LeoGaming CEO Alona Shevtsova: The Turnover of Gaming Payments During The Pandemic Has Increased by 45%

  • Alona Shevtsova, The Director at LeoGaming Pay

  • 02.03.2021 03:34 pm

The Director of the LeoGaming Pay financial company and the CEO of the LeoGaming processing company Alona Shevtsova talks about the trends in the development of the gaming industry and tells how the pandemic affected the Ukrainian fintech sector.

Can you tell us about the process of developing your company from the sector of online games to the general payment field? What was the reason for the change of focus of the business?

The development of LeoGaming is quite a standard business scaling case. The key difference is the fact that we started not in the most common niche. Can you imagine that just 7-10 years ago, when people, who weren't deeply immersed in the gaming industry, heard about the revenues in the world of online games, they were simply shocked? In addition, it was unusual that the key audience for several services consisted not only of children and teenagers. Now it is difficult to surprise anyone with the gaming business. The most important thing is that people realized that it is not only about "games", but about a serious "business" that can bring good profits.

Therefore, we began to actively explore related transactional areas in which we received sufficient expertise or which we considered promising for intensive development. And this gave us good results: By working since 2010, we have reached a leading position in our segment.

What services of the company are currently in the greatest demand? What is the area with the most intense growth?

Let us start with the gaming services. For several years, the number of deposits to Steam which is one of the world's largest online game stores has been steadily growing. In Ukraine, it has a multi-million audience, whose loyalty Steam won primarily thanks to the online games of the Valve company that belongs to Steam. Two of the most popular games are Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The key feature of Valve is the fact that it has built a system in which the company is both a developer of popular games and their publisher. In particular, thanks to this approach, the consumption of buy-to-play games from the store's catalog has also increased. This means that the Ukrainians are increasingly moving the licensed content while forgetting about the pirated games and apps.

If we talk about our payment solution, the growth of contactless payments and online payments due to the coronavirus pandemic is obvious. The average growth in our portfolio was from 35% to 45%, depending on the service. This information totally corresponds with the general statistics of Mastercard in Ukraine: The volume of online transactions in this payment system increased by 45%.

For the same reason, there is an increase in the field of "mobile money", i.e., transactions for paying for various services with a mobile phone balance.

Do you think the coronavirus will eventually help people to forget about the cash once and forever?

I am sure that all these processes should be considered in the complex. No doubt, COVID-19 has accelerated the growth rate of cashless payments, but it does not mean that cash will simply disappear. Even in Sweden that is considered almost completely "de-cashed", it never happened. There are people of the older generation, there are non-banking customers, i.e., those who do not trust banks for a number of reasons. However, I have to highlight the fact that paying with a card, smartphone, or watch is no longer know-how, but the norm. All these tools will become more widespread and reach new audiences.

Let us also not forget about bill no. 4178 that is intended to reduce the amount of the interchange fees (the commission charged by the card-issuing bank for payments). This solution is profitable for retail representatives and their customers, but it brings new problems and a drop in earnings for banks.

What services is the company currently developing for its partners, and which of them will appear in the near future?

At LeoGaming, we strive to develop our universal payment solution for businesses, working both online and offline. We constantly update the design of Internet acquiring and monitor the maintenance of a high conversion rate. This year, the Google Pay connection helped us to make acquiring even more conversion-oriented because it is simply impossible without having it on smartphones. Besides, while working closely with the "big three" Ukrainian mobile operators, we promote and develop mobile balance payment services.

I have to note that one of the most important events for us was the receipt of a currency license, which was issued by the National Bank to our payment system LeoGaming Pay at the beginning of 2020.

Thanks to this, LeoGaming Pay launched the first cash register of currency exchange operations in Ukraine with a software payment transactions recorder. This decision not only increased our capabilities offline but also showed how this area can meet the requirements of the regulator while maintaining the existing business model.

How did the coronavirus affect the company and what changes were the most useful?

It is difficult to talk about the benefits in connection with the crisis. Even the transactional business suffered quite significant losses, and many global projects had to be either reduced or suspended. We also carried out a serious optimization.

First and most importantly, we have reallocated our advertising budgets to help Ukrainian doctors. This was my personal initiative, which was supported by the entire LeoGaming team. We realized that it is the pandemic that determines which brands are strong enough to take responsibility for the most important thing, i.e., for the lives of others.

Secondly, we successfully completed the transfer of the entire "operating system" to the online sector. By doing so, we made sure that 95% of the office effectively worked remotely during the lockdown. Now we operate in the "flexible office" mode: employees can easily choose when they work from home, and when they come to the office. This was beneficial both for compliance with anti-coronavirus measures and from a psychological point of view. One needs to understand that a change of scenery encourages creativity and promotes the mobility of people. And this is the future.

How to build a well-coordinated team and avoid staff turnover in such a highly competitive field as fintech?

Only by trial and error. However, I have to say that there is no universal recipe, because all people are different, just like every single business. I try to focus on the development of specialists at LeoGaming. Tentatively speaking, we create a "star team, but not a team of stars." Many of our managers have grown to their positions from the positions of junior management due to constant self-development, increased responsibility, as they were motivated to do so. It is not an easy task to see it, and not to miss it in the flow of operational turnover. But we are doing fine.

These days, security in office spaces is important, so regular anti-epidemic measures have become our new norm. But perhaps the most important thing is being involved in something bigger. A clear understanding of how everyone's work affects the overall picture and what we can achieve as a team. This keeps employees engaged and encourages them to constantly develop.

Which criteria are the most important when you search and hire specialists? What are the key qualities that are important to you in your employees?

The most important thing is the motivation for the development and result-oriented performance. Without this, any skill of the applicant may be unclaimed and useless.

I have to say that the Ukrainian fintech sector a phenomenon that develops in contradiction to the overall conditions in the market. How can a business find a place in it?

I often talk about this in my blog called 'In Fintech We trust.' According to my practical experience, there are two proven ways: to do your job better than the market leader or to open a new niche that no one has yet filled with a quality service. However, it is quite difficult to do this in 2020 or 2021, because the fintech environment has become much stronger in 10 years. Leaders have been already established, and the level of customer expectations has become much higher. But we try to meet the expectations of our audience, and constantly improve the quality of our services.

Do you think the state should participate in the development of fintech, and how? What should be the regulation of this market?

I believe in the principle that the state is a service that works for the benefit of citizens. And the dialogue between the business and the state is vital for the service to function smoothly and in the interests of citizens. No doubt, this is a complex task, so it cannot always be performed with 100% efficiency. However, the interesting fact that the regulators conduct an increasingly high-quality and constructive dialogue with us, and the business strives to meet the requirements of the regulator, confirms that we are on the right track.

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