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Exclusive Interview with Jens Bader, Co-founder of MuchBetter, previously CCO at Secure Trading

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My interviewee today is Jens Bader, who has a rich management background with more than 20 years of experience in the Online and Mobile Payments industry. He is a a seasoned commercial leader, Jens recently co-founded MIR Limited, an FCA-licensed FINTECH group that develops and operates second-generation electronic money services servicing on- and offline merchants.

I would also like to thank you for following my interview series and for sharing these information with your colleagues and partners. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please send me an e-mail to reka.szalo@europeangaming.eu and I will happily get back to you!

Thank you very much for being available for this interview. First I would like to ask you to shortly introduce yourself.

Jens: My Name is Jens Bader, I am one of the co-founders of a new payments company and scheme called MuchBetter. I spent most my professional life in the payments industry, hopefully growing my knowledge alongside the fantastic and exciting development we have seen in payments technology during that last 20 years.

Will you please tell us more about your company and why you chose to get into gaming?

Jens: As said, I have been working in the online payments industry from the very early days on and online gaming industry has always been at the forefront of innovation. Many of the pioneers in online gaming have been quite important in the continuous development and improvement of online payment services.

During my career, in different roles and for different providers, I worked very closely with online gaming operators. I always found that the cooperation between the payment service provider and the demanding gaming client to be both challenging and exciting. What was once considered to be one of the riskiest online businesses that a payment provider could underwrite, is today one of the most professional managed online industries. Indeed, gaming is now often a benchmark in risk management, fraud detection and prevention.

Personally, I can say that having worked at the intersection of payment and gaming allowed me to learn at a pace that would have been difficult to achieve in a different setup. In my 20 years in the industry, I have seen payments from all sides: Issuing, Acquiring, e-money, cash, processing – there is not a spot in the payments chain that I have not been active in. About a year ago and after a few inspiring conversation with some of my future co-founders, I felt the timing was right to bundle all my experience, my network and enthusiasm for payments to build a payments product that I felt was a next-generation payment service. I felt that it needed to be centred around a number of typical and systematic payments challenges and issues that the gaming industry has been consistently facing. What my team and I came up with is a new payments app that by technological design eliminates or neutralizes the issues we have identified. Our product delivers a better commercial model, hence substantial cost savings, counters and eliminates the typical fraud patterns in gaming and allows operators to have a reliable and indemnified payment product that can be operated internationally. Our payments app “MuchBetter” has also been engineered considering the vast regulatory changes that affect the gaming and the payments world. Our payments service provides data points that support operators being compliant with AML4/5. The world is talking about open APIs, we have anticipated a data and information sharing-approach already when we built the product. We don’t just talk about it, it is live and working. In general, MuchBetter is a payment product purpose-built for the gaming industry, a bench-mark for combining modern technology to deliver a superior payments experience to both players and operators.

You have a rich management background with more than 20 years of experience in the Online and Mobile Payments industry. You have recently co-founded MIR Limited, an FCA-licensed FINTECH group that develops and operates second-generation electronic money services servicing on- and offline merchants. As co-founder of MIR you also design and oversee the commercial strategy of the Group. I would like to congratulate you for this successful career and I would like to ask you: What is the price or what is the secret of such an impressively successful career?

Jens: I enjoy what I do immensely. While it is quite a mountain of work, there is never a dull moment either. The spirit and atmosphere within our small organisation is amazing. I am lucky to be able to work with such an exceptional group of people. The industry is fast-moving, constantly changing and has always had a certain complexity. The fact I could practically grow up with the developments in the payments industry helped me in understanding the complexity. When I am challenged to solve a problem, it often helps me to remember the early days in payments and how the services have developed the way they have. It helps me distinguishing the parts that are actually addressable from the parts that are not worth conquering as they are historical and a pillar I have to work around or incorporate in my approaches. The biggest sacrifice over the years has been the enormous amount of travel that my roles requested. There is so much you miss at home and the time with the family you miss. This I felt was the biggest personal challenge over the last couple of years, being there for the family.

Will you please tell us more about the projects you have worked on and about any difficulties and successes you have experienced during your career?

