PayPal paying up
In a country where government has been more synonymous with debt issues than technological progression, Harveen finds out how with the assistance of PayPal, they’re becoming a leader in the digitisation of payments.
In 2016, former vice president of international consumer business at Amazon, Diego Piacentini was appointed government commissioner for the Digital Agenda, beginning the complete digital overhaul of key government services. Part of the journey was the centralisation of payment facilities that would allow citizens to remit taxes, fines and tuition fees through a single digital service. One of the first companies to get on board was PayPal.
Leading the PayPal legal operations, Di Nunzio worked closely with the Digital Transformation Team to roll out a fast, secure and cost effective payment service. Although Italy is not the most digitised country in Europe, their processes have inspired other countries around the world to implement similar solutions.
THE PAL IN PAYPAL
Since launching as a money transfer platform in 1999, PayPal has become the biggest online payment processor system in the world. As of 2019, there are 277 million active accounts spread across 200 countries. Joining the PayPal team five years ago, Di Nunzio has headed up a plethora of major projects, including the implementation of the second Payment Services Directive and fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive. Working closely with the Italian government, he led the integration of PayPal services into PagoPA, a payment platform allowing millions of Italians to pay their taxes online.
‘PayPal immediately showed interest on the PagoPA project and partnered with one of the major Italian banks – Intesa Sanpaolo – for that,’ says Di Nunzio. ‘For Italy the launch of PagoPA has been a great step ahead.’
Although the first company on the scene, Paypal is now just one of many payment options on the PagoPA payment platform. Since launching in 2013, its user base has steadily grown. The platform represents a huge step forward given its potential to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Di Nunzio says there is openness within the Italian Institutions to work with companies such as PayPal.
The Italian government’s ability to embrace partnerships with private companies is in large part credited to the appointment of Piacentini, explains Di Nunzio.
Speaking at a conference in Paris, Piacentini argued that collaboration between the private sector and public sector is crucial for successful digital transformation to cut costs and improve services.
‘Governments do a great job when they make the lives of citizens and of companies easier.’
The aim of public administrations working with private companies such as PayPal was to change the relationship between law and process, according to Piacentini.
‘In terms of public administration, most of the times you start from a law, you start from regulation and then you build the services upon the law.
‘Sometimes, you’re lucky, and the two things coincide. Most of the times they don’t. This is a problem not just in Italy, but all over the world.’
Changing this process is key to successful digital transformation. Piacentini believes the needs of the customer, in this case the citizens, should be at the forefront, and the law should support this need.
The joining of forces with companies such as PayPal highlights government support in developing processes to the benefit of citizens. Leading the legal operations, Di Nunzio’s role involves knowing regulations and managing payment systems within the financial sector, including e-commerce transactions and privacy protection.
‘PayPal is an exciting and challenging company to work in: it is an internet company, it’s a tech company, it’s a financial company,’ Di Nunzio explains, ‘thus a lawyer is required to have a wide legal background to work at PayPal.’
‘Currently I have the responsibility of Italy and Iberia and I also focus on legal marketing matters for the European region.’
Leading the collaboration between private and public sectors is Piacentini, who understands the importance of these two sectors coming together:
‘Our work there was to make it mobile, to introduce APIs, and PayPal and other Fintec and modern payment systems, so citizens can now use their credit cards and go to their home banking and pay the public administration from there.’
PAYING IT FORWARD
Digital transformation takes commitment, planning and time. From a legal perspective, Piacentini acknowledges that ‘you cannot create a law, sign an agreement and expect that as magic everybody is using the service. That is an issue with all governments.’
He explains that it is impossible to introduce a digital service and legally force all citizens to use it overnight, without implementing transitional processes.
‘That’s why we are working with the administration to, you know, smooth the transition.’
Drawing from his own experiences at Amazon, he says that digital transformation has to begin at the top: ’When you digitally transform a private company, the successful transformations are when the CEO endorses and drives the transformation.’
‘The equivalent for governments is when the CEO of the government endorses and drives the transformation.’
The launch of Italy’s e-government was inspired by the transformations of governments around the world including Estonia and the Great Britain. Yet, the ultimate aim of making services more efficient and cost effective remains the same. As Piacentini perfectly summarises: ‘Today in the UK, when a citizen finds an analog service they are surprised. In Italy when a citizen finds a digital service, they are surprised. That’s what we hope, in the next 5, 6, 7 years to change this paradigm. Citizens must expect that public companies serve them as well as private companies serve them.’