Italy is known as Europe’s most
successful prepaid market, and after Prepaid Summit Europe 2010 it
is easy to see why. Italian prepaid issuers are among the
continents’ most advanced players, launching IBAN cards which allow
prepaid customers many of the features of debit cards.

A couple of key issuers have also
introduced loyalty programmes into the market. Poste Italiane, the
country’s biggest prepaid issuer, has launched a scheme with
ValueLab which it hopes will continue to drive spending on its
already popular prepaid products.

UniCredit, as covered in last month’s
edition of Cards International, has teamed up with Nectar to launch
its Nectar Genius Card product, the first coalition loyalty scheme
on a prepaid card product.

Banks like UniCredit and Intesa
Sanpaolo are building on the early success of the Italian
government, which, as in Russia and Poland, has been at the centre
of the industry’s efforts to give more people access to financial
products. Like Poste Italiane, they have the strength of large
retail banking branch networks and ATMs which can help quickly
drive card issuance, spending and reloads.

The next step for Italy to build on
the success of prepaid among banks and retailers is to extend the
availability of open-loop products at retail outlets with similarly
impressive distribution capabilities.

Exclusive research presented at the
event, a collaboration between MasterCard, VRL and Polymath
Consulting, showed how bank-partnerships can be fostered and made
into compelling business propositions.

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First, banks need to approach
retailers with a retail-centric, rather than bank-centric view of
segmentation. The research shows that retailers are most interested
in prepaid when it is presented as a retail solution, or retail
product, rather than a financial one.

Second, they need to better articulate
the benefits of open-loop cards – particularly the ability for
retailers to gain a wider idea of their customer base, not just in
their own store but in others.

Clearly, a collaborative approach between retailers and banks is
necessary to drive the industry to the next level. The promising
sign is that relations between retailers and banks, traditional
foes in the past, appear to be thawing under the spotlight of a new
prepaid opportunity.

See also: A
second wave of growth in Italy

See also: Bridging the divide