Jens: I remember the days when payments were mostly unregulated. The sole priority was ensuring that a customer could somehow pay a merchant. That was pre-PSD in Europe and worldwide there was no regulatory framework whatsoever for online payments. When the industry grew up and regulation kicked in, this change needed to be managed. What was OK six months ago, wasn’t OK anymore. I was in the middle of a changing industry that is such a critical item of modern e-commerce as we know it today. I realized payment companies needed to change to comply but were still required to secure and hang on to their existing revenue sources. When I compare the old days with today’s environments, I often smile. It feels so surreal; the way things were handled back then.

The payments industry is all about scale. Transaction business is volume business, so the underlying main revenues come from processing vast volumes. If you operate within an organisation that has been built up for the last 10 years, you have that advantage of sitting on a large merchant portfolio. Pricing pressure on acquiring and processing further increased the necessity to aggressively grow the volume within every payments organisation. The challenge that we face here as a newcomer is being able to offset the fact you come with only marginal existing business into a commoditised industry where volume is the most business-critical economical factor with the chance to utilize better, faster, smarter technology to attract new, meaningful business quickly. We need to challenge the business models to stand a fair chance of succeeding – and this is what we do and what is quite a tricky subject to manage.

What role do you undertake in the company’s life? What are your tasks and responsibilities?

Jens: For one thing, I am the guy with the nice shirts. However, my main role is to set the company’s commercial plan and strategy, and ensure it is formed in a way that allows the teams to execute it promptly. I oversee the commercial day-to-day activities and still take on many of the market-facing tasks such as meeting prospects, representing Muchbetter in the industry, and talking to influencers to imbed Muchbetter further into the payments landscape. I like the hands-on activities, writing to business and helping to execute the commercial plan that I set in place. The shirts sometimes help with that.

What is your personal opinion about the gambling industry in general in Europe or in the countries you know better?

Jens: The gaming industry has constantly developed and is – in Europe – on a very high, professional level. The amount of regulatory change and adoption over the last 10 years has been almost overwhelming. One effect we witness today is the state of consolidation. Consolidation in any industry vertical is always a sign of maturity, market saturation and requirement to capitalise on synergies to maintain growth. Overall, I think that the European Online Gaming industry has achieved higher social acceptance, improved their overall reputation and grown to an exceptional professional level. Personally, I sometimes miss the “old days”, the eccentricity and unconventional ways of how the industry operated, but as someone running a supplier business now, I am immensely grateful for the solidity and good governance that we see in the industry today. Gaming today and certainly even more so tomorrow is all about the quality that is being delivered to the customer. You can enjoy gaming, you are legally allowed to do so, now it is about coming out on top by meeting customer’s expectations.

Which are the future plans of the company that you can talk about to our readers?

Jens: We are all gaming and payments experts, so we will always be close and aligned with the gaming industry. However, we need to further develop our payment service to be just as ground-breaking in other industries as we are for gaming today. Diversification is always a difficult task to manage and succeed with, so it’s better to start early. We identified certain online industries that are battling similar payment challenges as gaming does. We apply the same philosophy here – we identify the main issues that we as a payment supplier can address to make life easier for the participants in such markets. We further build on our existing payments app to grow acceptance on both sides, merchants and customers, but we will also be broadening our payments portfolio and infrastructure to offer additional services and capabilities to our merchants. We have great ideas around subscription management, market-places and money remittance markets. Social money concepts are one of the topics close to my heart.

Tell us please about your future plans, projects regarding your professional life.

Jens: Obviously, my main objective is to build MuchBetter into a rock-solid, leading payments organisation. This won’t happen overnight, so I consider this to be the long-term goal. I also serve as advisory to some companies which helps me keeping an open mind and a sense for the wider market and helps us in identifying opportunities for partnerships. Any successful payments business needs to be international, when the time is right, I like to take the lead on our internationalisation and maybe be the one that opens our Chinese offices!

Who is your favourite actor or actress?

Jens: I enjoy watching Steve Buscemi – he is a genuine character and unique in how he plays his roles.

Where would you travel the most in Central Europe?

