Payments system company Visa International has created an independent Middle East, African and Eastern Europe (EMEA) regional subsidiary in recognition of the area’s special needs. EMEA will have its own board – to be elected in early 1995 – and will develop new products suited to regional needs, Visa International says.

The EMEA region has been divided from Visa’s western Europe operations because ‘the environment in the European Union is at a different stage of development and presents legal, technological and marketing issues irrelevant to our members in the Middle East,’ Ayoub-Farid M Saab, Middle East & North Africa representative on the Visa International board said on 30 November.

Creation of a separate structure will enable Visa to allocate funding and resources to emerging EMEA markets. Saab said: ‘It should enable members in the region to leap-frog stages in technology and marketing and embrace the advanced electronic payment systems currently in development.’

Saab represents the Bahrain-based Arab Financial Services on the Visa board. He is chairman and chief executive of the Cyprus-based Federal Bank of the Middle East. Other board members are expected to be elected following a visit to the Gulf by senior Visa International officials. This will probably take place in January.

In a statement, Visa International’s president and chief executive Edmund Jensen said ‘The new EMEA region will have complete authority to develop payments products for local markets, enabling our members to be fully responsive to changing customer needs.’ Responsibility for the Visa brand and delivery systems remains with Visa International.

Membership of Visa comprises banks and other institutions that issue Visa cards and travellers cheques. These will be represented on both the EMEA regional and Visa International boards. The main issuer of Visa travellers cheques in the region includes the UK-based Thomas Cook Group, which has been expanding its Gulf operations (MEED 26:8:94).