90 thousand) similarly related to common questions: “How much spending limit have I left?”, “What is my due amount and when is my payment due date?”, “I made a payment, can you see it?” In other words, customers called to check their spending.

With the BonusFlas app that is exclusive to cards, you can view your expenditures and card limits within seconds.

The app also offers “card setting” feature. Customers wishing to change their card PINs or account statement payment weeks no longer call the branches or the call center, but can handle these transactions through the app. To date, card setting has been made 3.25 million times. This figure serves as further proof of the importance our cardholders attach to the “control” issue.

After you do your shopping through BonusFlaş, you can disable your cards for online shopping and then re-enable them any time you want. This feature is also a first for such applications.

Payments: The rising ratio of smart phone usage in Turkey reflects also on mobile payments. Being one of the first brands to respond to this trend, we have developed payment functions within BonusFlas.

There are two payment products under BonusFlas. The first one is “GarantiPay” and the other one is “paypass“ mobile “trink” payment that uses NFC technology.

GarantiPay is a payment solution allowing secure and speedy payments without necessitating disclosure of card information.

Today, GarantiPay is available for use at more than 500 points including Turkey’s largest online shopping websites. Reducing the duration of a regular e-commerce/mobile e-commerce transaction down to one fifth, GarantiPay is used in integration with BonusFlaş. Our goal is to be able to see the GarantiPay button in all e-commerce sites, big or small.

In mobile payments made using BonusFlas, our customers can make their payments with their mobile phones anywhere offering contactless POS devices. And they don’t even have to enter their PIN for amounts less than TL 50. This feature is enabled by the use of HCE (Host Card Emulation) technology in android devices. Apple’s IOS system is not open to this application yet. However, for willing customers, we provide a sticker to be placed on iPhones that lets them use this application. Currently, BonusFlaş is downloaded on Android devices at a ratio of 65%.

How did it reach the point where it is today?

When we look at BonusFlas today, the figures demonstrate how successful and right we were with this step. When we started out, our target was “one million downloads in one year”, whereas we had already reached 2.5 million downloads by November 2016. The number of monthly visits rose to over 7 million with over 52 million monthly views. We have observed a 50% decrease in campaign participations with texting as compared with the past.

Today, one out of every three active customers of Garanti uses BonusFlas. 9 out of 10 customers that run the app continue to use it. These figures that are rare for financial applications put BonusFlaş is among the most popular applications on App Store Turkey as early as from the first weeks. While this was specific to BonusFlas, the fact that there is an audience ready to welcome campaigns and discounts in Turkey explains the interest shown in the apps.

What do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?

One can spare time for oneself and can make good use of that time only if he or she can properly balance the time that remains after family life and business life.

I am trying to establish that balance but as you can guess, “business”, in particular, takes up a big part of my time. I am trying to spend most of my remaining time especially with my two kids and my family. My children are at a young age so I am doing my best to spend quality time with them.

We enjoy going on family vacations at every opportunity we get. Particularly in summertime, we make sure to go on a “blue voyage” along Turkey’s heavenly coves. Turkey’s unmatched nature blending lush green and blue are therapeutic after the hectic business tempo, and gives us a chance to rejuvenate.

Exercise is an essential component of my life both for staying healthy and for energizing myself. I regularly exercise 2-3 times a week. Pilates is a longtime activity that I enjoy a lot; I believe that it is good for relieving stress by correctly establishing the balance between the mind and the body.

I am living the joy of having brought a long-postponed passion into my life that I had wanted to take up from early ages but was just unable to make the time for. I have always been a good music listener, but since I was little, playing the piano had been a passion, which I believed would make me more than a listener. Since I truly believe that it is never too late to put into life what we really want to do and what we nurture in our minds, I decided to take up piano and I have been taking piano lessons for the last several months. I take lessons several hours a week and I enjoy them so much that I can hardly wait for it.