Jens: London for business, but for pleasure and good food, it has to be Italy

About Jens

Jens has a rich management background with more than 20 years of experience in the Online and Mobile Payments industry. A seasoned commercial leader, Jens recently co-founded MIR Limited, an FCA-licensed FINTECH group that develops and operates second-generation electronic money services servicing on- and offline merchants. As Chief Commercial Officer of MIR he designs and oversees the commercial strategy of the Group. Previously he was Chief Commercial Officer of Secure Trading Group, a leading European Payment Service Provider and Card Acquirer. At Secure Trading Jens managed the Group’s revenue generation and retention. In his prior role as CCO of paysafecard he led the global Account and Sales Management Teams overseeing and managing all commercial merchant relationships. Before joining Paysafecard in 2010, Jens was holding various roles in the payments industry with blue-chip financial institutions as well as payment start-ups. Jens is a frequent speaker on payments and fraud-related topics worldwide. Jens holds a degree in International Business Management.

About MuchBetter

MuchBetter, operated by MIR Limited UK Ltd, an FCA-licensed and regulated e-money issuer, is the new payments application for iGaming. Available on Android and iOS, MuchBetter make effortless online, offline and contactless payments throughout EMEA. Funds can be transferred and received in real-time and MuchBetter’s unique commercial model increases operator revenues while its anti-fraud features and use of best in class technology reduces risk.

Reka is an Experienced English second language teacher with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Skilled in Microsoft Excel, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Translation, Foreign Languages, and Lecturing. Strong education professional with a Bachelor’s Degree majored in English Language and Literature/Letters. Reka is in charge of conducting the exclusive interviews on European Gaming and our printed magazine

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Yiannis Gangas, Chief Product Officer at Vermantia

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with Yiannis Gangas, Chief Product Officer at Vermantia
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Vermantia’s round the clock live racing service has been turning heads in the industry for some time now. European Gaming caught up with Chief Product Officer Yiannis Gangas to get the low down.

 

Tell us more about the live racing channels and what they offer.

In short, it’s the most comprehensive source of live horse and greyhound racing that any retail or online operator could require. We deliver more than 70,000 premium live events a year from the best tracks in the world, including the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, and USA. These feature highly-competitive racing that are proven to attract high-levels of customer engagement and ensure good margins as well as profitability. Crucially, they are available 24/7, so that wherever operators are in the world they can rest assured that they have a high-quality live product on tap for their customers. It is an end-to-end solution too, with a complete odds service, adaptable data feed, automated channel production platform and the latest in broadcasting and streaming technologies.

What makes the Vermantia service different to what else is currently available?

Our live racing content is round the clock, suitable for any time zone, and the most extensive available. Its presentation is also bespoke to each operator. We appreciate that there are local requirements in every territory, so we localise the service by customising the design and content, as well as offering an adaptive data feed for faster deployment. We’re very careful to make sure we don’t bundle content together which operators don’t want. It’s very much about listening to what they require and adapting accordingly. We can provide professional live commentary and race cards in any language required and can provide sales and marketing support too. We appreciate not every market has the horse and greyhound racing in its DNA, so there is an educatory requirement on occasion. But we have found that operators who take the plunge even in these markets are not disappointed.

What role does virtual sports have to play in all this?

Virtuals is a really important product and very popular with players. Our service is among the best out there with 20 virtual channels delivered to customers internationally. I’m also delighted our unique baseball game was also recognised at the SBC Awards in London earlier this month. Virtuals has an army of fans around the globe who enjoy it in its own right, as well as those who are happy to get involved in between live sports coverage. But for the latter group, who I think are the majority of customers, it is all about live. I am very pleased to say that Vermantia broadcasts 40 per cent more live racing action than any other provider in the industry. That is particularly important in some countries who do not allow virtuals, of course. But for the others, any operator will tell you that the real sweet spot for customer engagement, whether that’s in retail or online, is good quality data, readily available betting markets, and live pictures. That is the holy trinity.

How is this live content distributed?

There is no one size fits all when it comes to distribution and it is important to be flexible. A retail operator in Africa is going to have different requirements and infrastructure to an online brand servicing the Nordics. As a result, we can use either satellite broadcast or streaming to deliver our live race channels. The former covers the globe and offers 24/7 playout monitoring, SLA, and high efficiency video coding for maximum quality at minimum bandwidth. Our streaming solution is ultra-low latency. It’s less than a second, in fact, which is as fast as anything in the industry, and much faster than some of the options available to operators.

