Brazil is the largest card payments acquiring market in Latin America accounting for R$690 billion in card sales in 2012. Considering prevailing pricing for acquiring it is estimated, by revenue, that Brazil is the second largest acquiring market in the world . Almost 80% of all online purchases are made using credit cards. Of the two main payments brands Visa account for 43% and MasterCard 32% of key payments methods in Brazil today.
Up until a few years ago, the Brazilian card acquiring market had just two main players, The Big Two:
Cielo (originally VisaNet) set up in 1995 was a joint-venture between Visa International and the banks Bradesco, Santander, Real (currently Banco Santander Brasil), Banco do Brasil and the now defunct Banco Nacional. Its purpose was to create a common infrastructure to be used by all banks issuing Visa cards, instead of each bank having a separate technological solution to process credit card transactions.
Rede (previously Redecard) was established as Credicard in 1970 by Citibank along with Banco Itaú and Unibanco (currently Itau Unibanco). Rede was acquired by Banco Itaú for R$10 billion in 2012.
During this time, Cielo could acquire only Visa card transactions, and Rede, only MasterCard card transactions. This exclusivity made it difficult for any change in how the market operated, that is, until recently.
Since 2010 and following recommendations from the Brazilian Federal Reserve and the Brazilian Council for Economic Defense regulations were implemented that opened the door to a dramatic change in the card acquiring market, allowing for new and international acquirers to enter and The Big Two to start capturing the brands that were once exclusive to each other. Rede would now be able to capture Visa transactions, and Cielo capture MasterCard, Diners Club and other brands transactions once monopolised by Rede.
In 2013 the Brazilian government took further steps to end the self-regulation system that was still in place, and appointed the Central Bank of Brazil as the regulator. A new regulatory framework for the industry was issued and outlined the Brazilian government's vision for interoperability of the payments networks.
Even though supported by initiatives such as this, international acquirers still find it difficult to navigate their way into the Brazilian acquiring market. A highly concentrated banking system, near market dominance footholds still held by The Big Two, and significant bureaucratic requirements and processes are just some of the waypoints to be traversed. Yet, they are coming and the competition is continuing to open up gradually.
The Big Two continue their market dominance with roughly 90% of all card transaction capturing between them in Brazil today.
Cielo’s own brand card Elo which is collectively owned by state-controlled Banco do Brasil and Caixa Econômica Federal as well as private sector lender Banco Bradesco currently has 7% of Brazil’s card market with more than 50 million cards issued. In late 2015 Elo signed a deal with Discover Financial Services enabling their cards to be accepted in more than 185 countries worldwide through Discover's network, the third largest in the world.
The landscape is changing however with new acquiring business entries starting to gain traction and a share of the marketplace.
Today one of the biggest players outside of The Big Two is GetNet, providing innovative solutions for the payments industry, such as enabling pre-paid telephone subscriptions. Since 2009 their network has been capturing payments from the major card networks, such as Visa and MasterCard. GetNet was bought by the bank Santander in 2014 for R$1.1 billion and currently has roughly 7.5% of the card acquiring market, with presence in more than 100,000 businesses.
The remainder ~2.5% of the market is made up mainly of the following acquirers, with many more sub-acquirers.
- Brazilian bank Banrisul commenced card acquiring in 2009 with the brand Vero and is now a multi network acquirer.
- United States acquirer Elavon started operations in Brazil in 2012 as a joint venture with Citibank.
- Global Payments Brasil, started in 2013 in partnership with Banco de Brasília.
- Stone, started in 2014 by banks BTG Pactual, Panamericano and investment group Arpex Capital.
- United States acquirer First Data started in Brazil with the brand Bin, following a partnership with Banco Cooperativo do Brasil.
CloudWalk is becoming a major influence in this disruptive trend providing innovative and transparent solutions to both front line acquirers and sub-acquirers. Today we are working with and supporting the newcomers including both domestic and international acquirers, streamlining multi-application (including EMV) hardware agnostic POS solutions on top of our first of it’s kind plug and play payments platform.
Handling millions of transactions per month, CloudWalk is fast becoming the de facto architecture enabling the transformation of the traditional card acquiring business in Brazil and further afield, together with operations in the US, Canada and soon Europe.
For the future of acquiring all roads are pointing towards mobile payments, or m-commerce. Of a population of approximately 200 million, Brazil has 120 million internet users. Of this, in the latter half of 2014 it was estimated that 51.5 million were online shoppers.
It is estimated that by 2017 that more than half of the 200 million strong population will access the internet using a mobile device. Based on these facts alone, it is important that merchants maintain awareness of the growing potential for mobile payments into the near future.
 Janinne Dall’Orto, First Annapolis