Project Management Institute

Virtual Disconnect

Digital Credit and Debit Cards Aim to Reduce Fraud and Theft



Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the launch of the company's credit card, called Apple Card, earlier this year.

Fraud and theft hover over every online transaction—and project teams are taking action. As e-commerce continues its meteoric rise—up 18 percent in 2018 to nearly US$3 trillion globally, according to Internet Retailer—security vulnerabilities increase alongside it. Over three-quarters of consumers say they are more alarmed than ever about their privacy, according to a 2019 Norton LifeLock report.

To help protect digital transactions, financial services companies are launching projects to develop virtual credit and debit cards. Virtual cards generate one-time-only numbers linked to users’ actual card numbers, creating a new obstacle for data thieves.

Bank of America, Capital One and Citi have released virtual cards. In March, Apple said it would roll out its Apple Card this year. Developed in partnership with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard, the virtual card promises greater security, in part thanks to the iPhone's face- and touch-identification mechanisms. In April, digital financial services company Branch International, which has the most downloaded finance app in Africa, said it's working with Visa to provide prepaid virtual debit cards to millions of unbanked users in Africa, India and Latin America.

In addition to meeting their customers’ needs, virtual card providers have to address ever-present and ever-changing security and regulatory requirements.

But well before organizations can start issuing cards, project teams have to test and refine the technology. Frequently, teams gather feedback from public stakeholders to ensure user acceptance down the line. In 2018, Capital One rolled out its virtual card after testing the technology for several months. In November, T-Mobile launched a pilot project that stretched a little longer than four months for its mobile banking app, which includes a virtual debit card option. After testing it in select markets, T-Mobile rolled out the app across the U.S. in April.

Stealth Mode

Portion of global consumers who say security is the most important service for online experiences

Portion of U.S. businesses that saw their online fraud losses increase last year

US$2.7 billion
Global financial losses caused by theft, fraud and other types of cyber crimes in 2018

US$1.4 billion
Global financial losses caused by theft, fraud and other types of cyber crimes in 2017

Sources: 2018 Norton LifeLock Cyber Safety Insights Report, Norton, 2019; 2019 Global Identity and Fraud Report, Experian, 2019; 2018 Internet Crime Report, FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, 2019

Taking Account

While user testing can expose the need for changes that might ultimately alter a project's scope or schedule, such approaches can drastically improve user acceptance later on. That's something global payments provider TSYS prioritizes.

TSYS released its virtual credit card for business-to-business transactions in North America in 2016. Since then, the company, which processes over half of North America's commercial credit cards, has launched several product updates based on testing and user feedback. That includes an update earlier this year that expanded the virtual card service to global customers.

“We have constant discussions with our clients about how to improve the user experience and drive future product development,” says Scot Sasser, vice president of commercial services, TSYS, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.


—Scot Sasser, TSYS, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

With the first release, the TSYS project team determined that the new technology needed more than the standard user testing phase. The team made the case to project sponsors for two additional testing phases and for additional resources to conduct them. This included internal testing in a secure TSYS environment, so the team could resolve any potential issues before businesses used the card; and post-implementation testing, so the team could assist clients and vendors in using the product once they implemented it. These additional testing phases have helped the TSYS team deliver greater user acceptance, Mr. Sasser says.

The team has leveraged the same testing model for each subsequent product update release. “This results in an efficient transition and increased client satisfaction with our virtual product,” says Regina Mitchell, PMP, project manager, TSYS, Columbus, Georgia, USA.

With every update, the TSYS project team holds collaborative workshops with internal subject matter experts from each commercial workstream, as well as product team members who understand their clients’ needs. That collaboration establishes consistent lines of communication, Ms. Mitchell says. “The biggest challenge is making sure that all areas of our commercial businesses are represented, while determining the best new capabilities and features as we continue to update and evolve our virtual payments solution.”—Novid Parsi

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