Which markets do you service at the moment and which operators currently take live racing from Vermantia?

Our live racing channels are deployed in Europe, CIS, and Africa with operators as large as OPAP and Intralot Group who are among our long-standing partners. We are also rolling out as we speak to new clients from Central and Southern Europe to the Caribbean, proving that this type of content delivered in such a user-friendly fashion has universal appeal wherever operators and their customers find themselves in the world.

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Exclusive Q&A with Global Gaming

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Global Gaming
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Global Gaming’s Chief Growth Officer Alessandro Focardi and Estonian Country Manager Indrek Tappo sit down with European Gaming to talk about Ninja Casino’s recent launch in Estonia

 

European Gaming: Why did you decide to expand Ninja Casino into the Estonian market?

Indrek Tappo: Estonia plays a big role in our organisation, and we have one of our service centres in Tallinn so we’ve grown to appreciate the country. Also, Estonia is a licensed and fully regulated, forward-thinking market as well as a hi-tech country, at the forefront of digital development and with a very advanced banking sector. This makes it an ideal country for us to operate in as all our innovations will work very well in the market.

Additionally, the Estonian regulator was appreciative of our innovative technical solutions, which ensure business transparency and compliance, so it was relatively straightforward for us to be granted a licence, which we obtained in July of this year.

European Gaming: What is the current state of the Estonia iGaming market?

Indrek Tappo: We believe there is a good mix of operators and offerings, yet we feel that we can bring so much more to the Estonian players with Ninja Casino. The same way we’ve dramatically enhanced the player experience for Swedish and Finnish players.

There is potential for exponential growth for online gaming on a global scale and we believe Estonia is no exception. The room for growth in Estonia is supported by positive macro-economic factors such as above European average GDP growth, an all-time low unemployment rate of about 6% and rising income levels.

European Gaming: What are your ambitions for the Estonian market? What can Ninja Casino offer players which isn’t already available in the territory?

Alessandro Focardi: Our level of service and our award-winning product provides a much more convenient and easy way to enjoy the playing experience. We can offer players a tailored environment with incredibly fast cashouts, plus we bring our experience from other similar markets where we’ve managed to delight users.

In terms of ambitions, we aim to become one of the market leaders in Estonia, much like we have managed to do in Sweden.

European Gaming: What kind of marketing initiatives will you put in place to promote the Ninja Casino brand in Estonia?

Indrek Tappo: We always take a holistic approach when looking into what we can offer a new market and the ideal marketing mix. Our goal is of course to make Ninja a household brand among online players. Currently, we’re keeping our cards close to our chest but watch this space as we have some great initiatives coming up.

European Gaming: Global Gaming already has an office in Tallinn, will you be looking to add more staff to your operations in Estonia?


Indrek Tappo:
We’re very happy with the growth we’ve enjoyed in Tallinn, bringing top talent on board and building a great hub for highly qualified people. For those reasons, we certainly want to grow our Tallinn operations and, as a testament to this, we have just recently refurbished and expanded our office, making room for further growth in terms of headcount.

We currently have a number of vacancies in Tallinn and will likely see that number grow in the near future.

European Gaming: With Sweden a key market for Global Gaming, how is the company preparing for the newly-regulated market which opens in 2019?

Alessandro Focardi: We were among the first operators to submit an application for a Swedish licence back in August and are very much looking forward to it.

We believe in taking a focused approach, analysing where the biggest opportunities are for us to enhance our connection to our users and what the market opening could mean to us in terms of increasing our capacity to give more to our players.

We’re very excited about some of the developments we have in store for Sweden in 2019!

European Gaming: With bonus limitations set to be enforced, how do you think this will impact the market? Do Global Gaming have any concerns about the restrictions on bonus offers?

Alessandro Focardi: Regarding bonus limitations, we’ve been very lucky to have always been on the side of providing users with a better experience instead of trying to compete through bonuses.

Since the beginning, we’ve looked for ways to enhance the players’ experience and increase brand loyalty instead of offering generic discounts and bonuses, so we welcome these changes that will create a healthier, more responsible environment for both players and operators.

European Gaming: Lastly, how are preparations for your new sportsbook coming along?

Alessandro Focardi: We’re all very excited about launching sports but are presently not at liberty to comment further.

