Turkish delight

It’s no surprise that Turkey has grabbed a considerable share of payments headlines over the years. Long before contactless technology was on the agenda, the nation was already the torchbearer for EMV smart cards, multi-application technology and a truly innovative approach to customer loyalty programs and the place to see it all in action. Without the legacy infrastructure that has hampered nations further west, the Turks have made the leap to the latest technology that speeds customer throughput, improves security and is more user friendly.

But it’s not only in the payments arena that the state is showing itself to be a big hitter. Its youthful urban population – the average age of its citizens is less than 29 – makes it an ideal market to target a range of technologies such as contactless. And, as a result, this technology is now making its mark in retail payments, ticketing for tolls, buses and ferries, as well as access control in stadiums.

“Turkey is an ideal location for an event that looks at how contactless is progressing,” says Karen Kubran, Contactless Intelligence. “It’s a distinctive location at a crossroads of two continents and two cultures. While some people in Western Europe are expressing frustration at the rate of change in their countries, Turkey has been getting on with the business of improving life for consumers, making it an ideal location for the recent Contactless Intelligence Istanbul Executive Roundtable.”

At the event, Turkcell’s Burçin Açan gave a rundown of some of the projects the company has been involved in since 2005 and highlighted how important it is to remember all stakeholders when rolling out a scheme to ensure NFC adoption takes off. Visa’s Osman Inegol examined whether contactless transport can be developed from a closed-loop system using a ubiquitous payment card, while Sinem Sogukçay of DenizBank focused on why so many Turks are now banking on contactless. According to Sogukçay, the numbers are already pretty impressive, with  45,000 subscribers to its Sea&Miles contactless credit card by May 2009. The bank has now taken the contactless payments case a step further with the launch of the country’s first stadium card – the DenizBank Fenerbahçe Bonus Card – which combines payments with access control and loyalty. And IDO’s Murat Nurcan unveiled some pretty impressive statistics, highlighting why contactless loyalty is an important step forward.

“We were really pleased with the turnout to our first event in Turkey,” says Kubran. “We had delegates from more than 20 companies including mobile operators, card manufacturers, transport operators, chip manufacturers, card issuers, reader manufacturers, seven banks and a Turkish banking authority.

She adds: “What impressed us most about the turnout was that so many people were interested in the Turkish experience. This was a truly pan-European event that enabled us all to learn from the paths forged by companies already at the cutting edge of contactless. Important  networks were re-established and we were all encouraged by the progress being made by those who have made the leap to contactless. We hope this will be a springboard for future events bringing all parts of the value chain – from all parts of the world – together.”