By some standards, Visa would qualify as the world's single biggest business. During 2020, the organisation processed card or cash transactions worth a combined total of $11.3 trillion. Virtually every individual reading this paragraph either owns or has used a Visa card. There are currently more than 3.4 billion of them in circulation worldwide, and the company more or less invented our modern world of cash-free payments without boundaries. Literally thousands of other businesses (not least online giants like Amazon or eBay) would probably not exist had it not been for Visa's innovation. Despite high profile marketing battles against rivals Mastercard and American Express, Visa remains the world's leading provider of payment solutions, and by quite some margin. But it is also arguably the world's best-known unknown. Until its IPO in 2008 - it had previously been jointly owned by the various member banks for whom it transacted payments - few of its everyday customers would have known who owned it, and are still probably unaware of what exactly the company does. In fact, its VisaNet system provides the electronic links in a virtual triangle made up of around 15,400 banks and financial institutions, around 70m retail locations and more than 2bn cardholders worldwide, allowing for the easy and secure transfer of electronic funds from one to another. In 2020, Visa processed some 141 trillion transactions. According to industry watcher The Nilson Report it handled 42% of all global transactions and 60% of US transactions. Yet unlike American Express, for example, which lends funds to individual cardholders via charge or credit cards, Visa has no such direct financial relationship. The electronic payments business has been exploding in recent years, but so too have the multiple threats to its integrity and security, and Visa has made a series of acquisitions to expand and enhance its offering (although an attempt to acquire payment tech rival Plaid for $5.3bn was blocked by regulators in 2020). At the same time, it has had to combat a succession of lawsuits from retailers over allegedly unfair terms or charges; and is also one of the biggest spenders on global sports and entertainment sponsorships to promote its brand identity. It is the only brand to be a top sponsor of all three of the world's biggest sporting properties: the Olympics, the US NFL and global FIFA soccer. Until recently, the Visa name was shared by two companies: Visa Inc globally except the European market where it was controlled by Visa Europe. The two businesses merged in 2016. Global net revenues hit a new high of $23.0bn in ye Sept 2019, slipping to $21.8bn in pandemic-impacted 2020. Net income fell 10% to $10.9bn. Around 45% of revenues are still generated in the US. Visa (and also Mastercard) have little or no direct presence in a handful of major markets - notably China and Russia - where only local companies are allowed to process domestic payments. Al Kelly took over from Charles Scharf as CEO of Visa in 2018.
Capsule checked 28th April 2021
Adbrands Account Assignments tracks account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets.
Account assignments & selected contact information
Which agencies handle advertising & marketing for Visa? Find out more from Adbrands Account Assignments
Who are the competitors of Visa? Visa's main global competitors are Mastercard and American Express. Regional competitors include Discover in the US, JCB in Japan, UnionPay in China and Mir in Russia. More recent competitors include online payment services like PayPal, Google Wallet and Apple Pay. See Financial & Insurance Sector index for other companies
Advertising & marketing expense for Visa? See ranking of Declared Advertising Costs
Key marketing decisionmakers for Visa? Find out more from Adbrands Account Assignments
Historical profile information for Visa
Marketer Moves 19th Nov 2021: New CMO to be confirmed at Visa. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 18th Nov 2021: Amazon threw down the gauntlet to Visa in a long-running battle over credit card charges. It informed all its UK customers that it will stop accepting locally-issued Visa credit cards from mid-January 2022. That would represent a significant blow to British customers: Visa has around 80% share of the local credit card market. The row appears to relate to "interchange" fees which all card companies levy on transactions, supposedly to cover the cost of payment processing. These are capped in the EU at 0.3% for credit card transactions, but now that the UK has left the EU, Visa has announced plans to raise the fee to 1.5%. Amazon has also recently introduced a surcharge on Visa credit transactions in Australia and Singapore.
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Dec 2020: The Visa creative review ended in triumph for Wieden & Kennedy, which will take over from BBDO (in the Americas and Asia) and Saatchi & Saatchi (in Europe) as lead global creative agency. Media remains with Publicis-owned Starcom, and the Groupe has also been retained for local creative implementation and production, filling for W&K where that agency doesn't have a regional presence.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Jul 2020: Visa has kicked off a review of its global creative account, prompting a contest between Saatchi & Saatchi, which manages the account in Europe, and BBDO which holds the business elsewhere. That split is a hangover from when Visa Inc and Visa Europe were two separate companies. They were reunited in 2016. An earlier contest over media between BBDO parent Omnicom and Saatchi's owner Publicis Groupe was resolved in 2015 when Starcom won the global account from OMD.
Adbrands Social Media 12th Nov 2018: "Keep It Local This Christmas". The Christmas ad deluge continues. We'll skip over the same old same olds from Waitrose and Boots and Marks & Spencer and the rest. Instead, here's a very interesting angle on the holidays from Saatchi & Saatchi for Visa. God knows, Britain's High Streets could use a bit of love this season. New statistics show an unprecedented number of closures in the face of rising rents and rates and fierce competition from online sellers. So Visa has chosen to celebrate not the shoppers like you and me who feature in every other ad, but the independent retailers, who generally go un-noticed at this time of the year because they don't have the cash to spend on big-budget ads. It's an admirable concept: let's all make an effort not just to buy it all on Amazon or from the multiples but share some love and money with all our beleaguered local merchants. Before it's too late.
Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Oct 2016: Charles Scharf resigned as CEO of Visa to spend more time with his family, which is still located in New York. “I love working and running this great global company," he said in a statement, "and I am sad to have reached the conclusion that I should step down, but running a San Francisco based company just doesn’t work for me personally right now and wouldn’t be fair to Visa." He will be replaced from December by current Visa board director Alfred Kelly, a former president at American Express.
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