Meet the Team – Kevin Drayne, CEO

21 September 2021
Carrier Billing

Tell us about your background and how you came to work at SLA Digital.

I have worked in telecommunications for over 25 years now. I started off working for CableTel who was a new telecommunications provider in Northern Ireland and the UK at the time, it later became known as NTL. I then joined the team at Nevada which was part of Cable & Wireless Worldwide. And now I have been with SLA Digital for a total of 18 years, I joined the company in 2003 as Finance Director and then moved into my current role as CEO in 2018.

What do you enjoy most about the business you’re in and what motivates you?

My role has a strong focus on sales so what I really enjoy is bringing new clients on board and building the relationships that are important to our business, I’ve met some really interesting people along the way and have learnt a lot. Developing our team and shaping the future direction of the company are also really exciting aspects, new opportunities are constantly arising in this industry.

What trends have you experienced with carrier billing recently and has there been an impact of Covid-19?

There has been growth in carrier billing especially with the impact of Covid-19 leading to an increase in users. With more people spending more time at home, an increase in digital content being consumed was inevitable. I also think people are building more trust in carrier billing as a payment method, this has been seen in China with a substantial increase and surge of new users. Over the past year or so there has clearly been an increase in carrier billing to purchase games, but that is constantly evolving into other industries too, with growing demand for new services, and more realising the benefits of this payment method.

Are there any particular industries/verticals where you are seeing growth of carrier billing?

The growth areas that we are seeing at the moment are still in gaming and video on demand but other areas are starting to come to the fore such as esports, elearning and epublishing. I believe with the introduction of 5G, esports is only at the start of the growth curve so we can also expect to see big things there in the future. 

What regions do you think have the most potential when it comes to carrier billing?

Asia Pacific is a key region and carrier billing here is growing at around 15% CAGR. Africa is expected to grow by around 60% in the next 3 years and the Middle East is also expecting growth of around 30% in that same time. There is also huge potential for growth in Europe, as digitisation increases and people expect more convenient ways to pay for online content and services.

Do you think any barriers to growth of the industry exist?

Fraud could be seen as a barrier to growth, and the industry needs to work together to tackle it. At SLA Digital, we focus on fraud prevention and building sustainable revenue streams by introducing new ways to stay ahead of fraudulent activity and protect our clients and their customers. I feel another barrier to growth is the various names for the payment method e.g. direct carrier billing, direct operator billing, mobile billing and charge to bill. This can be confusing and an agreement on industry-wide terminology and branding could really help increase the awareness of carrier billing and help educate end users to facilitate its growth.  

What do you see as the biggest challenge for mobile operators at the moment?

A lot of mobile operators are in a defensive strategy trying to maintain their revenue, however I see carrier billing as a growth strategy and operators should see this as part of their journey into the mobile payments space. It can be the start of their mobile payments ecosystem and the adoption of, for example, ewallets, loyalty schemes and so on can follow. These mobile payment methods can all work together and the more choice customers have the better. This in turn will help mobile operators stay competitive in their market, especially if they are losing revenue elsewhere.

In your opinion what are the top benefits of carrier billing for mobile operators?

The obvious benefit for mobile operators is the additional revenue stream at low risk, if managed correctly by a payment provider like ourselves. They can also offer additional choice to their customers with more digital content and services, helping to create loyal and satisfied customers in the long term. Mobile operators therefore have the opportunity to help their customers and help themselves.

What advice would you give to mobile operators who are thinking of adopting carrier billing?

Firstly, mobile operators need to understand what they are trying to achieve with carrier billing. They have to understand how carrier billing works, know its benefits and limitations and ultimately what they want for their customers. Most importantly, I recommend that mobile operators should use a reputable payment aggregator who is in it for a long term relationship and has experience to be able to walk them through the entire process.

What’s next for SLA Digital?

We want to become a major player in our chosen markets across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Expanding our mobile operator connections and building our merchant portfolio with new and exciting verticals is a key focus for us. We continue to develop our carrier billing offering and move into the wider mobile payments ecosystem. We are also evolving our business and using our mobile operator connections to provide other solutions such as mobile identity – so there’s lots of exciting new developments.

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