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Exclusive Q&A with Sandra McWilliams of SIS

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Sandra McWilliams of SIS
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Always on: any day, any time
Sandra McWilliams, Sales Director at SIS, talks to European Gaming about the development of their 24/7 Live Betting Channels as SIS looks to drive further progress in 2019

European Gaming: What was the motivation behind your recently released 24/7 Live Betting Channels?

Sandra McWilliams (SM): Consumers are so used to having everything on demand due to recent technological advances – such as streaming a box set on demand, and accessing millions of songs at the click of a button.

An unmistakable market trend is that consumers value being able to access their preferred form of content on their own terms. More specifically, within the betting & gaming market, bettors shouldn’t have to wait for their next engagement opportunity, and now, bettors can access betting on racing opportunities every three minutes, with the launch of our new 24/7 Live Betting Channels.

These 24/7 Live Betting Channels provide bettors with regular betting opportunities throughout the day, across all time zones, at times that suit them. It is important that there is quality content in all time slots to engage bettors around the world.

European Gaming: To what do you attribute this scaling demand?

SM: I think the demand has always been there, it’s just been a question of knowing how to service it effectively. Especially when it comes to serving a global network of partners, which goes to the heart of SIS’s status as a truly worldwide supplier of betting content. Trite as it may sound, content remains king. You’ve just got to understand how best to package it, so that every operator gets something that’s really relevant for them, wherever they are on the map.

European Gaming: Do you think the needs of the bettor have changed?

SM: I expect they haven’t. I think our innate tastes and desires largely stay the same. The difference is the ability to deliver what the customer wants– and that’s a combination of technology, allied to the distribution model. Up until the mid-2000’s it was commonplace for consumers to have to wait each week to watch an episode of their favourite programmes but now with the proliferation of streaming services we can binge watch an entire series on demand. Consumers have wanted the ability to watch their desired programmes at times that suited them but both technology and the distribution models prevented them from doing so, until now. The same is true in the betting industry, bettors have always wanted to see the content they are betting on but it hasn’t always been possible until now.

European Gaming: How are you able to fill the channels with content that cover all hours of the day?

SM: We’ve made a concerted effort to boost our racing portfolio, adding quality live racing from racecourses across the globe. Last month we announced a partnership with Tote Media to distribute live pictures from the Latin American Racing Channel’s (LARC) meetings. The agreement expanded SIS’s Latin American horse racing suite to over 4,500 races per year, with racing from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Peru. It also showcases some of the elite racecourses in the region, such as Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo, Hipódromo Chile, Club Hipico Santiago, San Isidro, Monterrico and Gavea. These rights acquisitions follow similar distribution deals with Kranji Racecourse in Singapore, and the Melbourne Racing Club and Thoroughbred Racing South in Australia (in association with RMG) to further bolster a truly international portfolio of premium horse racing.

European Gaming: Explain the format on offer across these live channels?

SM: We can provide these channels as an end-to-end solution to both online and retail operators, featuring live streamed pictures, data, on-screen graphics with betting prompts and an extensive range of markets and prices. These new channels are delivered in a ‘Watch and Bet’ format and provide attractive and profitable short-form content throughout the day, with a betting event every 3 minutes.

To maintain quality events at all hours of the day, it features exclusive, world-class live UK & Irish horse racing, with international horse racing from Dubai, Latin America, Mauritius and South Korea, as well as UK & Irish greyhound racing. In addition, these events are interwoven with market-leading virtual horse and greyhound races to maintain engagement levels.

European Gaming: Do these channels allow for customisation at all?

SM: Absolutely, there’s an option for operators to customise the channels in order to brand them to their specific requirements. This ensures that operators can adjust the product to meet their own individual needs. We can accommodate bespoke partner logos, time zones and languages for commentaries, plus on-screen graphics and betting triggers.

European Gaming: Are there any major operator deals in the works as we start the build up to ICE 2019?

SM: I’m happy to report that we have a number of tier-one operators already lined up to take our 24/7 Live Betting Channels before the end of the year. Naturally, we plan to add to that pipeline between now and ICE in February. As the leading supplier of 24/7 racing, we hope that our stand at ICE will prove the first port of call for operators looking to provide their customers with frequent betting opportunities.

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